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Résumé: A Rockclimbing Roadtrip in Down Under

Our Trip is over. It wasn't our first overseas trip, but traveling in a threesome this time made it different to previous ones.

When we first booked the flights to Newzealand a year ago we were excited but also a little nervouse about the upcoming journey. We were confident about the feasibility, as Finja had already seen quiet a few european countries (Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Italy and Macedonia) in her short life. She had handled it really well so far, but none of these trips lasted longer then four successive week.

Finja on one of her first road trips to Italy (less then 2 months after her birth)

The end of January and the whole February were really exhausting. I finished by Bachelorthesis in time and then we had to empty our apartment in Stuttgart. All our furniture and possessions stowed into several family households in Stuttgart's surroundings and finally it was time to catch the plane in Frankfurt.

Goodbye Cake

The flight was incredible long (33 hours?!), I was sick with a cold and Finja kept us busy carrying her around in the airplane. The better part of the flight was actually good, only on the final bit she had enough of air conditioning, narrow space, airplane light and got a bit grumpy. Anyways, happily we arrived in Christchurch where we had the big luck to get picked up by our friend Greg.

It did not take us long to find a convenient campervan for our planned time of 6,5 weeks traveling through the beauty of New Zealand and so we left our friends place soon. We spent most of the time on the South Island, driving down to the incredibly wet Milford Sound (6.715mm rain/year) where we climbed at a beautiful Little Babylon. We visited Wanaka, Queenstown and Paynes Ford for some climbing and spent four weeks in the world-famous bouldering destination Castle Hill.

Finja in one of her first boulder problems - Castle Hill, New Zealand
 When I visited Castle Hill five years earlier, it was colder and many climbers from all over the world spent their time here. It was a big crowd of motivated climbers and a lot of fun. This time the number of other climbers was quiet limited and most of the time it was really warm with no wind. Anyways, the boulderproblems did not suffer in quality and we enjoyed our time a lot. I could climb great problems as "Interstellar Overdrive" V10, "Prince Tui Teka" V9, "Snake Eyes" V9, "Monkey and the Magic Peach" V8 while Katinka had a fun time sending several problems up to V6 after her pregnancy.

Castle Hill, New Zealand

In the end of march, one month after the trip had started we headed back to the airport to pick up my Brother Jochen, his wife Miriam and their daughter Paula. They had taken the opportunity for a longdistance flight as well, using the parental leave. We climbed with them for a couple of days, before we had to leave for the northern parts of New Zealand as our flight to Australia was booked for a date two weeks earlier than theirs.

On New Zealands North Island we stopped at a friends place in Wellington for a couple of nights and sampled some of the local climbing before we ended up in Auckland. We had a really stressfull week trying to sell our van for a reasonable price, flying out to Sydney and buying another van in Australia. But thanks to another friend in Sydney we had a place to sleep and to get ready for the second part of our trip.

Katinka at Turakirae Head, Wellington

We had three great weeks in the Blue Mountains, as many other climbers and friends were around for Easter Holidays. Most of the time there was someone else at the same crag and we could climb while Finja was playing or sleeping at the crags base. By that time she was already crawling a lot, but luckily not walking or running yet.

An unnamed V6 at the Black Cave, Sydney

In the end of April my brother arrived in the Blue Mountains and while we climbed together for another week we proofed his ability to climb hard and sent "Alpha Leather", 32 (8b+).
Together we checked out some of the Sydney Bouldering Areas and climbed many problems such as the ultra classic "L'homme Obu", V11 at the Balkham Hills. Katinka and Miriam both grabbed a quick ascent of "Paratroopin" V8 the same day.

Sending "L'homme Obu", V11 - The Balkam Hills, Sydney
Our main goal for australia was climbing in the Grampians Nationalpark, a world class sandstone area 300km to the west from Melbourne. Unluckily a massive bushfire swept through the Nationalpark a couple of months ago and the majority of the climbing got shut down due to security and regeneration purpose. We evaded to the less known southern Grampians, The Victoria Range where we found a great amount of rock around the Buandik Campground. The climbing there is great, but we were pretty lonesome and the humidity and precipitation are way worse here than in the northern parts.

I think we did the best out of this situation by brushing new boulders, doing a decent amount of first ascents and publishing a pdf guidebook. After beeing annoyed by humidity and precipitation for a couple of weeks we psyched for a couple days off. We had booked a flight to Bali, Indonesia where our friends Manu and Marie joined us for exploring another culture. It was different and stressfull, but an interesting and great experience at the same time. Unfortunately Finja catched a cold on her last days as she did not like the constantly change in between the local climate and the air-conditioned rooms. But her cold only lasted for a couple of days.

A few days off ... 8 days of vacation from our trip in Bali, Indonesia
 Back in Australia we returned to Buandik to finish off some Projects. Especially I had a big goal, a line I had scouted on our first days which had not been climbed yet. It took me an endless amount of days to finally finish it on our last day in the area. "Simplicity", fb8A+ was a great archivement for me and probably my hardest climb ever. Katinka also returned to her old strength and climbed "Hillary Step" V9, "Northern Fire" V8/9 and several others.

First Ascent of "Simplicity", V12 - Buandik, Southern Grampians
 As mentioned earlier the climbing here is really good, but we spent way to much time here. We had planned to climb a lot in the northern areas, which where totally shut down due to the fires and we were climbing by ourselfes only most of the time. It's just a different level of fun if you have great people around you. Additionally we had some bad luck with the weather god and many rainy days, which bit into our motivation as well.

Our plan for future trips is to avoid too long periods at the same place. A maximum of 4 weeks in one spot should be enough to tick the most stunning climbs in an area, but afterwards you loose motivation our you have to focus to much on a limited number of climbs .. such as "Simplicity" which I almost gave up with. We had also hoped to meet more people along our australia trip, which was a bit disappointing.

Katinka in "Hillary Step", V9 - Buandik, Southern Grampians

Finally it was kind of a relief to say goodbye to the Grampians after 2,5 months. Finjas Grandparents arrived at the airport of Melbourne and wanted to join us on our a roadtrip back to the Blue Mountains and Sydney. They enjoyed 3,5 weeks with us and their granddaughter, while we explored the landscape of Victoria and New South Whales. They joined us at several rocks to watch us climb or took over Finja and occupied her perfectly.

Our campervan accompanied by my parents bigger campervan

Ulrich, Finja, Katinka, Rita and Ulrike (left-to-right)
As they flew home, we only had two weeks left to sell our campervan once again. We spent some days within the CBD of Sydney switching inbetween busy advertising sessions and bouldering at the local areas. This time we had more luck on the car sale and recieved a good price and we finished the trip with some hard boulderproblems in our ticklist. Within the last two weeks I did "Contact" V12, "Uncle Joe's Banana Shack" V11 and "Groove Terminator" V11 while Katinka flashed her first V6 "Crack Attack" at The Villas and sent "Paddington" 26 in the Blue Mountains pretty fast.

Katinka in the flash ascent of "Crack Attack", V6 - The Villas, Sydney
Finja in an unknown V0-
It was really convenient to have a rentalcar for the last couple of days, as we did not have to take any stressful public transport and we did not have to trouble any of our friends by asking for a ride to the airport.

Thanks to all our friends Down Under who helped making this trip to what it was. A great time off!
And thanks to our sponsors who assisted us with their products:
Thanks Chillaz for equiping us with comfortable, great looking and fair produced clothes.
Thanks Evolv for supplying us with quality climbing shoes, especially our favorites: the high performance Shaman and the brand new Nexxo.

And last but not least:
Thanks to the Light my Fire Team for sending us samples of their whole product range, and many many sporks which were given away to friends here and there every now and then. And thanks for convincing us to start blogging in english.

