Continental Crossings: Crossing Canyons with Cables
The accelerant needed two days to cure so we took a break from the bridge on Wednesday and Thursday. I went to Esquipulas on Wednesday to order the wood for the bridge while the rest of the team stayed in Jicaro to climb the giant mountain we live under and enjoy a refreshing swim at a nearby swimming hole.
On Thursday we traveled to another rural community just outside Esquipulas called Cinta Verde. The river there isolates them from the school, medical facilities, and job opportunities, similar to Jicaro. We talked to the leader of the community to assess the severity of their need and walked along the river with him to look for potential sites for a suspended pedestrian bridge. We were pleased with what we found and plan to return later to do more surveying.
Friday was the big day! Cable day! The most challenging and dangerous day of construction. I am very happy to report that we made it through the day without any injuries.
We started early (around 4:30 in the morning) and worked late (until the sun set around 6:30). The community was amazing. They brought more than 30 workers and it was nonstop action.
We clamped the cables down to the road side anchor, pulled them across the canyon as far as we could by hand, then pulled them the rest of the way with the winch.
The first cable took nearly half the day but once we got the hang of it we flew through the next four and had all five hung by dinner. A special thanks to Johann Zimmermann who joined us on Wednesday and was critical in helping us get the cables across safely.
On Saturday we made final adjustments to the sag on the cables to make them all even.
There was also 6.4-magnitude earthquake in Nicaragua and our bridge didn’t budge. Game. Set. Match.
Wood preparation began on Sunday and continued through Tuesday. We drilled holes for the suspenders through all the cross beams, squared and cut to length all the deck boards, and painted them with a solution of diesel fuel and salt to protect them from insects and rain.
Once enough of the crossbeams were ready we harnessed ourselves up and took on the precarious task of attaching them to the cables and pushing them out across the canyon into position. It was nerve-wracking trying to push several hundred pounds of wood while tightrope-walking along the cables 75 feet up in the air, but that didn’t keep anyone from taking their turn.
In other news, I’m learning all kinds of interesting intricacies about the Spanish language. For example, the word “ganaria” means “he would win,” which is ironic since it is pronounced the same as “gonorrhea” and if he got gonorrhea he certainly would not be “winning.” I also learned that I have been pronouncing the verb “ordenar” (to order) incorrectly, making it sound more like “orinar” which unfortunately translates to “to urinate” No wonder the shop owner looked at me funny when I told them I would like to urinate wood for my bridge.