This week’s seen some action at the Flying Squirrel Crag, nestled in a stunning valley of walnut trees just 15 minutes walk from the house. Thanks Peter for 3 quality new lines.
Four Wise Cows – 6c+ (FA Peter Mortimer)
The Squirrel Fights Back – 7b (FA Peter Mortimer)
And an unsent line around 7c.
In our usual format Peter offered me chance of first ascent before showing me how it’s done. This crag now has seven routes from 6b+ to 7c.
October 1st is National Day in China, a public holiday marking the foundation of the People’s Republic of China. (Almost) everyone in China has a week off work and takes the opportunity to do some travelling. Trains are booked up weeks in advance and tourist areas are unbearably crowded. Our house is full for a week, mostly with friends, but also with a number of climbers coming to check out this up and coming climbing destination. To mark the holiday and our opening, Ling cooked up this incredible feast.
We’ve coped too long with just two tables and an assortment of very low chairs and stools in an otherwise empty room. With the approach of october national holiday and the imminent arrival of guests, we decided to try and make the room a bit more homely. Using some old beds I knocked up a couple of benches, then cleaned up two arm chairs and refitted the doors. Ling painted the ceiling blue and the inside of the doors white. It’s already a big improvement – just needs some pictures and things to make it even nicer. Once the nights start to get cold, we’ll enclose a corner of the room with curtains, put some insulation on the ceiling and get a wood burner. It’s going to be so snug and warm I can’t wait.
About a week ago Wancai staggered through the door, leaving a trail of blood behind her. This trail of blood led all the way down to the river bank where the villagers dump their rubbish. In places like this, they’re aren’t any refuse facilities and it’s so far from the town that they don’t even consider it worthwhile to collect recyclables. It looked like Wancai had stood on a broken bottle. She’d gashed the back of her leg really badly cutting a blood vessel and with the bone clearly visible. The blood was literally squirting out and she was close to being unconscious. Ling squeezed her leg to stop the blood while I dashed around the house looking for some special chinese medicine. Originally developed for treating wounds on the battle field, this plant based powder has blood coagulating properties. I’d never really believed it before, but it seemed to work. We packed the wound with this magic powder and bandaged it up, with a piece of cloth tied just above her knee as a tourniquet. After a few hours, we removed the tourniquet and for the next two days stopped her from pulling off the bandage. After that, we just left her to treat herself and she’s been licking the wound ever since to keep it clean. She’s mastered the three legged walk and is tentatively trying her injured leg.
For most of the people here, tobacco is the main source of income. The average family gets around $2000 for the harvest which, when taking into consideration the fact that they own their own homes and produce a lot of their own food, makes them wealthier than most Chinese. It also ensures that the villagers do all they can to get as big a harvest as possible. If tobacco isn’t toxic enough already, the regular cocktail of pesticides will guarantee an early grave for the unfortunate addict.
We’ve just had our first big group – all the way from Seattle. They were looking for some Yunnan authenticity and I think they got it. Despite our lack of comfortable seating in the bar and novel toilet arrangements, they seemed to be quite at home here. Ling did an excellent job introducing them to some fine Yunnan cuisine and I took them on a little hike up the mountain behind the house. I’d previously sent some other intrepid guests up the same valley and so I wanted to see the walk for myself. It proved to be much steeper than I’d expected and the path had become a bit overgrown. Once at the top the views made it well worth it, with beautiful views of the first bend of the Yangtze. The way down was much more straightforward, following a well trod path from a Lisu village to Shigu town. If you’ve got the legs for it, it makes an excellent day hike.
The last couple of weeks have seen a mad dash to get the rooms “finished” in time for our first big group. By “finished” I don’t mean completely finished, just good enough that people won’t complain.
The dorm has four beds, all handmade, with a bedside table and power outlet for each bed. I still need to make some cupboards for bag storage and make curtain rails which are currently just pieces of string. But other than that, it’s a pretty nice room.
We’ve also got two double rooms “finished”. They have the same missing features as the dorm and one of them needs the back wall white washing, but other than that they’re pretty nice.
The steps up to the garden and the compost toilet are being redone for the third time. Originally we’d been a bit hasty and hadn’t bedded the stones in properly, and so they’d started to wobble. Also, they were a just a bit narrow. Ling’s already become a real villager and an expert at moving rocks with a metal spike. Apart from the biggest stones, she made the path completely by herself. She also remade the garden wall and moved out the pile of stones which had been there for several months since digging the shower foundations.
We put in an order for mushrooms with the village at the top of the valley – just a few kilos is what we said. Just as the fruit sellers here always add a few extra thinking you’ll probably take it, the guy tried his luck and carried just over 10 kg of freshly picked porcini mushrooms down the mountain. At a fraction of the price in the city, we could hardly say no. Ling got to work cleaning, chopping and frying them with garlic, and now we have a freezer full of delicious mushrooms.
The garden has also been providing us with some fresh organic vegetables – tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and squashes. We haven’t had the space or time to do the garden properly this year, but next year we want to grow a lot more.
After 4 months of hard work it finally feels like it’s starting to come together and there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. There’s still a huge amount of work to do, but for the first time it feels manageable. The initial excitement has diminished some what and now everyday has become much the same – get up, eat, work, eat, work, eat, work, sleep. Some days I don’t even leave the courtyard.
We’ve been working on the barn rooms, turning them into double rooms. I partitioned them with two layers of plywood, painted white and with rock wool for a bit of sound insulation. The wooden panelling was cracked and warped, so I took it apart, replaced some of the timber and reassembled it with lots of windows. We also put windows above the doors in the front. For the walls I’m patching up the bigger holes with clay and straw and then lime rendering them.