Monday, February 1, 2016

New Caledonia: YogaSlackers TAO trip country 3

Once again I will post this incomplete as it probably is. We are in NZ now, and internet isn't always available.

One of the reasons to visit New Caledonia was to see Charlotte - another YogaSlacker teacher who lives there. Since we were on that side of the world - why not? (in case you were wondering  New Caledonia is northwest of New Zealand and east of Australia and has strong ties to France). Charlotte did a ton of work planning and setting things up for our visit and her housemates put up with an invasion by 7 people and way too much stuff. Thanks everyone.

23-12-2015 (I am using the local date convention) We flew from Bangkok to Australia and then on to New Caledonia arriving in the evening to a Christmas Eve eve dinner. We were all pretty tired but I did my best to partake of all of the delicious dishes followed by a proper cheese platter and then deserts. I was exhausted and wasn't doing very well following the conversations in French and I crashed before the party was over.

24-12-15 we packed up and headed to a highlining spot. This was in the channel below the dam for lake Yate. We hiked in and set up the highline as well as a shorter water line. The highline was about 40 M long and maybe 15 - 20 high. People jumped off the one side into the water below and it was lower than some of the deep water soloing in Thailand. Still I was not at all ready to go leashless and just fall into the water (but Charlotte did pinch her nose when she fell on the highline even though she was leashed). I wasn't doing particularly well with the water line or the highline and fell off of both repeatedly although I did walk a bit farther on the waterline and the falls were less traumatic.

Charlotte goes for the nose pinch as she falls off the highline

A brief moment of balance before I plummet

Sam takes the ride

another brief moment of balance

Tony stands up on the highline

That night we had duck breasts cooked on the fire and camped out (in general the French influence increased the quality and expenses of our food here).

25-12-15 For Christmas we were joined by Gianni who brought out the Hala SUP for us to play with along with the waterline and highline. I did better on the waterline but probably worse on the highline this day. After a satisfyingly tiring day we packed up our toys and headed back to Noumea where we were joined by Nalumon who was unable to get on the earlier flight from Thailand.

Matt on the Hala SUP

Sam captured me getting a spide pic

It really was pretty scenic there

Charlotte and Tony re-rig the line

making up new SUP acro moves

26-12-15 We got up too early to get in some yoga before heading to the Capoeira studio to teach a weekend acro workshop.

a heap of acroyogis

28-12-15 todays mission is to snorkel and dive (for those certified). We headed out on a smallish boat through some bouncy waves to Amedee Island where we snorkeled 'til we got too cold. I saw a sea snake and a few turtles and plenty of coral and fish. Others saw a shark. The visibility was pretty good - at least until my mask got somewhat obscured. Then while the divers went and dove the rest of us hung out on the island. Most napped and I busted into a few coconuts and did another snorkel run where I was menaced by an aggro parrot fish. Then we headed out to try to find some manta rays. We dragged Charlotte around behind the boat a bit but didn't find any so we went to a shallow spot behind the reef and did another snorkel. The visibility was even better here. That night we picked up a rental car and had a most excellent dinner at Gianni's.

Sea Snake

Sea Turtle

menacing parrot fish

a colorful tridacnid - giant clam

there is a shark hiding there

2cd snorkel spot - pretty pretty

29-12-15 We pack up and head North in 2 vehicles. We went to a public camping beach near Poe. There we set up a few slacklines including one nearly 270 ft over a section of beach out to a mangrove tree. It was flapping pretty hard but a wind-dampener helped a lot. It took a few tries but eventually I was able to walk accross (nearly to the end) and back. I also took the SUP up a back stream where there were a lot of large land crabs behind the mangroves and fish in the water (that wasn't very clear). Once the tide came in it was a whole lot harder to walk the line - in fact nobody got very far over the water. That night the neighbors turned on a generator when it got dark and shot off a heap of fireworks later in the night before finally turning off the generator.

the peanut gallery and the waterline

Eric watches the line flap in the wind

and sits on it

30-12-15 The next morning there was some rain and a lot more wind. The long line was really flapping and the tide was coming in. It was a challenge just to stand up let alone walk more than a few steps. I also tried to use the SUP to surf the smallish waves that made it past the reef but didn't have much succcess. We packed stuff up in a windblown rain and headed N again. We stopped on the side of the road for a picnic lunch and then continued on up to Coumac where they let us stay in the campground even though they were closed for the night. We quickly jumped on a few climbs there. They were in limestone with little sharp inclusions. There was also a small cave here we checked out. That night there was quite a chorus of frogs as well as maybe a distant peacock. Some locals pulled in at some point in the night and talked to Eric for a while (he was in a hammock) and rushed my tent kicking out a stake. I don't know if they thought they knew us or were just being boisterous.

