Rock Climbing, but not seriously enough
I started rock climbing my first year at college. It seemed cool but it was also a way to fight my scare of highs. Every Tuesday and Thursday I went to the rock climbing gym during lunchtime and several afternoons to “Le Rocher Saint Vincent”. However I gave up after a year when I discovered another amazing outdoor sport activity: Trial Mountain biking. I was really good at that and I started spending more time behind my handlebars than walking. Rock climbing became more casual until my second year at the University Clermont Ferrand II located in Aubière.
Indeed my mountain biking skills got really strong after 7 years. Somehow I couldn’t find anyone to lead or follow the way I like riding my mountain bike. However there is a strong rock climbing community in my university and my studies converge to this way too. With Emmanuel Motard and some students we discovered what outdoors sport lifestyle really means either in winter or summer: Cliff jumping, abseiling, rock climbing, kayaking, skiing, snowboarding, … it was a great year. Ever since I’ve realized this lifestyle fits completely my spirit and personality. Nevertheless what I really want to do (Product development manager in the outdoor sport industry taking place in mountains) isn’t possible yet if I stay in Clermont Ferrand. The best option for me is to move to the French Southwest, more precisely in Bayonne to follow an international Sport Management Bachelor and then Master degree’s focused on boardsport engineering and project development.
I’m not an ocean person but the Atlantic Ocean is connected to the second biggest mountain range in France: the Pyrenees. I’m already thinking about mountain biking on rough tracks but I will discover those ones six months later with Bikikoz.
During these first 6 months I’m completely lost. Surfers, bodysurfers and body boarders only have three topics of conversation: the wind, the orientation of the swell and the tides. I have a few friends with who I can share my passion concerning street biking but the mountain is calling me. Thanks to Antoine Mouro, I will meet the right persons: David, Didier and later Alexandre Rizarelli (Bikikoz’ president) who told me: “your ride is good, would you like to join us one of those days? With my friends we like mountain biking up and down on goat tracks. Here is my number”. That insight was spot on and I didn’t left my handlebars and this amazing Mountain Biking Club from 2010 to 2012 while starting to race again during my last year.
Unleash my mind
At the end of my studies and after a six months temporary contract I face two choices: becoming a job-seeker or traveling the world to improve both my language and outdoors sport skills.
This choice is not as easy as it seems when you’ve never ever spoken English more than 2 minutes or when you have never taken a plane before. At this stage I don’t have a passport yet! But it is the best option anyway.
For the last 23 months you saw me evolving, trying, discovering many different things in order to unleash my soul trapped in the university system I have followed. I always felt different during my Bachelor and Master degree’s not because I was in the wrong field of studies but because I was in the wrong world.
My place is in the mountains, these ones call me every single day for an adventure. I need challenge, I need to be connected with Mother Nature. I have to dominate a view and to be the first one to see the sunrise and the last one to see the sunset. I want to look at the stars in the sky without any noise around me.
I know where I belong. I’ve a lot of ideas about what I want to do but I’m struggling when it’s time to act out. My leadership is in my socks because I think too much. I guess the reason about this issue is that I grew up in an environment where thinking before acting was the rule. Therefore you hardly try because you get scared of things happening in your head even before you start living them!
10 months ago I shared this feeling with Kaleigh and this inspiring person with the sparkle of life in the eyes told me something simple but something I needed to hear: “when I think something is cool, I do it”. No hesitation, no questions. The only quest is looking for something new to experience and see what happens when you live the moment. Live? First time I use this word. When I don’t think in advance my emotions and my feelings become deeper and stronger such as a saxophone solo. There is no reserve; life turns from a dead heart beat to one sharp and strong after an adrenalin rush. This gives a real taste to my life and allows you to sew the beauty of freedom.
“Stop Thinking, just do It” is is the motor of life and how to turn your pit full of “If I do this” or “ I should” into a light well empty of bad feelings.
Cyril Do Duc also helped me for another problem as important as the previous one. I’m fully living my dreams but sometimes I have a lake of happiness. In New Zealand, just after I reached Christchurch and finished my first big loop, I was in a real downer. I stayed with 32 random local people in 45 days without planning anything in advance. I was exhausted asking every night for a place to sleep, I wasn’t happy doing it anymore. I needed more recognition from my social network. Then Cyril told me this: “ the only way leading to the full happiness is to stop having expectations you can’t master”. If I’m sad it’s because I’m expecting a reaction from my entourage. If I’m not looking for more recognition than the one I usually get, I am happy. This is really important when you accomplish things only a few fools do.
I haven’t had the chance to meet someone who has done yet what I did in New Zealand, feeling alone for so long.
It’s so far from the common sense… Most of the people can’t understand your point of view, even if this one makes a lot of sense to you. When you are living such situation, the only way to be happy is to stop thinking about the support you want to get and to keep your goals in mind straightforward. If what you are trying to accomplish joins what you need in your life, it’s enough to be happy.
These two inspiring people helped me to completely unleash my mind. Let’s experience life to discover its different flavours, colours and tastes!
This time this is for real: Tonsai I’m on my way!
My aim is to become a complete outdoor sport athlete in the mountains since it’s where I will live. I’m relatively good at mountain biking, bushwalking and snowboarding. I also like white water outdoor sport activities such as Rafting and Kayaking (Yes I have to improve my skills for that too). I can be self-sufficient in the wilderness for a week but I’ve never really been rock climbing seriously.
