Sunday, January 23, 2011

I am a Rock

If I could write the title of this blog post in Thai, I would, but alas, the only things I’ve learned how to say are “thank you,” “monkey,” “ghost,” and “fried noodles.”  Oh well.  But, as I was saying…I am a rock.  At least I feel like one, or part of one, or better for having left some sweat on one.  Let me explain:

For the past several days, we’ve been camping out in Railay, Thailand.  Railay is a little tourist destination in the southern part of the country, near the city (read: big town) of Krabi.  This place came highly recommended to us by many Thailand-vacationers and our trusty Lonely Planet guide as a destination for beach sitting, pad thai noshing, city recovering, and rock climbing.  The climbing around these parts in known worldwide for its smooth and far-reaching limestone faces.  Limestone is apparently a very hard stone (correct me if I’m wrong, geologists), and per mine and Steve’s theories, when all the other wimpy rocks got washed away by the crashing tides, what was left were the towering “karsts” of limestone, which stick out of the water and peninsula like thumbs.

These limestone mounds also cover the peninsula of Railay and make for great climbing and spelunking without the need for a boat.   Now you are probably asking yourself, “Wait!  Since when did Sarah and Steve become climbers and spelunkers?” Well, we did not spelunk and/or climb with any of the usual schmancy equipment associated with the two activities, but we did take the slightly more touristy route and traverse a limestone cave and do some “scrambling” up, down, over, around, and through some of the no-equipment-needed areas.  To give you somewhat of an idea of the severity of the situation, upon safely setting foot on sea-level ground again, high-fiving, and searching out the closest minimart for some water, I said something to Steve along the lines of “Not sure I would’ve gone for that had I known ahead of time how intense it was.” Steve had done some rock and wall climbing in the past, but this was certainly a (successful) first for me.  Hence, I am a rock.
Here are a few shots of our cushy walk into the limestone caves.  No headlamps were necessary for this well-trodden path, but the echoes and high walls of fabric-like limestone pieces certainly made me feel a bit like Indiana Jones at times. 

The real stuff came when we commenced our “scramble” of a 75°ish vertical incline up the red-clay covered limestone path. (What is it with the red clay on this trip?  Good thing we didn’t get stuck like this time.)  Observe Steve as he expertly climbs one-handed up the near-vertical red clay drop:

Following the success of the initial haul (and several exclamations of “holy sh*t, we’re actually climbing” uttered by yours truly), we came upon an amazing look out over the peninsula of Railay.  Notice the other, climbing walls taken on by the pros.  Piece of cake, says the rock. 

We wiped our sweaty faces on our non-existent sleeves, and set out for more hard core pastures.  After wandering through palm tree jungles in search of the lagoon we’d heard was hidden somewhere in our midst, we came upon 3 large drops which were being expertly navigated by a family of four in which the mother had climbed down first (using the ropes provided) and the father was calmly lowering the children down using true climbing gear.  This image gave me pause and a slight moment of panic, but when asked by my climbing partner in crime if I was up for it, I emphatically said, “Um…sure?”  Climbing up had not been too tough, as you’re usually able to see where to put the next foot or hand or scraped knee (in some unfortunate cases), but down was a different activity all together.  What if I couldn’t see where to step next?  What if my quads gave way and decided to forgo the climb and instead tumbled the rest of the way?  What the hell was I doing climbing rocks anyway when I thought we were going on a hike!?  After the children were lowered to safety and the father/expert climber assured us it was an easy climb down for the adults (heh heh), he poignantly advised me to “take my time and enjoy the climb.”  That was the final encouragement I needed (in addition to the hours of encouragement I’d already received from my expert climbing buddy). The above/right photo is of the climbing family.

Over the ledge I went, one step, two steps, relying and being quite pleasantly surprised by how my yoga-strengthened arms and legs (thank you, yoga mat) were comfortably holding me in place until my mind decided on the next step.    

Steve, yet again, impressed me with his skills and (apparent) confidence in climbing.  Though, there were a few moments while watching him that I couldn’t help by screw my face into varying looks of utter panic, fear, and remember-we-plan-to-have-children-together-one-day…or all of the above.  (Don’t worry, Jolie, I’m looking out for him.) 

We did, eventually and with massive amounts of positive reinforcement, make it to the lagoon where red clay lined the banks and visitors had left their marks with clay in very eco-friendly and creative ways…

And wouldn’t you know, we even made it back up and out of the lagoon and down the initial rock face to safety!

I’d be lying if I said the brief thought of “maybe I should take up rock climbing” didn’t cross my mind.  But, I’ve also baked a few pies in my day and I don’t think I’ll open up a bakery any time soon.  It is an amazing form of exercise and accomplishment with an added element of fear thrown in there for good measure, so I could see why it would be an addictive sport.  Maybe one day (after the bakery).  In the mean time, I’ll settle for just being a rock.  

Post-script: For your monkey-viewing pleasure…a “barrel” of monkeys (yes, that’s the correct term for a number of monkeys) lives on the peninsula and has made a daily appearance in our time here in Railay.  Steve was able to capture some of the, shall we say, usual goings-on of the monkeys during any given sighting.  Make sure to look for the loving, if not slightly aggressive head pats (at 0:52) that the mommy monkey gives her hanger-on baby monkey.  There is some other (cough, cough) monkey business in the video too.

1 comment:

  1. I love reading travelogues and enjoy reading your posts. The lagoon looks great (worth the effort I suppose?) and loved the way people left their "eco-friendly" signatures!
    safe travels to both of you!