Fontainebleau

The past week was warm. Really warm! Every single day was around 20-25ºC with no wind and a lot of sun and humidity, which made it impossible to climb really hard. Anyways .. it was a great week. We met many of our old friends and changed our focus from climbing hard to climbing a lot.

Morning Hangout at Rocher aux Sabots

Around the village of Fontainebleau, located about 50km away from Paris, there is a huge area of sandstone bouldering. The huge are is known as one of the biggest and best climbing areas in the world and has a long history back to the 1960's and beyond. One speciality of Fontainebleau are so called Parcours.

Rocher aux Sabots - Red Parcour, Problem Number 9

A Parcour contains several boulderproblems which are marked by colored numbers and will lead you through the whole sector. To complete a Parcour you will have to climb every single boulder it contains, which may be a count between 20 and 80.

Rocher aux Sabots - Graviton, fb7A

Moritz Eisenlauer in Apremont
 As I realized how warm it really was, I decided to not even try to climb hard. I went for Parcours instead and along the week I finished a couple of them:
  • Blue Parcour in Rocher Guichot (20 boulders)
  • Red Parcour in Rocher aux Sabots (34 boulders)
  • Red Parcour in Franchard Isatis (50 out of 62 boulders)
  • Red Parcour in Bas Cuvier (42 boulders)
Finjas birthday present
Finja loved it in Fontainebleau. As a late birthday present by her grandparents (the ones visiting us in Australia) she got a Bobby Car last week, and Fontainebleau has a lot of sandy, flat access paths. Her godfather Moritz and Julia hauled her everywhere, we almost did not use our baby carrier this week. :)
Finja and her chauffeur Moritz
Finja and her chauffeur Moritz
Around haveway through the week, more friends arrived and we did hang our a little bit at Peter Würth's rented Gîte, were we could use the shower and were we cooked on our gazoline stoves in the garden.
Peters Gîte in Noisy-sur-Ecole
 On our very last day we went to the most famous and overcrowded area Bas Cuvier where I did another long Parcour. One of the boulders included was "La Marie-Rose", fb6A. It is an absolut classic, as it is the first fb6A in Fontainebleau and was first climbed long ago in 1946. Even though fb6A is not a though grade, this climb is though and tricky! Katinka struggeled on it on previous trips and never sent it, but this time she did it!
"Le Marie-Rose", fb6A - Bas Cuvier © Axel Niermann

"Le Marie-Rose", fb6A - Bas Cuvier © Axel Niermann
Now we are back in good old germany and our place of residence has settlet: Next week I have to attent a first introduction event for my Masters Degree in Computer Science in Freiburg where we will move into an apartment in Merzhausen!

www.chalkonrock.com

Enough of settling in

The last couple were really busy for us. We reactivated our mobilephone contracts, did many loads of laundry, intensivated our search for an affordable apartment and did a lot of paperwork. We enjoyed delicouse meals cooked by Katinkas grandma, german bread and other things we had missed for a while now.

Back in Australia I recieved an eMail from TMMS telling me, they used one of my recent photographs in their 2015 climbing calendar and I recieved a brand new copy yesterday. I was stoked to see, they did not only use one photo, but even four!



If you are looking for an christmas present for someone interested in climbing go ahead an have a look for the new TMMS "rocks - Best of Bouldering" calendar for the year 2015:
http://www.tmms-shop.de/kalender-rocks.html

But enough of no climbing for now, either tonight or tomorrow in the morning we will pack the car and start driving to Fontainebleau, France - 6,5 hours away from Stuttgart. We will meet up with some old friends there to climb together. We will be back in one week (or maybe two weeks?), before I have to attend my university courses in mid october.

read back soon,
www.chalkonrock.com



The journey is over

We spent 5 nights in our BigW tent in the Blue Mountains. Our tent was set up on a free campground in Megalongvalley, only 5km away from Blackheath and many of the cliffs. After the increasing heat in Sydney it was great to be back at an elevation of 1000+ meters, providing fresher air.

Our van is the smallest ...
We did not stress ourselfes to much, but enjoyed the last days few of our journey a lot. In the mornings we would start late, after having a good breakfast and a few Cappuccinos and hanging out in the sun for a bit.

Manu and Finja having fun
Middays we went climbing. I did a bunsh of easier routes up to 26 and Katinka almost sent "White Linen", 27 at Centennial Glen. Manu managed to climb his hardest route yet: "Jack High", 19 and I climbed up the neighbour route to take some photos of him.

Manu in "Jack High", 19 - Upper Shippley, Blue Mountains

The evenings we usually sat around the big campfire, drinking wine and cooking dinner while getting rid of all our leftovers. On Monday evening we had to celebrate Manu's 26th birthday. Up to 16 persons were sitting around the fire and enjoying his 12 bottles of wine.

Campfire
On wednesday, two days before our flight back home we returned to Sydney. We returned our tent to a BigW store for a full refund exchanged our van sale cash from AUD $ into EUR € and started packing our luggagae at James Place in Sandringham where we would spend the last two nights.

We did one last bouldering session at the Wing Cave where I had tried "Groove Terminator", V11 four months ago. It took me quiet some body tension and shoulder power to do, but I finished the session topping it out. Great present for the last climbing day in australia!

Sending "Groove Terminator", V11 - Wing Cave, Sydney
 On friday we returned our rental car at the airport and checked in without any problems. This time we only had 65kg of checked luggagae and only a few carry-on bags (Camera + Notebook + Backpack). The flight was long ... 30h ... but more or less ok and in Frankfurt we were picked up by Katinkas Grandpa.

Last day in Sydney
It was a nice evening with good wine, delicous dinner and family.

Now we will start the next mission:
I have to choose which Master Programm I will attend from mid october. I got accepted for a Computer Science Master in Stuttgart, Freiburg and Innsbruck. Time for a decision ... Every location has it's advantages and disadvantages, but we already canceled the idea of Innsbruck for now.

Stuttgart would be comfortable, as Katinka could go back into her old job, we know many people who could look after Finja when we need some time for ourselfes or when we train in the gym and we have a couple of places where we can stay until we have found a proper apartment.

Freiburg seems to be a really nice city to life in as well, but would meen a loss in comfort and maybe a lot of boredom for Katinka while not having a proper job opportunity yet.

Anyway, there's a lot to organize within the next three weeks and we still need to meet up with Finjas godfather Moritz for a one week trip to Fontainebleau, France (Maybe next week??)

read back soon on
www.chalkonrock.com

7 days to go

The past week went by really fast, as it was full of action, stress and finally success.
After my parents had left we met up with a few people beeing interested in our van. We had 3 persons test driving the van on saturday and several more chatting with us and asking about an appointment to do so in the following week.


We just wanted to get over it as fast as possible. It's great to have time to sell a car (in contrary to our last van sale in Auckland), but it's also great to have it off the mind and enjoy the last days of the trip instead. We hoped for the best but everyone wanted to think for a couple of days and so we left the CBD and visited our friends Steve, Joe and Tara 40km away from the stressfull citycenter. We spent two nights in their guestroom (Thanks for that!), doing laundry, cleaning the van and bouldering at Jessicas, a little crag nearby.
Axel in "Hairy Joe's Banana Shack", V11 - The Villas, Sutherland, Sydney
As we had more appointments for wednesday we decided to head back to the southern part of Sydney on thuesday to climb at The Villas and spend one more night in our van. We got there in the early afternoon as we were waiting for our laundry to dry off, but having so many van concerns in our mind it was enough climbing time for the moment. Katinka did "Help", V6 and "Burgers", V5 while I ended up ticking both "Savage", V8 and "Hairy Joe's Banana Shack", V11 in less then 15 Minutes each, which was really cool and unexpected.

