This August Dirtbaglawyer Georgia had the unexpected opportunity to take a week off work to go traveling. In her hectic schedule this is a rare event so we had to make the most of it. For a few days we swapped bone chilling weekends on freezing sandstone crimps in the Blue mountains for limestone pockets and smoothies on Tonsai Beach in Thailand.Lots has been written and said about Tonsai. You will find plenty of articles on the internet mostly amounting to: Tonsai is a tropical sport climbing paradise. That is what we were aiming for and mostly it is what we found.
We hopped on a plane and made our way over to Phuket. Since we got in late, this is where we spent the night. The next morning, we went exploring for a while and had a breakfast that turned out a bit too luxurious. When we were finished feasting on the local cuisine we found out, that today’s ferry to Tonsai had already left without us. There was, however, a ferry over to Phi Phi island. That would get us half way and feel like progress.
One night and a second ferry ride later we were back on the Thai main land. This time on the Krabi side of the Adaman Sea, possibly at the Ao Nammao pier, I am really not so sure. We met an excited Thai dude, who spoke no English but was an expert at communication nonetheless. He drove us to a little long tail pier and sent us on our way to Railay Beach. At low tide you can walk over to Tonsai from Railay – close enough. We found some accommodation just before the afternoon monsoon set in. Turns out the best place to spend the tropic downpour is the pool. It was amazing to watch the surrounding cliff faces and the ocean at the bottom of the hill disappear in the rain, while splashing around ourselves. The sun came back out quickly and was powerful enough to dry the rock off in no time. After one train, one plane two cabs and three boat rides we were finally ready to climb.
There are plenty of climbs of any grade around Railay. Some are only accessible during low tide and if you are determined to ‘just finish this one climb’ your belayer might end up ankle deep in water. If you see the guided groups leaving and are smarter and less stubborn than us, you leave as well. There are plenty of other crags and since the moon is a creature of habit the next low tide is never more than 12 hours and 25 minutes away.
Understanding the mechanisms of tides is easy enough in theory, we still had not learned our lesson. The next low tide saw us crossing the beach to finally get to Tonsai. The climbing over there is amazing. We found some funky climbs right at the beach and met a bunch of friendly climbers. We spent most of the afternoon climbing and when it turned dark walked over to the beach bar for cocktails. Here we spent a few lazy hours watching climbers on the illuminated wall across the bar.
Maybe we got a bit too relaxed, by the time we were ready to make it back to Railay it was well and truly dark and also high tide. Not a problem, there is a little trail through the bush back towards Railay. According to the guidebook about 20 minutes of hiking. I can’t recommend that hike to anyone. We met one gigantic python that was coiled up to catch little animals using the path. I got very excited taking photos of him, but was less excited to walk past. He definitely set the tone for the rest of the hike but beside the odd mozzie we did not see any more predators.
One aspect of this trip that was new and exciting to us was to keep the gopro rolling and to catch enough footage to make an edit afterwards. Initially it felt very awkward and intrusive, but eventually we overcame the gopro shame and got some good clips for my first proper edit. It was a fun learning experience. Next trip we will have a better idea of what we need to capture to make a good movie. For example, the video completely omits, that Georgia and I both got sick from the food. Georgia took about a day to get over it. It hit me a bit harder at the end of our trip and I had the worst plane ride of my life. There is no video taken of me running to the plane toilet 20 times or of the desperation in my face when we could not take out own water on the plane to re hydrate. Andy Kirkpatrick once wrote ‘the less you feel able to take a photo the more greater the urgency that you do so’. And he is absolutely right. I wish I had those clips, because we climbers are an immature bunch and love potty humor. A trip full of hardships is more interesting than an easy one to a beautiful resort in a tropical paradise. But I am a slow learner and love the Thai food, so get ready for the poop edit next year!
Written by RAWHero Jens Plinke