Popping my Point Perpendicular cherry: a newbie’s guide to surviving NSW sea cliffs


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Point Perpendicular, New South Wales

1. The world of sea cliffs climbing is different to that of the mountains. Be at one with the spooge. You may be terrified of the supreme slippage at first, but you must try to acclimatise in order to avoid day long grumpiness.

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2. If you formerly had a terrifying sea cliff experience, expect this one to be no different. There are waves. They are big. And crashing. Hmm.
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3. Leaning out over the cliff yields the best photos. Add a lathering of mist and a good looking man to complete the adventure look.
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4. Albeit overcast, wear sunscreen and bring sunglasses. Ocean + glare + strolling along light coloured cliff lines = squinty eyes (and a weird tan).

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5. Don’t be so busy being terrified that you forget to bask in your surroundings.

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Musings in nostalgia and the love of climbing


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Penrith, Australia

I have never thought of myself as one who could be afflicted with homesickness.

Long before I discovered I could be so incredulously wrong, I was adamant I would never feel this way. In Brisbane, I dreamed of making a great escape and traipse the streets of foreign lands. Once I had finally made it, the grass looked ever greener on the other side and I soon accepted that I did lead a rather privileged life and upbringing in my home town. Public transport, while mostly infuriating, was at least limited to at most 45 minute trips. The bus picked me up directly across the road from the climbing gym and dropped me at my door step. My beloved, scenic, picturesque, idyllic areas  of Teneriffe and New Farm were the epicenters of all my dining maintees. So spoiled was I in my choice of cafes and cuisines of my whimsical choosing that I never could have predicted a world of opposites when I moved to Sydney.

Our need to be close to the Blue Mountains and subsequent job search in the Western suburbs has drifted us far away from the frugal lifestyle that was. To simply put, a bigger city equals a great deal more effort to go places. The Western suburbs are far removed from the windswept, tree lined wonderland that is Teneriffe. The cost of living is considerably higher in return of far less luxuries; especially pertinent when you must consider two. It’s not enjoyable having to travel between three supermarkets to do your groceries because the things you need are not situated in the one place.

I yearn for the unconditional love of a pet but rentals here render that dream impossible, but only for now.

The decision to relocate was spontaneous, but rather than lament I remind myself that these are, at best, minor grievances.

Because the weekend comes. And the freedom we’ve assigned ourselves to trample through the wilderness, hanging off rocks and swinging out of cliff faces engulfs us. It is hard to imagine life without climbing. It is scintillating, all consuming and above anything, essential. The endless pursuit of improved skill, the waging of war with your mental and physical capabilities; never before have I encountered an experience to reveal such a new existence and lifestyle as this. Of course, I hadn’t done any form of sport or exercise in ten years prior to this, so I may be slightly biased.

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The Tube 2

I have quite enjoyed growing up these last few years. I don’t believe one can truly begin to form a solid awareness of themselves whilst they are still young, or at least such has been the case for me. Evenings were spent following what every other 18 year old was doing with no individual thought or action.

Only from lessons in love and loss, my short stints in solo travel, random wanderings, sojourns in nature and the serendipitous discovery of climbing have I really come to realise these true matters of the heart. The things that bring the most sunshine to my life for now. How incredibly exciting it is to continue discovering.

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Proscrastination ends in Penrith


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Penrith, Australia

I promised myself that somehow I wouldn’t let my blog get away from me, and yet somehow here I am, a year later and the spiral of despair I descended in has led to this very prominent absence. It wasn’t all the injury’s fault; my natural disposition to procrastinate didn’t quite help matters.

So how did I end up here? In Sydney’s western suburbs instead of in South America like I had planned? I ask myself the same question often.

Last November I had some big decisions to make and, upon realising that my perspective on travelling had changed dramatically, I took the easy way out.

Where on my round-the-world trip I barely looked at my phone, I found myself talking to my friends back home more and more.

Where I used to find aimless wandering joyous, I found myself wanting to simply just climb all the time. The thought that there would be a chance I could not find partners in South America created angst. Sure, I could have chanced it and embarked on probably what would have been one of the greatest adventures of my life, but my will was broken.

Further to that, I simply feared not being able to find a job, feared the language barrier, all the usual setbacks that I allowed to dominate my thoughts. It soon dawned on me that while I was approaching 25, I was still in hot pursuit of a career and should I dawdle for another few years, I may lose my chance at forging this path completely.

So many excuses, but all valid.

So, instead of being an expat in South America, I returned home after my three months in Europe was up. Soon after, I moved to Western Sydney to surround myself with what I loved – climbing and writing.

It’s been a good few months I have to admit. Before my journey home, I joined an Italian street boulder competition but was only brave enough to try two problems.

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It has been no Latino sojourn, but I braved my first real winter, living in the Blue Mountains (day time temps max 8, night time around 0). Climbing entailed five layers and a beanie, lots of star jumps and sun chasing.

I made some new (furry) friends and cuddled baby wombats.

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I became well versed with the process of moving and general adult domesticity. I even discovered if I ever change career paths, hospitality would be an ideal alternative.

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before and after wood polish

before and after wood polish

Of course, I climbed a few things and was lucky enough to catch some beautiful views.

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Plus, my parents are ultimately thrilled that I am still living in the same country and not on the other side of the Earth. Which meant that I could make it to my sister’s wedding.

photo by Ellan G

photo by Ellan G

So yes, I suppose even though I admit life in Sydney has been a lot harder (and expensive) than I had ever imagined, my life back home in my sleepy city and all of its comfortable familiarity is only an hour away. This thought is quite ironic as some years ago, I loathed the idea of Brisbane and remaining in its encompassing bubble. With the insurgence of some truly fantastic restaurants, easily accessible locales and the company of some wonderful people, I came to really enjoy it in my final months living there. I will always take reassurance in that.

