Friday, November 16, 2012

Iran



JULIE: According to Lonely Planet, if you consult friends, family or government warnings you’ll probably never travel to Iran.
  
This is very true.  In Australia the limited Iranian news we hear made all made our friends and folks think Tony and my plans to travel there for a rock-climbing festival on our honeymoon, was totally bonkers, especially for me: a feminist, woman atheist with libertarian views.  What’s more, I’m half Jewish.  And while I’ve never quite understood how an atheist can be half a religion, my Jewish relatives were more concerned than anyone about our plans to visit a country whose President diplomatically suggested, about a month before our arrival, that Israel should be “erased from the face of the earth’.
 
This is why I’m writing this blog entry not Tony.

Iran is not paradise on earth and all my friends and family’s concerns have some basis.But the truth, as always, is far more complex and Tony and I are certainly glad that we ignored all your concerned advice and visited to Iran anyway.
Being in Iran was fascinating for a student of politics like me; you feel political moods here intensely.  You don’t talk about politics of course, but people subtly give you their opinions all the same. I imagine the mood is similar to that in Berlin before the wall broke; there’s a tide of resentment to increasing government restrictions and everyone blames the government for the country’s economic woes.  In much the same way as Vaclav Havel encouraged small acts contrary to the ruling communists, which he argued would eventually so undermine Soviet power that the whole ‘house of cards’ would collapse, so in Iran you see small but widespread acts of rebellion that here are political in nature: things as simple as couples holding hands in the street (which is illegal), or girls wearing makeup and wearing their headscarves in the most minimal way possible; lots of small political acts of rebellion everywhere.

GETTING IN…

Our arrival in Iran was full of trepidation.  We’d had visas approved together with the rest of the festival participants, but knew authorities could be fickle.  I was nervous about what to wear; all information I found explained in the dark days of the revolution women had to wear full chador (meaning tent in Persian), or risk reprisals by religious police but now no chador was needed.  But while some reports said a headscarf loosely thrown over and not covering all your hair and tight jeans etc were fine, other reports said since 2010 there had been crackdowns on bad hejab.   As with all reports on Iran, both proved to be correct – while most women walked around with tight jackets, makeup and headscarves pulled back as far as possible (a feat I could never manage without it falling off), some Iranian women lived in fear of police hauling them in (albeit in the case of the fearful lady mentioned, she was rather na├»ve).

Anyway, we got our visas and through security (unlike the Brits…) despite me getting my drab brown cardigan caught on the luggage belt and exposing the top of my jeans.  My heart pounded thinking I’d get hauled off for indecent exposure.  No one blinked.  Despite the suspicious 20 kilos of metal climbing equipment in my backpack, the various officials’ only concern was that whether we were carrying alcohol. 

As soon as we stepped out of security we had our first brush with Iranian hospitality.  Behnour from the Iranian Mountain Club greeted us with almost as much charm as my lovely husband can muster on a good day.  Before we’d taken two steps Behnour ran off to buy us water and gum, concerned we might be parched, and then he ran off with both our backpacks (around 50 kilos worth) to his 4WD, named Churchill.   There he presented us with about 4 kilos of fresh fruit. 

The airport is far from the capital but mostly the traffic in Tehran is terrible.  I literally thought I was going to die in a car accident every single time I was on the road during our stay in Iran.  It is either deathly dangerous or every driver on the road could really be a fighter pilot.  Here a 2 lane road has 5 lanes of cars, all bumper to bumper at high speed, red lights are ignored and we had a taxi turn onto the off-ramp of a freeway.  Tony says it’s about the same as India with fewer random donkeys. 

Not only was the driving scary on our arrival into Tehran, but every woman I saw on the way into Tehran was wearing the black chador I’d been promised was not required! I shifted as uncomfortably in my jeans, knee length drab brown cardigan and headscarf as a hooker at a ball.  As we hit central Tehran, however, I finally relaxed: the stylish ladies I’d been promised made their appearance, with beautiful headscarves showing ample hair!  

WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO BE AN ATHLETE

That we were deposited in the Olympic village gave some indication to the importance placed on the Bistoon rock-climbing festival, at least in Iran.  Even though we were flying up to Kermanshah province later that same evening, we were checked into the Olympic Hotel to rest for the afternoon.  We gladly slept, wondering when the Iranians would trigger we were a couple of bumbling Aussie climbers, and not elite athletes.   Turns out they didn’t care and as the climbing couple on their honeymoon we featured on national news throughout our week in Bistoon.   As creators of the new ‘honeymoon route’, a rockclimb of aprox 120 metres, which we opened together with a young Iranian married couple, we were interviewed for TV and also feature in a news summary of the festival which you can see online here:  http://www.jadidonline.com/images/stories/flash_multimedia/climbing_bistoon_festival_56/climb_low.html

The 2012 International Rockclimbing Festival was based at Bistoon a 1000m mountain famous for ancient bas relief carvings of the reign of Persian King Darius, 500 BC.  One of the most popular climbing walls is often off-limits as it was artificially flattened in ancient times in preparation for more carvings that never came about because the nasty Alexander the Great came and conquered Persia.  The flat wall is quite impressive at around 100m long with a huge ledge running at its top –you can imagine 100 soldiers hammering for a year to get the mountain so flat.   The ledge was to me fascinating. I’d heard Egyptians used wooden wedges and water to split rock, but here was an actual example of the use of the technique.  The ledge, or rather gutters drew water to wood strategically placed to carve the rock-face. The flat wall is also an ancient Romeo and Juliet story; making Bistoon a fitting site for our ‘Honeymoon Route’.  Farhad was in charge of the project and loved Sherin, the wife of the King.  He thought if he did his work well he might win her from him.  The story ended sadly, but is a favourite of the poets, and due to this legend, Bistoon has come to symbolize love and faith in Persian literature.
Accommodation at the Festival, 1000 meters of rock behind
Festival participants stayed in a 17th century caravanserai, which is a big square complex dominated by the mountain.  The rooms all open onto a big square courtyard.  From the time we walked through the big wooden gates, from 6 am to 1am every day for a week, Tony and I were as sought after as Princess Katherine at the races, and had nowhere to hide but the loo.  There were around 120 festival participants, including around 60 foreigners, plus about 500 Iranian support staff.   All the Iranians were curious to know us.  We had countless ‘conversations’, of 2 or 3 words of English and lots of charades.  I’d check my email hidden from view and emerge to find Tony surrounded by a group of old men with a tea in one hand and the Iranian hockey coach showing him some great shoulder exercises.  Once I lost him altogether as he was pulled over for an Iranian massage.  We learned fast not to compliment anything; people would give it to you.   People gave us whatever they could possibly give – even sugar and salt packets at one stage.  

We couldn't understand the attentionMany other climbers were more interesting than us – there was a young French guy climbing 9A and trailed by his own film crew, the winner of the Piolet D’Or mountaineering comp, half a dozen French guides climbing 8A and the Iranian team just down from the Karakoram.  Note for non-climbers – these people are way stronger than Tony and I. (Tony’s edit: but less handsome…)



THE CLIMBING

There are no books on Bistoon so every foreign climber was paired with a local guide.  Tony and I had even less freedom than most as Ibrahim the Frenchman organising the festival had announced before our arrival that we’d create a new route called the Honeymoon Route. Fully aware that we’d never opened a route nor had a drill it was a cheeky statement.   To keep himself looking credible we were at least provided with all possible assistance.   On day 1 we were paired with local guide and climber Ibrahim and Amir, neither of whom spoke English.  When your life depends on communication, a few key phrases can be useful, so we sidelined a translator to assist us before leaving camp.  Ibrahim only wanted us to know the word “Sang!”, meaning “Rock!”, which in climbing terms means duck and pray, a rock is about to fall on your head.   I figured out why as I neared the top of the first pitch of the day and dropped two rocks the size of a microwave about 8 storeys down.  
Just in case the spot we chose to place our new route had been previously climbed, Ibrahim herded us most of the way up the mountain before stopping to let us inspect the rock.  The ascent involved some exposed scrambling, and we passed about 3 groups of climbers roped up for these sections. Not us. Ibrahim shouted “Bia!” (come on!), and cheered, was it mockingly?, as I eventually scampered up.  By the time we reached the starting point the sun was high, my legs were sore and Amir thought it best to remain as ground support. He’d plied us with sweets the whole way up the hill and what he lacked in English he made up for in smiles and enthusiasm – a truly beautiful person.  As Tony began climbing, Amir got his brother on the phone to invite us for dinner.  Another 6 phone calls later my efforts to forewarn Amir, through his brother, I was vegetarian led nowhere, due largely, I’m sure, to the concept being totally foreign here in the land of meat. 


