the adventure continues:- red-points, on-sights, end of year…..its all right!

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Last morning of 2015 looks to be yet again……..exceptional!

The last four days have been wonderful, truly wonderful. My friends Mike and Robyn arrived on the island to join Karine and I for a few days. They had flown over from Sydney on a spur of the moment “impulse purchased holiday” to hang out and climb in this little known area of southern Thailand. I love these guys! They are two of the “Good Humans” I have come to adore over the past few years that we have known each other. We have climbed together, partied together and now we are holidaying together………..great stuff to see out the end of an amazing year of travel, healing, recovery and discovery.

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Karine on “The Guided” route…….warming into Khao Yao Noi climbing…..
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Robyn cruisin’ up “The Cooler” 6a for her first lead in a year……..stylin’ Robbie stylin’!

We have been eating some of the best food I have ever tasted and spending time catching up on what has been happening back home. Most importantly we have been walking through the Thai jungle in oppressive heat to go climbing. Mike is the understated “King of the on-sight”. Since I have known him, he has never done more than one shot at any route we have climbed together. We have climbed as hard as 7a+ (24) together and his modus operandi is….. on-sight everything, that way he only has to climb it once! I love this approach…………and you cant fall off. 🙂

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Mike looking intimidating on the on-sight of “Big Cloud Coming” 6b+ warm up at The Mitt.

We spent our last day of climbing on Koh Yao Noi at The Mitt in the morning and at The Big Tree in the late morning through until about 4:00pm. I put the draws on Loco (7a) and fell on the on-sight at the crux and blew my second shot because of a bad foot placement. It’ll go next time we are here.

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The author assessing the crux of “Loco” 7a on the second shot red-point attempt………

Mike had a great morning with a very solid on-sight of “Black Widow Arete” 6c+ and followed it up with a fabulous flash of “Loco” 7a. The girls were very patient with us trying some harder routes and were yelling out messages of support as we both worked ourselves a little.

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The flash is now in the bag, the crux is done and now its just tufa thugging fun………..Mike on “Loco” 7a at The Mitt

We then headed around to The Big Tree. Mike was on a mission to tick the entire crag and had four routes to do to complete it. He was off and running and knocked over the routes very quickly. I did four routes and Karine and Robyn did the same I think.

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The author on “Daddy Long Legs”………best 6b ever!!!!

It was a great afternoon topped off with another crazy incident where we watched a young Aussie girl being lowered off the bottom of the third pitch of a route above us into space. She ended up five metres out from the wall and unable to self-rescue. Fortunately Mike was on the bottom pitch and headed up to throw her a rope so she could be pulled back into the belay station. Inexperience had struck yet again……….

Anyways it was a great last day of climbing together and we headed out of the jungle passing toucans, snake skins, bee hives, thorny vines and slippery trails. The ride back to the accommodation was refreshing after the heat had completely thrashed us. We had to get ready for a party.

Tonight was New Years Eve and we were super excited to be spending it together in Thailand. We had been having such a great time and Robyn and Mike were continually saying how happy the y were to be here with us. The Tha Khao Bay Seaview bungalows where we were staying were putting on a BBQ for its guests, so we all just hangout there for the night. We had also met a lovely couple from France too. Maurice and Ingrid joined us at our table and we ate and talked until it was time to head down the beach (across the road) to watch the midnight fireworks across the southern coast of Thailand and send off our “little boat of dreams”.

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Happy New Year everyone……….may your hearts be strong and your dreams continue to drive you on to new adventures. Thanks for reading in 2015.

the adventure continues in 2016!

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the adventure continues:- a day on a long-tail exploring the islands in Phang Nga Bay.

We met at the pier at 8:00 am to set off on our four island day trip. It was a beautiful day and the wind that was blowing overnight had calmed to a nice breeze. I think we were all pretty excited about an active rest day after two days of solid climbing and big walking. It was time to be tourists and see what everyone else who comes to Thailand goes to see. Our boat driver Kong was a happy individual who was super keen to show us a great day on the bay and greeted us with a happy and very large smile. He lead us to the boat, we boarded and took off out into the open water.

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King Kong leading us back to the sea.
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Craig, Mike, Robyn and Karine…………smilin’ and stylin’!!

Karine and I had more sunscreen on than we had ever put on before, we were coated. It was already hot and out on the water it wasn’t as noticeable as when on dry land. Mike and Robyn had taken the smart option and were under the canopy while Miss K and I sat in the sun chair at the front of the boat. We were hoping to improve our tan a little and not get incinerated in the process.