Toffee Squares in Malta


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Attard, Malta

Believe it or not, for over a year now I’ve been wishing to make these incredible tasting toffee squares but never got around to it. With just a few simple ingredients and an even simpler method, this fail safe recipe was a complete hit with the entire household (Becky and myself.. mainly myself). Hour after hour, the squares would decrease rapidly, the butter and brown sugar mixture too good to resist.

At least it isn’t white sugar so it is ever slightly healthier.. right?
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Recipe below, from Slow Like Honey

Toffee Squares
Makes 48 squares

Ingredients:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour

Topping
1 bar dark chocolate (300g) – you can be liberal with this
1 cup chopped almonds, toasted

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment.

2. Prepare the crust. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light, about 2 minutes. Beat in the egg yolk, vanilla, and salt. On low speed, gradually beat in the flour just until mixed. The dough will be stiff. Pat the dough evenly over the bottom of the baking pan.

3. Bake in the center of the oven until pale gold on top, about 20 minutes.

4. Remove the pan from the oven and scatter the chocolate pieces evenly over the crust. Return the pan to the oven for 1 minute. Remove the pan again and, using a knife, spread the chocolate evenly over the crust. Sprinkle evenly with the almonds.

5. Let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Using a sharp knife, cut into small squares. Enjoy

Becoming a crazy cat lady in Malta


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Attard, Malta
Like a broken record, I replay those final moments in my head as my stupidity was almost laughable. I had done the climb before but I never considered the consequences of not using a stick clip. Having gone from fearing the first bolt to happily soloing to it in just under a month, I felt confident and strong.

I suppose the blame can’t be placed squarely on me – in times like those the line between wanting to push past (at times) unreasonable fear/personal limits and blatant disregard for danger is blurred to obscurity.

It has been another week now and while the baking experiments have been equally entertaining and fulfilling, I yearn for the touch of sweet limestone once again. I fear that should I not return to climbing soon I will morph into a crazy cat lady, as patting cats has become part of my daily repertoire.

While weekly visits to the physio sees my bank account trickle slowly downwards, I am comforted knowing I am in good hands. You see, my physiotherapist is the same gentleman who treats Malta’s football team. What a lucky girl I am. Thanks to him, not only has my painful wincing with every step decreased, I can now hobble more than 30 seconds without buckling over.

I feel fortunate to have all the cats catch my attention during my hobbles and vegetative state on the couch. Of course, I am there to cater to their every whim, from filling their bowls to opening the door for them to curl up onto my bed at 5am in the morning.
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This one wailed until my cuddles soothed her wallowing. We had never met before but I soon fell in love and feel that I must own one or two, or three soon. Hmm.. I probably should get out.
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Saving my sanity through baking in Malta


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Attard, Malta

There’s a certain kind of malaise one experiences when injury struck in a foreign country away from their friends and family.

From what I hoped was a simple sprain turned into what I had feared – a torn plantar fascia that will leave me unable to walk, let alone climb, for the next few weeks. With South America just a whisker’s breadth away, I am approaching this news with extreme trepidation.

Would I be safe as a solo female traveller in Buenos Aires?
If things do go awry, would I be able to get away?
What if I fail to find climbing partners?
I clearly have some big decisions to make.

Fortunately, this snafu I find myself in could have been far worse and often find myself taking note of this reminder whenever my wanton thoughts begin to spiral. Engaging in penny-saving and amusing activities have been my saving grace.

My days now consist of three things:
1) ample hobbling and physio exercises
2) watching episodes of the Great British Bake Off
3) as a result of number two, baking experiments
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I figured at the very least I would live a deliciously depressed life while I continue to beseech recovery.

Sleepless in Malta


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Attard, Malta

I’ve had a few sleepless nights.

You know, the ones where you lay awake in tears at the realisation that your dreams may have been dashed as a result of a split second decision.

The ones where you feel helpless and lost.

The ones where you are wrapped with discomfort because you can no longer walk anymore because your injury is too severe.

I cast my mind back to that fateful second where I, barely two metres above the ground, feel an ephemeral buzz of panic as I realise that I am too short to reach the clipping hold for the first bolt.

In a “bravery” effort to control my fear, I ignore the flashing sirens and attempt to climb higher to some better holds. Three points of contact are plastered on the slightly overhanging rock as I make my way up to a well chalked flake. I eyeball a jug out to my right and not even a hair’s breadth from cautioning my spotter, the entire flake explodes in my hand and catapults me off the wall.

Time stands still for just a minute before the pain arrives. It’s all I can remember as it sears up my left ankle.

I’m disgusted at the decrepit state of my harness and clothes as they are sprayed with dirt and choss when I hit the ground. My first thought was a burning desire to keep climbing. Surely, after a small rest, the pain would subside and I’ll be able to continue.

Even after a quick thinking Claudine (bless her nursing career path) bandages and elevates my ankle, it doesn’t go away. I try to stand up only to fall over in pain.

A week has passed and my mind has wandered to a familiar wanton place. Unable to dig myself from the myriad of self deprecating thoughts I descend into the rabbit hole of despair and can see no end in sight.

“It’s only a sprain,” the GP says. “Take some paracetamol.” A glimmer of hope.

Until then, I am a prisoner in my home while my Maltese counterparts are gallavanting on rock and my supportive parents a 24 hour plane ride away. Limited to limping and hopping, my days have been passed watching the Great British Bake Off and patting the cats – so I guess it hasn’t been all bad. Becky has been a wonder and I am thankful to Stephen and Claudine who embarrassingly piggy backed me out of the crag. Bless Malta for its easy access cliffs. And a support network however small of great locals.