Like any other country at the moment, Myanmar has mixed feelings about their expats and immigrants; feelings ranging from stewing xenophobic tension to glowing admiration. Myanmar’s current policy towards foreigners on working visas mandates that we leave the country every 70 days. For some this is an annoying inconvenience, for me it’s a regular forced vacation to an exotic location every couple of months. Due to our regular visa runs over the last two years, Katie and I have been running low on Asian countries to visit (it’s a tough life). We decided to stretch our visa run distance and length to hop over to Western Australia for something novel.
PART I: North
Auz: The land of friendly cheeriness, political grumpiness, over-annunciated ‘A’s, and a bottomless supply of endearing abbreviations (breakfast = brekky, mosquito = mozzy, afternoon = arvo, biccy = biscuit, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera).
For those not acquainted with Australia’s geography, most of Auz’s population resides on the east side of the continent, and we’re flying west. Perth is the capital of Western Australia and it is one of the most remote cities in the world. Our plan was to road trip all over that vastness, passing isolated beaches, miles of deserts, mountains of sand, kangaroo roadkill, and space, open space. A warning to all of you who are prone to picture perfect instagram jealousy fits of rage envy, I’m not going to turn down the beauty here, but I’ve got your back. We’ll ease into it. Starting with this,
When I tried to leave Myanmar, it turned out that Auz inexplicably cancelled my visa without any notice, the airline wouldn’t allow me onto the plane. Katie boarded and headed to Perth, while I stayed in Myanmar another day to manage the drama of a new visa and flight. After 22 hours of international travel, I arrived in Perth. After a koala, and six hours driving north, we could finally settle in for our first night on our car camping escapade.
. . . we woke up to this. Australia is very good at ‘good mornings.’
Fueled by vegemite, jatz, and meat pies, we drove inland to Z Bend Gorge of Kalbarri National Park. Supposedly the primo rock climbing spot of Western Auz, we stopped on the way to ask for directions at a small fishing shop. “Are we going the right way for Z Bend?” “. . . Ah Mmm. . . Z Bend, Z Bend, hm, Z Bend. . . Ahh, ‘ZED’ Bend. Down the road, take a left.”
Z Bend Zed Bend
A lot of discombobulated searching back and forth through the gorge and we arrived at the Promenade. The Promenade lived up to the primo wall reputation we had heard about, a suspended wave of red sandstone. Katie and I agreed that this area is neck and neck with Phra Nang, Thailand for most beautiful climbing area in the world bragging rights. The alien scoops and ripples of sandstone bear resemblance to flowing water. The red of the stone turns to gold in the sun and purple in the shade, unreal.
The Promenade sandstone is overhanging, pumpy-slopey, with excellent friction. In the two days that we went to the Promey, this was the only climb that Katie and I got on. “Super Funky” a sandbagged 5.12a/7a+/25 that gets continuously harder the higher you climb, culminating in a hard pull to slopey crimps (pictured above), followed by a core-squeezing toss to a slopey rail, and then a crux lock-off to the very last hold, a beautiful incut fingerpad crescent. I ended up wrapping it up and sending at the end of our second day, providing some closure to my climbing experience at the Promey. Although, if sending is the most important thing when climbing on stone as beautiful as this, priorities need to be re-examined; something I had to remind myself of right before I sent. (If you care about climbing, see the video at the bottom of the post)
Layton on Coriander Slab 5.11c/6c+/23, much of the climbing at Kalbarri was boldly bolted. Coriander slab was about 50 feet tall with 3 bolts.
The flowing sandstone surf
Deproaching the gorge on our final day at the Zed Bend.
Excuse me while I wax poetic about our vibe on this trip. We didn’t have anywhere we needed to be, no rigid plans that couldn’t be changed by the dawning of a new idea. On this morning we stopped to explore the limestone coast. The sun was warm, but the wind was freezing for two people accustomed to the eternal Burmese summer. The ocean color depth of West Auz is not real, it is the fantasy blue of the sky above North Table Mountain.
On our way back to civilization, Katie and I pulled over to photograph the night sky sans light pollution, a rare site for us.
Part II: South
After Kalbarri, it was back to Perth and then down to the southern wine country, where the deserts become forests, wild kangaroos are replaced with flocks of sheep, and the sandstone transforms to coastal lime.
City of Perth from King’s Park
The 45 minute beach approach to Bob’s Hollow. You can’t beat the view, or the hamstring burn at the end of the day.
Video grab of the only Bob’s Hollow route that I attempted ‘Constructive Vandalism’ 5.11a/6b+/21. It was a minor epic. When we got to the Hollow, the wind was raging and halfway up the route it started raining. I cut my first burn short to save my camera. The route was really overhung and pretty dry, but regardless the crux holds were seeping. I figured out the moves, thoroughly chalked the holds, and luckily they were dry enough on the next burn to get me to the top. Classic overhanging limestone jug hauling fun for days, with a corroded bolt spice factor thrown in as a nod to the sea.
In the belly of the hollow, hiding from the wind.
Sunset on our last evening in the south and last evening in Australia. The next day it’s back to Yangon via Kuala Lumpur. Where an increasingly moldy rainy season apartment is missing us.
But until we actually leave, Australia is very good at ‘good byes.’
I took almost no video footage in Auz, and still somehow felt inspired to put together this goofy short of the shots I did get. Enjoy, or roll your eyes, or both.