Rainy Adventures

I’ve been out with my backpack, trekking around in the rain.

And I mean serious, Sydney rain. I got really wet. It was awesome. The sweat was mixing with the rain and running down my face into my mouth. My hair was well wet. And the exercises on the cut grass, in between hills, got me nice and filthy.

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Climbing Thursday

I think Thursdays might be becoming my favourite night of the week.

Indoor rock climbing after work, with good folk. Home in time for a summer dessert treat (Frosty Fruit is the current favourite), a little Star Trek, warm shower – and finishing up with some good Deep Heat action.

The thing is, nothing really beats a little natural adrenaline – well not for me anyway. Some people’s buzz of choice is substance induced, drugs or alcohol*, for others its the endorphins from a long run, swim or bike ride. Some even get a buzz from buying new stuff. Or dosing up on sugar. But for me – I need a little fear.

I love travelling. But what I really love, is the buzz of walking out into a city I’ve never been to before. The thrill of being somewhere completely foreign, where you can’t even understand what is being spoken, or read the street signs. The excitement of finding out what is around the corner, a corner you’ve never seen before.

It is scary. What you find is not always good. Its not always interesting. But its new.

I love the scary.

Indoor rock climbing is pretty tame as far as adventures are concerned. You are inside for one thing. You don’t even have to worry about the weather. You are strapped in and safe. You have to try pretty hard to really hurt yourself.

But you are climbing up a wall. And there is something instinctive about being 20 feet off the ground that gets the heart racing. Throw in a few overhangs, the feeling of your foot slipping – hanging from one arm trying desperately to reach the next hold… and you have it. That natural little adrenaline rush, that makes you know you’re alive.

And it doesn’t give you a hangover, or make you fat, or hurt your budget.

In fact, its kind of good for you. Works the muscles and all that. And thinking through a climb is kind of like doing a puzzle with your body. Good for the brain.

Thursdays. The day before Friday, with a little adrenaline thrown in.

 

*Ok – I’m a little partial to the alcohol. Just a little.

It all started with new Hiking Boots

About three weeks ago, there was a sale on at an outdoor store in the city. I thought I would go and check it out, on the off chance that I could get some new hiking boots at a good price. My hopes weren’t high because, as we all know, the good stuff is never usually on sale – and certainly not in your size.

But – miracles do happen. I found some – truly awesome – hiking boots, in my size – at 50% off! I was so excited I was like a kid with new soccer boots. I wanted to wear them all the time. I stopped short of wearing them to bed.

Hiking Boots

And since then, I’ve been walking. Walking home from work. Walking with my pack. Walking. Walking. Walking. And enjoying every minute of it.

Not only have I been walking, I’m back up to full pack weight – 20 kgs. So I’m truly adventure ready.

Bring it on!

Adventure Ready

I’m ready for adventure – literally. I’ve just removed six leeches from my legs after completing a 15 kilometre (undulating…) walk with a 16kg pack – and I feel good.

Even though I have been training to ready myself for walking the Jatbula Trail, which means training up to carry a full pack weight, I wasn’t actually sure I would be feeling good right now. Today was the assessment walk for our little group, and I was nervous when I set out this morning. I had walked with 16kg during training – but not for six hours.

In true adventure style – it rained for a good chunk of our walk. My feet were soaked. Leeches were everywhere. But it was great. Maybe even awesome.

The bush smells beautiful in the rain. The birds were singing. The water balanced on the leaves, sparkling in the light.

My legs are tired, but good tired. My shoulders aren’t sore and I have no major blisters. And the leeches – well they were truly gross. But I walked my 15 kilometres with my full pack – and now I truly feel ready for adventure.

Can’t wait for Jatbula… and the rest…

Cambodia

How do I sum up Cambodia in a few hundred words?

It is impossible of course. In one week I dipped my toe into the assault on the senses that is Cambodia. I laughed, I cried, I was amazed and inspired.

The smells and streets of Phnom Penh reminded me of Mexico. A vague smell of urine and rotting food, broken footpaths, and lots of activity. You walk down the middle of the street amongst the motor bikes, bicycles, air conditioned four wheel drives, and people. People live out in the open, amongst each other.

The traffic in Cambodia is surprisingly quiet. No constant horns that you get in so many chaotic cities. But then, Phnom Penh was not chaotic. There is constant movement, constant activity, but in a quietly organised way. The traffic weaves gently around itself, in an out of each other, never stopping, flowing.

It was hot. Sweat would drip down my back and down my legs as I walked. The city was quiet in the middle of the day, everyone hid away from the heat. As the evening breeze cooled the day, people crept out, the city buzzing again by nightfall.

Food Court Phnom Penh Style

Streets of Phnom Penh

Where did that breeze come from? As a Sydney sider, I associated a cool breeze with the ocean, yet we were not near the ocean. How does that work? Where does a cool breeze come from if not the ocean? Mmm.

There was a very particular atmosphere that made me think of Budapest in 1991. 1991 was a time when Hungary had only just come out from under the cloud of communism. The city was poor, tired and struggling – yet at the same time there was this surge of energy. Buildings being renovated, new businesses springing up. Old people determined and resilient, young people daring to hope.

