DEPTHERAPY’s 2018 CHUUK LAGOON EXPEDITION
Funded by the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s 2016 Libor Fund
Deptherapy has always been keen to support the local communities where we dive. In our briefings for our expedition to Chuuk Lagoon it was brought home to us how financially poor and deprived the islanders of the Lagoon were.
As we drove from Chuuk International Airport to the Blue Lagoon Dive Resort the poverty of the islands was brought home to us. Shacks made of corrugated iron, outside toilets, no electricity, no running water.
There were abandoned old cars rotting at the roadside, the islands are very religious and there are churches everywhere. The roads are not much more than tracks covered with tarmac. You may think the roads in the UK have pot holes well visit Chuuk.
Everyone seems to be children focussed and the children all looked very happy. There is also the tradition of wearing Sunday best clothes.
GOING TO CHURCH
We wanted to make a contribution to the children of the islands that would help them. Our expedition was in school holiday time so we made arrangements to visit the church of one of our dive guides Rio on a Sunday morning when the island’s children would be there.
The island of Tonowas is a short journey across the Lagoon.
So as usual off to dive first thing in the morning then it is back to the dive centre ad collect the gifts. Ben and Richard had each brought extra luggage to cope with the huge array of gifts:
ON THE ISLAND
Getting off the boats was a wee bit of a challenge but everyone managed it. The dive centre had laid on a a truck to take most of the badly injured guys up to the church, all we knew was that it was a ‘Catholic Church’.
AN UNEXPECTED ADVENTURE – DEPTHERAPY IN THE JUNGLE
As the pickup drove off another small pickup arrived and was driven by someone wearing a Blue Lagoon Dive Centre tee-shirt, Martin, Andy, Jason, Luke and myself climbed on board and started a journey that took us nowhere near Rio’s church.
We were driving along grass tracks and stopped outside a white building. The driver explained it was a Japanese Administrative centre form World War II and we could look around. We declined and said we wanted to go to the church. So the journey continues the dirt track gets narrower and we land up at a Catholic Church but not the one we were meant to be at. We met the priest and the church elders. So a conversation takes place in Chuukese (the real name) and we are off again, he ho our little pick up which is by now making strange noises, has no suspension and is hitting the ground becomes stuck in the mud.
God must have been on our side as the people from the church we had just visited appeared and pushed us out of the mud. Off we go again and we reach what looked like a banana tree road block across the track which had become even narrower and had obviously never seen a vehicle travel along it in its life.
Pickup is stuck then a man appears holding a machete, were we being kidnapped, by now I had a humour failure as trying to get the driver back to the dock brought no response. Our saviours from the church appear again. They say there is a church on the hill, the man with the machete cuts a path up a slope to a building which Martin reports was an empty, unfinished building.
I would have not been the least surprised if Bear Grylls or David Attenborough had appeared out of the jungle.
I AM A DEPTHERAPY BOARD MEMBER GET ME OUT OF HERE
So back in the pickup, we start to move again, then we have a puncture. End of story, we leave the pickup and start to walk back towards the dock, flies and mosquitos all around us. After two miles the original Truk driven by dive centre staff find us after being sent out on a rescue mission.
So we arrive at the Church with Ben Lee, Andy Searle and all the time handing our gifts. The children were buzzing, so were the expedition members. The adults had the reading glasses, these are in really short supply and are badly needed. The PADI sunglasses were a hit.
A MEMORY THAT WILL LAST FOR YEARS
I think every expedition member was deeply touched by the experience and how happy these small gifts made the children. The memories of that day will remain in our memories forever as it will do the children and their parents.
Rio arranged for a framed photo of the event to be hung in the church