Hello blog followers. Kym and I have left the beaches for Kathmandu. We arrived a few hours ago and the differences are refreshing and the similarities surprising. The backdrop of the town are the hills, green with evergreen trees, a change that reminds us of home. Also the weather is now 30 instead of a stifling hot 40, a most welcomed change. The streets are narrow, filled with giant potholes, and the cars are all at least 20 years older than those found in Thailand. The general feel is a little more crowded and a little more smog, and the mosquitoes are just as hungry, but I don't fit in anymore with my salt stained t-shirt from my last month of sweating. Where we are staying there are the same stores that alternate down the block: an outdoor gear store, a wool scarf store, and a trekking company. Only the occasional bookstore or restaurant throws off the near-perfect pattern. We plan to spend a few days here in town before we set off to the mountains. We are both very excited for this second leg in our journey. I can't believe we are already one third of the way done. It really has been a wonderful time.
From when we last updated we were in Railay. Our first night we were in Railay Kym hated it. This was mostly due to a dirty bathroom and a giant (palm of my hand size) spider that we shared our room with on the first night. But after we moved to a new room, we had a very nice time there. We climbed 3 days, spent one day hiking, and another morning just hanging out. Here are the highlights with some pics:
We climbed our first evening for a short while at Diamond Cave North Face. I climbed a 5.8 and a 5.9 on lead, and a 5.10d on top-rope. All were climbed clean, but I think the hardest routes are the easier ones that are climbed the most. The holds are so polished.
The next day as we described in the last entry was spent beaching it and climbing around the various walls of the peninsula. The third day was a rest day as I would call it, although Kym thought otherwise. We didn't climb, but we decided to hike to a viewpoint before we lounged on the beach.
The view from the viewpoint
The hike was short, but we continued down another way to a tidal lagoon. It was difficult going and involved some down-climbing of low fifth class terrain, meaning it took a while and most people didn't make it. We sat at the lagoon to catch our breath and share our water with the two others who made it all the way, but neglected to bring water!
At the Lagoon
It was very beautiful, but we still had to hike back up, and then back down the other side to get back to the beach. Once on the beach, the day was nearing an end and we spent the last hour before sunset lounging on the sand and taking dips in the water. It was very enjoyable and relaxing.
The sunset from Phra Nang Beach
The final day we spent climbing at Tonsai. The climbing here is a destination for climbers across the globe and it was cool to see some of the best making the most difficult routes look easy. We climbed on the Firewall, where one of the most famous climbs of the area is located, the Groovetube. It is a mix of slab and chimney climbing. For those that don't know what that means, imagine trying to scoot up your chimney by using your feet on either side or by using both feet on one side and your back and shoulders on the other. This climbing can be very fun. We climbed three routes, a 5.9 (Groovetube), a 5.10d, and a 5.10b/c. This was the most fun I have had climbing in Railay. The routes were long, sustained, challenging, and very fun.
Climbing For Helga (5.10b/c)
From left to right, For Helga (5.10b/c), Boobtube (5.10d), and Groovetube (5.10a)
Climbers on Tonsai Beach
The sunset from Tonsai Beach
Our last night in Railay, we saw a fire show and snapped these photos:
Mixing Drinks at a Railay Bar when the bartender was sleeping (we were thirsty!)
From Railay we took a boat to Koh Yao Noi. This is an island closer to Phuket and north of Koh Phi Phi. It is a Muslim island (so it is difficult to find beer) that relies on fishing and not really much on tourism. There are limited places to stay and nothing is in walking distance. We stayed in a cheap bungalow with open air windows and an open air bathroom (means there were lots of critters). Kym has become friendly with geckos now, but the spiders still bother her. We had plenty, four or five of which were palm of the hand sized. However, once the net is draped over the bed, we didn't worry too much anymore. Two of our neighbors had mice, and I think i would take the spiders over the mice! We rented a bike to see the island. I was a little off shifting gears for the first ten minutes, but by the end of the second day I felt like a pro. We climbed on our first full day, and the climbing was amazing. Even if you don't like climbing, it would be cool to see the walls. It is limestone like all the rest of the islands, but the stalactites that hang down are very impressive. We climbed a 5.9 and a 5.10a in a cave before we moved to a couple harder climbs. We climbed Daddy Long Legs, a 5.10d, that is the best climb that I have ever seen! As you climb the wall, you have to step off the wall behind you to a stalactite, climb further and then repeat. We met a friend, Leon from London, who also climbed with us. He had just learned in Tonsai and had only climbed for about 6 weeks, but was able to lead a 5.11a adjacent to Daddy Long Legs. I followed, but struggled up a few places, falling a few times and also resting a few. I finally made it up, but I wish I was in shape! Kym also went back to lead the 5.10a we had climbed first, a most impressive performance that I will remember for a long time.
Leading The Cooler (5.10a)
Our Friend Leon leading Daddy Long Legs 5.10d
Descending from Daddy Long Legs
Kym leading The Cooler (5.10a)
Taking It Easy on Koh Yao Noi
A transport from the ferry pier to our accommodations
After our short stay in Koh Yao, we were back to Phuket for a flight to Bangkok. A quick trip to the night market in Phuket filled our gluttonous bellies with all forms of food from food stalls that I don't know any of the names of, or have any idea what ingredients they consisted of! Everything was very tasty and although sometimes surprising as it tastes much different than expected from its looks, not one thing was bad.
Kym at the Phuket Market
The stay in Bangkok was brief as we decided to avoid it due to the protests, we flew to Nepal this morning to check out the political unrest here! What luck we have! From what I have gathered there is a ten day peace period that began yesterday, so we will be long gone to the mountains when things heat up again. I am really looking forward to the hike!