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Cimbing and Crawling

Chiang Mai, Thailand

I am a dirty man. In the happiest, sorest and most satisfying sense of the word. Caving on your stomach through tunnels barely wider than your body, in 100-degree putrid heat, and with little underground streams and bats occasionally paying visits, you would be just as dirty. Pepper it all up with some 300-foot rock climbing and rapelling, and you'd be cimpletely pooped.

During my Pacific Discovery tour group's 2-day break from Chiang Mai, we went to and stayed at Chiang Mai Rock Recreation Center, where we climbed, caved, roasted rice cakes, played games, and camped out.

A combination of chess and pull-ups, climbing is alot of fun, and something I enjoy dearly. Strategizing each succession of grips, clenches, and footholds combines thinking and tests your physical limits in a game where theres a clear goal, reaching the top. Thats me over to he left rapelling (descending) down one of the walls I had just scaled. If it wasnt so damn expensive of a hobby, I would definately treat myself to more climbs, more often, in more places.

We also did some rapelling into caves, loads of fun. Pretty scary though when the difference between life and falling to your death depends on how tightly you hang onto your rope as you slide down it. I prefer hanging onto at least something, alhough the 'motto' of the camp was, Discomfort=Growth. The more you put yourself into uncomfortable situations, the more growth you undergo as a person. And the more discomfort people go through, the more they turn to 'comfort' items as a reaction, such as the 'Pizza and Beer' meal our group mandated after 3 days of trekking in the wilderness. Embrace the awkward/discomfortable!

Caving was a trip. A 3-hour trip that only got deeper, hotter, wetter, and putrid-er. But we managed to embrace the discomfort, and look at how we ended up! It was a great experience, with most people agreeing never to try it again, while yours truly wanted to holy-mole deeper until I eiher found gold, dinosaur bones, or both. Calcite from the limestone formed these caves, similar to the ones in Kentucky and Tennessee. he calcite becomes slightly acidic when mixed with water, and underground streams of this acidic water form along the grooves in the rocks and eventually form large (or small) caves, slalagtites, bat dung ecosystems, etc. We crawled through spaces barely as big as our body, treaded water through underground streams, and monkey-crawled through mud and rocks. Bats even flew in our faces; One got within a foot of my face, while another actually smacked into a girls head! To say the least, after we exited the cave, we were spent, our knees all rightly bruised up, but still in good spirits.
The victory picture!

(Skip over this next part if your not into politics)

The camp was run by a Princeton graduate, I finally learned a bit about the Thai coup that happened late last year. Thai is split between two political parties, the Reds, based in the north, and the Yellows, based in the south.
The Reds are the party of the nouveau-riche, the police, and many people in the north especially around Chiang Mai. They are the new guard, business-friendly and might be compared to the GOP in the US. They were the ruling party until late last year, until they were forced o forfeit their presidency because of major money scandals, an undermined police force, and dissatisfaction. he president was also the richest man in Thailand, but was wracked by corruption scandals and abuse of loopholes.
The Yellows are considered the old guard party and represent the south (around Bangkok), the military, and the King. They took power late last year after some very symbolic non-action by the military in letting the Yellow protestors (most of the protestors on both sides were hired) to take over and shut down the airport. Bangkok airport is the only international airport in Thailand, and being very dependent on tourism, this affected the economy greatly, with many travelers jumping at the chance to cancel their trips abroad altogether because of he already sorry state of their home economies. It will be interesting to see how the politics in this country develop during the year.

(End of boring political part)

At the end of all the hoopla, camping and outdoor activities, I came away with new loves of climbing and caving, and some great times around the campfire with all the camp leaders and my Pacific Discovery friends. Here are some more pictures for everyone to check out. I will be in Laos for the next week or so, with absolutely NO internet access (it is one of the 10 poorest countries in the WOLRD) but upon my arrival in Saigon in 7 days, I will fill everyone in. Thanks for reading!

The name of the camp was Crazy Horse, aptly named after this distinctive looking rock that crowns the mountain from which all the climbing walls and caves run around and under.

Some of that beautiful cave light. This is NOT the cave we went caving in. This cave is like a walk in the park compared to that one.

