Thursday 13th August
By Thursday I was desperate. I really could not see how we were going to get all the tasks completed in time. The kitchen was simply a shell with no facilities or furniture; the compost toilets were still not operational, neither was the shower; we had not even pitched tents on the actual campsite or used the space at night to see what the hazards and issues were, where the solar lights should go etc. Still, we had come this far, we had to keep trying to move forward.
I concentrated on with touching up the painting in the kitchen so that all the furniture could be moved in and the sink plumbed into place and finishing the painting in the main area, going over places where the tile grout had smudged etc.
It was time to start scrubbing and cleaning and making good what we had in the hope it would compensate for all the stuff not completed. The ongoing process of tidying the site began – mowing the grass, moving the wood pile, picking up rubbish, piling all scrap metal up behind the workshop, tidying the workshop and basement and putting all the tools away.
Nik’s wooden structure for the kitchen was completed. An added advantage of us not doing our tiled rug was that there was lots of large squares of tiles available for use. One of these made a fantastic worktop and later I modified the design further using strips of tiles that fitted underneath & provided an excellent shelf.
Steve completed the wiring for the solar panels, putting a shelf up for the battery to sit on and fixing the various gadgets to the wall. Before the first toilet could be operational the chambers had to be prepared with a layer of compost:
When the fan was switched on, we found it had been put in upside down so the fan blew air down rather than sucked it up and out! Back on the ladder for Steve… After pulling the pipes off , getting the fan out and correcting it, finally the fan was sucking air through as it should.
The big relief was that once Steve had re-fitted the shower, this time complete with hose, the water came out of it at a reasonable pressure and… warm, even hot at certain times of day! We had to face the reality that we would not get the solar thermal panels plumbed in in time for our first guests so the fact that the water temperature was bearable at most times of the day (due to big areas of the black pipe being exposed as it snaked down from the top land and heating up in the sun) was a bonus.
By Thursday evening we had a working toilet, a working shower and a plumbed in kitchen sink. Maybe it was achieveable after all?
Friday 14th August
It was Nik’s turn to be sick. He had a rough night with little sleep after exhausting himself the previous day with lots of working in the sun. He also had a dodgy tummy although thankfully not as bad as Steve. Remarkably he still plodded on – hero that he is, chipping away at small but important tasks like, cleaning up all the drain covers and putting them in place, putting locks on the toilet doors, modifying his wooden structure so it fitted snugly against the wall and putting his tent up on one of the lower terraces. The battery that the solar panel was storing excess power in started to boil over so there was a minor panic sorting that out.
I spent hours shifting stuff from the top land to the main campsite – tables and chairs, kitchen stuff, bedding, candle holders, solar lights. Nik went back to our apartment in town to get a good night’s kip and recover and we started putting up the enormous tent Steve had bought in the UK. It was a mass of poles and guy ropes but actually looked more complicated than it was. Although it took us nearly 2 hours to get it up that first time, I think we’d do it much faster in the future.
While Steve finished tightening all the ropes and figuring out all the zips and compartments, I cooked our first meal on the campsite proper, albeit only on the small camping stove. And as the darkness fell we played about with the solar lights, trying to illuminate key areas of the terraces. Exhausted, but several significant steps closer to being ready, we spent our first night in our brand new tent on the lower camping terrace.
Saturday 15th August
Furniture moving day! We went back to our house first to check Nik was still alive, if not kicking and to put phones & other gadgets on charge and do a load of washing. Then we set off to retrieve our table & chairs from a friend’s terrace and do a load of shopping – food & drink for our guests for the week ahead (they had requested a Dish of the Day on their first night and we hoped they would be tempted into eating with us more than once); bins for recycling; a shower curtain and other essentials. Then it was back to Topla to pick up the washing & bedding; cooking utensils & other little touches for the fully equipped tent we had promised our guests and gather all the clothes and stuff we would need for the week ahead, including, importantly, our proper gas cooker & oven from our house. We had to unload all the stuff at the campsite and then do another trip in the van for a big cupboard that was going to be the main food prep surface and storage unit in the kitchen until such time that we could purpose build a structure to fit and to get plates and other crockery that had been all stored away waiting for this moment.
Nik came up later that evening, with the car filled up with cool boxes, our Dyson and other stuff we had forgotten and the 3 of us spent our first night together in the campsite proper.
Sunday 16th August – D Day
The few hours before our guests arrived at 4.30pm were a blur of manic activity. The kitchen sink had to be dismantled and re-plumbed because it had developed a leak. The gas fridges had to be positioned and levelled, leaving adequate space for venting and creating surfaces on top of them using more tiles as space in the kitchen was tight and every area had to well utilised. Our big gas fridge stopped working and had to be connected up to the generator for a few hours to kick it into action again and we decided to store all the bottles of wine and beer in the stream to keep them chilled – Nik even made a little curtain across the stream to keep the sun off.
Meanwhile I prepared “Full Monte Mansion” as we have dubbed the flash new tent. The living area had a rug and table & chairs; bedroom one had a proper mattress with clean bedding and towels; bedroom 2 was kitted out as a dressing area with a hanging rail for clothes; I made sure thay had enough crockery, cutlery and cooking utensils to fend for themselves if they wanted to and outside we set up the camping gas stove, with a kettle & cooking pans.
Then it was time to work my magic on the kitchen unpacking all the crockery, cutlery and finding places for all the food to be stored. Whilst I turned it into a pleasant, usable space, the guys did a great job tidying up the site, dismantling the unattractive pallet fence that had been our cow defence, putting up the shower curtain and moving the generator to behind the workshop where it would be less offensive at night. Here are some pics of what the place looked like just before our guests arrived: