We left the Tsoi islands and travelled 5 hours up to Tunnung island, this is where Clems place was. Described as last part of civilisation, first stop paradise by its owner and he was right. As we approached we realised that our charts weren’t very accurate including a whole island missing, also they seemed to be about a mile off course.
We were relieved when a man in a canoe appeared and rowed towards us, we asked if we had arrived at the right island and he jumped aboard and gave us directions to the anchorage. There were two reefs that came out from the shore making the entrance into the bay tricky. His name was Paul and he spoke very good English, he lived on the island with his wife and three children working at the guest house. He told us about how quiet it was there, not busy, no hassle, everything good and again how quiet it was there. I think he liked the quiet aspect of the island.
These guys soon came to join us –
The next day we went ashore and four kids became our guides. We walked part way around the island until we found Clems place, he was standing in his main building looking a little surprised to see us.
He currently had no guests but was waiting for the weekend as 8 surfers from Sydney were arriving, the island was mostly surrounded by reef and when the conditions were right produced good surf right outside Clems place.
We told him about how we had visited some other islands and given out glasses, he then told us of a worry he had with one of his eyes and an eye test workshop was set up for the next morning at his place. The word soon spread around the island inhabitants.
We saw 20 or so people and handed out about 14 pairs of glasses, some needed catoract operations or had a problem with pterygium (surfers eye) which seemed to be common in these island areas. Pterygium is a condition where a growth appears across the white of the eye which can lead to problems with vision if left untreated, it is normally caused by sun, wind, sand, etc. The only real thing to prevent it is good quality sun glasses, something they simply don’t have. Sadly even when you tell them they need to go and visit the hospital you know they never will, the cost of the transport and waiting times at the hospital simply put them off.
The next day we moved the boat to the neighbouring island of Kung, we were met by a lady in a canoe who already knew what we did and we told her we would in in 10 minutes. We took the dingy ashore and were escorted to the transit house, a place where any visitors to the island could come and stay for a small fee. Another eye test workshop was under way with another 20 or so seen that day.
We returned again the next morning and saw another 15 or so. There were two people i remember the most from that day. We went to the house of a lady on the way back to the boat as she wasn’t very mobile, unfortunately she was both short sighted and long sighted. We struggled to find her some matching glasses but we found a pair of huge glasses that looked like they fell out of the 1970’s, fortunately they actually looked quite good on her. You just know sometimes that you’ve found a good pair just by the expression on their faces, she looked up and could see the end of her garden, her neighbours house and all around – she was delighted !!
We also found her some reading glasses which worked just as well, she could now see close up too. She clutched her two new pairs of glasses and wouldn’t let them go, like they were her most valuable possessions, every so often trying her distance ones back on and smiling to everybody !!
The other person I remember was a man who kept coming up and asking me the same questions –
‘ So you are travelling on the boat ?’
‘You have come to my island to help?’
‘You are giving away glasses for free?’
‘You are not getting paid for this ?’
He would walk away and reappear 30 minutes later and ask similar questions. He simply couldn’t understand that somebody had come to his island to help him, he said he felt cut off from his own country at times. It was like he was having trouble comprehending what was happening. He kept saying ‘thank you’ and wandering off to think about it some more.