Katinka flashing "Crack Attack", V6 - The Villas, Sutherland, Sydney
We ended the day in the Price Edward Park on a beautiful picnicarea next to the river only a couple kilometers away. Potentially our last dinner and night with the van, as our two appointments for the next day both promised to buy the van. We needed that kind of a backup solution as the first one to meet sounded a bit strange and not to trustfull. Who would be willing to book a flight from the Gold Coast to Melbourne only to pickup a car he has not seen before, if not a pisher?

Anyways we slept well and long, dropped most of our remaining luggagae at James Place in Sandringham and went back to King Cross near the CBD. The first guy indeed showed up and we sealed the deal. Now our wheeled home belonges to the venecuelean Vincente who had been on working holiday visa in the middle of nowhere for the past four months. His only chance to buy a campervan was to travel to a bigger city after sorting through available vans online and deciding for ome from afar. He even found our blog and read our story before he decided he will trust in our van.

Sold our van to Vincente from Venezuela
An hour later, after drinking an celebration cappuccino in a little café we went to a local Avis branch to pickup a tiny rental car. 9 day to go! Even though I'm still missing one month to complete the 25, the lady next to our respondant knew a trick how she could upload my drivers licence id, avoiding the systems age check.

That done, we took off. We ate a huge hamburger each and organized the next business meeting. At 8pm I would stock up my camera gear by a Canon 35mm F1.4 lens. Psyched!
We spent the night at James places, borought a rope and decided to drive back to the Blue Mountains the next night. After sleeping long we went back to the Villas for a little bit, mainly to take a few photos of the Bananashack Problem and to check out "Contact", V12 for a little bit.

20 Minutes Ascent of "Contact", V12 - The Villas, Sutherland, Sydney


The moves went down pretty fast and not even 20 Minutes adter my first try i had it on my tick list. Sick! Katinka succeeded as well as she flashed her first V6 boulder "Crack Attack". This one has taken me two days to complete and even today i needed another three gos to finish it.

By now, we have arrived at our camping spot in Megalong Valley, Blue Mountains. We borought the thermarests of our friends Manu and Marie and bought a cheep tent at BigW.

7 days to go!

Back in the big City

In the Blue Mountains we had mostly good weather. Katinka climbed a cool route she had tried on her very first day here in April, "Mt Paddington" 25. Back then she was not able to do all the moves, but this time it looked quiet easy as she cruised up the wall. Other then that is was nice to get a little bit of easy climbing after three weeks of roadtripping the coast.

The whole family together.


The only rainy day in the Mountains we used for a long hike from Katoomba down into the forests valley to an old coal mine. It was really damp in the beginning with a seight of only 50 meters, but then it cleared up more and more, so we could really enjoy the beautiful scenery.

A rainy hike around Katoomba, Blue Mountains

Finja walking on the table of the campervan.

The coalmine itself was less interesting to see then expected! Too touristy and too few new things after the big gold mine tour in Ballarat a couple weeks back. My mum and my sister both were really psyched to ride the (supposately) steepest tram of the world to avoid the hike back to the car. With angles up to 55º it took them up in no time, while we others did the 45 Minutes hike in just 20 Minutes. We also met again with Manu and Marie and climbed with them for a day before we headed down to the big City.

Bussiness while climbing ... talking to an interested testdriver

 Our visitors returned their huge campervan and checked into their hotel and we did almost three CBD seightseeing days together: Sidney Opera House, The Rocks, Town Hall, Restaurants, Cafés, etc...

The Sydney Opera House

We also used the time to advertise our van for sale, as we only have two weeks left in australia. We spreaded 20 car-for-sale prints in various hostels around the city and now we hope for best luck.

Yesterday we had our last evening with our guests, drinking good wine and having great dinner at The Rocks, one of Sydneys nice city parts. By now they should be sitting in the airplaine.

www.chalkonrock.com

From Melbourne to Sydney

As we drove through Melbourne again our van failed ...
It would suddenly loose every bit of power and would only work in first and second gear (on the highway!). We tried to make some more kilometers by switching between LPG and Petrol mode, which helped a little bit but as we continued our journey we had to use the emergency lane more and more frequently to let the faster cars pass by.
Breakdown, checking what's gone wrong.
 Suddenly there was a loud bang and a few moments later the car started drifting a bit. As i stopped i saw the reason right away: A flat on the highway! I switched to our spare wheel as fast as possible, because I did neither have a breakdown triangle nor a reflective west and did not know the consequences if catched by the police. The job was done fast and right at the next highway exit we parked at a gazstation where we boiled a cup of coffe and took a break.

Reataching the air filter
 Soon after, the big campervan of my parents returned to us, they had not noticed our struggles and continued for another 20km. With our sparewheel we drove back a couple of kilometers to a KMart Brake and Tyre Service. Luckily they told us the flat wheel is repairable ... but not today ... (As usually in such a situation is was friday evening ...). We had more luck at a Beaurepair Shop closeby and 30$ later the flat was fixed. The first half of the disaster was solved!

Regarding our powerless van problem we had to wait til the morning. Using Google's help we found one single garage in the whole area, which would be open saturdays. We woke up early to be the very first customers and had luck after the boss saw Finja smiling. He changed his position and started to look after our car. He cleaned the air filter which was not broken, but pretty dirty and after an unsuccessfull testdrive he changed all four ignition plugs. We paid him a fair price and our car was ready to hit the road once again.

The big and the little one
The next few days we did a lot of driving. We took the scenic costal route from Melbourne to Sydney, visited Philipps Island and had many stops at beautiful beaches. We saw many warning signs, not to go swimming, due to big waves and dirty water and indeed, the sea was not as beautiful and clear as it used to be in the beginning of our trip. A lot of brown dirt, big and uneasy waves made the sea impressive to watch, but calmed down our motivation to go for a swim.

Halfway in between Melbourne and Sydney (around Sale) we met some egrets

Finjas grandpa on a photo hunt


After 5 days of driving we had another 1100km on the odometer and finally arrived in the Blue Mountains. Here we'll spend a couple of days before my parents trip will come to an end in Sydney. On Wednesday they will return the campervan, check in in one of the CBD's hotels and after another two seightseeing days in the city they are ready to return back home to germany.

www.chalkonrock.com

Great Ocean Road

After my parents arrived at their hotel in Melbourne CBD we joined their dinner for a nice drink. They where less exhausted from the long flight as expected and so we walked through the nightly streets of Melbourne. Even though Finja was only 7 months of age when she last saw the other "Perschmann's", she lost no time in laughing and playing with them.
Finja, her grandparents, Katinka and my sister Rita.

We spent the next two days seightseeing in Melbourne. We walked through the famous SeaLife Aqarium (which had one impressive pool, but besides that was less impressive as expected), the Federation Square (with an really well done Exhibition about Dreamworks Animation Films, worth visiting!), the Eureka 88 Skydeck (Melbournes tallest building, offering an spectacular view over the city) and the many little cafés and shops.
Finja in Melbourne's SeaLife Aquarium

Melbourne at Sunset
The nights we spent at a friends place in North Melbourne, using their shower and laundry and sleeping in their parkinglot, in the mornings we took the tram to the CBD to avoid parking struggles and fees. On their third day, my dad picked up heir campervan rental and we decided to check out a restaurant called Lentil as Anything before we would start our roadtrip. Volunteers offer a selection of 5 or 6 different meals, desserts and water, but instead of a cashier there is only a donation box: "Pay as you feel!" The food was delicious, the ideas is great and we did not eat for free. We might come back, when we pass through Melbourne again!
A Koala at the Kennett Jeep Track - Wye River, Victoria
The next 3-4 days where spent along the Great Ocen Road, seeing Koalas from a distance of 1m, awesome coastline views and the famous Twelve Apostels. It was easier then expected to find good and free sleeping spots for the night, as we are here in the off season now. We were not sure if rangers or police officers would wake us up at night or fine us, since my parents huge campervan is a bit harder to hide then our 'small' backpacker van, but no one cared!

