AM. From the second I opened my eyes that morning I. WAS. STOKED! A) I’m going climbing. B) I’m going climbing in Indonesia. and C) Im going climbing in Indonesia with the Indonesian special forces.! WHOOP WHOOP! Let’s get this show on the road.
The big olive green diesel monster outside the gate came to life. We filed in behind it, hands full of ammo boxes full of pitons, biners, and other assorted paraphernalia. I felt like we were going to war. Like I was slap-dab in the middle of Vietnam. Packed into the back of a truck. Gear filling every available space not occupied by a body. On a hard wooden seat. Roaring down the highway. Wind whipping the cold air. Clove cigarette burning. En-route to god knows where. Rock climbing. Don’t be scared. Let’s get after it!
I almost can’t explain the kind of nervous anticipation that I felt that day. I was in a foreign country, in a town that until two days ago I had never heard of, in the back of a military vehicle with a bunch of people I just met, on my way to a place that I didn’t know the name of, or where it was, or what it looked like.
We turned off the main road suddenly and began driving up uneven terrain, through thick vegetation, on non-existent suspension. Some of the guys in the truck behind us hopped out as soon as we began climbing the hill. Foresight. Wooden seats and bony asses don’t make for a nice ride in the back country.
We filed out of the vehicles and hauled all of the gear to a level dirt platform. Tarps were being strung up from trees. Boxes stacked. Gear unpacked. This is it, home sweet home for the next 48 hours. Everyone else seems to have a role, or a place, or know what the hell is going on, but not me. I can barely speak the language and the three people who speak the most English were already indisposed.
On a tarp laid-out in front of us heaps and heaps of climbing gear was put on display for the curious audience. Broken biners and snapped figure 8’s gave warning of improper use and the possibility of equipment failure. Bespoke, homemade climbing equipment to the likes which I had never seen lie in a small pile before me. Later, Mr. Tedi would tell me that they often used to make their own gear, a simple neccesity due to the lack of proper equipment available in Indonesia. The custom equipment seemed a throwback to the days of yore when DIY wasn’t a choice or an attitude, it was the only way. A time when real problem solving skills were neccesary, because a climber couldn’t place the piece of gear that was going allow them to send the route because the piece of gear hadn’t been invented yet.
In any case, the initial demonstration finished, Mr.Tedi released us onto the walls behind him. Limestone, southeast Asia’s geological standard, but different somehow. Dusty. Smaller Edges. Less dramatic features. But hard, and hard to climb on.
Demas beckoned and told Rosid and I that it was time for lunch. Sweet, desperately flailing is tiresome, hunger-inducing business. Maybe Rosid had mentioned something to Demas about my stomach sickness from the weeks before. Or maybe Demas thought that I might not like the local food. But I was handed a box of savory western looking pastries as giant steamy bowls of hot rice were being unveiled. Trying to parse meaning from simple actions and inquiring about them without offending your hosts is delicate business when language barriers and cultural misunderstandings are a possibility. Everyone besides me is hunkering down over their hot plates of rice. All kinds of strange foods fill serving bowls before them. Chilis, veggies, and eggs being stuffed into hungry mouths by rice covered fingers. Look back down at the white perfectly geometrical box in my hands. Feel that I am some how missing out.
Dude, frack this.
I will always be eternally grateful to my hosts for being as caring and as thoughtful as they were, but I felt like a bit of a princess standing there with my flash treats while everybody else ate real meals. I just wanted to be one of the boys. Im still not exactly sure why I had received the pastries, but eventually Rosid motioned me over and pressed a bowl into my hand. GAME OVER! Perhaps I should have heeded the warnings and sat there eating my little box of westernization. But alas, I am a traveler and have come here for a taste of something new. Rice and greens goes down the hatch like a champ. Lovin’ it. Every single minute of it. I’m eating everything. EVERYTHING! Jenkel, never heard of the stuff but give me some anyway. Makes your breath smell like pee they say. Down the hatch. Fermented, gritty salted preserved egg thingy with liquidy looking goey center. Down the hatch. Look at me, experiencing the world, having adventures, trying strange new foods. It would take less than 48 hours for this moment to destroy my whole world, leaving me in a decimated weakened state of dismay, the squat potty would become my new best friend. In any case, that hasn’t happened yet, so back to the present, back to the good times!!! Times were so good then. Let’s focus on that.
There was a continuous string of climbing tutorials happening through out the day. We learned how to created a Z-pulley system with two ascenders for vertical rescue, how to use etriers and ascenders for……ascending, locking off figure 8’s and atc’s for descending, placing active and passive pro, AND …..this the best part…….Hammering, weighting, and removing pitons. A skill that will hopefully see some action one day. God willing.
And that’s basically it. We climbed until the sunset that day. Camped in the fresh open air that night. Got a few climbs in in the morning and called it quits. Packed up the truck and got back to base camp in time for lunch.
Indonesia was such a great adventure. Thanks again to all of the interesting and wonderful people I met out there. If you’re ever going to be in Indonesia I’d highly suggest bringing your shoes and a harness with you. With a little bit of diligence you might find yourself sport climbing in Bandung or Surowiti, multi-pitching at Spikul or Kelud, beach climbing in Bali or yogyakarta, or gym climbing in Surabaya.
– “I have spent the past two years traveling the globe on rock climbing. Climbing has allowed me to access to places and cultural experiences that would have been nearly impossible to experience other wise. That is what I wish to share most of all. The idea that rock climbing is more than just a crag, or about the grades, or a set of friends at the gym. Rock Climbing is a key. And possibly your gateway to the world.” Check out my tumblr ( http://pencilfingers.tumblr.com/ ) for more things travel and climbing related. – Jean-Pierre Chery