Wednesday, December 9, 2009

So dark out here...

It’s nice waking up to the pre-dawn light each morning. Especially so because I don’t wake to an alarm clock any more which is really, really nice. What wakes me now is the gradual change from total darkness to first light. I know it’s time to at least think about getting up when, for the first time that night, I can sense some grey squares against the black, roughly where I know the windows of my hut to be.

The other thing that is kind of cool is that on a cloudy night, it’s so dark out here that you can’t see your hand in front of my face. Literally. Think: bottom of a coal mine at midnight dark. On a moonlight night or even a starry night enough light gets through the trees so that you can (just) get around the compound OK. On a cloudy night though, it would be easy to walk smack bang into a tree. And I do need to walk around because the compound is a series of one-room huts. One hut for the office, one for each accommodation unit, one for dining hall, etc, etc.

Think of a house perhaps, where you need to walk 20 or 50 metres in pitch black among the trees to go from lounge room to toilet to bedroom. On a dark night, the huts themselves are about the only thing that you might have even a chance of seeing before you walk into of them. Even then only as a darker patch of darkness looming above you just before you walk face first into it. I normally have pretty good night vision but out here on a cloudy moonless night without a genset, torch or at least starlight, it’s BLACK. Which is kind of cool.

And mostly (I’m happy to say) I don’t run the genset now that the others have gone. There are lights rigged around the compound but they obviously need the genset. I’ve managed to bodgy up a charger, truck battery, voltage regulator and small inverter to create enough power to run the internet and laptop for a few hours off a charge which makes a blissfully quiet alternative to the noise of the generator. The idea came to me because (being a curious sort of chap) in the process of tidying up the place, I’d noticed most of the necessary bits and pieces lying around. Eventually, the subconscious trickled the idea through that a battery bank might be a good idea. Sadly the one thing I couldn’t find was an inverter. I’d actually given up on finding one last week and was about to google how to make DC stepdown transformers or even an inverter by cannabilising some of the obsolete or broken equipment but… As luck would have it, I was tidying the last of some stuff into a trunk when I noticed faded markings on the lid which showed a list of contents including “2 x inverters”. Now, the trunks came out here several years ago so it was quite likely that both inverters were long since lost, broken or removed. “But still, just maybe” I thought to myself. I turned the place upside down and eventually amongst some scientific test equipment found (as you’ve now doubt gathered) a working inverter. Not that it was immediately obvious that it was an inverter. It looked more like a piece of test equipment and the 240v outlet plug looked like anything but. Sure enough though, written underneath were the magic words “Input: 12V. Output: 240V”. It was like one of those Eureka moments when I finally realized that it was within grasp to have internet and still be able to hear the birds in the trees. I know, I know, but it’s the little things that really count out here…

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