Tony thought we were climbing an existing route, but it turned out we climbed 4 brand new pitches that day.  It was an emotional day; the local climbers here are a particular breed for Iran - bold (reckless).  With all 3 of us perched on a little ledge, just above the 2 huge rocks I’d pulled off, Ibrahim started to dismantle our anchor.  That would mean if Tony fell while climbing up the next pitch, there was a good chance all 3of us would die!   Typically more diplomatic we screamed No! and survived the second pitch, which arrived in a giant cave.  By this stage we knew we were at least off-route but had no idea if Ibrahim was leading us to a known descent or if he was vainly searching for a new way down – which could be dangerous.   Whether he understood our queries I’ll never know.  He just said “Bia! Bia!” (come on) and we decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.  But as Tony started up pitch 3 he immediately regretted it – Ibrahim had managed to get up the pitch without thinking about protection for the followers –if we fell we’d pendulum 10 metres into a wall. While we were pretty sure we wouldn’t fall, the rock was weak and muddy.   We spent half an hour setting up an interim anchor to safely join Ibrahim while he festered above us with no idea what we were doing.   Unfortunately, he assumed our issue was due to lack of skill, which irked our pride.  Tempers mounted as snack levels fell.  After pitch 4 we had to find a rock suitable for a sling for the abseil down; night was fast approaching.   After picking a number of rocks that were rejected by Tony as unsuitable candidates, I think Ibrahim was about ready to push Tony over.  In the end, he stood near the edge of the cliff, prised off a giant boulder, threw it down, managed not to fall or crush anyone …. and thereby exposed a perfect abseil rock.   

Later that evening the festival folk brought Shokooh and Ehsan, a young Iranian couple married about a year before us, to our room in the caravanserei.  Apparently as we were both young married couples, it would be good if we could work together the following day to open the “Honeymoon Route”.  Shokooh spoke great English, which was a relief after our adventures with Ibrahim, and as we discussed logistics for the next morning, it seemed the couple had a similar approach to climbing as ours.  Ehsan spoke only a little English, shyly.  But he had such a friendly way about him that together with Shokooh’s translations, it didn’t take long before we were laughing because even worlds apart both Ehsan and Tony spend their free time obsessing about building climbing walls in their roof.   Shokooh is a PE teacher and arrived wearing a comfy looking shirt totally covered in dirt from a day’s climbing; like a kindred spirit. I immediately wanted to show her the bruises I’d mystically acquired.   If Shokooh and Ehsan were concerned about how we’d create a new rock climb with no drill, no prior experience and limited slings they were very good sports.  They recommended an area close to the caravanserai, which was a relief – hiking 700 metres up in the sun before starting for the day is quite hard work.
Together with Shokooh and Shari. Made the mistake of giving this little girl a small bracelet - her whole family then arrived to present us with gifts..
And so the next day two couples began the “Honeymoon Route”. We were joined by another Iranian mountain guide Amer – an Engineer when he’s not mountaineering, and who as it turned out also married only a month ago and spoke French as well as English.  Tony lead the tricky  first pitch and I lead pitch 2; an easy ramble on some of the best rock on Bistoon, the others followed us up.  2 pitches was enough for us tired souls that day; we abseiled down and ate lunch at 3pm in the shade.   
Our good friends and climbing partners Ehsan and Skokooh
Hand drilling bolts for abseil, with limestone dust moustache
On day 3 we raced up the cliff “the fast way” which was actually harder than expected.  We extended the Honeymoon Route to 3 pitches and spent the remainder of the day hanging out on ledges, eating various snacks doled out by Shokooh, while Ehsan and Tony took turns getting covered in white powder as they manually hammered in bolted anchors for the descent. Ehsan and Shokooh promised to bolt the excellent looking direct line in our memory if we never made it back to bolt ourselves.
The new route team, Shokooh, Ehsan, Amer and Julie
Our problem with the “Honeymoon Route” was that it had received so much attention; but was dangerous.  Tony had climbed up past a moving boulder the size of a small fridge that was eventually going to topple off and crush someone.  On the afternoon of day 2, Ehsan, Shokooh and I waited tethered to a ledge 50 metres up for Tony to reach the ground so we could also descend.   Tony, however, was taking too long.   We heard him shout ‘rock’ and then a huge, explosive bang with television sized bits of rock launching 50 metres or more from ground zero.  He’d prised the giant boulder from the wall; apparently it was very easy. We felt like good Samaritans, but in the valley Tony’s rock explosion scared the pants off the police, who radioed one about the ‘gunshot’ and planned to send in a contingent of armed response.  .  