Me pooped, lying on a bamboo mat, after climbing and caving.

permalink written by  JohnJack_Crestani on February 6, 2009 from Chiang Mai, Thailand
from the travel blog: I Meet the SouthEast
tagged Rockclimbing, Caving, Thailand, ChiangMai, JackCrestani, Johncrestani and Crazyhorse

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Hell's Gate National Park in Kenya

Naivasha, Kenya


While planning your Kenya safari, try and include Hell's Gate National park in Naivasha. I went there with my family 2 years ago and i have decided to tell everybody about this wonerful place in Kenya. We went on a 8 days safari including Masai Mara, Lake Nakuru, Lake Naivasha (Hell's gate) and finished our safari in Samburu National park. Our agent "Inside Africa Budget Safaris" told us that Hells gate was part of the itenerary, we didnt say no since she was the expert. Let me tell you more about this wonerful place called Hells Gate and the history which we gathered from the locals there.

Hell's Gate National Park is a tiny park located between Naivasha Lake and Longonot and Suswa volcanoes and it is an ideal venue for a weekend retreat far from the urban life of Nairobi.The park provides a variety of wildlife, unusual flora and many species of birds and is one of the two only kenyan parks where climbing, walking and biking are allowed.Hell's Gate in Naivasha is an ideal getaway place enroute to Lake Nakuru or the Masai Mara.Visitors here have the choice of driving while game vieing, camping, cycling and rock climbing. Naivasha town is the second coast and to the majority who can not make it or afford the beaches and the white sand, this is the place to be.Hell's Gate National Park is a beautiful park that has bufalloes, gazelles, zebras, giraffe and ostrich among others. The park got its name after a narrow break in the cliffs, once a tributary of a prehistoric lake that fed early humans in the Rift Valley.Despite its name, Hell's Gate, given by the explorers Fisher and Thomson (1883) after their defeat against the hostile Maasai warriors, the park is a peaceful area where you can walk or do biking alongside towering cliffs and wild animals.

Hell's Gate stand in a class of its own, visitors here have the choice of driving, walking, camping, cycling and rock - climbing within the park while horseback safaris can also be arranged.For nature lovers, the entrance to the gorge is a perfect place for breakfast before descending for a gorgeous walk in this old canyon.Some of the spectacular scenerary in the park includes the towering cliffs water - gouged gorges, stark of rock towers, scrub-clad volcanoes and the rising plumes of geothermal stream.

On entering the the park, one is welcomed by the 25m high Fischers tower that rise high in the sky and which is used by novices in rock climbing to the highest point of the tower with the help of trained guides. The jugged volcanic plug is all that remains of an ancient volcano and its named after the German explorer Gustav Fischer.According to the Maasai who claim that the park was their ancestral land, the rock is petrified figure of a chief's daughter. The story goes that the girl was on her way to get married and was warned against looking behind lest she would turn into a rock. And just like the story of Sodom and Gomorah, she went against the instruction and took one last glance at her home and the tower is a reminder of what happened to her, she turned into a rock.

According to palmeris, the rock offers excellent climbing and is a home to a colony of rock hyrax among other small animals. The towering cliffs and undulating grasslands provide one of the few remaining places where one can walk alongside herds of bufallo, zebra and giraffes.Deeper into the lodge is the lower gorge that offers an opportunitry to explore the long, winding, deeper curves of the Ol Njorowe Gorge. In here water hot water springs which some claims are medicinal for those with skin diseases can be found and the tour for the strong hearted is breathtaking. The rising steam from various parts of the park is a clear indication of the geothermal power.

For bird lovers, this is just the perfect place for you, an incredible 103 species of birds have been recorded in the park. The massive cliff in the park provide a home for thousands of swift birds as well as unique breeding ground for vulture, augur buzzard, verreaux eagle and the rare Lamergeyer vulture. There is the Mervyn carnelly raptor hide, which is a unique bird viewing hide that incorparates a one way window. This allows visitors to view and photograph the raptors, which are birds of prey atexceptionally close range.

Discover this wonderful place while in Kenya.

John Schuff is a traveler. For more info about this visit http://www.insideafricatravel.com

permalink written by  Spiderx on April 4, 2010 from Naivasha, Kenya
from the travel blog: Hell's Gate National Park
tagged Horseriding, Rockclimbing, Lakes, Wildlife, Safaris, AnimalsBirds, WalkingTours and Biking

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