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Bali: a culture of MacGyvers

It seems extremely odd that my Balinese builder would reference the TV show character MacGyver when discussing our hole-digging contractor.


(Photo of MacGyver courtesy of Wikipedia)

It would appear that MacGyver is as far from an Indonesian hero as possible on the surface, but perhaps because of his Swiss Army Knife, his duct tape and paper clips, MacGyver’s ingenuity elevated him into a universal male idol.

The contractor that the builder and I were referencing is this guy (next to the man in the white shirt);

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He built his digging machine by hand so that holes could be dug 5-6 meters deep for steel and concrete, supporting the above-ground columns that will secure the structure. The photo below is of a steel frame getting ready to be lowered into one of the 46 holes the contactor dug for us:

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The effort is muddy and physically demanding, but every day the contractor pressed on, digging 2-3 holes a day.

To build his contraption the contractor essentially took a large portable engine and attached a gear system to a custom-made blade and pipe, supporting it on either side with steel posts. The mud would cake up and the blade had to be cleaned regularly:

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My builder and I calculated that after 25 jobs or so his investment was fully recovered.

In Bali only tall buildings need holes dug deep into the ground. Typical one-story villas don’t require more than a meter or so of hand-digging for the foundation. I imagine if all villas required deeper holes then a commercial hole digger would be made available for contractors. And of course you can buy an auger machine from a first-world country, but the price point makes it impossible.

The solution is a MacGyver!

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