El Chupadero - A Palace Build from Ruins
Many people on the island have had the pleasure of visiting the lovely Bodega El Chupadero . Set in the heart of the biosphere, this delightful converted finca was not always as it now looks.
Barbara Hendriks came to the island from Germany in 1981 and settled happily into a rented house in the South of the island. Life was good for her and her young son, Bruno. Until one day the owners of the house told her that it was to be sold and she must find alternative accommodation.
A friend suggested looking at some old properties in need of renovation. She travelled the island until she came upon the ruins of an old farmhouse in the wine growing region of La Geria.
The house was in an appalling state of disrepair. Barbara wandered throught the broken down framework of what once must have been a grand building. Returning in her spare time, she sat with Bruno, in the remains of the patio. Falling in love with a dream, Barbara decided to buy.
With a single handshake a deal was struck. Using every peseta she had, she became the proud owner of 'a lot of potential' in stone walls and land.
No money, no electricity, no water (but for a small aljibe). For Barbara this was no problem, the challenge had begun. Utilising her artistic talents she found work. As the money came in, she managed to make on room habitable. This became her bathroom, kitchen, dining room and bedroom all in one. Heating water over a primus tove she filled a large can with a hole in, suspended it from beam, and washed under her 'mobile shower'. A neighbour upon seeing her efforts, smiled and said 'this is going to take a least 5 years to complete'. Barbara knew better. Through a friend, she met two bricklayers from Yaiza who, for a good days work, asked for little money. Antonio and Simon proved to be an excellent find, and are to be congratulated for their contribution.
To earn extra cash, she rented a church hall in La Asomada and ran discos. Painting and decorating for others, also helped her income. The progress was understandably slow. The year of 1986, brought a new addition, a baby brother for Bruno. Conditions were no better, the current living room was bitterly cold. Barbara would often feed in the warmer area of the kitchen with only a petrol lamp to keep them warm. The 'five Years' passed, and there was still no aparent end to the work.
No amenities, meant that washing clothes were done by hand, and even to have a hot drink entailed boiling water over a burner.
In 1988, the Bodega was completed. To help raise more funds, Barbara decide to make use of her music from the discos, and hold 'Full Moon' parties. Starting at 9pm and continuing through the night, friends would come and enjoy Barbara's home cooking, and party the night away. These became so popular, that people came from all over the island and on some full moons there were over 400 participants. Progress was still slow, but it was progress nevertheless.
A very dear friend came from Germany to visit. Taking a look at the building, he generoulsy offered to loan the sum required to complete the restoration. A thousand proyers were answered. Gruadually, the house began to take shape, and after ten years Barbara's home was finished.
Consisting of 9 bedrooms, 4 kitchens, 4 bathrooms and 5 living rooms on a plot of 600 sq mtrs. this had been no mean feat on her part. There are still no amenities that we all take for granted, like electricity or mains gas, and water is delivered by lorry when required. The main house utilieses solely solar energy, thanks to the kind donation of 8 solar planels from the Ayuntamiento, in appreciation of her contribution to the biosphere. The Bodega itself is powered by generators and all cooking is by gas (bottle).
Seeing is believing, if you pay a visit to the Bodega El Chupadero now, it seems imposible to believe that it once was nothing more than crubling walls. Offering exceptionally delicious tapas, soups and desserts (all home made) useing only locally grown produce and the fines hams, El Chupadero is self sufficient. Barbara grows her own grapes and her neighbour Synforiano, makes it into wines for her to sell.
Whoever said that dreams don't come true, knows very little. Hard work plays a large part, but the odd bit of good luck along the way makes all the difference.