Thailand Day 75: A Full Day of Climbing

After officially waking up feeling very much like a homeless man in my tent, I got some Pad Thai for breakfast to fuel up for the day before meeting the rock climbing group. I finally had some people to communicate with after the isolation of last night in the tent. We made our way to the east side of Railay where the upwards obstacle course stood. This would be my first time rock climbing, not counting all the times I climbed in a gym. This trip is about living out new experiences and this opportunity was not something I could pass up. The limestone cliff faces and other burgeoning rocks are perfectly set up for rock climbing as some foot and hand holds are placed almost too perfectly for climbing routes. In total, I climbed about five times reaching as high as 30 meters. From that highest point, I had a picturesque view of both sides of Railay, the east and the west, as well as the green topped cliffs that stood out just on the other side. The rock climbing was excellent and much more challenging than the bouldering and climbing I am used to with well paved routes that you can cannot miss. Rock climbing on legitimate rocks is the ultimate experience and test as I could form my own route and way of mounting the rock face. I used every part of my body to swing or lift my weight just a bit higher whether over some ledge or past a stretch of empty rock wall. In one comical instance, I slipped and fell dropping down towards a hysterically shrieking Chinese girl who acted as if King Kong himself made his appearance. All the while, my Thai instructor/delayer weighing in at no more than 130 lbs. had to deal with my collapsing weight. As I fell a couple meters at least downwards, he was launched as if out of a cannon into the air towards the base of the rock from which I came before he managed to readjust. The idea that I was climbing so high never bothered me, fear a complete afterthought. My body was worn and ached but each time a route opened up, I was ready to try once more and see just how much I had left. Once the morning session had been completed, three girls from France, Sweden, and Singapore, a guy from England, and me as well as our two climbing instructors/delayers got some lunch together. Lately with the Thai menu becoming less alien to me as they have tried to cater to the average Westerner, I have been ordering more different dishes than the usual Pad Thai, spicy papaya salad, and various curries. My tastebuds have been challenged in new ways with fried sukiyaki sauce, pad see iww, rad na, and glass noodle laab, amongst several other dishes. The French and Singaporean girls joined me for a hike or, as we eventually found out, rock climb to a hidden away lagoon. Just when I felt a little lonely on my first day in Railay (homesickness becoming a growing predator), I met some amazing people that made me feel at home and strong once more. Without the friendly people I have met, traveling like this would not be possible. They are my boost when my confidence wears thin, picking me up to take those next several steps forward. The hike began right off the bat with a climb up red disheveled rocks past many monkeys waiting to poach loose items. The climb was relatively easy with several ropes attached throughout to make sure one misstep didn’t lead to a full on tumble down the rocks. I completely regretted my ill fated decision to do this hike in sandals but common sense is not always readily available when living in the moment. Once at the top we continued to a view point that gave a clear, unmasked view (about 40-50 m above the water) of both sides of Railay and the many high climbing limestone rocks that give it its character. The only thing left to do was to find the lagoon, which not coincidentally stood at the bottom of three tiers of essentially rock climbing walls. Some spots got a little hairy as to whether my grip would hold true but that edginess made climb worthwhile. When the rope became more of a hindrance than a useful crutch, I free-climbed down the four meters or so to the next level continuing to cling on. Here I was back on the rock unlike I had planned but still more than happy to climb once more, feeling the cold stone between my fingers and toes. We kept descending, each level bringing on its own set of balancing acts. Although quite well known in Railay as one of the points of interest, the lagoon still felt quite remote since you had to work hard and risk so much to reach it. The lagoon is fairly small and filled with the same salt water from the sea that rises and descends along with it. Deep inside this limestone rock sits the lagoon. The only light that reaches the lagoon is from the sunlight that peeks through the oval sized cavern up above, roughly the size of the lagoon itself. After all the energy consumed to reach this point, we took our time to bathe in the water and this private watering hole while we took turns miserably failing to walk on the slack rope that cut through the center of the lagoon. Sharp, jagged rocks composed the shore of the lagoon making me feel as if I were walking across a bed of needles. Not wanting to get caught here in the dark, we began the climb up. One girl was slower than the rest and a bit more uneasy about the climb so we worked together as a team to get her up and down the rock. After completing the climb and later the descent, we made our way back to Railay West beach for sunset. A sunset at Railay never seems like it could get old. The fading sunlight creates such an evolving smear of colors that gets framed justly by the rocks that sit on both sides of the panorama, befitting a world class painting. I hung out around Railay by myself waiting to hear word of whether the French girl could get me a bed at her hostel in Tonsai. For a only a couple dollars more I could have an actual bed, a shower, a free breakfast the next morning, and be on the side of the rock with the rest of the backpackers. Thinking about all the positives made my situation in the tent feel even more depressing and grim. As luck turned out, I had a bed that I could call my own but a few minor obstacles needed to be circumvented. For one, I had to ‘check out’ of my tent (I left a note at the coffee bar/reception saying I would be back to pay for the night) and somehow carry all of my luggage across the same slippery rocks and low tide that nearly turned me upside down the night before. Wrong or not, I zipped open my tent in the dead of night (with some people still hanging out at the coffee bar by the way), grabbed my bag and the rest of my belongings as quietly as one could, and snuck away without looking back, desperately hoping no one would see me or my departing shadow. Step one, check. Step two, debatable. Sweat and I have become fond friends over the years and these past few months have been no exception. I carried all my baggage while tensely bumbling to and fro in the shallow water as I dodged and bumped into random, hidden rocks that stood before me yet out of sight. I guess the only positive that came out of the experience was running across two English girls that handed me off their half drunken mushroom shake. Thinking back on it, it probably wasn’t the best move but I drank it anyways and consumed the shroom that sat at the bottom. Maybe I thought it could give me a boost like the mushrooms that Mario eats so that he can trample the dodgy turtles on his way to Princess Peach. The hostel happened to be the furthest accommodation at Tonsai but the owners made me feel comfortable late in the night as they put my bed together and showed me around. I felt like I was staying in the Hilton compared to that tent from the night before. After a cold shower (the only temperature setting available), I met up with the rest of the group and an Italian guy one of them knew. The vibe and flow of Tonsai suited me much better, a welcome home if you will. Some rest in my mosquito net covered bed will do some good.

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