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Our first stop was a little secluded place where the local bird-nesters lived. Bird-nesters make their living by collecting the nests of the swallows that live in the caves on the cliffs of the islands. This is still a common thing in the islands of the bay and they are very protective of their livelihoods. Climbing on the nesters islands is banned during “the harvest”. This island was simply stunning and there were only two other people on it, however the man living there had beer for sale at 8:30am…….no we didn’t indulge.

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Koh Lao La Ding……..Bird Nestters Island.

The next few little islands were just lovely sandy beaches and a place for us to swim and cool down. We tried a bit of snorkelling and just frolicked around in the beautiful warm water. We took photos of each other in various states of relaxation and Kong took a great shot of the four of us just posing for the shot ……..we all looked really healthy and happy. It was great to see jut how chilled we all were……….truly inspiring I say.

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Simply stunning and untouched for that day anyways……..
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Happy Daze……I think we all look super healthy and happy!

 

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This was the island of tourists from the mainland………still stunning…….but not our style.

The lagoon island was the big draw card on this trip from what we understood. So Kong pointed the boat in the right direction and off we went. As we moved further across the bay Kong pointed out one of the bigger islands and said “We will not go there, too many tourists from Krabi and Phuket!” We looked across and all agreed instantly that he had made an informed choice on our behalves. The lagoon island was truly stunning……the photos say it all.

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The entrance to the Lagoon Island.
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This beautiful wall in the lagoon had a possible super hard route on it and all we could do was smile…..because Mike and I just can’t help ourselves when it comes to scoping out new lines.

Our Spanish friends Alexis and Laura had recommended that we go and see this place and do the trip with Kong. 1000 baht each for the day…….that included four major islands and a couple of smaller ones, a beautiful packed lunch of chicken cashew nut with rice and some seasonal fruit to finish off. We sat on a beautiful desert island under coconut palms and ate our fill of wonderful homemade Thai cuisine, whilst being watched wearily by a 2.5 metre long monitor lizard about 10 metres away in the undergrowth……..most intense time I have had eating in quite a while.

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All in all a fantastic day out being a tourist and I would highly recommend this trip to anyone who gets the chance to come down this way and explore a truly stunning part of the world.

the adventure continues:- a mixed bag of sends, friends and broken Americans…..

well Mike and Robyn arrived 24 hours ago and Karine and I gave them the guided tour of Koh Yao Noi. A little orientation day if you will. Karine and I decided to go down to the beach which was where Mike and Robyn were going to be staying and on a whim called into the a hotel to see if they had arrived. They were standing in the foyer booking in. We headed to the beach and they met us there and we swam and drank a few margaritas and then took off to our place to show them where we were staying and then we headed to Dhao Tao Beach for the arvo….it was a great day and we were all very glad to see each other.

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Two mates catching up after a long time between drinks……..chillin’ on Dhao Tao beach.
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(L to R) Robyn, Mike, Craig and Karine.
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Poached citrus chilli fish, special Thai fried rice and Papaya salad……….OMG!

Today we headed out climbing and with an early start at 6:00am it was coffee, khoa mun gai and one of the most beautiful sunrises so far. A delight to be taking in. The four of us headed for the crag and when we arrived it looked like it as going to be crowded. But there was only a couple of guys there. I had met Mike and Gordon on previous occasion and they were nice guys too. Mike had forgotten his harness and had to bail, leaving Gordon stranded with no one to climb with. Karine suggested we ask Gordon to join us and he was delighted to hang out. Lovely man, fit as all get out and possibly in his sixties. Born and raised in Quebec, now living in British Columbia.

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Karine cruising the warm up in fine style.

We climbed a bunch of easier grade stuff at The Mitt. Mike and Robyn were enjoying the new rock and finding the routes very enjoyable. Karine, Gordon and I did two routes to warm up and I decided to get on Black Widow Arete again and see if I could tick it. It goes 6c+ I think but its sustained, steep and unforgiving. I climbed it well and with a little sequence tweak at the second bolt after down climbing to rest and reassess my situation I sent it…..very happy about this one. First 6c+ in Thailand since having a very long break.

