Just under a year ago I came to Kiribati to identify an aviation investment project. I flew in with our lawyer Marta and administrative assistant Daniel to finish the process by negotiating the terms of the $US 23 million grant we would be providing.
Since Marta was with me I arranged for a VIP reception and while she waited in the lounge I went out to have a look at the runway which is deteriorating very quickly. The photo to the left shows the high quality of the middle of the runway. I paced off some 350 square metres which we need to get fixed very soon.
We went to the east end of the runway to look at some of the issues there. I noticed some debris on the runway and asked them to clear it. Even though I’m a very keen cyclist the idea of having an old rusty bike wheel on the runway when a plane is taking off is a bit of a worry. Debris on the runway caused the crash of the Concorde in Paris, and we could spend a lot of time picking up things off this runway. I do wonder what the impact of all the small stones, dust and other detritus being sucked into a jet engine is.
After a full day of meetings on Thursday – I’m also doing a major road project here – we negotiated on Friday. It was a long and intense day but we managed to get through everything. Compared to my negotiations for the road project this was much easier. Those were done with me in D.C. and the government team here in Kiribati. Definitely an advantage doing it in person.
Daniel and Marta were keen on taking a break so on Saturday I took them to North Tarawa where there is a resort. I crashed in the hammock for a few hours and then we went for a 1 hour walk north to ‘Broken Bridge’ where there was a good swimming spot.
The tide was coming in but even so the water was like a bath, very warm. Swimming against the tide was like being in my ‘Endless Pool’. Very hard work and good exercise.
Since the tide was coming in I decided it was timely to head back. As you can see from the photo to the right, it was a good thing we didn’t wait much longer as what were knee deep fords between the islands were now chest deep. Marta commented that she had not been on a mission before where she had to do anything like this.
We got back to the resort and then went to get a boat across the channel to where our car was parked. There was quite a queue of people waiting and we decided to be patient rather than contribute to the overloading. There were some very large women who almost tipped over the boat!
A nice bit of downtime from what is usually a very hectic mission schedule. Now if I could only catch up on some sleep I’d be in good shape for heading to Tuvalu next week.