South Korea ✈ Australia: Why do I keep winding up in these strange places

Sep 19, 2011Brooklyn Boulders


“How did I even wind up here in the first place? So far from friends and family. So far from the quartz conglomerate of the Gunks and the double arches of BKB.”

I had never intended on coming to Australia. In fact, growing up I remember my father strongly stating that Australia was the one place on gods green earth that he would never go. This always struck me as odd, coming from a man who’s lived someplace as far and culturally remote as Finland. But maybe it was different back then. Maybe as a Haitian immigrant coming to Brooklyn at the end of the civil rights era his perspective was a bit more harsh than mine is. Probably the tragedy of the Aboriginal people reminded him of his own peoples struggle back in Haiti. In any case, I am not my father. I am here in Australia.

“To Assume the role of a climber it is inherent that you must also assume the role of a traveler, an explorer, and an adventurer as well.”

Ttukseom Resort, Seoul, South Korea. Slightly over a year ago. I’m sitting at a wooden picnic table across form a short, loud mouthed Australian climber who goes by the name Scooter. What kind of a name is that really? Scooter. I reckon we were the first foreigners to ever roll in that joint. The Koreans who ran the show there were wary of our presence. As soon as we sat down a woman walked over and pressed a phone into Scooter’s ear, right above the gigantic red star shaped tattoo on his neck.

The scene at Ttukseom. One of Korea's many free climbing walls.

“Yeah?” he says.
“Yeah. Uh-Huh. Yeah. No, I understand mate. No, we won’t. We’re just coming for a few scooners. A few beers. Yeah. We will. Yeah, Ok.”
That was the shopkeepers english speaking brother on the other line. Just checking to ensure that the two dirty, stubble-faced foreigners on the other side weren’t out to get wasted and cause problems for his younger sister.
The shopkeepeer backed away. Thanking us for our mandatory participation and as soon as the mek-ju (beer) came we got back down to our conversation.
“So there’s climbing in Australia?” I ask.
“Heaps,” he says.
We order a few more pitchers under the prying eyes of the wary shopkeeper.
“Look mate,” he says. If you can get yourself over to Sydney. I can hook you up with some work on the job site and a couch to sleep on.”
It’s one of those offers that’s fun to think about, but realistically you know will never happen.
“Yeah man, that sounds good.” Knowing full well that in all likelihood I’d never see Scooter again.
“We’ll see what happens man. Stay in touch”
The Blue Mountains (just a few hours outside Sydney)

Four months, three countries, and one resole later. The brilliance of the low hanging Australian sun enters my cornea for the very first time. Heavy bags hanging off of me like sugar crazed younger cousins going in for the kill. My shoulders slump.Through the whizzing kaleidoscope of departures and arrivals a wiley soot-faced man cuts through the crowd in my direction. The gigantic crimson super-nova boldly emblazoned across his neck. Smiles-a-plenty.
And that, more or less, is how I came to be here in Australia. A chance encounter and a few odd strokes of luck. With only a few more months left on my visa, I figured it might be a good time to share with you what it’s like climbing on the other side of the world. The Australian wilderness is epic, and Sydney in general has proven to be a year round climbing paradise as filled with adventure as it is with beautiful and awkward characters, strange creatures, and even stranger ethics.
–Go Hard Brooklyn!!!!!!!
-Jean-Pierre Chery

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