Mike got on Daddy Long Legs and sent it with flying colours and really enjoyed the space walk through the tufa system on the route. Gordon decided to top rope Black Widow Arete and loved it, Karine and Robyn both climbed well at the Mitt and as the sun was hitting the walls we decided to move around to the Big Tree Wall and the shade for the afternoon. Gordon was already around there and helping two young Americans set up a 6a+ on the left hand side of the warm up wall. Karine decided to lead the 6b and tied in and got on with the job. Didn’t send it clean but did a great job putting the draws on it and settling in to the route. Mike later said “That 6b was really tough for the grade and had a lot of technical movement on it, you should be really pleased with your efforts” or words to that effect.

We had a few people at the crag with us and all seemed pretty friendly. Tim and Shanna were climbing on top rope. Gordon had been super kind to put up the rope for them. They were inexperienced and I could hear it in their conversation. Tim decided he should lead the 6a to the right of where I was standing and tied in. Shana was going to belay down low and had no idea about what to make of the situation I don’t think, so I said she should stand on the ledge and tie into to the rope sling that was there.

Ready to climb and Tim was off. The first bolt went well and then the second. I was standing keeping an eye on Karine as she was trying a 6b+ with Gordon on belay and doing really well on the route too. Tim was about to clip the third bolt when he started to freak out and get the shakes. He wasn’t in a good position and I standing right there and off he came. He hit the ground hard from about 6 metres up. I ran to his side and said “don’t move mate”. He was trying to stand up after taking a hideous ground fall directly onto sharp rocks and rolled down a small ledge. His belayer was just staring not knowing what to do.

Tim’s pride seemed to be the biggest issue, he was trying to get up and wanted to get back on the wall right there and then. I continued to be very persuasive in keeping him laying down. I told him if you keep trying to get up without at least an examination for broken bones, cuts, bruising and bleeding he could jeopardise his health drastically. He went to move again ego damaged beyond reproach. This time I was not so polite and said “mate if you try and move again I will smack you in the mouth!, I need to check that you have no serious injuries.” This guy was indeed stupid and going into shock, so he needed to be checked over.

Most of the people at the crag had never had to deal with anything like this before, let alone see anything like this before…..and there were a few who were very freaked out. I finally got to check Tim over and he was not to badly busted up. It was lucky he was a bigger build and had a bit more bulk around his ribs and back. If that was me I would have broken in two. He had a little bit of bruising and a couple of scratches. A sore foot and a very very bruised ego.

Shana had second degree rope burn and was in shock. She was just trying to deal with what had happened and was starting to go into a little bit of shock too. She was strong enough to treat her on wounds. This was a terrible accident to witness and the culprit was inexperience and pride. Trying to climb above your ability and letting your pride get in the way of assessing your own ability and your partners experience level.

I did my best to check them both out and Gordon and Robyn were of great assistance to the situation just talking to the two climbers. I was happy I had First Aid experience and unfortunately had assisted a few times with this sort of thing before. One of the guides that was showing some people around the crag on their first day of climbing ever said “I have a boat, do you want a lift back to the pier to go to hospital. We all strongly advised Tim and Shanna to go and made sure they got on the boat.

That was the end of our climbing day for the day and we packed up and walked out of the crag debriefing whilst walking just to clear our heads. Its a bad day when you see someone deck out and its even worse when their ego is the biggest contributor. To much rope out and inexperience brought these two young people unstuck and it was a very hard lesson for them indeed. Fortunately they were both alright.

Look after each other out there and climb smart……………..Climbing is dangerous; You could be injured or killed. Thats what all the reference and instructional books and DVD’s say at the start……………Gee I wonder why?!?!?

the adventure continues:- a couple of good days climbing was all that was needed………

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Today was our second day on rock in a row and tomorrow is going to be a rest day, so we decided to get on and climb a lot. Since we are just getting our fitness back and feeling good about it we decided to do some laps at The Mitt and Big Tree Wall. We warmed up on some low grade classics at The Mitt and headed around to Big Tree before the crowds arrived.

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Big Tree is a great moderate grade area with long routes to tantalise even the hard grade climbers. The setting is amazing and the routes are particularly cool. There is nothing above 7b+ (and thats just the last pitch of Tipsy Gypsy). Super fun climbing on great rock with a view that you could only dream of. Truly superb.

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Having figured out the only way to get fit again was to do some laps and really just get into enjoying the routes and what they had to offer. Which was everything!! The early 6’s were super fun and long and the 6c that I climbed was a stunning adventure into technical face climbing, slightly overhanging silliness and a crux that was just bold enough and above the bolt. Loved it so much I did it twice.