picnic spot off the road

31-12-15 I got everyone up early to get on a few climbs before we had to move. I still failed to get on the one steep line that looked good. We headed on to another climbing area - Notre Dame. There we climbed at the Jane wall for a while until some serious rain sent us to a more overhanging wall. There I did a one-fall ascent of a 7a cllimb and some steep fun lines as well as a very pumpy top rope on a long tree root growing from the roof down to the ground. I think it was about 20 or 25 M tall. That night we drove back to Noumea. This was a bit sketchy because we were scared the gas stations were going to be closed. I think Charlotte sweet talked us into one. Also there were a number of sobriety check points. We decided not to use our limited new French phrases that were useful but not cleared for polite company. I think the guys that made Sam take the breathalyzer couldn't believe that there were people who didn't drink. We did see and hear a lot of distant fireworks at midnight and when we got to Noumea close to 2 am there was a party across the street still going strong...

Charlotte climbs on the Jane Wall

Gianni heads up the tree root

Kristin's first lead

Hand to Hand is a lot easier with a toprope

near the top of the tree root route 

this gives a better perspective on the height of the root

looking up at the climbs

Nalumon on the "5a" that was really a 5c+

Nalumon climbs into the light at the top

1-1-16 This was a rest and recovery day with laundry, computer work, attempting to buy food for the next mission (most everything was closed though). Despite taking a ferry boat to Ile Des Pins we had a weight limit. We didn't know how hard it was, but took the time to pack things as best we could.

2-1-16 There was another too early morning to get to the ferry on time. There was quite an element of hurry up and wait. Eventually we got onto the ferry aided by the fact that they allowed us to have an aggregate weight and Matt's pack had a good bit of weight supported by the ground when they weighed it. They also didn't weigh our carry on bags so had we known we would have packed differently. Ile Des Pins looks like a stereotypical tropical paradise with super blue water, white beaches, and green hills. We lugged our stuff to the campground and set up before returning to a beach. There we played in the warm water and on the beach and with the paddleboard. It was possible to embed your legs into the sand past the knees by pumping them up and down on the shore. Then we played with leaning various directions.

3-1-16 This day we had a rental car to shuttle us about. First we went to a cave. This was relatively undeveloped (not really at all) and we swam in the crisp water to another room. Sam and Matt and Kristin explored a lot farther and got muddier. I played around with long exposure pics but gave up when another group arrived. Then on to Bay Gadji where we explored by paddleboard and packraft a bit and harvested a few coconuts. That night we took a longer than expected walk to take some night pics and explore.

the water in the cave got more muddy on the return
this was another entrance I would have liked to explore more

4-1-16 This day we had a mission. It involved getting permission and renting a kayak (and we were joined by Tito). Then we paddled and swam out about 1.5 K to an island with a little archipelago of sub-islands where we set up slack lines over the water. This was made more difficult and exciting by the fact that the islands were sharp and overhanging on all sides. Eventually the lines were set up and walked or at least attempted to be walked. The short one wasn't so hard, but the long one bouted us all after a few steps. Still it was a spectacular setting. Then we had the challenge of taking it all down and shuttling everyone back. There were a few mini- adventures along the way, but it was a success. We were a little scared the last 4 of us would be walking the 15 K back to camp but Charlotte and Alexandre came through and rescued us. That night in typical YogaSlacker fashion we decided to hike up to the highest point on the island for sunrise, and why start in the morning when you can go the night before and sleep on top? So 6 of us did that. It was quite hot and sweaty even in the dark until we cleared the treeline and got a breeze. There was even a little copse of trees on the summit for those with hammocks.

5-1-16 Of course there was a bit of rain at night, but we got up and to an overlook in time for a most excellent sunrise. Somewhere on the hike back down I lost my Sunski sunglasses.

overcooked fisheye in camera HDR of the sunrise

waiting for the sunrise

The rest of the morning we were all pretty beat and in the afternoon we walked to a private beach and ate coconuts and swam. I saw a lionfish but the snorkeling was frustrating because I needed to shave so my mask leaked.

a lionfish

That evening we went to Alexandre's for a ceremony to get permission to set up the water line (graciously they allowed us to do the waterline first). I had no idea really what to expect but as the oldest I was to be our spokesperson while Gianni translated. Basically I said how we had come from far away to do what we loved in this beautiful place and thanked them for allowing us (the island is all private property held by the pre-French natives). This was accompanied by traditional gifts of tobacco and cloth. Then we all had tea. We also got a small pile of fresh mangoes and were shown how to harvest coconuts with a long pole. While we were waiting before hand we set up a slackline and the kids tried it.