Luckily I know how to rekindle the flame for this outdoor sport activity. Nicolas (my manager at the Silver Brumby in Australia) suggested me to come to Tonsai. He will be there after the winter season in Thredbo to Rock Climb with Dan “the Master” and Antoine (a French guy with who I worked at the Silver Brumby). I accepted his proposition and flew straight to Krabi right after the end of my contract in Thredbo.
Cost of life and first impressions in Tonsai
Tonsai is one of the most popular Rock Climbing spots in the world. Highly frequented from November, it’s better to get there earlier during the low season. Everything is cheaper at this period of time. South Thailand is at least twice more expensive than the North and easily 3 times more expensive than the Northeast because the tourism industry is more developed here. I couldn’t find a Couchsurfer either in Bangkok or Ao-Nang and I reckon it can be really hard if you don’t send at least a dozen of couch requests in advance (and it’s exactly what I did).
Once in Tonsai you will never get a dish for less than 80 Thai baht even if you live like the locals. Moreover there is no Couchsurfers here. If you have a simple way of life and sleep in a bungalow made of bamboos, do not drink a single beer or fruit juice (but 4 litres of recycled water) and only have two meals, you will still spend 300 Thai Baht per day. Because life is not like that, I would say 400 Thai Baht per day is a comfortable zone.
In 2014, Tonsai is getting messy because they are destroying everything to build a huge resort. The true jungle spirit is disappearing in favour of western tourism and the money following with. I can’t blame the world globalisation since this one helps me to travel around the world without any difficulty, but less and less places in the world keep their authenticity.
The Spirit of Tonsai
Apart from this sad cultural transition, I’m living in a bungalow located right in the middle of the jungle. We only have electricity from 5:30pm to 6:30am to use the fan during the night. There is no hot or clean water from the tap and the only access is by long-tail boat for 100 Thai Baht from or in destination to Ao-Nang.
Frequently you will see monkeys or an iguana crossing the dirt track if Thai kids are not trying to chase them. Locals drive around Tonsai with a motorbike with a platform on the side and a third wheel. With this configuration they can carry people or hardware to the construction sites. Electric cables are everywhere, messy and twisted together. It is highly recommended wearing sandals even on the beach: broken glass is everywhere. It’s also a real challenge to find a bin to throw your rubbish away. So far, I haven’t seen a garbage truck picking rubbish even in Bangkok.
Most of the buildings are made of bamboos, logs and planks without any insulation but concrete is more and more used to receive western tourists.
The rock climber community is relaxed. Everyone is easy to talk to and getting new friends coming from all other the world is easy. About the rock climbing routes there are thousands of them including Railay East and West. Eight days are not enough to cover most of them. You can climb under the shade all day long. You just need to move from one cliff to another one when it is close to noon.
Caves and Abseiling in Tonsai: best way to recover from a big night!
I spent my first morning in Tonsai with Nicolas and two American girls I met the day before: Sara and Joanne. Nic took us on a tour to show and to explain us how much this area has evolved since he comes here for the last 15 years. Railay East is an amazing beach with the stalactites of Tham Phra Nang Nai hanging off the cliff just above the swimming area. On the side of cliff we can easily perceive a human silhouette. The cave right underneath (representing the crotch) is also known as the Diamond Cave, a temple devoted to fertility praises.
At the other end of the beach we follow a path going through the mangrove trees and leading to the entrance of the Phra Nang Noi cave. We follow the way up. There are a couple of points of view through the different natural windows of the cave opened on the islands around Railay East. Later, the shadows surrounding us become stronger until they turn to the complete darkness. The lights of our smartphones show us the way to follow. We climb on Bamboo ladders without any other safety than a rope on the side. It’s really adventurous and we like that!
Once we have reached the other end of the cave, Nicolas reveals his famous surprise: a 25 meters abseiling. There is no other way down. A little bit scared at the beginning, Joanne is the first to start followed by Sara. They never did something so extreme before but at the end they really enjoyed it.
I really appreciate that Nic took two hours of his time to do something different with us! Oh I should also precise one thing: Nicolas did all of that with a splint around his right forearm!
French saying for Tonsai: I’m not here to make bracelet!
With Dan, Antoine and his friends (Mo, Flo et Olivier his twin brother) we start our rock climbing training in Tonsai by climbing a 6B. It’s a big warm up since some of us haven’t been rock climbing on cliff over a decade! We take a big breath and let’s go! I’m glad to climb in second in top rope to build my confidence but I’ve a good feeling with the rock.
After 3 days top roping on different grades between 6A and 6C+, Dan suggests me to lead a short 6A and then a short 6B with a 6B+ move. The 6A was easy and I climbed it in one go, but I fell a few times on the second one: I couldn’t reach the last bolt before the end of the route. But I MADE IT!
I knew I could do it. After the fifth attempt, the help of Dan making me feel confident and the advices of Filéas and Natalie (a Swedish couple I met recently) I made it! I still have 2 days in Tonsai and my goal is to lead a 6C before I fly to Chiang Mai Monday. Perhaps I’m a bit optimistic but let see how it goes!