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There are 11 multi-pitch routes here that we are really keen to explore now that our fitness is a little better and the weather has cooled down to the high twenties after 4pm. The first pitches of all the routes are great but the one that takes the cake is a 6a called Looney Tunes. This is an airy space walk through the nuances of bridging techniques of old with a little bit of runout fun to add a little thai spice. Again, I did this route twice because of the variations with which you could climb it.

After two days on and 14 routes in total at an average of about 25 metres per route, the endurance is coming back. I love it so much when I am fit and it feels good both mentally and physically to be there. That being said, I must say that just climbing these routes in the best part of it all. There are gems here that are relatively unknown and you better be prepared to walk to climb them. Access issues abound at the moment.

Hangin’ out with Karine has been the best part as we are having a great time together and really enjoying each others company when out climbing as well as in our relaxed non-climbing life…..hahahaha……..really there is a relaxed non-climbing life? Yeah right………..whatever!

Also keen for a little Snock Kling and Dee Water Solow while we are here too 🙂

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Bye for now…………

the adventure continues:- I love the boats here……..they have an amazing history I am sure.

It’s incredible how you can learn a lot about a culture by the transport they use on water. I don’t why I have suddenly thought about this, but it is really cool. I think it is because I am on an island in southeast Asia and every morning I wake up and watch the fishermen of Yao Noi walk out into the bay and stand there of hours catching fish to either take home or sell at the local market. I also hear the sound of four stroke engines powering the log-tao boats across Phang Nga Bay.

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The sun rises slowly in the morning as these sights and sounds wake me from my slumber. I sometimes lay there and wonder about who came up with the idea to mount a four cylinder car engine on the back of a boat? Add to that, extending the drive shaft to meet the waterline and then steer it using the entire structure on the mounting. Absolute genius I say! It takes a brave man to step into the new world. I am yet to travel on a long-tail boat but I am looking forward to the experience just to check out how the hell it all works.

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Going for walks along the beach at low tide reveals some amazing boats in different states of repair and degradation. Some are on their way back from complete devastation and other are newly constructed out of what looks like recycled timber. Either way truly beautiful to look at and the craftsmanship is superb in some cases.

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The bay here rarely displays white caps and the boats are designed accordingly. They are long slender beasts, that cut through the water with great ease and remain stable in calm seas. I personally would not take one of these lovely looking machines into water rougher than a bath, with the weight of the motor attached they would sink like a rock.However they are strictly for island hopping and for fast passenger delivery they are perfect. The locals also fish off them with their nets.

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Thinking back to Ireland and travelling through the west coast and inland, the boats there were a similar design. Long and slim, simple rowing boats that silently move across the calm lakes. Disturbing the fish would be considered a crime as it would possibly affect the taste of them according to the locals.

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Here in Thailand its not an issue……..make as much noise as you can in the water with your boat and get to where your going fast. Hell these boats remind me of the old drag cars when I was a kid. Super long, super fast and unbelievably loud!

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The Thai people have stepped into the modern world of boating in the most amazing way.

Long-tails rock!!

the adventures continues:- sun, rocks and salt and garlic pepper, singha beer…….ahhhh nothing better!

The last couple of days have been a little quiet over here in T-land and the island has been getting its nightly beatings from the monsoon season between 6-9pm everyday. We have been getting out and trying out the local restaurants and sampling some of the best food I have eaten on my world wide adventure so far……yes it is continuing and getting more exciting by the minute.

Anyways…….on our last rest day Karine and I headed to Pasai Beach on the east coast of Koh Yao Noi. Its only about ten minutes by scooter to the beach and there is an outdoor restaurant right there. I decided on fish and Karine’s only request was garlic and pepper. The manager said “follow me”. I walked into this dodgy kitchen and he opened the freezer and pulled out this 1.5kg silver snapper. “I make wit garlic pepper, deep fried!” he said. I said “Great! How much?” He said “400 baht.” ………Sold! $16 AUD for lunch with beer and salad for two.

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Two nights previous we went to this little place down the street and got a table on the beach. I had always wanted to do this and it just simply happened. Squid stuffed with prawns in coconut milk was our dish of choice…..divine indeed! The rain came a we had to run for cover but the food was still sensational. We have been here a week and I haven’t had an average meal, the food is a delight. I absolutely love Thai cuisine.

