Travel. P #42 – Building Clay Houses

Someone asked me, if I were stranded on a desert island what book would I bring… ‘How to Build a Boat.’

Steven Wright

Parting from R and F was an new exiting moment. A moment of leaving behind and moving into the unknown again. I could have spend more time there, I really learned a lot in such a short time and felt great. We have done quite a good job, our gardening team of two was working each day hard and with a lot of energy and good vibes.

The Park in Town

R and F brought me to a street where I might get picked up by a passing car, they went to buy some stuff from town. Well when they came back one and a half hour later, it was still me there. Standing around and hoping for a lift. Finally they gave me a lift, through some beautiful forests until we reached a street where the second car picked me up and brought me a few kilometers further.

My new sleeping place.

I reached my destination after 4 different people picked me up. All completely different. Some old, some young. Again I learned about local history, farm land, plants, animals, power poles, climate and about their personal life. Really hitchhiking is amazing if you take your time.

Our volunteers, group of 3

My last pickup was very funny, I was waiting for so long, and they were not sure if my bag and me would fit into the car. Well I was sure it is gonna fit somehow, I packed it in, and they drove me the last final distance. Offering me chicken and soft drinks, while telling me of crazy stories about police, jail time, beating up people, so a little introduction into the place where I was going to, haha. It was hot there and very very dry. A complete opposite of where I was coming from. Green juicy areas. Trees everywhere. Clean air and a lots of rain. The only food available was fast food from like 10 different stores, some bars and a park, that was more red sand and a few trees than a park to me, with a river going through.

Of course the first thing I did was going to the library. My favorite air conditioned building in every town, haha. After closing time I left to the park and set up my hammock next to the river. Surprisingly any mosquitoes have stung me that night. The next day, I met up with the fam, packing up some solar panels onto another car. I was greeted kind of weird, and didn’t feel very welcome, but once we started driving to the property and they were telling me some stories I felt better.

They were living like 60 km from town, somewhere in the bush. Most of the people were mining laborer, working in the mines quite close to us. Just next to the street around the corner were huge pipes layed out on the ground, that were about to get dug into the ground. When I got picked up later, I found out that they do not really working there but alternatives are missed and the pay is good. The streets where made of sand and dust. The property was surrounded by trees, lucky so it was a little colder than other properties and we had more shade. It was very very dry, which was good for me, so it didn’t feel to hot there. It didn’t properly rain there for over a year, and bush fires were going around in the neighborhood. A neighborhood is expanding there to like 20 km. Apparently the properties are very cheap there, but I mean there was literally nothing but dry sand. Wood that was laying on the ground didn’t get composted for ages. The only animals I saw there were ants, wasps, ostriches, snakes, spiders and kangaroos.

On the properties were two huge dams where water was safed from better rainy days. If one dam was overflowing it would float into the one that is 300 meters down he road. Nearly all buildings were made of clay, a few were made of tins. They got unlivable hot. Like 60 degrees. Insane.

Our Power. Completely managed by solar.

All was build up by hand, by the hosts or people volunteering there, like me. It was very impressive. It all looked very different to what I have seen so far. All houses were just ground story houses. The main house, a kitchen living room and sleeping room was the biggest one. It was packed with a table, 3 freezers, couches, armchairs, and a kitchen. Outside was a lovely veranda with beautiful plants, watered by the our host. She was from the Philippines and had two children. They were really nice, but ate way too much sugar, so they were moody and aggressive sometimes. The man was bold with a proper beer belly, he was really nice as well and was sitting on the armchair all day smoking and talking. Haha, sadly he couldn’t help us due to blood pressure problems. He knew a lot about cobbing, building houses of clay.

Worker of the month: Tony

I was the first days staying in a clay house. The roof was made of metal, so it was kind of a tin roof. Following it was incredible hot. The house with two rooms, two beds was build up by a group of backpackers. In front of the house was the old kitchen. It was an open place without walls. I kinda liked it but it wasn’t used for ages and looked a bit fucked. In the beginning, when they bought the property, they build this kitchen really fast. They were cooking with fire made in a self build oven that looked like a dragon. On that you could cook and use the heat. Super crazy. The ground was made of sand, that got heated up in the sun, so that at 1 o’clock you were not able to walk more than 5 meters without burning your feet. So you were running from shade to shade, haha. The most crazy thing is that we were living by 3 huge water tanks, that were filled by rain in the high season.