Twelve Apostels - Great Ocean Road
We drove all the way to Portland, where we had seen the white Kangaroos two weeks ago, but couldn't see much of the impressive Blowhole landscape of Cape Bridgewater, due to heavy raind and wind. Today the weather was calm and sunny, making the Blowholes less interesting then the surrounding landscape. It looked quiet similar to Utah Desert, except for the endless blue water next to it.

Cape Bridgewater - Portland, Victoria

Cape Bridgewater - Portland, Victoria
We spent a few last days in the Grampians, not climbing to much as we had been here for to long now. We picked up the crashpads we had stored in a rain protected spot up in Buandik and did a last photoshooting in "Northern Fire" for Katinka. Yesterday we came through Ballarrat, Australias most famous gold rush city. Sovereign Hill is a huge open air museum presenting Ballarats 1860's life, gold mines and industries. It was very interresting to see and to chat with volunteers. Several Schools around Victoria use he oportunity of this place to send their students back into the past for a couple of days. They walk around in 1860 cloths, listen to 1860 school lessons and play 1860 games on the street, which must be an great experience as a 12 year old.

www.chalkonrock.com

Success

We had some phenomenal weather just after finishing our roadtrip. The Sky was blue, we had a little bit of wind and the temperatures in the shade where quiet chilly. "Simplicity" had always been one of the very last boulders in the whole area to be dry, since the crux of it goes straight through the main water runnel of this 20m x 15m block. Expectations where low to try it on our first or even second day back, especially after noticing the many deep puddles and rivers on the approach to Buandik.

Finja and her toys
Surprisingly the rock at the top of the hill was in better conditions then the ground and as a first warmup I climbed the tree next to my Project and gave my best to prepare my holds with towels, toiletpaper and heeps of chalk. It would be climbable in the afternoon, or perfect the next day!

Drying the holds

We enjoyed climbing on other problems sun so much that day, it was a big relief after so much rain. Katinka got back on "First One", V7 and we did three new lines between V5 and V9 which where put up my our american friend Chad a couple of days ago, before we hiked down for dinner.

The clear sky and the wet campground made the next few nights feel terribly cold. So we did not spend much time outside or around the fire, but cooked inside and where once again very happy with the interior and electrical setup of our van. Finja loves to play on our matress in the bright light of the many LED's and we always have enough energy to charge Ipad and macbook. While she plays we can listen to some music and while she sleeps we usually listen to audiobooks, while I'm editing the latest photos.

With no hurry and great weather I continued my work on "Simplicity". I rather climb many different boulders than focusing on one really hard line. It's fun and rewarding to put a lot of effort in one thing, but at some point it turns into a head problem. Over the time individual moves will feel easier and smoother while the mind says, "It does not feel hard, I should have climbed it already", but starting from the beginning this one move won't work, no matter how hard you try. It's frustrating, I hate it and it's what happend the next few days. I think in total I arrived at my hate move around 30 times, while making it past that point on only 3-4 occassions?!

Katinka in "Northern Fire", V8/9 - Buandik

Anyway, the sun was a nice change and Katinka started working "Northern Fire", V8/9. When I did the First Ascent of this one, she decided not to try it, since I only found a tall person beta where I extended my 1,84m body to the maximum to reach the holds. But a few weeks had passed and other climbers found better beta. Katinka found a great technical solution with some slippery heel hooks, requirering body tension and precicion.


Later that week we spent our very first restday on the Buandik Campground. Just outside the van, without any need to drive 80km One Way to hide from the nasty rain or to do some shopping. We used the day to relax, and do some van work.

Katinka busy with sewing works

After that it rained again, but we were in urgend need for a second restday. We went to Halls Gap to do laundry and showers at a friends place. The next day was absolutely windstill and humidity was around 150%. It was not possible to climb much, so all our hopes were focused on our last day in the Grampians, before heading towards Melbourne, where my parents and sister would arrive the day after.

Everything worked out! After some warmup at a new boulder called "Where is the wind?", V5 (which we put up that previous day), I finally climbed the full version of "Simplicity" from sitstart to top in my second go of the day! It's the boulder I spend the most time on ever and I would guess it's the hardest approach I have ever taken to get to the summit of a piece of rock. Yiphhiie!

Sticking the crux move of "Simplicity", V12 - Buandik

We went on to Katinkas Project and she did it right away on here third day on it.

To celebrate the successful day we went to Halls Gap with our french companions and ordered massivly good Hamburgers and drank some wine. Now we are on our way to Melbourne, sleeping at a friends place in North Melbourne. In about two hours our guests will arrive at the airport and we might see them in the CBD later or tomorrow morning.

www.chalkonrock.com

Roadtrip

We tried to climb at the Campground Boulders on Thuesday, but the weather was not to pleasant. Katinka couldn't warm up her body and lost her motivation to try hard and give her best. As she was finally ready to climb her project it started to hail...










We packed the van and decided it's time for a little roadtrip. Through Hamilton we drove south towards the sea around Portland, Victoria. From there on we turned towards the neighborstate South Australia. On this trip we saw some white Kangaroos, the sea, lighttowers, huge waves, massive blowholes in windy seastorm weather. We made it to Mt Gambier a city surrounded by lakes created by vulcanoes long ago and now we've passed the rainy days. We've just checked the weaherforcast and it looks like a good amount of blue sky.
Weatherforcast for the southern Grampians, Victoria
Tonight we will return to Buandik, chansing the sun.

Arapiles

The past days we spent in area on the other side of Horsham. Instead of sitting in the rainy Grampians (the weather has not improved yet ...) we enjoyed some sunny days in the Arapiles. There is a little bit of bouldering, but not to much and the sandstone is by far not as good as in the Grampians.
Katinka in a V6 Traverse - Arapiles (Finja is enjoying the sun in the back)

We used the times to empty the area, pretty much all available boulders are climbed, next time we have to jump into our harness and go for some sport or traditionalroutes. Also we did a big clean up in our van. We sorted through all our luggagae, got rid of hidden rubbish and some dirt and mould. We bought some paint to protect the wooden construction within our van from pulling water and the sun was a big helper in letting everything dry.

Axel in "In Between Fear and Desire", V10 - Arapiles
Now we're back in Horsham, just having had a refreshing shower in the local Aquatic Center. We refilled our kitchens cupboards and watertanks and are prepared to return to the Grampians. The weather is still worse than we like it, but sitting in the van or in cafès is not a great alternative.

Finja playing with the Baby Roobiks Cube

Together with Yannick and Florien from Belgium we'll return to the Stapylton Campground Boulders tomorrow, in hope for great success in Katinka's Project "Happy Camper Traverse", V9.

Birthday Party

Shortly after our last post we had to celebrate a double birthday party. Paula and Finja both turned 1 year old on friday, 11th July. It was a rainy day, so we spent quite some time in a nice cafe together with Manu and Marie. The two little ones got surprised by some boxed and colorful presents they had to unwrap.
Birthday Gift unwrapping

The cutting board and fruits

Paula got a ball to play with, a monkey dolly and a bird mobile. And Finja got a nice set of a cutting board and several wooden fruits while all fruits are separable in the middle by a velcro. Using a knife to seperate them in a pretty realistic manner means heap of fun! Thanks so much for this present Jochen and Miriam! She also got a dolly by Manu and Marie, one beeing called Wolly the Wombat which scared her in the beginning and now she loves it.