Kermanshah province is also mostly populated by Iranian Kurds. Our friend Amir from the first day climbing is the first Kurd I’ve ever met.  Our telephone dinner invite finally eventuated on the final day of the festival, and we will undoubtedly never forget the experience.  Amir played bouncy Kurdish music en-route and dragged another couple of Iranian climbers home impromptu instead of letting them pay for dinner at a restaurant.  One was a self-confessed feminist I very much enjoyed discussions with.  Amir’s lovely family were traditional, the only people we met who wore chador on our trip, and we sat on Persian carpets with some cushions against the wall as they didn’t have couches or tables etc.  However, the ladies were educated and their chador were in surprisingly pretty fabrics.  We were lucky his sister in law was an English teacher as with her help the conversation flowed easily.  Lunch involved endless cups of tea, piles of rice with saffron, chicken with eggplant sauce, a tasty green vegetable dish with beans, homemade flat breads, pickles, jelly and soft drinks.   We ate until we couldn’t move, after which time more tea and plates of chocolate puffs and biscuits were prominently placed in front of us.  Amir’s sister in law’s family joined us for some fruit 4 or 5 bits of fruit each – we’re talking a pear, a grapefruit, some cucumbers, and big bowls of pomegranate in rosewater, followed by more tea and more biscuits.  

Our friend Amir
Amir's Family lunch

THE REST OF IRAN

Amazing Mosques of Esfahan
To save a few days to visit Ehsan and Shookoh in Tehran we raced around the sites faster than a  contiki tour, taking overnight buses every second night for a week.  From my blurred memories, our first stop was Esfahan, the site of Iran’s famous blue mosques wherein the highlight for me was standing on the one oddly coloured floor tile to hear perfect amplification of my footstep.  I was too shy to say anything.
Eyes glimmer in Iran if you talk about Yazd, our second stop.  Yazd is the atmospheric second oldest city in the world and with so few tourists you can almost think you arrived on the silk road caravans.   It’s a more traditional town of mud brick houses and narrow lanes replete with badgirs –ancient air-conditioning towers that direct air to the lower levels of a house and apparently maintain constant temperatures of around 20 degrees year round.  It’s enjoyable to get lost here and then return to a hidden leafy courtyard to sip mint tea, such as on one evening when we stopped to watch the local baker cook huge flat bread in round ovens and ducked inside to have a taste.

We took a fascinating tour on the outskirts of Yazd to see a 4000 year old mudbrick castle. It predated Islam and its reconstructions over the years left signs of changing early building technique and beliefs.  Yazd is famous for pomegranates and from the ramparts of the castle lush groves of the trees crowned mud-walled lots much as they would have been back when the castle was flourishing.  Surrounded by the desert such greenery seems odd but in ancient Persia complex underground aqueducts, known as qanats, directed water to cities from mountains 100s of kilometres away.  Temperatures here reach 50 degrees in summer we saw the clever devices used to keep water clean.  Domed cisterns harnessed heat and air to circulate the water, while to guard it’s purity, taps were developed so no one could contaminate the source.  Open qanats flow strongly through the towns, initially supplying water for cleaning and eventually farm irrigation downstream. 