Sleep Place after Hammock broke

Water was treated very precious. It was a very interesting experience to treat water this precious. Usually it should have already rained like a flood, but it didn’t and we got scared to not have water at some point. The food was mostly meat and not really healthy, which was a bit sad, but okay, I had to eat and needed energy to work. Working was very physical and exhausting in the heat. We tried working early and late so we could work while it was still bearable. In between we took some clay baths and swam in the damn, that was really refreshing.

Garden and Garage

Tony and a Japanese girl joined me after like two days working there. Our job was to paint the bathroom with 4 layers of lime color and a final layer of lime color and linseed oil to make it waterproof. First we had to prepare the walls so we had to make them nice and smooth. That took us 2 days to find the best way to work with the clay. It was not easy to seal the cracks and make the surface smooth. Our first two tries just broke of the wall when it tarted to dry. When we finally found a way, with wting the wall first, than applying a layer of sand and clay, wetting it in between so it wont dry to fast we sealed the wall. Following we started painting. First without gloves and any protection but we fast realised that lime paint is very aggressive so we wore gloves and safety googles. All the time while we worked there were huge wasps flying around us and scaring the shit out of us, but actually never attaacking us. After a week we finished the room. It was way more work than expected but in the end it looked amazing.

Toilet View

The final best procedure was a first very watery thin layer. Than 2 thick ones to seal the last cracks and following 1 normal layer against water damage with oil. We got very efficient and worked very hard. Our hosts didn’t really appreciated it as much as we wished so we lost interest and I kind of felt used and only as a worker. Our host was talking a lot and most of it some revolutionary bullshit and not understanding that listeners try to escape the talk. I mean when you say at your friends house “yeah we only get good fish from New Zealand” our host was a Kiwi, and than you unpack frozen fish sticks at home from new Zealand, you realize there is something not right in the reality of this person, haha. So we just made fun of it and worked a bit less enthusiastic. It was still a great time we had and we learned a lot.

The toilet was a compost toilet. It was build of clay and really nice. At night you were able to watch the 1000 of stars at the night sky. We also had a few dogs, some to watch after our host because he had post traumatic experiences in the war. Another dog of us just had puppies. She was looking after them really good and they were super cute. I have never seen puppies like that before and I was really moved by the effort of the mum looking after her pups.

Finished Bathroom

We fixed and build a lot at the family. When we all left, we were all able to work with clay and cob houses. Today at home in Germany, I build over like 3 weeks a wood fired pizza oven that is working perfectly, you will read about it at another Blog.

Also I saw my first Black widow there, its actually very small and not attacking you at all. Also a brown snake that was attacked by the dog and killed by owner. It is very deadly and dangerous for the kids.

The cool thing about cobbing is that you can shape it like it suits you, it is completely natural and it is a breathing wall that insulates quite good. With the white paint the heat is getting even less absorbed by the walls and it looks very nice. It is a lot of work and stamping around, moving the materials and being patient while it dries but in the end is is worth it. It looks amazing and you actually can work fast, as long as you got the materials close to you.

Because there were too many mosquitoes in my sleeping room, and it was way too hot I moved to sleep near the damn. Around 1 a.m. my hammock broke. I moved to the small shelter at the damn, put my hammock on the table so I was able to see the mosquito net and from then on I only slept there. It was always scary to walk at night to the camp, you heard noises of Kangaroos jumping through the trees and you never knew what you gonna expect or which snake or spider web you gonna run into. But it never happened anything, Sometimes the dogs were coming with me and brought me to bed. After a few days on the sleeping on the table, I realized that there was a nest of Wasps underneath so we got rid of them with a deo flamethrower action mission, I felt bad but I was too scared of them, since they were literally sleeping 10cm far away from me.

Veranda with beautiful plants around us.

Sleeping there was very peaceful. Sometimes I got woken up by kangaroos hopping around during the night. Often when I woke up I saw one at the damn drinking water. They look so peaceful and respective. Sadly I never got to pet one, they were too shy or its me looking to wild, haha.

The Puppies

Next time I’m gonna tell you about friends of our host, parties we have been to, the vibes of Philippines more cobbing trash diving in town, kangaroos, bad experience with a cactus and a car accident. How a friend got put into jail in town for a day, swimming in town and seeing wild emus. A party in town and getting less and less scared of spiders and all kinds of bugs.

Why don’t go out and absorb some sun on your skin. Walk out in a T Shirt and get some some for at least 10 min. Sun feels great on your skin, no sun lotion. Sunlotion its a whole business for itself.

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