Get In Its Way (Part 1)
Pamela named after the lady boss claimed the strongest boat in the sea, made of hardwood, watertight and with two diesel engines fairly aged, crossed to Ari Atoll doing roughly 20 knots. An easterly wind picked the breeze spontaneously in the change of monsoon. Sudden under shocks of the current could be felt on its keel. Into the glow of the sun; boat captain maintained the course.
The islands appeared in the distance, counting in numbers and growing bigger as the boat approached to enter the atoll. Bathala lying closest was a tiny tourist island shutdown for renovation. Its unique feature of rich soil gave its growth of tall coconut trees mixed with the undergrowth as she lay on the horizon sticking out like a puffy bush.
As the boat passed the island he noticed the crests were rinsed in red. Bougainvillea planted in the open-air baths shoot over the tops in full blossom and it looked like icing on a cake.
Few kilometres to the south lay Halaveli and the boat moved up another five kilometres to enter the lagoon and landside the island also closed recently for renovation.
Nadal was working at Tari Village when he got the call from the Chief Accountant. “Pack up and go to Halaveli at once. We need to reopen the island instead of Bathala.” However, Tari Manager raised an argument that he couldn’t go and finally the lady boss rooted that he must go. Nadal arrived with a group of selected staff to reopen Halaveli obtained from Coral to substitute for Bathala that failed to open after renovation.
Bathala contained forty beachfront bungalows and in the heydays filled with mostly German repeaters and divers. This island belonged to a private company called Treasure Island (TIE) run by an Australian lady. Under new contract with an Italian operator this island was supposed to reopen for Christmas.
In less than two weeks Nadal and his staff set Halaveli open for iGrandi Viaggi operation. Abe placed those sticks of oil-filled coconut husk torches in ten yard distances around the island and lit the beach. He was the only staff left by Coral owners to look after the island. He got his surfboards and a hut in the jungle. He observed a job as an assistant barman.
The first batch of Italian tourists arrived on Christmas Eve. Not a ripple stirred on the shore. Along came a number of foreign staffs; the ‘Capo’ couple and iGrandi Viaggi staffers, divers belonging to Coral group and some old staffs. They got settled in the staff rooms by themselves. TIE also sent a manager, Tutu.
Naturally, Bathala fell into Nadal’s hand to keep them supplied. A group of five labours stayed there and the only connection was through a CB set. Halaveli was equipped with a VHF set. TIE sent a group of contract workers to restart renovation. A dozen of guys arrived and the foreman, Syd.
Nadal arranged the fishing boat to drop some fish every day. Soon he heard the chef complaining of Bathala staff picking their best catch and he could not serve the tourists enough. Nadal asked to stop dropping fish and not to answer Bathala on the radio.
After a week a passing boat stopped at Bathala. Work force climbed the boat and reached Halaveli. They stormed the stores. Picked anything they could get hold of; flour, sugar, rice, vegetables, fruits, drinks, meat, etc. Storekeeper saw red. Nadal waved him off, “Don’t get in their way.”
Then the yachts arrived. Dive master’s yacht was an eight cabin boat. A small red yacht called Lando (as a slang word in the native-tongue for dick) was the interesting one. Half a dozen boats and nobody knew who belonged to them. Manager Tutu was outraged. In fact, when a local boat stopped with a pregnant woman he asked them to take the boat from his lagoon.
They took the boat further out into the lagoon and moored to an underwater line to spend the night. Tutu dived in fins and mask, swam a distance to cut the line in the dead of the night. Tutu even mentioned it to Nadal as they shared the same room.
1989 January, there were times when the senior staffs vacated their rooms to manage some overbooking and accommodate guests; sixty rooms of Halaveli fully sold. On transfer nights Pamela anchored at Halaveli despite Colonel’s order to moor at Mayafushi, another TIE resort lying 5.3 km due north-west. Nadal arranged the fishing boat to take the transfer boat crew and some local staffs to a nearby island to spend overnight with women.
Furana Manager called, “Exactly what type of accommodation have you arranged for the transfer crew that they are so mad about to stay at Halaveli?”
“Yes sir,” Nadal would reply, “Captain has gone to bed.” Colonel would never ask to call a boat crew fast asleep.
Then one day the fishing boat got stuck in the middle of a reef. They stayed until the sea level rose and freed them after midnight. Next morning a lot of staffs, waiters and room boys, failed to show up on duty. Capo of the island gave fresh instructions to Nadal, “Basta! No more island-hopping.”
In 1987 Nadal began his resort life in Bathala. He was overwhelmed to touch the soft white sand of the moving beach; in easterly monsoon it extends towards west. The roots overgrown and covered to the reception lobby, plants produced huge pumpkins and varieties of edible vegetation. The round bungalows were renovated with polished wooden decks on one side to position the bed. Newly tiled floors in white and the open-air baths where the bougainvillea plants climbed taller than the palms. The main complex holding the reception, bar and restaurant was complete in structure and tiles however, a lot of work to do on interior fittings and final paint. The service area, old staff quarters and powerhouse still remained in the balance of work to do. Former tennis court was dismantled and sunflower grew all over.
Friday, the generator guy, who kept an eye on the island during shutdown, escorted Nadal to room 30. As to its tradition this room still served a bottle. And a bottle of Vodka was left in the middle of the floor. He heard rumours Friday shipped some paint and stuff out of the island. Here Nadal witnessed a bottle stolen from the liquor store.
The beach front was still beautiful outside the bungalows hidden behind screw pines, poison bulbs, sea lettuces and octopus bushes.
Meanwhile in Halaveli there was a pest issue. Pathways were marked, an antidote imported and daily fogged to resolve the crisis. Worst hit took Abe who was either bitten by a bee on his balls swollen like a coconut. Foreign staff smoked weed. Junior chef told Nadal that that stuff came from the red yacht. Its boom was filled with marijuana.
Nadal acquired all the call signs, tuned on the frequencies and cursed on air, among them the Coast Guard HQ and coastguard vessels. Authorities knew Halaveli got a VHF set but it was confiscated. They knew not of a second set in possession. This VHF set could call Alfa Tango – Italia. An announcement was aired on local radio about misuse of communication equipment. One of the coastguard vessels began to rove around the island and Nadal stopped it.
Nonetheless, Nadal read the Bible to the local staff incongruously of Adam and Eve who ate from the forbidden tree finding them stark naked got provoked to commit sexual intimacy. The senior chef rushed with a butcher knife to chop his head off. He was a sixty year old faithful man.
Capo decided transfers on Pamela were not adequate for tourists after nine hours flight time from Rome and ninety minutes sea route to Halaveli. He fixed the helicopter transfers.
Islands around embarked on cleaning the helipad on Kandoludoo. There was no previous operation and the foliage got to be trimmed. That day one of the local staffs fell overboard and he was lost. It was after sunset. Divers arrived from all resort islands searching for the castaway. Pamela assisted with its searchlights. Cops were called. The coastguard arrived. They dived to a wide area as to the current flow. He was found hours after midnight in the bottom of the sea right outside the Kandoludoo reef canal. Some divers claimed an octopus pulled him down as he fell. There were huge octopuses that could suck a man down and suffocate him with its tentacles. The crew on the boat saw the flash of his light go down to the bottom in a spin.
Next morning the Hummingbird helicopter flew over the treetops calling on loudspeaker, “Bonjourno!” The Mil Mi-8P type, 28-passenger, chopper hovered over Kandoludoo trees to dust away sand on the pad with its powerful rotor blades and climbed straight up before its initial landing. Nadal collected fares from the tourists and they were promised of refund once back home.