We had our first guests last week, my climbing friends from Kunming, bringing words of encouragement, advice, whiskey, some fruit trees, a drill and some bolts. I’d still been quite apprensive about the whole thing but having people here and all being supportive, it’s put me at ease and I’m confident it’ll work. Although I’d wanted to get more work done on the house by now, I think it’s been good to spend the time here and look at everything closely.
We got to work on the crag behind the house, clearing rubbish, flattening an area to put a slackline, making a path, rolling loose boulders down a hill and bolting four routes. It’s a beautiful little crag, nestled in a little valley with lots of walnut trees which will provide good summer shade. We named it the Flying Squirrel Crag after said animal made a spectacular leap from a hole after being disturbed by Peter’s drilling.
With the arrival of spring festival my initial enthusiasm had waned. Trying to get anything done at all was proving to be a near insurmountable task. Every year it’s the same. Everything slows down, shops start shutting, people stop working, and then finally the whole county shuts down. I’d wanted to get someone in to help do the walls. However, everyone was far too busy doing the rounds and taking it in turns to be plyed with food and alcohol. Frustrated I used this time to explore some of the trails by motorbike and get to know the surroundings a bit. I was hoping to find a backroad link to Liming but the higher passes still had snow and my 150cc road bike, although surprisingly capable, just wasn’t up to it. Just before new year’s eve I returned to Kunming, found a lorry driver still willing to work, and then together with Ling and all our possessions made the real move to Shigu. New year was spent with the family who own the house. Exciting for us but for them I could see a little sadness at giving up their beautiful family home for a more comfortable life in the city.
After settling in to my new home the first job is to build some showers. We’ll start with a couple of outside showers for the sake of ease and then later look to fit them into some of the rooms. There’s a perfect place for them just behind the kitchen. Just need to destroy a concrete water tank first. There’s a shortage of water here for two months a year but this is far too small for our needs. We’ll build a bigger one later in the fields at the top of the village.
To assist in my destruction my neighbour, whose name translates to Plum Red Star, lent me a big sledge hammer. News got around and it wasn’t long before everyone in the village had been round to watch the foreigner working. For a lot of the older ones I don’t think they had ever seen a foreigner in real life, and so I beacame a source of entertainment in their otherwise routine lives
With my initial enthusiasm the tank came down quickly, but a more arduous task was to rebuild the retaining wall around the garden, which had partly collapsed. A week later and the wall was built, and the foundation dug. Thankfully, there shouldn’t be too much more back breaking tasks as I’m not really built for it. To help putting in the foundations I got a couple of villagers in.