After some delicious pastries and cappuccini we did a quick internet session to communicate via Skype with our friends and family before we went to an awesome pizza place with two burning fireplaces and pizzas as good as you can imagine. What a nice day!
"Simplicity", V12
Climbing wise we had a lot of rainy days, but also dry days inbetween. Jochen did the second ascent of my "Simplicity" which is still awaiting it's full sitstart ascent by me. It is hard but eventually it will happen! Instead of this one I managed to climb the "Roobiks Cube", V12, but with the original, plastical and complex Roobiks Cube I'm still stuck trying to solve the last two corners of the last surface.

"Roobiks Cube", V12

Katinka and Miriam both climbed "Brian's", V6 and "The Ramp", V7 before Jochen, Miriam and Paula ended there Grampians time. They took the Great Ocean Road towards Melbourne where they still are, trying to sell their campervan. In a couple of days they will be back home in Germany. Good luck with the van sale mission!

Katinka in "I'm a Koala", V5
In the meanwhile my parents have decided to spent this years summerholiday in Australia rather then driving to Italy or other European countries. They will arrive in Melbourne in about three weeks, meet up with us to visit the Grampians and together we will drive north towards Sydney, where we want to spent some more time bouldering in the city and routeclimbing in the Blue Mountains.

Simplicity is born

The past week was full of rain. After one day in Buandik where I tried my steep project together with my brother Jochen I found a good solution for how to do the single moves. I've solved the puzzle of the rock and only need to link all the moves together another day.

Then we drove back towards the Campground Boulders where Jochen had his big project (see last post). After falling twice at the top moves (scary fall, but he didn't die ;)) the send it! In the Guidebook it is called the Scorpion King Project, but asking Google, we learned the First Ascent happened 12 years ago. Now it's the "Scorpion King", V13. Hard, scary and beautiful!

After a few days of bad conditions and rainshowers every now and then we had a really windy day yesterday. We were not quite sure if it's worth driving all the way from Horsham to Buandik (80km) or if it would be a better idea to climb in the Arapiles (30km) for an easy day of climbing classics. But we decided to give it a try and it payed of!

A double Kangaroo in Halls Gap, Grampians

After warming up, Katinka could climb "Hillary Step", V9 in her first Attempt of the day and so we continued to my project. It was absolutely dry and stunning conditions. The pads were about to fly away due to the strong wind, but fixed with heavy stones on the crashpads corners they stayed were they were supposed to stay. I warmed up and worked the moves again and again before starting to link them. Finally I fell twice at the last move, a dyno to a big jug where your feet swing out, before I did it.

Katinka in "Hillary Step", V9 - Buandik, Grampians

"Simplicity" i named it, but business is not over yet. I still have to return and try to climb the sitstart, as I started on the last move of the old V7 version, which makes it a obvious standstart. After beeing really tired I postphoned this mission to another day and tried "Roobik's Cube", V12 again. I managed to do the hardest move as a singlemove and almost sticked the move starting in the middle of the boulder.

Katinka on the last move of "Simplicity", V7 - the extended version might be V12

I think both boulders feel about same hard, but for a correct grading I have to wait for repetitors of "Simplicity" and for the full line to be completed. Due to the strong wind we had to postphone the photosession. It was impossible to leave Finja on the ground without watching her, since there was a lot of sand flying into her eyes. Hopefully next time up there, it's a bit more comfortable. ;)

Now it's only two days until Finja is one year old!

www.chalkonrock.com

Back to Australia

Last week we rearrived in Australia. Our little holiday ended with an exhausing overnight flight back to Melbourne, where the immigration officers took a real close look at us. They pulled us out of the line and asked, why we would return to austalia after an such short absence of only nine days. We had to proof the purchase of our ticket back to germany and they wanted to see our bank account.
Luckily they were happy with what we could show and let us in.

 After just 30km of driving we pulled over at a gas station and stopped for an two hours nap. We were so tired of the journey and couldn't make it any further. After that stop it went better and we finaly arrived at Buandik Campground just in time for dinner. We reunited with my brothers family and went up the hill again in the morning to see what boulders Jochen and Miriam had found in the past days.

Northern Grampians

My own project was still soaking wet, so we climbed other lines and the little girls where pretty psyched to plac again together in the mud. The day before it had rained a lot, so the conditions were not as good as you want them. But for bad luck it was the best day for a while ... The weather turned into really bad. Lots of wind, freezing cold and heavy showers at the same time. We jumped back into the van and drove north. We found a few problems in the northern grampians, that were accessible, even though most of the areas are still closed due to the bushfires.

Generally the weather is way drier up there. For every 10km you drive south, there is 25mm more rainfall per year in average. We got to climb a little the next few days. I repeated problems I had already climbed five years ago and Katinka managed to climb "Happy Camper", V7.

Jochen found a problem in his style, marked as a Project in the guidebook and really hard. After grabing a one finger pocket and pulling really hard on it the line tops out through a better-don't-fall zone. Scary and hard!

He almost did it, but destroyed the rubber on his shoes, which made him slip off. Next time might be sending time!

www.chalkonrock.com

Bali 2

The next four days in Bali did not pass in a boring way. Weather was stable as expected, but now we have had enough heat for a while, and motivation is high to return to australia, where the weather is more comfortable.

Looking for handmade scarfes.

We hired a taxi for one day and got to see more remote parts of the island. As a highlight our driver Ketut showed us a nice waving factory, where they produce carpets, scarves and other beautiful things by hand.

Coffee Plantation

After that he showed us a cocoa and coffee plantation, where we tasted the world famous Luwak Coffee. To produce this coffee, they select the very best coffee beans, feed them to an animal called Luwak and after he has turned them into poop, they will be cleaned again and are ready to be sold.

We visited several different evening markets and tried local dinner specialities. The absolut highlight was called Martabak. A big wrap filled with egg, chicken and spices. Even Finja enjoyed eating it and afterwards she was very happy to find herselfe sitting on her very first carousell (human powered, not electrical!)
Human powered carousell.




Bali

When we first booked our flights we decided to stay in Australia for 5,5 months. To be allowed for so long we had two choices: Either apply for a 12 extended month tourist visa, or leave the country after 3 months. Since the extended visa would have cost us 100 Euro each, we decided to spent this money on a flight instead. By booking a flight to Bali for a 9 days holiday we split our Australia time into two parts: 2 months Australia, 9 days Bali (Indonesia) and another 3 months Australia. After that our trip would end in September 19th.


View out of the living room
The last few days in Australia we spent bouldering in Arapiles Mountains (30km west of Horsham). Katinka proofed her ability to climb hard as she climbed a problem called "Crankshaft Right", V8. Since her pregnancy it's her hardest climb, which means she is in the very best way back to or even past her old shape!


We did the 300km drive to Melbourne where we did a little bit of seightseeing. Early in the morning, last friday we went to the airport. After a 6 hour flight we arrived in Denpasar where Ketut was already waiting for us. He had been sent by Katinka's friends Elke and Werner who are renting their villa to us for our time here. The bali climate is quiet different to the Australian winter climate. Temperatures are always around 30ºC and humitidy is pretty high as well. For other travellers interested, check out www.two-smiling-buddhas.com, the website of our friends place. The villas are well designed and come with a huge saltwaterpool for nice refreshment. It's a big difference living in such an apartment, then living in our Australian campervan 70km away from civilisation.

Manu and Marie did join our little trip to Bali. Last week they decided to book a last minute flight from Adelaide, which makes it even more fun to explore the Island, culture and food with our two Scooters.

