Spitakia Studios….your home away from home in the Aegean.

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What can I say about Spitakia Studios and the owner Katerina K other than “here are two of the worlds most divine”. Firstly, you could not ask for a more delightful and relaxed person than Katerina. From the first time I stayed here in 2015 she was a welcoming and a truly warm lady with nothing but good intention. She was incredibly helpful with all things required of a stay in Masouri, Kalymnos and always goes out of her way to make you stay incredible.

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Cute and refreshing………

Secondly, the apartments are just gorgeous. They are bright and offer the true Greek experience without going overboard. Whitewashed walls and wood compliment the soft furnishings that subtly flavour the room and warm the sometimes starkness of pure white. I am not sure if most people who come to this tiny island in the Aegean to climb consider any of this, but I do. It’s the inner interior designer in me.

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Simplicity…….

In a place where you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to reasonably priced accommodation, for me it comes down to these simple things that make the decision making process a lot less time consuming. These little things make all the difference when you are settling into an area or town for the long or short term.

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Elegant Outdoor Area

The view from the top floor across to Telendos Island is fabulous and the sunsets are truly amazing. If you do decide to venture here on a climbing holiday, spoil yourself a little and stay with Katerina at Spitakia Studios. Enjoy the comfort of a home away from home. All the creature comforts, plus a truly “good human” to show you the way.

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Telendos Island from the beachfront.

This is the fourth time I have stayed here in eighteen months and I will return again and again. From the day I stepped foot in the door it felt like home and that makes a huge difference!

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Clean, crisp and comfortable…….

I could ramble on for hours about how much I love this place, but there is no point. I have said it all already, so plan your trip and get it booked in advance. You will not regret it at all.

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Just because it’s there doesn’t mean it should be bolted…….

I have been climbing for approximately ten years now and although I am not as experienced as some who may end up reading this article, I am somewhat thoughtful about this outdoor activity that I love and have a passionate attachment to. It’s taken me to some amazing places in the world and I have meet some of my closest and trusted friends through it……And had great discussion with some of the most experienced and best climbers on the planet.

I am on a trip in Kalymnos with my lovely partner and we decided to explore a few of the lesser frequented crags during this particular week. Longer walk-in’s, lesser known routes, less people and new areas are always appealing and remove some of the “been there done that” feelings we have after a few trips to a place. Which, is a nice segue-way into the subject at hand?

I have always been of the opinion that not everything needs to be bolted, just because its rock. Some rock doesn’t need to be bolted because in can be naturally protected using nuts and cams and other sundry specific items one can carry, some rock is bolted because there is an aesthetic line that cannot be naturally protected but is still climbable and the route setter see’s a clear and beautiful path, so places bolts to secure a reasonable safe passage.

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Some choss and some good rock…….you choose what should be bolted?!

However, some things are just not worth wasting the time on, nor spending the money on equipping, nor are they worth climbing anyway’s. Yesterday we experienced this in all its profound and hideous glory. We did seven routes in a sector and I have to say three of them were fantastic! The other four were a waste of bolts. They should never have been bothered with and they were dangerous.

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Theres a lot of rock that doesn’t need bolts too.

Loose rock, horrendously sharp and unforgiving blood letting stone does not make for good climbing for most people. For the average sports climbers who come here to enjoy the sun, sea and stone this is the case.

Please remember this is only my opinion and there will be many who disagree, some even offended (it’s your choice to be offended by the way). I simply don’t think some route setters actually consider if some cliffs are worthy of the time and effort. If routes are going to be put up, be sure they are good, well equipped, well cleaned and safe.

Thanks for listening………….if you finished the article

@some_unknown_punter

End of rant!!

Sometimes you just have to let it all go……

Walking down the main street of Masouri in Kalymnos, I have just finished my second swim in the Aegean for this trip. It is not quite summer yet but this Sunday the temps have soared and the sun is gleaning its ever lovin’ light on me. I reminisce about eighteen months back, when I first set foot on the shores of this arid and beautiful island for my first climbing trip.

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Whats not to like about this place………….

Today, the beach is buzzing with locals and holiday makers alike and there are very few climbers laying in the sun as it appears my rest days are not synchronised with the others. This I think to myself is indeed a bonus. The water is crisp and clean and there is no doubt you know when you’re in it. All of a sudden you feel bristling with life and the slight chill numbs any sign of fatigue from the previous days events.

Getting a little time to go swimming makes a very big difference in my day right now as I am tired and need to give my muscles the best chance of recovering. Once I read about the benefits of ice baths and how they sped up muscle recovery. I then recall the first time I took a cold shower after martial arts training. I had taken a beating and felt sore and bruised. Today I felt the same way and needed the cold water of the Aegean on my body.

