I’m pretty sure Scotty shed a tear when we left the beautiful beach in Southern Thailand. What he didn’t know was how many more, tears of happiness he would be shedding when he beheld the wonders of the Krabi area.
Arriving by bus, the place wasn’t much to look at at first. From the back seat of the saengthaew (pronounced: song-tao), a truck with benches lining both sides, we road for 30 bumpy minutes into Krabi Town, a nondescript area with shops, convenience stores and hotels. I’m not sure what tourist visiting Krabi Town do for fun, and was not interested in sticking around to find out. I wanted more beach, and refused to get out of the truck until water was visible.
As good luck would have it, at one of the stops made to pick up more customers, we ended up becoming fast friends with a great couple from Finland: Daniel and Nina, who had also just arrived in Krabi. We decided to team up in the quest for cheap digs and good times. As time passed, the landscape finally changed and we were back in business with sand, surf and looming limestone cliffs. Reaching the “backpacker” area the driver lets us know this was our exit and hurriedly gestured toward a road leading away from the shore. Guessing we were meant to walk in that direction, we head off.
Checking out a few rooms we end up at the affordable Laughing Gecko Bungalows. The owner is a sweet Canadian with a raspy voice and to-the-point attitude and her soft-spoken, thoughtful Thai husband. She shows us a “house” on the property with 2 rooms and a shared bathroom assuming that the four of us are good friends on holiday and not folks who just met on the ride over. A testament to our instant comfort with one another, I would venture to say. She also shows us some single room bungalows and not feeling compelled either way we leave the decision to a flip of a coin. Together, it is. And we move into our respective dilapidated rooms, with threadbare walls and an array of creepy crawlies.
Vowing to make the most of all the money we are saving through our room choice, the next morning we quickly spring for a boat ride over to the picturesque, white-sand West Railey. Though this beach is on the mainland, it feels like an island as it is only accessible by long tail boat. The Finns laugh as we disembark and I mimic-skate-ski over the beach. It’s great to be one that is so easily amused.
Though the beach is gorgeous, we have a very different agenda in mind. So we bee-line over to East Railey for some rock climbing. Now for those of you who do not climb, such as myself, you have to understand that Krabi is a dream destination for those who scale rocks worldwide. To the many climbing fanatics in Bend, I do not have to tell you how much Krabi has to offer in the way of difficulty and diversity of climbs over tall, limestone faces. So, despite my fear of heights and distrust of a simple, and in my mind, flimsy looking equipment that is supposed to keep me from plummeting to my death, I decide to usurp my lack of desire to ever even try the sport and give it a go. An attempt is the least I can do for all of those who would love the chance to get here.
We are a bit of a motely crew: Scotty commenting how out of climbing shape he is, Daniel and Nina who are new to the sport and have only climbed indoors, and me, green as green could be. Rental gear in hand we head over to the 123 wall where many of the rock climbing classes are conduct as it promises some easy routes, rated 5’s in the French system. (By the way, I have no idea what the rating systems mean, but I did pick up some of the lingo. Sound official don’t I??) No one knows how to belay, except Scotty. No one has ever lead a route, except Scotty. He gives Daniel a quick belay lesson and off we go. We move slowly, which is just fine by me as I take in all that I can from the safety of the ground.
By the end of the day, we are all smiles, feeling proud as each of us has completed some personal success. Scotty lead every route confidently and made it look like it has been days not months since the last time he climbed. Daniel lead his first route ever, in style, as we cheered him on over the tricky parts. Nina and I tried really hard, gave it our best, looked fabulous, and eventually both made it to the top of the last route we attempted. This was a huge turn around for me. From disinterest and fear, to desire, determination to make it just a little bit farther each time, and growing confidence that I could make that next move if I was just willing to risk falling and try, my first day out was an emotionally and physically challenging. I ended up enjoying it much more that I could have ever imagined I would. Though I don’t anticipate a sudden devotion to rock climbing, I’m guessing that this won’t be the last time I ever pull on a harness.