The land of incredible sunsets, breathtaking scenery, malva pudding and boulders as far as the eye can see.
I had heard so much about the area that I had a good idea of what to expect. I can confirm it lives up to the hype, the expectation, the stories. It goes above and beyond that, by far.
I settled into the way of life there easily. It is a very simple one. Wake up, drink coffee, go climbing, cook on the braai, go to sleep. Repeat. Day in, day out.
I love the simplicity of everything over there. The simple living, and simple decisions which have to be made. Trying to decide what time to climb at was probably the most difficult thing I had to decide whilst I was there.
I had never been on a trip so long, in all I was there for 8 weeks. A bit of a step up from my previous 3 week forays. I had also never been out of Europe. Africa is quite dramatically different. I was quite shocked by just how much of a racial divide there still is, and the amount of desperate poverty. It is very easy to forget, even when you are there, as the valley you stay in is so pretty and out of the way. However the nearest town, Clanwilliam, is a prime example of the culture and divide which still exists. The climbers are definitely putting, a lot of, money into the local economy but I do doubt how much will actually get to those who desperately need it.
In the first few weeks I had in SA I tried to get a lot of mileage in and scope out projects. It was a perfect way to see a lot of the areas and get into the swing of things. The amount of development to be done is endless. I am not exaggerating when I say there are boulders as far as the eye can see. Around every bend on the road the boulders continue. In the next valley, the boulders continue. Its crazy! I have never seen so much rock in one place. Each area I visited had something unique about it. Whether it be a waterfall feature, giant fontesque boulders, multiple Rocklands ‘classics’, views over the whole valley or being known for regular baboon sightings. Each one is special.
I was lucky enough to make friends with a number of people who were developing new areas, so got to go and check out the brand new boulders. There is something truly exhilarating about being one of the first people to climb a piece of rock. Its an aspect of climbing which I haven’t been exposed to until now, and one which I really enjoy. I hope that I get to do a lot more of it in the future. It also allowed me to recognise just how much work goes into developing a new area, the numerous discussions with land owners about access, the trail building, the cleaning of the boulders themselves, and maintaining the area. It’s not an easy process.
After a few weeks of mileage I decided it was time to focus on projecting. Projecting is really hard work, both mentally and physically. I have never felt so drained. I would be getting so much sleep each night and trying to recover as best as possible but I still felt ruined. I definitely have a lot of room for improvement with tactics etc. It was interesting to spend tie on boulders, but it was also very frustrating. I had some boulders which I desperately wanted to do, but it just didn’t happen. They will have to wait till next time.
Whilst I was out there I also helped to run a Women’s only Climbing and Yoga Retreat. It was a really cool idea which my friend from Austria, Marrisa Land, had come up with. It was a cool experience and was amazing to see how much the clients developed throughout the 10 days.
Driving on the dirt roads was also a highlight. It was definitely made more fun by my car which came fitted with anti-hijack button (what it does Im not sure!), felt as though it may fall apart at any moment, and liked to beep at me randomly. There were also some holes in the dashboard, which are perfect for posting your phone into the innards of the car (yes I may have done this)…..
Finally the amazing community out there has to make the place. The warmth, kindness and friendliness of both the locals and the climbers is something very special indeed. I have made friends for life.
Rocklands definitely has a special place in my heart, and I will be back there very soon.