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The author on “Code Quantum” 7a (23) Fire Wall Sector Aginonta, Kalymnos.

I do love this place and find my time here is spent only in the best of company and in a relaxed state of mind. This is my fourth trip here in eighteen months and this trip just feels a little different from the first. I am not as fit as I was then, as I have had about a month off with a nerve pinch in my neck. A little physiotherapy, some acupuncture and a regular stretching routine seems to have alleviated the nerve impingement rather quickly.

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Agatha providing with some much needed pain relief, with a session of needles.

How tough is your life when the biggest decisions you make in a day are where to go climbing and what you want to cook for your darling tonight. I know I have it good and I am writing about this because I am truly grateful. Todays rest day was a little unexpected but after three weeks we decided to just chill out and have some us time. We are both fit again and feeling not too bad at all.

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Miss K on “Wild Sex ” 6b (19/20) Infrared Wall Sector Aginonta.

We have had a spate of friends here that we were extremely happy to see and spend time with. We also have met some lovely new people and enjoyed their company immensely. I am remiss to say that we have only recently had a few late night as we have been collapsing early and waking early. It’s terrible! Where has my party attitude gone? It’s a little weird as I am a bit of a night owl, but the days take it out of me a little more now. The heat has kicked in and shade is a rare commodity throughout the day.

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The French Crew……..Part of my new extended global family. (L to R) Catherine, Thierry, Patrice, Evelyne, Miss K and I.

Dinners out at our regular haunts have been sensational and the climbing is world class but as I said this trip feels a little different. I think I have placed to many expectations upon myself to be perfectly honest. I haven’t been enjoying myself as much and I have only recently admitted this to myself. The frustration is at times difficult to release, so Karine has requested we do a multi pitch route tomorrow to have a bit of fun and just enjoy ourselves………and…….I think thats a fabulous idea.

 

Propolis: a Kalymnian Classic….too much fun in the sun.

Karine and I went to bed with a good plan for the next morning, sleeping soundly for the first time in a couple of days. Mosquitos and the sound of a dog continually barking makes for disturbed sleep more often than not. Our plan was based on the simple acknowledgement that we were both tired and a little worn out and we needed to have some fun. The plan was Karine’s brainchild and it was simple and easily completed.

We rose the next morning and the wind was howling across the terrace outside our little studio apartment and it was a little cold. The coffee brought with it a sense of warmth and fresh bread, still warm delighted our taste buds and tummies. We packed our gear and checked we had everything. We were indeed ready to go. Off on our scooter we rode for at least three hundred metres and parked at the trailhead (lazy people of course).

Walking up the trail, I stared up ahead of us and saw our prize. The right hand buttress of one of the closest climbing sectors in the area. As we got closer the wind abstained from blowing us off our feet and subsided completely by the time we got our destination. We were standing under Karine’s idea of having fun. A seventy metre high wall. Doesn’t seem much really in terms of climbing far, but it was what she wanted to do and thats what mattered most.

We racked up our gear and I set off on the first pitch. The wind howled through my helmet and was cold on my arms. The route was an easy push for me, but my mind was on rope management and keeping us safe. As I got higher the wind increased again and made communication with K on the ground difficult. Arriving at the end of the first pitch I went in hard and set up the belay and yelled “In hard”. I pulled the rope through and yelled “Climb when ready!” Karine put on her shoes and said loudly “Climbing!”

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Karine setting off at the start of the second pitch.

Its great being a spectator from the top of a route and watching how your partner climbs. You can learn a great deal. Karine was cruising up the pitch and making it look effortless. She has a knack for this, even when being stressed or anxious. As she got closer the pitch got harder and she just stopped briefly to assess the situation and moved through to the anchors and sat next to me and smiled.

We were now only thirty-five metres off the ground but we felt like we were free. Like birds perched high above the ground surveying their territory. I had managed to keep the rope rather tidy, even with the high speed winds whirling around up here. We swapped roles and I began to climb the second pitch. This was the money pitch for me. I could see from the ground that this was going to be super fun and put me a little out of my comfort zone. Not so much the grade, but the style of climbing was new to me. I was excited.

Pulling up into the dihedral and spreading my feet wide, I settled into this beautiful lay backing corner, taking my time and just simply enjoying the position and movement. I stepped across and began the same process again facing left now for the final ten metres. This pitch was just so good. As I approached the anchors I had to step across into space to position myself atop the headwall. Again I set up the belay and yelled “Climb when ready!” to Karine.

Thirty metres below me and sitting contently on her little ledge, K smiled and said “Climbing!” She makes this climbing stuff look very easy, doesn’t look troubled in any way, shape or form. Cruised up, ever so slightly looking around for the next best foot placement and bridge position. The wind was now howling around as she reached the sixty metre mark. She looked up and smiled, clipped the last two bolts and was standing to my left.

