Yesterday, Rod, Leo and I took a taxi from Phuket north off the island and then east to Railay to do some rock climbing. The trip was about three hours and once we got to Railay we met up with the rockclimbing instructors to get outfitted - Judith and Mor own the shop - she's German and hes Thai...she came here years ago and fell in love with the place, and it's hard not to see how. So after getting our gear, we got some feed at a restaurant that Leo recommended. And let me just pause here for a minute to write about Leo - he's the nicest fellow you could meet and he gets on with everyone, so everytime we walk into a place, Leo knows the people and they take care of us. He sent me to a breakfast joint in Rawai and after I mentioned that Leo sent me the bloke who owns the place was good enought to chat with me for a bit. And we all need friends like Leo who take the road less traveled. live in an exotic place, and scope out all the cool, interesting things to do. Even as I write this I am asking myself if I'm the kind of friend that people would want to have? I guess it's all about being selfless.
So today we woke up, got some feed (a new term I picked up) and then were picked up by Judith. She took us to the boat and then Mor took us for a 15 minute long-tailed boat ride to the rockclimbing location. We were joined by Liam, a young fearless lad from England and Rick, a 65-year-old guy that's going on 40. Once we got our gear on we started the climb...these were 6a, 6b, 6c climbs, which might mean something to some people, but I just looked up and saw a sheer wall of rock. Leo's done a bit of climbing, so he was up and down in minutes. Liam tore it too. Rod, Rick and I struggled a bit, but these were hard and neither of us had done much climbing. After about 2 hours at this site, we moved on. This next trek to the other side consisted of hiking through the caves, climbing bamboo ladders, and using ropes top get through. Then we had to belay down a 50 feet to get to the next path.After lunch on West Railay Beach - a secluded beach accessible only by boat - we took our boat to another set of climbs - higher and ranging more in difficulty. Leo and Liam got up to the highest climb and I almost made it...I got stuck on one particular hold where my hands just gave out and I could not push off my legs enough to get to the next hand hold. I was about 60 feet up, so I was pretty happy with the climb. Funny thing - apparently Rod is afraid of being off of the ground - even climbing a ladder scares him - so he would climb about 20 feet up and insist on coming down. Rick made it up a smaller climb, but still difficult. Finally, I made a climb all the way up (you have to hit the anchor to make the claim). It was quite exhilarating!
We spent the next 3 hours climbing, resting, watching others (there were like 20 people here). The Thai instructors were ridiculous. They could scale the walls barefoot, without ropes, hanging upside-down. Of course, it's a lot easier when (a) you do this everyday, and (b) you weigh 110 lbs and (c) have no body fat. After our last climb, Rod, Liam, Rick and I went for some drinks while Leo and the instructor finished a lead climb (where you climb up with the rope and attach it at the top).
Liam was telling us stories about how on the Cambodia/Thai border there's a guy that lets people shoot chickens or cows with an AK-47 for about $20...and apparently the recoil on an AK-47 is mad, so most people just miss the damn thing. I guess that's why I love traveling - the crazy people you meet, the stories you here...it's really what living is all about.