Ancient mudbrick Castles near Yazd
Haji Ali, our carpetmaker
Yazd rooftops

Another highlight of the area was the Zoroastrian pilgrimage site of ChakChak, a sacred fire temple which gives much insight into how religions borrow from one another.   The temple is full of paintings of Zoroaster, a ginger haired Aryan with a halo, white robe and beard.  You’d be forgiven for thinking it was Jesus.   However, Zoroaster, probably borrowed some of his monotheistic beliefs from Judaism, which had recently appeared in the world, and he predated Jesus by about 600 years.   Zoroaster preached belief in one true god, who required worship 5 times a day in the direction of a source of light, hence the fire.   Men and women also cover their heads in the temples. Replace light with the direction of Mecca and Islam borrowed more than Zoroastrian temple sites for their mosques.   Fascinating too really, that at around this time in several parts of the world ancient pantheons of gods (Egyptian, Mithra, Greek, Inca, Mayan, Roman)– were replaced by worship of just one god. Perhaps with so many priests vying for tributes, monotheism seemed a cleaner approach. 
Being in a country where religious clerics make laws, you can’t help thinking about religion.  When it’s 30 degrees and you’re sweltering in unrevealing clothing, which means thick fabric you can’t see through, from ankle to wrist plus a scarf - you can’t help but ponder how this can be what religion is about.  Numerous gods will invariably smite me for insolence; yet after being in Africa where we saw male animals wasting precious energy defending breeding rights, I mused at the probable primal underpinnings of hejab rules, and other religious mores worldwide that focus on women.    Male humans, like their predecessors, still care about whether their offspring are the genuine article.  And in that perhaps we truly are a tiny step above the monkeys; with bodies automated to scan physique for a genetically compatible partner, by covering one half of the population in modest clothing, we’re doing more than irritating small foreigners: we’re messing with the natural order of partner selection!

From Yazd we took an overnight bus to Shiraz, famous for wine that is no longer legal, and poets.  
The main drawcard is its proximity to Persepolis, impressive ruins from 550BC built to awe visiting dignitaries.  Achieved!   The vast structure of palaces and so forth must have looked incredible.  The stone platform alone is 20 metres (6 storeys?) high. As weary visitors dragged themselves up 111 steps (4 steps carved from each massive block of rock) to reach the Gate of all Nations they’d be under no misapprehension they were small and powerless in the eyes of the Persian kings.  Carvings on the walkways would have been in polished black rock, and show all nations bringing tribute, and on reaching the top, the entry gate was dwarfed by huge human headed bulls – a symbol of strength.   The city was burned by Alexander the Great’s army, apparently to his chagrin. How on earth a stone city could burn is curious, but apparently roof and beam structures were wooden and the heat from that fire, rent metal supports within the walls.
A sweeter highlight of Shiraz was the poet Hafez’s tomb. For an Australian, whose country glorifies sport over intellect, it was refreshing to sit and watch Iranians read poetry, and drink tea as gentle music played.  For some, Hafez’s tomb is a pilgrimage site; they flick open a book of poems at his tomb to tell their future.  A guy with a yellow canary let the bird select a reading for Tony and me.  Apparently my troubles are behind me and it’s all smooth sailing ahead – if I don’t trust others with my secrets.  Perhaps this blog is a bad idea.



King Tombs near Persepolis

Esther's Palace, Persepois. Her tomb is near the climbing.  Was surprised to find Jewish communities and sites here.


Persepolis

Persepolis
From Shiraz we took our plane to Tehran to spend the remainder of the weekend seeing the city through the eyes of our climbing friends, Ehsan and Shokooh.  Ehsan and Shokooh share a nice apartment in a city of 15 million people, which makes the housing market here even crazier than Melbourne.  For a 27 year old climber, Ehsan’s hospitality is not dissimilar to my Granny.   We were given the couple’s bedroom and 5 bits of fruit and cakes after meals so fulfilling I needed a nap.  The weather turned, so instead of visiting the climbing area they’d told us so much about, more friends joined us for a big lunch at the apartment.   Amer our guide on the Honeymoon Route came with his wife Ronak – both civil engineers with fluent English. Ronak was one of the most stylish ladies I’d seen in Iran and I enjoyed talking to her about life here for a woman working in a male dominated industry.   Women aren’t calmly staying home in Iran, as in other parts of the Middle East; they comprise 70% of the university population now.  Hassan and his partner also joined us. He’d just climbed up one of the famous Himilayan peaks in the Karakoram, the Trango Tower.  Tony naturally was keen to hear all the details, while I felt for his partner who spent 2 months fretting in Tehran.  She cooked one of the most delicious dishes I ate in Iran – kookoo, a kind of green vegetable pancake with barberries.  The group took us around Tehran to some of the parks and squares they liked most.  We played badminton in the Artist’s Park and even a kind of tag game in another. Shokooh may have been wearing a headscarf but her suitability for a job as a PE teacher was immediately clear; with the determined glint I’ve seen in my sister Mel and so many confident sportspeople, she was more than a match for the men. It was refreshing spending time with friends doing something active rather than imbibing coffee or alcohol.  
Our new friends gave us a real lesson in what it is to be hospitable.  6 people juggled their schedules to spend time with Tony and I in Tehran. Shokooh more than anyone.  When she couldn’t get the day off work she raced to the city to meet us for some last minute shopping and to slip food parcels into our carry-on bags.

