Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Day 147: Rock Climbing & Torreguardiaro

Sebastian said it best, "Ross has much too healthy of an ego to stop blogging." Thanks again to all of you who showed support for my blog, but no tears need be shed. Of course I am going to keep blogging. April fools, you fools.

I've spent the past week or so in Tarifa learning the art of kite surfing. Being pulled by a three meter kite through the water is great fun. My instructor from 11380 Kite School, is not only an excellent teacher but he has helped me find places to stay and integrate into Tarifa's community. I wish the weather would have been as helpful as Daniel. The course is only three days but even though I've spent almost a week in Tarifa I've only had two lessons due to the weather's lack of cooperation. I digress, I'm getting ahead of myself, this is another post! Let me tell you about the week that I spent in Torreguardiaro before coming to Tarifa.

The view from Nick's balcony. Gibraltar on the left.

I sent out about a million couch requests to find a host for Carnival in Cádiz. One of the folks I was hoping to stay with was interested in rock climbing and meditation. Unfortunately he lived too far from Cádiz for me to stay there during Carnival, but I suggested that we meet up afterwards. So when I left the Alegraluz Tantra Center, I headed a few kilometers South to where Nick lived.

Heading South to meet up with Nick.

After the usual traveling struggle, I arrived somewhere near Nick's apartment. He came to pick me up and we walked back to his flat while chatting. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon with a vibrant blue sky and heaps of sun. Nick lives in sort of a condo paradise surrounded by water where residents can moor their boats. The view from his balcony is magnificent – with the harbor in the foreground and Gibraltar: Rock of the Apes visible in the distance. Nick can literally roll out of bed and begin work. Every smooth surface is covered in brainstorming hieroglyphics, to-do lists, and organizational charts, all rendered in dry-erase marker. Even the fridge wasn't safe – I wonder what this says about Nick's personality.

Getting all artsy with the reflection in the water.
Close up of Gibraltar.

Nick is a bonzer bloke; a curious Australian with a passion for living. I thoroughly enjoyed living with him because he is active. As you will soon hear, we went climbing the first day, and spent the rest of our afternoons riding bikes, playing paddle, and walking slackline. He's found an equilibrium between work and play, as pointed out by a tarot reading, so I had a lot to learn from him. In terms of learning, we started with desert first, time for climbing.

My first view of Tarifa's beach.
Tarifa from up where we were climbing.
One of the many windfarms around Tarifa.

My first outdoor climbing experience was with a huge rock near Tarifa's Polermo dune. Edwardo, A new friend of Nick's, gave us a ride since Nick's car exploded last weekend. We walked up a small dirt trail surrounded by lush vegatation and breathtaking views. Soon we came upon the rock wall that we sought to conquer. Nick mainly does sport climbing, where the first person to climb clips the rope into anchors in the rock. Once the top is reached the rope is clipped into a special anchor, then the next person can climb with minimal risk. Needless to say, I climbed second.

Mr Muscles getting ready.
Nick taught me all of the basics of rock climbing from how to tie a double figure eight knot, to properly check your partner's set up, and how to belay. Of course he taught me various techniques but for climbing, I was on my own.

The first wall that we climbed had a bit of a slope to it but it still looked intimidating. Luckily Nick had a spare pair of climbing shoes that sort of fit my feet. They mashed my toes together and hurt like hell. However the pain was worth it, and sure enough, I huffed and puffed my way up. Getting to the top was satisfying but the real reward was taking off those shoes. During a second climb I struggled and fell a few times during one point. I didn't think I was going to make it but after a few tries I reached the top. Now it was time for the real challenge.

One of the Spaniards shouting like a lunatic.
Almost there, mate!

We walked along the rock a ways to where the climbs were more difficult. There were people precariously dangling on the rock stretching for the next hold, screaming their brains out as they pushed themselves. The next wall had a big fissure in it and Nick scrambled up it to set the rope up. When it was my turn I was optimistic but I couldn't make it past one part where the rock bulged out. Wrists burning, I tried a few more times but I admitted I had enough when my muscles were too tired to grip anything else. For his next climb Nick wanted to test himself so we went to a wall that he thought was the top of his ability. Watching him climb was inspiring. It took him multiple tries to get from anchor to anchor and as he got more tired I would pull the belay line tight so he could rest for a minute. to the top he was stoked, I felt like I accomplished something just belaying him. Nick, as he put it, "Earned his dinner."

The third wall we climbed, near the fissure on the right.

When we left the mountain for the day I was happy to discover a new sport. Climbing is a puzzle. Using my mind and body to figure out how to climb is great fun. I like the simplicity of climbing, in that it's just me and the rock. Maybe I have special shoes on but that's it; there's nothing else to help me. I will eagerly seize more opportunities to climb that come my way in the future.

Paddy, one of Nick's co-workers, with his daughter.

Team Unbeatable consisted of Nick and me.
Although we only got to go climbing one day, I totally enjoyed the few days that I spent with Nick. It was interesting to see how he lives and works in the same place and meeting his coworkers was fun. I kind of felt like I was 8 and visiting my dad at work. One evening we went to play paddle with one of his co-workers. Paddle is a mix between squash and tennis. We batted the ball around the court and we won most of the games. Cha-ching.

Staying with Nick was 'heaps good!'

Climbing rocked but when I found out Tarifa is the kite surfing capital of the world I knew that I had no choice. I called a place Edwardo recommended and set up a three day course of lessons. Staying with Nick was a pleasure. I hope to see him again and wish him the best of luck moving forward. Keep climbing, mate! I left with a big heart and eager eyes, dead set on kite surfing.


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