New House

A newly renovated house in a traditional Naxi village in Shigu, Yunnan, China

After another few months of back breaking work, we’ve just finished the first stage of renovating our second courtyard. The house will mostly be used by ourselves and our friends, but it also has a big garden with some mature walnut trees where we can put up slacklines and make a badminton and volleyball court. The garden will be free for everyone to enjoy. Having lived in a room right above the dorms, with no windows, and no insulation for nearly two years, it’ll be nice to have our own space. A big thank you all the volunteers who helped us this year. It wouldn’t have been possible without you.

Summer’s here kids

Summer’s here kids! We’ve had a busy few months trying to finish a few things on the house. The final job was making the railings and steps for the barn rooms. We’ve now got all of our licences, and we’re very happy to announce that we’re finally officially open.

Happy New Year

Happy new year from sunny Shigu!
What a December we’ve had!! It started off with a surprise visit from a roofing gang. It was a surprise because we hadn’t agreed on the price, and then they just showed up at 8 o’clock in the morning saying they could do it if they started that day. A big thank you to our guests who put up with the dust and disturbance. The roof comes complete with a strange cat whose bum faces into the courtyard. Apparently it can poo money and make us rich!
For Christmas we enjoyed the winter sunshine down by the river with a day of BBQ and climbing. I think we all did more eating and lazing about in the sun than actual climbing, but was a perfect way to spend Christmas.
And, the most important news (for climbers anyway) is that, thanks to Laelia Jaelle and Peter Mortimer, we now have a new multipitch right behind the house. It took 4 days of bolting, two days of cleaning, and two days of attempts to free the route. The 8 pitch 7a+ is somewhere between 150 and 160m long, with really varied climbing. A path running along the top of the cliff brings you all the way home.


New living room

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.


More rooms are “finished”

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.

Garden path

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.

Getting there

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.


Bed making

I’ve been making the beds. The one above is number three (two singles and one double) and I’ve just about got a system. The beds available are either expensive, poorly made, or just look a bit rubbish. Hand making all of the beds is a bit of an undertaking but I’ve made good progress. They’re all made from a seemingly inexhaustible pile of roundwood which came with the house. The first bed I made I left the wood round, but cutting joints into round section timber is a bit of a faff, and it took 3 days in all to cut all the joints, glue it up, make the frame to support the mattress and sand away all the splinters. 3 days is actually not bad going but with so many beds I wanted to reduce that a bit. For the next beds I planed faces at 90 degrees on to all the legs. That bit of extra work made cutting the joints a lot easier, and bed number three was completed in about one and a half days. They’re held together with epoxy glue, have zero creak, weigh an astonishing amount  and are extremely strong.


New paint job

Ling’s been giving the house a fresh coat of paint. We renewed the traditional blood red with gold edges, but changed the window frames to white, and Ling painted some flowers on the hand carved doors. Of all the things we’ve done to the house, it’s the first which has had unanimous approval from the villagers.

P1060029 P1060032

New wires

Until this week, all of our electricity had been coming through a single circuit of 1mm wire.  Now, I’m not an electrician, but I’m pretty sure that it’s not the safest way to wire a house. Saying that for wiring up a few bulbs and a TV and occasionally using some power tools, it’s probably not going to set on fire and burn the house down. Having been unable to find someone to wire the house like we’d wanted, I’d been spending my evenings studying house wiring diagrams. Luckily, we found a guy who seemed to know what he was doing. He had all the tools anyway; wire cutters, electrical tape, knife, screwdriver and a voltmeter that looked like a prop from Star Trek the Next Generation. He was also willing to do the job with Ling helping, and making sure he didn’t try and cut any corners with no one watching. We now have four circuits; lights, sockets, kitchen, and an 8kw shower for when there’s no sun and not many people are here. After struggling to wire up the fuse box, the guy called a mate who works for the electric company. The first thing he said was, “Why so complicated? Such a small house. You could just put it all on one circuit”.


Finally, the fuse box was joined on to the mains with doubled up 6mm wire and half a role of electrical tape. It wouldn’t meet any codes in the west, but it seems to be working.