6-1-16 This was our last day. We took group pics and went to the private beach. Freshly shaved the snorkeling was a lot better and I saw a giant ray as well as some blue coral and plenty of fishes and floating rocks (pumice). Then we returned for a final shower and to walk to the ferry to return to Noumea. There was a fair bit of acro on the ferry as well as a nice sunset. That night I was up far too late packing and messing on the computer.

enacting our favorite French idiom "la tete dans le cul"

scenic scenery

Raquel and Sam play catch with his hat

7-1-16 Morning came far too early along with a trip to the airport. There we departed for more adventures in New Zealand.

the Noumea area from the air

and we are off to New Zealand

Tuesday, December 22, 2015


In the interest of actually posting something before I am off to the next country I'll attempt to be brief and actually finish this. I am sure there will be plenty of nice stuff I am leaving out, but as they say the perfect is the enemy of the good - or maybe posting something ok is better than posting nothing better.

We flew into BKK the 23rd and met up with Tee (a friend from Sam and Raquel's previous trip here). He kindly allowed us to stay in his condo in Bangkok which was very handy - thanks Tee. In Bangkok we climbed at the gym (fun but hot), did some acrobatic training, played in pools, ate delicious food and caught up and laughed with friends, and packed for Chiang Mai.

Tee met us in BKK and supported us in many ways

playing with underwater acro lets Raquel base head to hand

We took the train up to Chiang Mai partly because of all the stuff we were taking. There we climbed at Crazy Horse (fun but hot overhanging tufa limestone climbing - we were all pretty exhausted by the end of the day). We also played at a park where we (and others) had slacklines up and did acro and juggling. We were also joined by Matt and Kristin who will be joining us for the rest of the YogaSlackersTAO tour (Tour of Asia and Oceania).

fun steep climbing at Crazy Horse - I think this was rated 6c

Next up was the 2nd Annual YogaSlackers Thailand Retreat. This passed in a blur of yoga, slacklining, acroyoga, conditioning, therapeutics, talking, eating, photography, photoprocessing and uploading, fun, and not nearly enough sleep. I was a little frustrated by my injured wrist but it only really stopped me from a few things. It was a great group of amazing and talented individuals and I think we all improved our skills.

fisheye group pic from a tree

fisheye fun

There are heaps more pics available from the retreat. I'll try to get the link for them here at some point.

After the retreat we had another day of climbing at Crazy Horse - less steep tufa stuff but we did a better job of staying out of the worst of the heat. Then there was a scooter excursion to a waterfall and more play in the park, delicious and fun dinners and prep for Koh Lanta.

After the retreat last year most people wanted more time to play, so this year it was actually organized and 16 people from the retreat plus one from last year and another we recruited in Chiang Mai came down for a week of fun. But first we had to get there. We packed up the night before carefully weighing our bags. Then we had to get up before 4 am to get to the airport on time and no coffee places were open - so we weren't firing on all cylinders. In any case we were wrong about our carefully planned baggage allowance and checked the bag we should have taken as a carry on through first. An expensive mistake. Meanwhile I remembered to pack my pocket knife in the checked bag but not my leatherman. DOH. They let me take it back out of security in the hopes I could get someone else from our group to check it but I was too late. I stashed it in a flowerpot and took pics.

Later I was able to send a mission to reclaim it to Nalumon who came the next day. YAY.

In Koh Lanta we recovered from our early morning before assembling at the beach for some play (there was enough surf for some SUP surfing fun) as well as the sunset. The water was wonderfully warm so it wasn't traumatic to get in at all. I kept bracing for cold water but it was like getting into a mild bath. Cool enough to be refreshing when you got out but warm enough to stay in as long as you wanted without getting chilled.

This week too passed in a blur of sun, water, slacklines, sunsets, photos, climbing, laughter, food, boats, scooters, and only barely more sleep.

Almost every day had some sort of excursion. We started out with a longline on Secret (I think) beach. This was the full 270 feet of enlightenment line we had and was rigged high to try to keep Eric from grounding out in the middle (which still failed). I think it was about 10 feet at the anchor. I scooted a bit before I started and managed to walk a fair portion of it (maybe 1/3 my best go). It was a lot of work for not very much distance. That night we were soaked by a rainstorm.