Day 1:
We went to a basar in Amlapura. Marie and Katinka successfully searched for airy pants to defy heat, while Axel was running from one food booth to the next one, trying all different specialities: Nasi Goreng, Tebs, ...
In the evening we had a little walk in Ujung Water Palace.
balinese food
Day 2:
For breakfast we eat a great mix of fruit and yogurt.
Afterwards we start to explore the island. We want to see Padangbai, a harbour village about 20km away. While trying to navigate around we get lost and suddenly we have a flat back tire. Non of the balinese people understands any english, but by the help of hands and feet we managed to find a garage and for the price of 50.000 Ruphiah (~3 Euros) we got a new tube build in.
Back on the Scooters, we continued up the mountains until we found back on our planned path, next to the coast. Since it was already getting late, we eat some delicious lunch in Candidasa and returned to our villa with the last light of the day.

Ujung Water Palace

Day 3:
A Poolsession in the morning, afterwards fruity breakfast (Ananas, Orange, Mango, Papaya, Dragonfruit, Melon, Lemon, etc.). Finja takes a nap in the shade next to the pool.
In the afternoon we visit Tirtagangga's famous Water Palace with loads of fish and tourists.
Fixing our flat

Day 4:
For snorkling we drive 40km with our Scooters to Amed. Because i did the mistake to stop at a red light instead of following all the balinese people driving past the red light we get checked by the police. I drove 1m past the stopping line, so there was no way around some bribe money... 100.000 Ruphiah or 6 Euros later we are back on the road.
Breakfast (or Breakfeast?)

In Amed we went straight for a delicious fruit shake before we explored the coral riffs next to the beach. It was like a huge aquarium with many colorful fish.
Afterwards we have some lunch in a restaurant nearby before we take the costal route back to our villa (another 40km on very small roads).



One of many rice terraces

Now we have another 4 days, before flying back to Melbourne where our van is parked on the Airports Long Term Value Parkinglot. After to much heat we feel the psyche for touching rock again!

For more pictures check out our main blog: www.chalkonrock.com/bali

Rock climbing glossary

Every now and then I get asked, what is a V12? What is a "roof" and what are Crashpads?
To satisfy your thirst for knowledge I'll explain some of the climbing vocabulary in this post.

Bouldering:
Bouldering is a type of rock climbing where you do not use a rope. The climbing will usually happen in low heights (+/- 4meters bloc height).

Ascent, Flash and OnSight:
If you climb a boulderproblem without someone else pushing you, without touching (dabbing) the Crashpad or anything else besides the rock you did "send" it. The goal of bouldering is to figure out how to climb a problem and then work on it until you send it. :)

If sending a route or boulderproblem in your very first attempt (First Go) it increases our archivement. If someone told you what to do and helped you by shouting "around the corner, there is a hold you did not see!" or something similary the send is called a Flash. If, in the meanwhile, no one helped you, and you did not ever watch anybody climbing on it, it would have been an OnSight.

The very first person sending a boulderproblem gets it's First Ascent. Usully the First Ascentionist has invested more time then successive Repetitors, because he had to find a solution for the boulderproblem without knowing if it will even be possible. The First Ascentionist is the one who is allowed to name a boulderproblem and suggesting a Grade for it. Repetitors will add their input until the grade has setteled.

Crashpad:
A Crashpad is a bigger piece of foam, surrounded by a robust fabric and designed as an oversize backpack. On this trip we carry around two Evolv Maverick Crashpads (5kg each) plus two little Wingman Crashpads (1,5kg each). After carrying the Crashpads into an bouldering area, they are placed below the boulderproblem you are trying to climb and will save your back and your ancles when gravity is stronger then you.


Evolv Maverick and Evolv Wingman


Grading Systems:
If talking about boulderproblems you tried or you succeded to climb, there exist different grading systems. The most common one is the french grading system, which was invented in Fontainebleau (fb), France long ago. It uses a mix of numbers and letters as ..., fb7B+, fb7C, fb7C+, fb8A, fb8A+, fb8B ...
An other one is the Vermin (V) Scale. This system was first used in Hueco Tanks, Texas and is the most common one in the USA, Australia and other countries. It is possible to translate V-Grades into fb-Grades, but usually I talk about the current climbs in the local area grading system, which is the V-Scale for Australia.

V0: Usually inclined boulderproblem on big holds and with good feet. Beginners should be able to solve such a problem.
V3: either holds are smaller now, or the problem is steeper (more arm power required). Basic climbing tecnique required.
V5: out of range for most beginners. It starts to get really technical or powerful now.
V8: 1978 "Midnight Lightning" in Yosemite was the hardest boulderproblem in the world. To climb this grade you need to practise a lot
V11/fb8A: requires specific training and strong motivation.
V14/fb8B+: the hardest Flash Ascent.
V16/fb8C+: the hardest problems in the world. Only a few of those exist.

Katinka sending a nameless V6 at Mount Fox, Southern Grampians
Before beeing pregnant Katinka managed to climb a couple of V9 (fb7C) boulders and one V10 (fb7C+). I have climbed more then 20 V11 (fb8A) boulders and a couple of V12s (fb8A+) so far.

Others
A slab is inclined piece of rock. Most pressure will be on your feet, handholds might be really scarce and it involves a lot of balance to climb it.
A roof is a really steep piece of rock. Holds trend to be bigger and you usually need more power in your arms.
A hook is a technic for your feet. Using the back of the heel to apply pressure to a hold is called a heelhook. A toetook is securing the upper side of the toes on a hold.

Buandik Camp

Just after uploading our last blog update, we met up again with Manu and Marie. We had seperated in Canberra, as they wanted to drive the Great Ocean Road, while we were psyched for the Grampians bouldering and hurried down through the inland. We did buy a lot of groceries, since the climbing area is far away from civilisation, filled up our water and headed back to Buandik Campground where we spent the next five days.

Finja playing in the dirt, as usual.

The weather had cooled down, but sun still was a scarce gift. We managed to put up a few more first ascents. Katinka called one line "I'm a Koala", V5 and another scary one is now called the "Grave Yard". I myselfe started working on two harder boulders. One is an already established line "The Rubiks Cube", V12 - first climbed by Dave Graham - which feels possible to climb for me. The other line is a nameless, steep V7 roof. It ends on a big jug, where the big holds end and the rock blanks out. But I found a solution how to top it out. After climbing the existing boulder the real business starts with some really hard moves at the end of the roof.

Katinka climbs the nameless V7 roof
Manu and Marie are more into easy climbing. They enjoy the warmup boulders and both did a few First Ascents as well. In the evenings we make big fires at the campground to stay warm and not to get bored. And at some time in the next days we might bake our first pizza in a while. :)
Marie and Manu sitting at the evenings fire
Today it is a rainy day, and we decided to visit Hamilton. Its exactly the same distance as to Horsham, but driving south, not north. This town offers a few places with free showers and internet and we need to get rid of a major van problem ... we found some mould below the matress, where we had spit the 3 liters of orange juice a couple weeks ago. Not the very best weather to dry our stuff, but having bought new wood and some strong anti-mould-mixture we are confident, we will succeed!

read back soon,
www.chalkonrock.com

Grampians

We're just back to civilisation from the Grampians National Park. The closest town is Horsham which is about a hour drive away. 70km on a paved road plus 10km on a really bad dirtroad. On the campground where all the climbers stay there are restrooms, a rainwatertank and fireplaces, but that's it. You can't grab a shower, you won't find drinkable water and there's no chance to get rid of your rubbish without driving back to Horsham.

Katinka in "Cold Hands, Cold Hearth", V7 - The Cave of Man Hand


On the campground we met other climbers (partly friends known from previous trips, partly new made friends) and since there is not really a guidebook pubished yet, it was a good chance to get a tour through the areas. The bouldering in the southern Grampians Nationalpark is still in development. While some good looking lines have been cleaned and climbed there's plenty a chance to find a new line noone has ever looked at, or even tried to climb yet.