Renovating Phnom Penh

I learnt so much on this trip. So much about Cambodia, its history, and so much about myself. Cambodia’s recent history is so violent and so far reaching, there is no person there unaffected. Every family lost close friends and relatives, every person experienced personal suffering. I heard this from our guides, who had the tough task of sharing the Sad Story. A story that there is no right way to tell, no way to explain.

Yet somehow, life goes on. People go on to love, have children, build dreams. It is amazing what people can endure.

They endure, as do their ancient recipes, stories and dances. I ate Amok, a delicious type of curry, almost every night. I watched giggling teenagers perform their traditional dances for the tourists.

The ancient history is so enchanting, so full of richness and beauty it takes your breath away. Temples in the jungle seem impossibly fantastical, as if a childhood storybook was opened and its contents laid out before you.

Cambodia was impossible to just observe. It had to be tasted, touched and smelt – swum in.

Cambodia reminded me of everywhere, but nowhere. It stays with me. Part of me is still flying around the streets of Phnom Penh on a Tuk-Tuk.

I sense I will be hearing Cambodia’s lessons for some time to come.

Cambodia : There Be Dragons

We all have our demons. Mine are small and reptilian, and scuttle along the ground, through cracks and along ceilings.

Last night I was sitting at the FCC (Foreigners Club Cambodia), a beautiful old colonial building overlooking the Phnom Penh waterfront, enjoying a Tiger Beer and some garlic prawns. I noticed a quick movement above my head. I looked up – on the wall next to me was a gecko. I jumped involuntarily and started feeling all over myself as if to check that the lizard was in fact on the wall, and not somehow simultaneously crawling through my clothes.

I have a lizard phobia. Specifically a phobia of small lizards. Larger lizards I’m not really fond of either, but there is part of me that would prefer to be in a room with goanna than a gecko.

So – this lizard on the wall next to me kind of freaked me out. I calmed down, told myself: Its just one, its not moving. Finish your beer, and look away.

So I turned my chair around to look the other way – to see another gecko on the wall ahead of me. Oh God. Oh damn. Oh —-! Ok – sip beer, deep breaths. I checked that my bag was gecko free and the zipper firmly shut. I check myself again, down my top, feel up and down my legs.

I forced myself to look out over the water and not at the walls. It was ok. It was just stupid lizards. I had faced this in Mexico, even had to sleep in a room once where I knew there was a gecko roaming around somewhere. Admittedly I had to get quite drunk, and even then it didn’t work particulalry well.

I was reminded that this is why I never backpacked around Asia. I’d actually forgotten that that was why. I was terrified of being stuck somewhere where I had to be in rooms, or even sleep in rooms, with geckos. I had even heard stories of them falling off the ceiling and into people’s hair.

How ridiculous. To let this tiny – even rather pretty – creature, rule me like that.

I took a deep breath and turned around, glancing up at the ceiling.

Oh-My-God. In one glance I had seen at least 10 geckos on the ceiling. And they were not just sitting there, they were moving all around the place. Ok, now I was feeling pretty shaky. Just sip your beer, I thought, then you can get back to the hotel.

Oh god – if there were this many here, surely there were some in the hotel? I got shaky, I really felt like crying now.

Ok, the hotel room is air conditioned (Lizards are cold blooded, this is a good deterrant. I know these things.), spotless and the windows shut. Oh shit – I opened the window a bit this afternoon. Oh shit – oh shit. Ok calm.

The lizard closest to me started to move down the wall. I grabbed my bag and practically ran to pay my bill. A few people looked – oh well. As I was paying my bill I could see yet more crawling on the walls towards the door. It took some effort not to run.

I jumped in a tuk-tuk back to the hotel – after checking the ceiling and the seat – no lizards.

I got to the hotel – not a lizard in sight in the foyer. Good sign.

And then my room. I checked as best I could – no lizards. I stripped off and checked myself. No lizards.

Ok. Deep breaths. Its ok – no lizards.  

My mind started on the ‘what ifs’. What if there are lizards in the hotel in Siam Riep? What if… No point in that. I will just have to face my demons as they come, one by crawling one.

As I calmed down, I realised – its time. Time to be free of this. I have faced far worse and survived. I can free myself of this.

So, if I do face any more geckos this trip, they will be the first step in my facing my phobia. And when I get back, I will get some help to free me of this once and for all.

Time to slay the dragons.

Choose Your Own Adventure

The absolute best thing about being single is – freedom. Absolute freedom to what you want, when you want.

Which means the freedom to choose your own adventures.

You can clock up a crazy debt on your credit card, and book adventures at will, without having to answer to anyone (except maybe your mum, but only if you tell her), or feel guilty. It’s awesome.

The latest adventure of my choosing is a trip to Cambodia. I fly to Singapore on Friday afternoon – and then over to Phnom Penh (how do you say that? Peh-nom Pen?) on Saturday. I can’t wait, even though I’ve realised it is the hottest time of year there – and I will likely be sweating it out in 40 degree humid heat. But I’m still excited.

Lets face it, since Tomb Raider came out we’ve all wanted to go and see Ankor Wat. And now I’m going.

I’m actually flying to Cambodia.


I’m not so sure about the lizards as depicted in this video. And I hope that I have a better time than Kim seems to be having.

Either way I’m sure this adventure will have crazy moments. It will definitely have some beautiful moments. And likely a bunch of other stuff in between. The best bit about it – the best bit about every adventure – is that you just really don’t know what is going to happen.