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Summit Selfie…….

The view was just magnificent and we had to take a selfie to celebrate our ascent. It’s way more important to enjoy the moment and just simply look around. We talked briefly about how good the route was and how it was great to just do something very relaxed and cruisy. We setup ready to abseil and proceeded to descend back to the ground one at a time. This was only Karine’s second multi-pitch route and she enjoyed it greatly.

Back on the ground we embraced and laughed about how much we really enjoyed the morning. I always remember my dad saying to me “Mate, remember the summit is only halfway!” I was reminded of this as I began to pull the rope. I was also hoping the wind would not cause to many issues as the rope descended back to earth. It landed safely and soundly at the first  anchor and then again it landed about six metres away without and hitches back on the ground.

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Ascending from the heavens. The sister of Icarus.

It was a fabulous outing on a great little route that has made our trip so far. If you get a chance to do this route, we cant recommend it highly enough. Propolis is two pitches of great climbing 6a (18) and 5c+ (17). Perfectly bolted and too much fun in the sun!

A living history of culture, cuisine, haute couture and quaint cafes.…..Paris in two days.

So leaving Boursonne and catching the train to Paris from Villers Cottrets, there was a little excitement in the air. Looking forward to reconnecting with people from time spent here last year and also maybe, just maybe doing some touristy type things. This was a hope, as I had not yet seen the Eiffel Tower, The Arch de Triumphe nor had I set foot in The Louvrè or any other cultural spot in Paris.

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La Place du Louvre.

I can’t complain about any of this as I have spent time in Paris with Parisians…..and they are very specific about being so. If you were born out of the districts then you are not Parisian, there is no argument about this at all, it’s simply just is the truth of things. Anyways, the trip was smooth, relaxing and quick.

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The garden at the Palais Royal.

Arriving at Gare de Nord we quickly wandered through to the main exit and off down the street. I felt a sort of comfort about this as I had been in the area once before. After a quick appointment we shopped for a little while. Nothing major, just a couple of necessities. We then headed to Montreuil to Jean-Jaques and Viviane’s place for the evening. JJ was in good spirits and happy to see us after our few months away. Viv arrived home late and we chatted and drank until late.

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The entrance to the Palais Royal

Next morning we headed off to a couple of appointments and walked across town via the Palais Royal and the main plaza of The Louvre. Crossing the Seine and seeing the brooding arches of Notre Dame off to the right in the distance sets the scene for many a movie and my real life adventure. I have never seen it, but there was the Eiffel Tower standing tall on the horizon. I was overwhelmed, in awe and I was in PARIS!!!!!!

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You local bookshop on The Seine.

Walking through the districts, getting an idea of how it all works and where everything is, is a wonderful way to discover this iconic city. You are walking through the living history of culture, cafes, cuisine and haute couture. The amount of people slowly walking around and just taking in the city is fabulous, others sit and just breath it all in.

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A local bookshop on the street…..tiny.

Lunch with Gaelle and Manu at the Paname Brewing Company http://www.panamebrewingcompany.com/en was fabulous and the food was simple and delicious. This place is a “must do” on your “Things to do in Paris” list. The beer is not to bad at all if you’re into your Craft Beer Culture thingy.

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Canal barges act as venues during the spring, summer and autumn months.

We had to walk the districts again to get to Phillipe and Cecelia’s for dinner. Spending a couple of hours just hanging out in a bistro with a couple of “Ricard traditionalè” made the afternoon cruise by. We headed to a very well known local bottle shop to grab a bottle of Champagne for aperitif upon arrival. Dinner was “fais maison” (homemade) and very tasty. We laughed and chatted until late into the night.

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The Grand Palais Exhibition Centre.

Sleeping in only a little was just what we need after our late night. We had a date at 11:00am with Auguste Rodin at the Grand Palais. This was to be my first real exhibition in Paris. Super excited and totally clueless would sum up my state of mind. Not coming from an arts background, I had a vague idea of what I would be witnessing.

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The Kiss – Rodin
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The sister of Icarus – Rodin
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Christ and Mary Magdalene – Rodin
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The Sleep – Rodin

I can only say that it was truly beautiful and one of the most wonderful cultural experiences I have had in Europe. I was marvelling at the technical aspects of Auguste’s creations and the depth of spirit contained within each piece I viewed. Rodin was a genius and ahead of his time in technique and vision (in my humble opinion). According to history, he was also misunderstood…………..apparently 🙂

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The Thinker – Rodin

It was a quick trip to the city of lights and one of the worlds great cities, but I have to say it was truly sensational and I feel a lot more “at home” here now.

