The first hard step of doing anything in Niue is that of actually getting there. It is not near anything. There is one flight per week, from Auckland. Harvind and I flew into Auckland a day early, just to be safe, booked our GSM gear through Air New Zealand's cargo office at the highest priority and met Tim Panton when he arrived a few hours later. Tim had been in transit for over 24 hours already but managed to be in good spirits anyway.
Our first snag was that some VoIP hardware that was supposed to be waiting for Tim at the hotel wasn't there. Since that gear wasn't absolutely critical to the project and since we had another week to get it through, we didn't worry too much just yet. We left Auckland on a Saturday morning and arrived at Hanan International Airport in Alofi on a Friday afternoon. (Hanan's terminal building is a lot like Black Rock City's terminal building, just with pavement.)
About an hour later we hit our second snag: our GSM cargo, the BTS, antenna and cables, had not been on the airplane. It would be at least a week before we installed a BTS. At least we had a couple of Nanostation-5 radios and plenty of time for site prep, right?
After verifying that our cargo really was stuck in Auckland for another week, we went to a meeting with the acting Premier, the Director of Telecommunications, the project's private funder, the Director of Economic Development and an infrastructure consultant from the New Zealand Commissioner's office. We proposed our newly-improvised schedule for the week, a "prep" schedule intended to allow fast installation of the BTS as soon as it arrives. We talked about risks: the risk of our cargo missing next week's flight, Tim's ideas about how to connect the BTS to anything else if his Xorcom box never shows up, and some concerns we had about the mechanical details the installation site. We had not changed clothes since arriving, so we met the acting head of state in blue jeans and golf shirts. As we walked out someone said we "didn't need to dress up next time".
It was a bad start, but not a disaster. If we could have the installation site, backhaul and PBX ready by Friday and then work through the weekend, we might still have a working GSM system by the next Monday.