We are on a rest day tomorrow after two days of climbing. We are getting fitter and stronger after a few weeks of inconsistency in our vertical world. Everything just seems a little harder right now, but I am happy to announce that Karine and I are being joined by my dear friends Mike and Robyn for a week of climbing after Xmas. We are all getting super excited and I am now very psyched and ready to climb hard again. We now have “a plan” and we begin Saturday morning.

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Back to the food………….it just gets better and better. I had Khao Man Gai for breakfast the other day. It is a “high end” street vendor dish that consists of poached chicken, steamed rice, broth and a gritty and spicy sauce. It is without a doubt my favourite Thai meal ever. Jaza is a little cafe in the local village and they do it wonderfully well.

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Saturday morning at 6am we will be there and I will be having Khao Man Gai and black coffee before heading out the “The Mitt” to try out some of the 7a’s  (23’s) on my tick list……….oooops talking about climbing again. This supposed to be a food blog for god’s sake.

Every place we have been to has had there own spin on the classics but this just makes for exciting dining and a wonderful overall experience of the food, the people and the influence of local produce on the culture.

Bon appetit………….trend setters 🙂

the adventure continues:- motor bikes, soaring heights and idiots ruining access rights!

Well climbing in Koa Yao Noi is a very different experience with the monsoon season not yet finished. The rainy season usually ends at the start of December, but here we are near christmas and the rain comes every day at about 6pm for a half hour and last night was no exception; it absolutely bucketed down. The three hours later it was falling sideways and the wind was a little cooler. Fortunately we got out and did a few routes in the day.

We got out reasonably early, which was before the humidity and sun hit the walls we wanted to climb on. Accessing the crag is a series of adventures. First you have to ride your bald-tyre scooter to the access road, then its through the jungle on a very rough and at times treacherous dirt road, followed by a 35 minute walk through the Thai jungle on a track carved by machete in the last week or so due to some idiot diving into the resort pool and fucking it up for every one.

Anyway enough about that!

We headed into the jungle and the humidity was already higher than any test result I had ever achieved. It was 93% according to Google and lets face it they know fucking everything. As the sweat started to build up and our shirts were wet through. We were heading to climb in the shade but already the heat was oppressive. We arrived at the Dump Wall and scoped out the area, also finding the starts to two 55 metre multi pitch routes on this beautiful buttress.

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The freshly cut path into the crag……….hmmmm!
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Wandering through the Thai jungle on the way to Dump Wall.

Locating the warm up route, a 6a+, 25 metres high and on stunning grey and white limestone. We tied in and off we went. It was a great way to start the day in the heat and it was only 9:30am and 27 degrees C. The route went though a stemming tufa system down low up to a really techy slab section (for the grade) and up through some vertical face climbing with good feet, to a slightly overhanging finish………awesomeness is all I can say.

The 6b+  was next and it was stiff for the grade according to a local source. It was stiff but only from the style of climbing. not the difficulty. Karine had a bit of trouble with it, but it was technically a little more demanding. Overall the route was really good fun and a good way to get used to the rock on the island.

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Happy to be in the Thai jungle and going climbing again.

We walked around to do the last two routes on a wall we had climbed on two days earlier. When we arrived at the base of the route, all of a sudden there was all this debris falling from the top of the cliff. The culprit was a bloody big monkey sitting up there throwing leaves and loose rocks at us. Where ever we moved to…….he moved to. so we thought the better of it and went back around to Breakfast Wall. We met up with two guys we had run into earlier and they were more stoned than when we first saw them.

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Bee Hive Wall on the way to breakfast Wall……unclimbable due to active bee colonies at all the anchors.

The 6b on the Breakfast Wall was really a step into “Old Skool” hand jamming and stemming. This was not my strong point at all but i thought “you have to have a go!” Of I went up through tis stemming start through an overhanging crack for about four metres and on to the face. Good jugs helped to navigate the face and then up into the tufa section. I have made a habit of knocking on tufas as most of the time they are very hollow and depending on where you are in the world, some of them sound like a little bell, but this one sounded like the gong at the end of Queens Bohemian Rhapsody.

I sent the route and stole the anchors back from our stoner mates and giggled to myself as one of them looked up and said “wow man you got up here quick.” I laughed and clipped in and Karine lowered me to the ground. Karine tied in and jumped straight in and climbed the route beautifully. She didn’t make it look difficult and I hadn’t seen her climb this style of thing before. A great finish to a really fun day out in the Thai jungle.

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The winding tree route is part of the access path…..classic!

Time to head back for a shower and nice relaxing beer at the Tha Kao Bayview to watch the sunset………….