2008-12-01 Wear a Helmet, Raily, Thailand
We only had a few seconds to find cover. The wind picked up out of nowhere and moments later the sun was in the struggle with the darkness, charging lightning after lightning, trying to break through the capturing clouds. But it was of no use... The storm advanced too fast and the sun could only rain tears from the heavens as a sign of surrender, releasing the colossal tension charged in the air.
Fortunately, Rit, my climbing guide, knew the area perfectly, and like a grand master chess player setting up the opening moves, shepherded us to a small cave without any hesitation, located under a large, slopping overhang. In a hurry to keep our gear dry, we shoved the backpacks into the cave and pressed ourselves as deep into it as possible.
There were other climbers still on the face of the cliff. Their gear was left not too far off of where we were bunched up, so as a courtesy to them we heaved it all into the cave as well. Crouched up, keeping our heads down, we watched a wall of water being poured against the trees, producing a raging hush that echoed across the jungle. By now, there were streams advancing from every direction, running over roots, crossing trails and in the process combining into bigger streams in an accelerated rush to reach lower ground.
Several climbers came by, fully soaked but happy to see that their gear was taken care of. Two of them, a man and a woman, stood out immediately. The man, shirtless, displayed an astonishing physique of flawlessly developed muscles that were outlined as crisply and vividly as one would find in an anatomy book. Not at all fazed by the rain, he stood exactly upright, his posture declaring absolute confidence and superiority, not even to us but to nature itself. It was like watching a sculpture of a purebred creature, born of artist’s imagination and somehow embodied in flesh instead of white marble.
The woman, standing next to him, completed the picture of a perfect couple. Her grace was expressed in a tall athletic body, suited exactly for rock climbing. The lines of her abdominal muscles were tracing through the wet, tightly fitting top and lead to her breasts, cupped high by a sport bra. While the femininity of her strong shoulders was then continued by a long neck and accentuated by short hear, died dark red. She shared the same proud look in her sparkling blue eyes as the man. So much so that one would not think that she picked him for a mate, but rather that they were intended to be a couple. Based on the maturity of their faces, I would guess that they were both around 40 years old.
The storm ended as suddenly and abruptly as it began. With that, the man and the woman approached our huddle to check on their gear. In haste to make room for them, I stood up, misjudging the overhang and bumped my head against it. “Shizer!..” Good thing it was a light bump, so I was able to just laugh it off. Not to mention that it would have been impossible to even momentarily assume a grumpy mood as the end of the rain brought about an omnipresent joyous feeling that was simply inescapable. The man addressed me in a distinctly German accent:
“They say that in an alpine area, one must wear a helmet. That is, so that your head is protected when the rain ends and you come out of the cave”.
“Ha, ha, that’s true. You just never know when it might rain” I replied.
After a few more “safety tips”, I asked the woman where they were from. It turned out that they were from Germany and that by sheer accident, they met one of the other climbers who happened to be from the save village just couple of days ago in a coffee shop. And that today they ran into somebody else that they knew from the climbing gym back home and came out here together for a climb. It was quite remarkable for such a coincidence of running into someone you know while in another country to happen not once but actually twice. I could only wander about the chances of something like that happening to someone, especially when that someone is standing in front of you.
Similar thoughts were going through my head when I was awaken from my sleep later on that night by a heavy blow to my face… Actually, in the first moment I could only feel the pain without understanding what in the hell just happened. I was on my back so I instinctively raised one of my hands out, brought in my knees and used the other hand to press on the injured area while sticking out the elbow for protection against further blows. But there were no further blows. Instead, there was a new source of dim light materialized directly above me. There was a huge hole in the roof and the first rays of the dawn were illuminating a ripe durian, the size of a large watermelon, somehow stuck in the crossbeams of the roofing support structure. The durian must have fallen from the tree above, shattering the corrugated roofing, the pieces of which then fell through the mosquito net and onto my face.
“They say that in an alpine area one must wear a helmet” echoed in my head in a German accent. “That is, so that your head is protected when a durian falls through the roof of your bungalow.”
“Damn… What are the chances of something like that happening?” I wandered. The stunning thing was that is actually happened and that it actually happened to me...
The pain gradually subsided and there was not much else left to do except to get the larger pieces of the roofing out of the bed and go back to sleep. I took another look at the durian with a vengeful desire to eat it. But I also remembered that I have tried tasting one a few weeks back in Malaysia and was utterly disgusted by it.
PS. A few days later, while visiting Chiang Mai, I took a cooking class and there found out that the fruit was actually "jack fruit", not a durian... I should have taken a bite out of it after all.
Taking a few warm up climbs on Ko Phi Phi, Thailand. Photos are courtesy of Andrey M.