What I needed was a good dose of “Comfort”!

This particular article is not really a travel blog as usual, but more of an insight into what’s happening on a daily basis whilst I become accustomed to living and breathing another language and living in a completely different country on a long-term basis. Its also about having epiphanies and small wins that keep me smiling and content.

A couple of days ago I ended up in a really horrible mood and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why. I had woken up quite happy and ready for another day. Keen to train, study, read and basically enjoy my day. After breakfast I began to feel frustrated and a little bored. I didn’t understand this at all, as it’s a rare thing for me. I was really out of sorts. My mood was affecting everything and everyone around me, or so I thought. I was so wrong. They didn’t even know what was going on as I was spiralling further into my bad frame of mind.

Later that afternoon I had arranged to speak to a very dear friend from home as she was in the UK visiting relatives and the time zones not so disparate. It was after this conversation that I realised my whole frame of mind had changed completely and I was out of my foulness and moving mentally freely once more. What had changed? What was the trigger for this sudden shift?

It took me about a half hour to realise it, but I had been living outside of my “comfort zone” for the last week. Different language, different country, culture, environment and relying on one person as my soul source of refuge to speak to. This I must say was a revelation. It was this realisation that helped me recover from my troubled state of mind.

What I needed was a good dose of “comfort”! And thats what I got when I was talking to my friend from home. I was speaking my mother tongue with all the slang and familiarity I was used to and it was like we were sitting in the lounge room chatting. I needed to listen to my music, watch a little bit of my TV (don’t like it much at best) online of course and simply be.

It was an epiphany I had and it was what I needed. I now know that sometimes we all need to walk away and really “get our normal on”. I hadn’t realised this was what I needed! I had been listening hard, thinking hard and trying hard for an extended period in my “learning zone”.

The learning zone is a great place to be, however it is important to step off regularly and allow your brain to relax, recover and process all it has been taking in. Staying out of your comfort zone too long will show you very quickly where the “Drop Zone” is. You may become extremely overwhelmed and anxious, or simply just become frustrated and grumpy for no known reason. Being aware is of the utmost importance.

Some years ago (17 years in fact) in my life as a corporate person for a large institution I was sent on my first training course. The course was to help understand how to deal with and process our stress and anxiety whilst still working effectively and efficiently. Today and everyday I am using the techniques learned in that course to manage my daily life.

A beautiful garden is the pathway to peaceful existence.

It’s been about five days now that, I have been in France. Adjusting to the drastic change in weather has been a little tough, but all in all I am really happy to be here. Boursonne is blooming right now as Spring has sprung and the flowers are exploding with colour in the forest and gardens alike. What can you say other than it is simply stunning here right now?

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Blooming backyard of Boursonne.

I am staring out of the porte fenêtre (windowed doors) that lead to a small terrace and down onto the beautiful lawn thats the backyard of my residence for the next many months I am here. The wood pile has expanded drastically since my last visit and the cherry trees are in full bloom. It is truly a sight indeed.

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A Room with A View……in Boursonne.

 

I could not be more at peace right now as I sit and wonder what the next twelve months will bring. It is exciting, it is a little scary and yet I am feeling very very relaxed. I think back a couple of years when I ventured out to explore the world and go on what would be some incredible adventures and I am resolute that my time exploring is far from over, however right now there is a “pause” occurring. It is a pleasant change from my regular “on the go” lifestyle.

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A refreshing cycle through the countryside helps pass the time healthily.

I have, with the assistance of Karine’s dad Jean-Claude, set up a little training area with a BAM hang board and a TRX suspension training system.I am happy to be able to continue to train and keep some sort of regularity in my fitness regime. I have always liked to workout, but this is much more demanding for me. I am looking forward to seeing the gain from the pain.

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The pain centres humble beginnings.

I am reading a little more than I have previously whilst here. Sitting in the garden is a pleasant place to relax and absorb a good book. Although I wouldn’t call it “a lite read”. Aristotle’s “The Nichomachean Ethics”  is my current venture and I am enjoying it greatly. Philosophising on happiness has been around a lot longer than we think and it’s a great read to broaden ones view. It makes me think a little and underline some of the commentary too.

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Canola fields glow in the sun with the town beyond.

I also endeavour to maintain my studies of French on a daily basis, spending between one and two hours of an afternoon working on different aspects of the spoken and written language. I am really excited about this as I have wanted to learn another language for years. It’s just a matter of spending the time doing it. You can only really fail if you do not try……….right?!?

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Perfect Light.

Whilst it is a quiet place to be I am busying myself with many pursuits and enjoying this bucolic life. Not much happens here, but there is a sense of calm that floods over you when you arrive and really allow yourself to just settle in. Right now I could not be a happier man.