Monthly Archives: December 2016

Guide to rock climbing in Yosemite

Yosemite National Park is a gearhead’s dream. Just spend a few days in Camp Four and you’ll see that what makes this a singular destination for climbers – explorers from across the globe gather here to exchange route beta, challenge themselves on the amazing bouldering problems around the campsite and sort through endless piles of gear.

To the untrained eye, these collections might look like a whirling dervish of clanking metal and knotted mayhem. But they serve unique and bespoke purposes that, in the right hands, can get you safely up and down the towering granite cathedrals of this enchanting valley.

 

Getting started at rock climbing in Yosemite

There are climbs for every ability imaginable somewhere in this park. First-timers should hit up the Yosemite Mountaineering School to do intro courses. In these intros, you’ll learn to safely belay your climbing partner, how to use your feet and hands properly to ascend the rock, and the basics of rock climbing safety. You’ll have a blast doing it, but it’s important to remember that climbing is dangerous. You should only go out on your own if you (or your partner) already know what you are doing. You can take more advanced courses at the Mountaineering School, or, if you’re confident that you’re ready for action, head to the notice board at Camp Four, where you can find climbing partners.

 

Rock climbing essentials

You can gear up before you depart for the park or wait to do your shopping at the Yosemite Mountain Shop to round out your equipment. Either way, the basics will probably cost you about US$200. It’s of utmost importance that any climber is going to need a well-fitting harness (costing between $50 and $150). Some top climbing manufacturers include Black Diamond (blackdiamondequipment.com), Petzl (www.petzl.com) and Arc-Teryx (www.arcteryx.com). Look for something that fits snug but allows for good freedom of movement.

What you’re really interested in, though, is the glorious hardware – even a few pieces of jangling metal can make you feel heroic. Early on in your climbing career, you’ll just need the basics to help you safely belay, rappel and attach yourself to anchors set up in the rock by a qualified guide or leader. Start with a good locking carabiner (an oval-shaped device with an opening gate that can quickly attach to bolts on the rock or pieces of gear that a qualified leader places in cracks in the rocks to protect from falls and create bomber anchors used to belay climbers from below). These come in myriad sizes – generally, the bigger the better. Add a belay or rappel device (Europeans call it ‘abseiling’) like a simple Black Diamond Super 8 (blackdiamondequipment.com). Add on a few carabiners for effect and grab a helmet to protect your melon.

Next up comes a good pair of climbing shoes. Climbing shoes are all about feel. For long climbs and cracks, you might want a stiffer sole. For shorter sport climbs, most people go with something that’s a little softer to the touch. No matter your choice, you generally size these down one-and-a-half sizes, and often wear them without socks. Yes, climbing shoes get stinky as hell, but that’s part of the charm.

Lets diving on Bali undersea

Underwater wreckage that tells the story of WWII battles in the Pacific, manta rays the size of sedans and tiny critters darting in and out of coral gardens – Bali ranks high as a dream destination for most scuba divers. Thanks to its warm, calm waters and dive sites that range from beginner to advanced, Bali has an array of experiences for every diver.

But packing for an underwater adventure isn’t the same as packing for a regular trip. Airline weight restrictions coupled with the specific equipment required for diving means packing only the necessities. Here’s what to pack for a Bali dive trip.

 

For the first-time diver

With a variety of top-notch dive shops, professionally certified instructors and beginner-friendly conditions, Bali is a great place to learn how to dive. Remember to pack a few extra items to ensure your experience goes smoothly. Make sure you’ve signed up for a course from a reputable PADI, NAUI, SSI operator (ask to see certification if unsure). Bring your textbook, a pencil and a notebook.

 

For the marine biologist

Bali is home to 952 species of reef fish, such as eels, triggerfish and neon-bright damselfish. Elsewhere, divers can swim with eye-popping pelagics like the 1000kg sunfish or the graceful manta ray. Most dive shops sell waterproof fish identification charts that you can attach to your buoyancy control device (BCD) for underwater spotting. A writing slate is useful for recording the animals you see. An extra logbook at the surface can also help keep a long-term record of the animals spotted.

 

For the archaeologist

Home to the popular USAT Liberty wreck dive, Bali is great for underwater archaeologists. Bring along a compass, underwater map and dive light to aid in navigation. A marker buoy can be used to flag the start of a wreck dive, and an extra dive knife or scissors can help in emergencies. Remember, though, you’re not an underwater Indiana Jones: don’t take anything from these sites.

 

For the photographer

With visibility ranging from 10 to 50 meters, Bali is a great place to record your underwater experiences. Dive camera equipment can exceed thous ands of dollars with lights, underwater housings and lenses, or they can be as cheap as a few hundred bucks.

Dive sites near Tulamben, Amed and Pemuteran are also well-known for muck diving. A muck site accumulates sediment rich in nutrients, making a perfect habitat for a variety of photographic stars like nudibranchs, seahorses and mantis shrimps. A macro lens is essential for getting a shot of these tiny creatures. Be sure to pack extra batteries, a lens cleaning kit and extra memory cards.

Explore Colombo for free

Colombo is more than just a gateway to the resorts and surf breaks of Sri Lanka’s south coast. Despite the noise and crowds, this is a city of vibrant colours and rich culture, offering fascinating insights into the national psyche of Sri Lanka.

Many people rush through Colombo and make straight for the beaches, but linger and you’ll find a city full of history, where stately British colonial buildings jostle for space with Sri Lankan dagobas (stupas), palm-shaded parks and Dutch colonial churches. Here are 10 great ways to explore this constantly evolving city for free.

 

Snake charmers charm at Viharamahadevi Park

Colombo is spoilt for choice when it comes to places to chill out, but beautifully maintained Viharamahadevi Park is a city favourite. The parades of palms and fig trees are spectacular, the lawns are dotted with statues and fountains, there are views of Colombo’s colonial-era Town Hall, and there’s always the chance of catching the odd snake charmer in action. Find a shady spot and you can people-watch for hours.

 

Join the locals on Colombo’s favourite promenade

Whilst it might not be quite as green as it once was, Galle Face Green is still frequented by locals in search of some relaxing downtime. There’s a tacky but loveable charm to this seafront park, which is animated by bubble-blowers, bouncing beach balls and vibrant kites swooping across the sky. It’s also a great spot for a snack – street food traders congregate on the waterfront at sunset, serving delicious Sri Lankan treats, including crispy egg hoppers and the island’s signature kottu, a griddle fry-up of chopped noodles, eggs and spices.

 

Dive into an open-air gallery at Kala Pola Art Market

On any non-rainy day of the week, you can catch a cohort of talented local artists as they transform the streets of Nelum Pokuna into an open-air gallery with their latest creations. The Kala Pola Art Market is the oldest art market in town, and traders have been holding court here for over a century. Some of the work on display is touristy and generic, but there are some gems to be unearthed here if you look beyond the clichéd depictions of elephants and tigers. If you feel like investing, paintings are usually on canvas and can be rolled up to carry away.

 

Engage with Sri Lankan contemporary art at Paradise Road Gallery

The Paradise Road Gallery (paradiseroad.lk) is a piece of art in itself. This upscale gallery is a beautiful space that exhibits contemporary Sri Lankan artists of high renown and is considered one of the most important art spaces in the country. The general ambience, decadent aesthetic and renowned Gallery Café add to its charm. With monthly rotating exhibitions, it’s definitely worth popping back again for a second visit before leaving the island.