We’d love to return the favour for some climbing trips in Australia if we can.

Ehsan taking 'rest' day to the extreme while famous mountaineer Marko works hard on the flat wall.

Spices in the market, Shiraz

Teahouse in Esfahan
Climbers at historic site, Kermanshah

Monday, November 12, 2012

Madagascar



Our original plan for a month in Madagascar had been squashed a little by all the good times we were having in East Africa, and because we had to be in Iran on the 14th October for an International Climbing festival. So we had only two weeks to enjoy paradise. Madasgcar has everything. Jungles, deserts, beaches, pirates, amazingly good rockclimbing, tasty food (mix of french, african and southeast asian, with some vanilla thrown in) tasty THB and Libertalia beer, great accomodation and the coolest retro taxi’s in the world.
We spent week in the north of the Island, sleeping in a treehouse and climbing the amazing limestone cliffs in the surrounding jungle. The climbing was short, but the tufas and pockets made for steep and exciting lines. Most nights on the way back to camp shy troops of cute lemurs would gaze wide-eyed at us from the treetops. They scattered when I got too close though, I think I must look like a Foosa.
It was nice to get back into some solid climbing. The Jungle crags excel in the 6a-7a (19-24) grades which is perfect for us. I climbed my hardest clean onsight ever, an amazing 6b+ that followed a tufa before breaking out onto an overhanging pocketed red wall. Also climbed a couple of 6C’s, including one which had a huge roof up high with a nice flake though it, a bit like a certain well known route at arapiles back home.

Julie (in pink up high) on an excellent 6b+ route

I ate a bat.

LEMURS!

Chamelions


We befriended a nice taxi driver with one of the more reliable of the aforementioned Renault 4L retro-taxi’s and travelled around the north of the Island. They say that to travel around on the terrible roads of Madagascar you need a huge 4x4…… or a tiny retro Renault 4L. 

Our go anywhere wheels
We hiked some surreal landscape, passing caves, baobab trees, bugs that look like flowers, chameleons with camoflage powers that need to be seen to be believed, weird spiky limestone towers… We also spent a couple of days in Antananarivo, which I liked except that we finally experienced out first theft when a gold chain was torn from Julie’s neck. After getting though mainland Africa without any trouble we’d just gotten too complacent. Unlikely to happen again though, as theft is basically non-existent in our next destination- the Middle East…

Friday, November 9, 2012

Kenya



We weren’t sure whether we would go to Kenya. Although it’s been a major tourist destination for a long time, recently there have been bombings in Mombasa, the struggle between the cattle farmers and the cattle rustlers has escalated into a virtual civil war thanks to an easy supply of big guns from Somalia, and pirates have been kidnapping tourists from the coast. Somehow we ended up there anyway, and even spent a few days in Nairobi without getting mugged, which I gather is an achievement defying statistics. We rented a huge Pajero for a week (“It’s ok Julie, I’m sure I’ll be alright driving in Kenya, the traffic can’t be that bad and there aren’t too many carjacking’s on the roads WE will take…”) and went camping in the Masai Mara. We got completely lost in the park, were surrounded by a family of Hyenas, woke a sleeping pride of lions (“Tony.. they’re walking to the car, start the engine…!?!”) and drove out through the gate long after it had closed. We were told not to drive at night, so at about 9pm we pulled into a property on the side of the road which an enterprising local had offered as a camp site. It was a stroke of luck, as the food he cooked that night was excellent, and he took us to the local Masai village the next day. Masai “cultural villages” are common sights, but I don’t think these dark mud huts saw many visitors. 
Our other main destination was Nakuru, at one time the home of Julie’s dad and Grandparents. We also spent two nights camping in Hells Gate national park. The camp site was one of the most amazing places I’ve slept, waking up to a view of the plains below covered in zebra, buffalo, impala and warthogs. We spent a great day rock climbing on the cliffs around the park, surprising the local baboons who thought they had the cliff tops to themselves. Because there are few predators in the park, you are free to roam camp and climb where you like, but we managed to find trouble anyway and found ourselves running from an angry heard of buffalo. 


Masai Village



Woke the sleeping lions

Climbing cracks in Hells Gate National Park

Maybe not the best angle