Matt on the longline

Eric captures the magic too early in the morning

The next excursion was a long-tailed boat ride to some islands where we used a good portion of our toys - 2 packrafts, slacklines, the inflatable SUP, snorkel gear, pfds, etc. The water wasn't all that clear but there were lots of fish. I didn't do particularly well on the waterlines but it was fun to try. We wanted to set up another longer waterline but decided to bail partway into the operation so we would have time for another location. This was an island that had a cave leading into a central opening. Luckily the tide was out so we had plenty of clearance. I wished I could have had my good camera with the fisheye inside for pics but I didn't bring it. We marveled at the scenery and took a bunch of acro group pics before swimming back through. When we got out it was pouring rain. At this point the seawater felt warmer than the air. At some point on the ride back we got a bit cold, but that didn't last.

we used most of our toys - packrafts, SUP, slacklines, snorkel gear...

heading back in the rain

We followed this trip up with a speedboat trip to Koh Ha for snorkeling. The water was clearer but not super clear. There were plenty of fishes and some tridacnids (giant clams). Sadly I didn't see the school of squid that others did or the swimming eel, but I saw another moray and lots of stonefish and other cool stuff. I was having a hard time equalizing my ears though so diving down was painful if I didn't pinch my nose and blow and sometimes that didn't work. Normally if I stick out my jaw and wiggle my ears it does the trick so this was new and annoying. The park service boat showed up and shook us down for the admission fee. Evidently you are supposed to pay this but it is sporadic enough that nobody collects it ahead of time. At least we had enough cash between us all to pay it.

Sam snorkels with his Tilley hat

Nalumon floats in the sea

We were delayed a bit on our trip back by an engine not starting - mai pen rai. There was a nice low rainbow over the beach as we returned.

it was windy in the front of the speedboat
The next day was more restful with a morning of catching up with media followed by a slackline/beach afternoon with another gorgeous sunset.

a heap of peeps at the YogaSlackers Koh Lanta adventure

Tash and the boot base Raquel

Nalumon walks the mid-line

SUP acro action

Matt and Kristin with SUP sunset acro

and falling in - nice splash

Next up was a painfully early morning start to Ao Nang and a long-tailed boat ride past Railay/Tonsai (where I spent a good bit of time in 2010 and 2002) to Poda Island for deep water soloing. I was a bit worried about how this would go with my glasses, but I wore my old rose tinted sunglasses that I am not as concerned about losing or destroying and covered my face when I splashed down. In any case it was a lot more fun than I expected. I opted to wear my nice Evolv shoes rather than the provided blown out old shoes. They worked quite well despite repeated soakings. I started out dry which was nice, although the holds were wet from others. First a lowish traverse before I headed up. I opted to jump off from 20 or 25 feet rather than go higher. That wasn't so bad so the next time I went up a good bit higher - maybe up to 60 feet? I don't know, some Thai guy jumped from there. I downclimbed a bit before plummeting but it was still very high and I hit the water hard. I mostly went into mental free-soloing mode once I got high and only had a few uncontrolled falls mostly quite low. There was some fun steep stuff as well as easier tufa climbing. Then we had a break for lunch and to see some large monitor lizards.

After lunch we went to another nearby spot. This featured hard wet steep climbing off the water or easier but high climbing. I did one circuit around the high easy stuff but downclimbed to the bottom of a stalactite before dropping off. Then after a try on the steep stuff I did another traverse fairly high above the sea. The sun came back out and I was sweating pretty hard on some slopey holds. I managed not to fall, but it was a close thing in a few places. Others climbed more or less. The Thai guide had everything wired and jumped from way up high. IT was Caleb's first time climbing and he did quite well. Then we returned for the long trip back. I found a shower in Ao Nang and was able to shower and rinse my shoes before the shuttle bus back to Koh Lanta.

Tash watches us climb about

this is about as high as I went - Caleb rocking it below me
dangling from the stalactite before...

...dropping into the sea

traversing across while Brent looks on

 We had one more full lazy day in Koh Lanta and then a day to pack up and travel to Bangkok for the Bankok Acro Convention.

what we really do - catching up on the internets

taking the shuttle bus to the airport

there is never enough ketchup with this crew

Krabi airport acro conditioning
At the Bangkok Acro Convention I met a bunch of cool acro peeps and learned a bunch of new skills and refined some things I had learned before. We also saw Star Wars episode 7 in 4d - that means 3d glasses plus the seats shook and bumped you as well as wind, wind puffs in your ears (mostly synched with blaster fire), smoke, strobes, and I think smell too although I didn't really notice it.

Then we had another day of hanging out, packing, playing in the pool, and saying goodbye to various people that we had been having fun with for the previous 3 weeks or so. Finally we got everything packed and headed to BKK for the next leg - on to New Caledonia.