Where did we leave off? Ah… yes… Melissa and I had just left Lilongwe toward the second bouldering zone. The sun had fallen beneath the horizon. I was driving in the middle of nowhere and as I was becoming hypnotized and settled by the darkness, reality came back to haunt me.
What is that little light? Ah.. that would be the fuel indicator… telling me I am out of it.
My stomach dropped. I really didn’t know where we were, but I did know that we were at least another hour from where we were supposed to be. This became a complication. Now it is important to remember that Africa does not have a constant stream of small towns and villages. It is a very open landscape. Also each village does not necessarily have a petrol station; it is kind of hit or miss. The last thing to remember is that credit cards don’t work… and Mel and I had very little cash money…. complications.
As I ran each scenario through my head of what to do; I came to the conclusion that I had no idea. There was no plan of attack. There was no solution. It was truly a moment of waiting to see what happened and deal with each situation on a case by case basis. I glanced over and saw that Mel was sleeping. I almost woke her, but realized it may have been a better idea to let her sleep. Only one of us needed to worry about this at the moment.
After a few minutes I braked the car to slow stop at a T- juncture and had to make a choice. Turn right toward our destination which was still 40 minutes away; or turn left toward what may or may not have fuel. By this point in the decision making process Mel had awaken… she assessed the situation and to say the least was not super happy. Which I don’t blame her. Eventually we chose to go left and try to find fuel. What happened next involved a very inebriated man wanting my money and sunglasses; a slightly elevated situation, finding a very nice police officer named James to escort Mel and I to the petrol station.
It was exciting.
Refueled and stoked be on the correct path, Mel and I managed to find our team. As we settled in for the night I realized that Africa was not done with me yet. There was much more to learn… but tomorrow was going to be a busy day with exploration and climbing!
The next morning was casual. We ate breakfast, loaded the cars with climbing gear, and began our journey to what would be named The Seminary. We drove a long dirt road to pair of rod iron gates. They were shut. However; as we spoke with the gate keeper we were allowed passage through and stared at a giant boulder field located behind a monastery. Megalithic granite boulders littered the hillside, anything from 3 meters to 33 meters was at our disposal to explore and develop. Its a playground. As the excitement built to a higher and higher level my awareness of the surrounding area began to drop. Which inevitably led me to being taught another lesson.
Maybe I moved too quickly… maybe I forgot that nature is not always forgiving. I am not sure… I am not even sure what happened. As I moved from one boulder to the next in my excitement I let my hand stray into the local foliage. The next moment I felt a searing pain in my left index finger. As I looked down all I saw was red.
Ouch! What the f&%k! Whoa… huh? Oh wow… that is a lot of blood. Oh no… oh no… no way! Oh wow… that’s deep. DANG! That is super deep.
The grass had sliced down and up my finger, almost cutting off the first pad.
This was the start of the second area. Within an hour, my finger was crippled. I should have gotten stitches, but that wasn’t going to happen. So with some help from Scott, Julie, Haroun, and Melissa we taped it up and I tried to forget about it.
The climbing in the second area was amazing and we established some really fun lines… until we settled into our projects. Melissa had set her sights on an incredibly crimpy and core intense bulge. She got close but time makes fools of us all and we ran out it before the send could happen.
My sights were set on a roof crack. Crimping was not in my bag of skills at this point, so I just focused on something that would allow me to avoid using that part of my hand. As I began the initial exploration of the crack I crawled to the back of a cave. I began identifying the hand jams, finger locks, pinky lock, and moved farther towards the finish. As I placed my finger into a ring lock to theoretically pull a bulge, I noticed some vegetation that was moving in the crack…
Wait… vegetation doesn’t move? Son of a b%&ch… Uh… oh… stop it nature!
What my mind thought was a plant, turned out to be big hairy legs… ones that tested my flesh. I would like to say that I handled the experience like an adult… but… I screamed like a little girl and ran. After I regained my composure… I grabbed an machete on a mission. Not to kill the tarantula in the crack… but to make it go away. I just felt safer with some form of weaponry. The crack cleaned and a sequence discovered, I got to work.
I put in a lot of time and lost a lot of skin. Bruised and broken my hands became useless. I couldn’t close them without intense pain. This caused a few problems for me; but hey, you know I got really close to finishing the problem. If I literally started with my hand one move lower it would have been mine. But the cruxed-pinky lock towards the end made my hand go numb and I had to stop before I caused permanent damage.
By this point It was time for us to move onto the third and final zone… the deep water soloing.
Ah Malawi… you are breaking me, but I am still here. Let see what water does… and if I survive.