After being dusty, freezing and hungry for days Sucre and its beautiful flower filled streets were a blessing. Hot water. The showers had actual running hot water! The lama print leggings with fur lining were peeled off my legs and everything I owned weighed in a backstreet launderette for deep cleansing. There was a Levi shop next to our hotel, Hotel Independence, and the desire to leave my bundle of shit clothes in the launderette forever and buy a brand new wardrobe was so very tempting. It’s amazing how unbelievably shit you begin to look when you’re travelling the world. Especially when you spend a long time in a cold climate. During my time in South America I’ve had to go for days on end without showers, shaving and hair washing. My once fashionable collection of clothes has gradually been replaced with free tee-shirts and warm baggy, multi-coloured bits of cloth. Landing in a city like Sucre (Bolivia’s original capital city), full of smartly dressed people and cool little restaurants only highlights how low you’ve sunk. Not to worry, just knock back a few cocktails and you instantly feel attractive again.
That is till you wake up the next day, full of ‘The Fear’ as there was a little thing you’d promised you’d do… what was it again? Ahh yes try rock climbiing for the first time, wonderful. Luckily everyone else who’d also said they’d climb a huge slab of rock seemed to be in a similar state. Kind of like a big group of tourist zombies in shit clothes roaming Sucre’s streets with glassy eyes and a great thirst for as many soft drinks as they could cram in their dry as a desert mouth.
It’s a new day and we’re going rock climbing! Bright eyed and bushy tailed four of us set-off with Cesar our local climber guide who was also training to be a lawyer. This shy fella wasn’t big on eye contact or instructions in English but he had the kit, well a rope, 4 harnesses and 1 crash helmet between 4 of us. We hiked and yes it was a bloody hike up a vertical hill to get to our rock of choice. I don’t know if I’d mentioned this but I’ve retired from hiking after The Inca Trail and especially at altitude. Altitude gets incredibly boring when you’ve lived with it for over a month. The wheezing after a once simple stair climb is just really annoying. I looked at the huge rock face.
I looked at Cesar threading a thin rope through the tiny hook in a rock at the top and then I sat down on the dirty ground and decided I needed to watch before even making an attempt to climb. Dammit, my turn already, I was still recovering from the hike. The rope held strong for the others so I took the crash helmet and faced it head on. I got a few metres off the ground before I realised my shoelace was undone, so after a quick dangle in the air I was good to go again. I found my rubber soled shoes gripped well and I was able to grip onto bumps on the rocks, stick my feet into crevices and gradually work my way up.
I have an advantage over many as I don’t have the fear barrier. I love heights. Actually climbing the rock though does require a fair bit of strength in both your upper and lower body. I was hesitant as I hit the middle section as I couldn’t find a single place to hang onto and work my way up. But after an interesting foot wedged near my armpit manoveure and a little scrambling I took a leap upwards and made it to the top. Then it’s the fun bit, legs out straight and abseiling back down. That’s the bit you get to pretend you’re Spiderman scaling a huge burning building.
Rock climbing is such a good workout and you stay mentally stimulated throughout too as you try and focus on your path up. It’s pretty cool when you work out what you can and can’t get away with and how far you can push and twist your body. I made the second two climbs without any drama, the 30 metres wasn’t too much of a challenge but enough to make it fun. I’ve always liked climbing but I’m pleased to have progressed from trees to the far more grown-up rocks.I’ll be sticking this on my massive growing list of new hobbies for the future.