The red marked area is closed due to bushfires in january.
We are at Buandik (bottom left) Campground now


Since the weather was not really good we did quiet some walking to get acquainted the the area. It was mostly either really humid, or slightly drizzling or sweltering and windless. But we got to climb a little anyways. I could almost Flash "The Sound of One Man Hand Clapping" in the Cave of Man Hands Area. Apparently graded as a V11 i decided to call it a V8 after climbing it in ease in my second attempt. Also I could do a first ascent of a new steep and slopy line, nothing for small people, as the only feetholds are far away from the handholds. I called it "Northern Fire", since this is the reason why we are climbing in the south and not in the established and famous north of Grampians Nationalpark.

"Northern Fire", V10?! - Buandik

 read back soon,
www.chalkonrock.com

Blue Mountains, Sydney and Canberra

We finished our time in the Blue Mountains with some nice last climbs up to 27. I was able to Flash "Wrong Movement", 27 while Jochen had big success on his longterm project "Alpa Leather", 32. He had tried it a lot on his last trip to the Blue Mountains about seven years ago, and now it took him another 4 days to complete. This day ended with a delicious dinner at the Blackheath Tai Restaurant.

Jochen in "Alpha Leather", 32 - Blue Mountains


After those last days we went back to Sydney to check out the southern bouldering areas around Sutherland. We wanted to see The Wing Cave and The Villas and we wanted to meet up with our friends Manu and Marie from Germany. Both happened and Katinka was able to climb "Weak Ape Test Zone", V7 the only boulder she had seen on a photo before and she really wanted to climb. Great job! We had a fun day out there with James and even though it was really hot, i could climb most the boulders up to V8 in both areas.

James in "Weak Ape Test Zone", V7 - The Wing Cave, Sydney

Then it was time to hit the road. We went to Wollongong, where Manu and Marie had spent their first week in Australia. A nice little town just next to the ocean. We went to a junk yard where we found another pair of roof racks which makes it way faster and safer to store our crashpads on the vans roof for longer drives. We spent a few days driving down the coast in slow motion. Dinner at the beach, breakfast at the beach. We saw Kangaroos and Dolphins and enjoyed the salty water.


Dolphins

Around Canberra we stopped for a day to climb at the Black Range Bouldering Area. It's nice granit and you have to drive 10km on a rough dirt road to get to the area. Now we are on our way towards the Grampian Nationalpark. A big bush fire happened here in January, so most of the northern Grampians are shut down. Nobody is allowed to walk in there or even climb...

Axel in a nameless V9 - Black Range Bouldering, Canberra


So now it's time to grab a brush and help developing the southern areas, which are way younger and less developed then the world famous northern Grampians with Taipan Wall and Hollow Mountain Cave.

read back in a few days.
www.chalkonrock.com

Sydney

The trip to Sydney was awesome! We had a beautiful and cool climbing day in The Balkans, one of Sydney's bigger and older Bouldering Areas. We met up with our friends Steve, Joe and their daugther Tara, which we had met a few weeks ago in the Blue Mountains.

I had visited this area 5 years ago, but only did one climb: "Sloper-Dan Milosevic", V5 since it was a 33ºC day with 95% humidity and the rock is facing the sun .. not the best crag for a warm summerday. This time it was different, we got to climb a lot and I could get a quick ascent of "L'homme Obu", V11 the hardest climb in the area. Katinka and Miriam spent some time on "Paratroopin", V8 - finally sending it, while Joe was getting really close.
"L'homme Obu", V11 - The Balkans, Sydney


We spent the evening together with our friends, enjoying some showers, homemade Spätzle and wine. We arrange a meetup with another old friend, James Alexander, for the next day. Sydney has a lot to offer for bouldering, as it has a huge amount of little bouldering areas spread over the whole city. No matter where you live, it's never more then 15min drive to the next boulders!
Katinka in "Paratroopin", V8


James took us to "Crumply", a dirty cave that Finja enjoyed a lot! Katinka decided to take a restday to save some skin and power while I could snap some quick ascents of "Sushi Train", V8 and "Chaos and Disorder", V10. Before we hiked to the cave, we realized we spit 3 liters of orange juice on our van's matress. What a mess ... we decided to take care of it after the climbing day, not psyched to waste any of the remaining day light.

In the night we cleaned everything as good as possible, but it was an uncomfortable night with lots of orange smell in the car. The next morning we drove straight to James parents, to start the laundry mission. It took 3 overloaded laundry circles to get everything clean again and 30h of drying time.

We went to another bouldering spot next to James house, the Black Cave. Jochen could manage an ascent of "Plunge", V10 tried to send "Deep Blue Sea", V12 while Katinka did a nameless V6.
The Instructor (James) and his students (Jochen and Katinka) at the Black Cave


Now after some days in the City we are back to the Blue Mountains where we had left some gear at the cliff as we left in the cold and nasty weather. Time to finish some last climbs before heading down south to the Grampians next week!

www.chalkonrock.com

Blue Mountains

A few days ago Jochen, Miri and Paula arrived in Blackheath. Hey had flewn into Sydney on April 24th and spend a couple days in Sydney in search for a van as well. After final success they are proud owners of a Kia Pregio, 2004, 270000km with was a little cheaper then ours but in need for a garage repair as well. It also has a nice camping setup and is a little longer than ours. But our car has the better electical setup with LEDs, sparebattery and the solarpanel. :)

Jochen and Miriam next to our vans.
 It is running great now, after the broken Gas Converter beeing replaced last week and Jochen Van has an appointment in our garage for next week. They need to replace some clutch or transmission cylinder. Besides that their car seems to run great as well!

It's a nice situation for Paula and Finja, as they then play together. They are really good in making chaos everywhere, as there most favorite hobby is to work through the kitchen and remove every pan and every pack of cereals to another, random place. While rockclimbing they sometimes are distracted by each other, so all four of us can climb at the same time, while is a big improvement. But usually it's one person climbing, one person belaying, one person babysitting and one person doing nothing or taking pictures.

Welcome Party
 Katinka managed to tick one of her projects as she sent "Tricks Roughly", 26 a few days ago. I myselfe climbed up all the way to the last move of "August 1914", 29 three times now, but couldn't finish it. I always get pulled down by gravity and my cold and numb fingertips, so i stopped trying it now. Better climb more and easier things at first and then return in better shape and send the project with a free mind but later.

Axel in "August 1914", 29 - Centenial Glen, Main Wall
Jochen is complaining about loosing all his strength while eating to much and moving to less on their Newzealand Roadtrip. But he is regaining strength fast and making good progress in his old project "Alpha Leather", 32 which he couldn't finish on his last trip to the Blue Mountains seven years ago.

Now we are looking forward for some cold next days. If it will be to cold, we might just leave the mountains and head back to Sydney. The weather there is usually 8-10ºC warmer. But as you want cold conditions for bouldering this might indicate to warm conditions for this type of climbing again ...

Jochen in "Ruddy Norry", 22 - Centenial Glen, Main Wall


But we'll see. We might just give it a try, do some Sightseeing and meet up with our german friends Manu and Marie. They are flying in on Monday, they are going to buy an other van and they are going to join our trip though Australia!

www.chalkonrock.com

Australien

The next morning we took another bus to Sydney Central Station where we had an appointment for buying a van. At around 12am we were owners of a Mazda E2000, the same car we already owned in New Zealand, only 10 years younger and 100.000km less driven. In general the car was well maintained and the previous owners did a good job with the camping setup. It has a second car battery with is charged by an 50 Watt Solarpanel fixed on the roof, it has an electrical powered sink, LED lights everywhere and a useful box/bed-construction.

Mazda E2000 - 2001, 300.000km

Spare Wheel and 50 Watt Solarpanel
We paid a bit more then we wanted to, but I think it will pay off in comfort. On our way to the Blue Mountains we even realized, it's a Dual Fuel. Beeing able to drive on Petrol and on LPG autogas would save us a whole lot of money, but the Dual Fuel is broken...

We asked a garage to fix it and they ordered a new gas converter for next week. It'll cost us another 600$ but this should pay off by the amount of kilometers we are going to drive within this big country.

Autumn in Blue Mountains


The trees around us look more and more like autumn. They are turning red and colorfull and temperatures are more plesant for climbing then they where in New Zealand. Suns temperatur is just right for drinking a coffee and a Tim Tam Slam wearing only a T-Shirt. In shade it's a lot colder. You have to be careful when starting a new climb, because it's easy to get really cold fingers halfway up the route.

Katinka in Rubber Lover, 25

We are still trying to get back into route climbing shape, as we've been only bouldering for the past few years, but we can already look back on a nice list of climbs we accomplished:

Katinka:
Rubber Lover, 25
Iona, 24, Flash
Nev Herrod, 23, Flash
Split Wave, 23
Jaws, 21, OnSight

Axel:
Rubber Lover, 25, OnSight
Trix Roughly, 26, 2nd Go
Madgde MacDonald, 25, OnSight
Bare Essentials, 26, 2nd Go
...

Today it's raining and it's to foggy to climb in joy. Luckily we made friendship with some Brisbane Australians. They are here for the easter week and have rented a house for their time here. In the moment we're waiting for the laundromat to clean our clothes and nappies while we enjoy sitting in a dry room after a refreshing shower.

read back soon:
www.chalkonrock.com

Business with vans

Selling a car at the end of the backpackers season in New Zealand is no fun!
We were quiet dissapointed by the Auckland Backpackers Carmarket. We expected a place, just like the Backpackers Car Market in Christchurch: A place were you can park for a couple of days and try to sell your vehicle to interested customers, a place were you are allowed to sleep inside your van within the city, a place were you can do laundry, take a shower and use the internet for maintaining your gumtree add.

But Aucklands Car Market is different: You pay them for parking your vehicle on a tiny, inclined property, set the price you're asking and hope for the best. No sleeping in the car is allowed, not a pleasant place to hang out while day, and not many customers passing through ...


Surfing at Muriwai Beach
We drove away and reduced the price on our gumtree add. We did print some infopapers, advertising our van and put them on several blackboards of Auckland hostels and then we left.

We had seen enough of this huge, but not to beautiful city and did not want to spent our last days here. We had 5 days left and wanted to see more of the country!

Muriwai Beach
Our privious hitch-hiker friend Torre had mentioned a beautiful beach, just 40 minutes drive from the city which we wanted to see. At Muriwai Beach we rented a surfboard and enjoyed a long and exhausting day in the sea. We are both very beginners of this sport and barely managed to stand on the surfboard, but it was fun! We ended the day with a delicious sourcream, meat and pasta dinner at the beach while the sun disappeared and our spirit went up again, as we got a first text message of two dutch surfers in search for a van.

The next morning we went back to town and met for a test drive. They liked the car a lot, but were looking for a bargain. We were asking about twice as much as they were willing to pay, so we said goodbye and moved into a hostel which we had booked for our last three nights. We cleaned the van and prepared it to get sold. The next morning we went to a car trading fair, but there were about 10 campervans and over the whole time of 6 hours only 2 of them got sold ... 1 to a low price car dealer.

Car Fair in Sydney
The second car fair which is held every sunday is supposed to be 5times as big, but our motivation level was low, so we decided to text the dutch surfers again and sell it to them. We agreed on a price in the middle, which was a bit of a loss for us. But that's life! And the van still did cost us less than half of what a rental car would have cost us.

After a relaxing last day we got our luggagae packed up again and went to the airport. Usually I know Emirate Airlines as a customer friendly company. They never bothered me about carring to much luggagae or about the crashpads we transport (they are way bigger then a checked luggage is allowed to be!). But this time it was a pain to check in. I head to repack our bags 3 times before they accepted it.

In Sydney our friend Eddie Fowke was already waiting at the pickup bay. He's a photographer and author of a new climbing magazine called "The Circuit - World Cup and Performance climbing Magazine". Take a look at his website if you're interested and let us know what you think :)
The Circuit Climbing

The Circuit Magazine


He was so keen to pick us up at the airport and host us for our first couple of nights in Sydney, as we wanted to buy our next camper van.

The car prices are way higher here in Australia and even tough its a big city there are not to many camper vans around in the moment. Due to Finja we need three seats in the front of the vans, but more than 50% have only two seats.
A well-earned coffee at the Fine Food Store in The Rocks, Sydney

We finally found an other Mazda E2000. 10 years and 100.000km younger, but not as long and as high as the last one. We made a deal and tomorrow first thing in the morning we are driving into Central Sydney to buy the van, prepare it for the next road trip and head to the Blue Mountains.
The plan is to meet up with Roman again and as well with our Christchurch hosts Greg and Jean. Psyched!

read back soon:
www.chalkonrock.com

North Island

We arrived in Wellington at our friends place without any problems, besides evening traffic ...
We could use some real laundromats again, which are always rare if you travel in a van.

After some discussion with Toby, Carina presented us a sightseeing plan for the next day: Start walking at their apartment in Haitaitai, through an awesome park with a beautiful lookout towards the city, then along the Waterfront and through the city towards the botanical gardens. After that we would walk through the city again, or grab a bus if preffered and stop at the "Chippery", a really good Fish&Chips Restaurant.

Wellington

Wellington

So we did! It was a long day, with much to see and tired feet in the evening. And it was worth it! It's indeed a beautiful city, with many green spots and nice beaches to spent the time at. We had some really good icecream and Katinka bougt an awesome pair of leggins for climbing in semi-cold conditions and looking great at the same time ;).

The next day we drove one hour to Turakirae Head, to check out the best local climbing spot. From the carpark it's still an 5km hike, but its flat and you walk along the sea. It's a lovely area but for hard climbing it was just way to warm. All Wellington people kept telling us how rough it can get here, we should always prepare and have a second layer of cloths with us at anytime, since the weather can change all over a sudden. But it never did. We had blue sky, with little to no wind and for the three days we spent in and around Wellington.

V7 in Turakirae Head

As for the climbing, we did send the classic "Black Wall", V6 but nothing harder then that. Anyways ... we might be back at some other time in the future ... 

"Black Wall", V6 - Turakirae Head

After a delicious homebaked pizza we prepared our departure in the morning, run another last laundromat and left our friends behind to drive north. After two days of driving we would stop again at Mount Ngauruhoe, better known as Mount Doom where the ring of "Lord of the Rings" finally gets destroyed. Its a great landscape with vulcanic stone there and we witnessed another awesome sunset while having dinner.

Mt Doom

After a bath in the natural Hotspring around Taupo we continued to the eastcoast and now just got to Auckland. We need to sell our van, since we only have five and a half days left in this country before heading on to Sydney, Australia.

Haku Falls - Hotsprings in Taupo


We knew the travelers season is coming towards an end, but we did not expect so little interest in our van. Now we have hope for the best. We advertised our van at gumtree and craigslist - two online platforms for trading - and we posted aome printouts in backpacker hostels around the city. As a backup, there will be two car trading fairs this weekend, and if this will be without success, we might have to sell it for a little amount to any mechanic around ...

Wish us the best, and keep on reading our blog!