It is tough to write on the Pan-Island Highway because it is a fairly bumpy ride on the "Air Bus". However, the ride back from Changi Airport seems long enough that it would be a shame to just sit and stare out the window into the Singaporean night and watch the blocks of non-descript HDB flats drift by.

By now, Soy is in the air on her way back to Bangkok and the last few hours of a fantastic weekend lie before me.

Soy at the Dragon Walk

The airbus is quickly off the highway and is doing its bee in a daisy field routine zipping from hotel to hotel dropping off all its passengers. We pass by "Little India" first which is still aglow with lights as the last bit of the Deepavali Festival winds down to a close.

Everywhere everyone seems partied out and is heading home for one last breath before the coming work week. Or perhaps that is just me I see in all those faces passing by. This coming week will step up the already vicious pace I've begun as several projects come to a head at the same time.

Nevertheless, I have a few more hours to enjoy and I intend to spend them reminiscing like some southern septuagenarian rocking away on some creaky porch....(whoa out-of-control metaphor alert...yikes did I write that? yuck. sorry).

(I get off at the Hyatt Regency at Orchard Rd. to catch the 105 back home).

Friday had been a schizophrenic back-and-forth between rain and bright blue. Fortunately, the rain had washed away a good deal of the haze from the fires which still rage in Indonesia so all smelled and looked fresh.

Singaporean Leaf Bug

Soy arrived out of the storm clouds at 10 PM. I had agreed to meet her at my apartment this time since I needed to pull another 16 hour day if I was to have a work free weekend. Also, the taxi from the airport was not all that much more expensive than other modes of transportation.

I left the office around 9 PM and got home with enough time to shower and break out a fresh bottle of Evian before she arrived.

It was great to see her again and it was exciting to realize that at least until next year, our schedules allowed visits every other week. Commuting from Bangkok to Singapore is on par with LA to San Francisco, but we will also be traveling together over the next few months.

Soy arrived about the same time as my flatmates. Keat asked us out to a party but we decided to decline since Saturday would be an early day. So Keat and Henry went off to party hop as usual and we stayed in.

Saturday morning was an early day, as I mentioned, because Soy and I were to join Stephen Peterson, his girlfriend Irene, and their mutual friend Hong at the Somerset MRT to go rock climbing.

Introductory Route

Well, of course there are no mountains in Singapore. But there is an abandoned quarry in the Bukit Timah Nature reserve with a fairly impressive array of beginning to intermediate level (6-10+) routes of about 3 stories in height.

So on Saturday we met them at the MRT and packed ourselves in to the back of the company jeep (which I think has become Stephen's jeep by default) like a bunch of Bangladeshi construction workers at sunset on their way back to their company provided accommodations (basically slave slums).

The drive, like all drives here, was rather short and we were quickly making our way up into the reserve. We parked in front of the entrance gates stopped in our tracks by a pack of monkeys chilling in the middle of the road.

Resting at an Overhang

Stephen warned me not to stare at them or show my teeth since that could be taken as aggressive behavior and you never know if one of the monkeys has rabies.

I tried not to stare but it was so exciting to happen upon wild monkeys in the road that I ended up staring just the same. We got out and grabbed Stephen's gear (Stephen has two complete sets of climbing gear which he was happy to share) and made our way down the trail towards the quarry by foot.

As soon as we'd gone about 20 feet, the monkey's broke for the jeep and claimed it as their own, intently checking out what parts moved or could come off. I couldn't resist a picture so if I have time to develop and scan my recent shots, perhaps I'll make the pictures of the monkeys ravaging the jeep available at some later date.

The walk was short. The quarry is a man-made valley about the size of a football field and is heavily grown over at the edges with the exception of one beginning face which was already occupied. So we made our way through a tunnel of over and under brush to another climb spot with a more difficult, but interesting climb.

We settled on a route which we found out later as called "El Dorado" and Stephen and I studied it while fighting off swarms of mosquitoes.

The climb did not look too bad, but there were no safety bolts except the top bolt. This meant that someone had to lead the climb with absolutely no protection whatsoever. Stephen and I began to wonder what we would do because neither of us had that much confidence in our skill.

Spider Soy

Thankfully a local approached and introduced himself as Eric. Stephen asked him if he would consider lead climbing so that he could connect our rope to the top bolt. He agreed, mentioning that he had done this climb many times already and was quite familiar with the route.

Stephen and I were both amazed as Eric crawled up the cliff. At the same time we realized that we would not have done it ourselves and probably should not have even mentioned our need to Eric who is at that show-off age.

After all, no matter how good you are, nature is unpredictable and one slip from that height would have been death or paralysis without a doubt.

But, all went well and Eric made it to the top and tied in the rope to the top bolt. He then bouliered (pronounced "boo-layed", I'm not sure how it is really spelled but I think it is French. This is a climbing term which means to lower a climber down a rock face in a controlled manner using the leverage provided by a top pulley and hand held equipment) himself down and the route was all set for us to follow.

I went first being extremely excited to see the difference between climbing indoor and climbing in the real thing. I strapped in with Stephen at the other end of the rope and made my way up slowly, realizing once again that I was supposed to plan out my route "before" I started. But, oh well, I was there then and just went ahead.

Except for one difficult section the climb went well and I was at the top looking down over the whole man-made valley feeling extremely pumped up.

Hong was next and though she took a bit longer and was somewhat less confident, she gave it a great effort and did not give up. I got a good picture of her hoisting herself up over the top edge.

Then Soy was up. She seemed very into the whole thing and did not need any coaxing at all. I tied in on the boulier side and she started up.

We were all amazed as she zipped up the route like a spider, her long arms and legs navigating the rippled and cracked surface with beautiful fluidity. Though she could use quite a bit of weight training for more difficult courses, she seemed to naturally use good climbing form which, when applied right, makes strength much less of a factor.

Hong Finding a Path

Stephen and Irene did the route with the confidence of more seasoned climbers. I accidentally looked away and when I turned back, Stephen was done. At the top, Stephen decided to move the ropes to a more difficult climb by using the top bolt as a safety harness and climbing horizontally to another location.

It was a tedious process and I got distracted by another couple working on an "overhang" route. Francis, the better of the two, saw my interest and during one of their breaks asked me if I would like to try the route using their equipment. That was, of course, exactly what I wanted to do and was immediately strapped in.

That climb was much more difficult and involved a bit of upsidedownedness so I could not complete the entire climb as my arms were already beginning to feel the stress of bad climbing form. However, I did quite a bit better than I thought I would and Francis took 10 minutes or so to debrief me on my strategy. I suspect that the next time I go climbing there, I will be able to make it to the top.

After that, Soy and I headed back home for a shower and then to Marina Square for diner and a movie. We saw "My Best Friends Wedding". I'd already seen it in the states but the chance to see Cameron Diaz, even with that stupid character, again made up for the fact that I had to see Julia Roberts again.

Eric at the Dragon Walk

Sunday was far more relaxing. We spend a few hours shopping for this and that and then relaxed at my pad. I make a homemade marinara sauce a la Dave Florey with paprika flavored beef and enough garlic to chase away even a Ricean vampire. We stuffed ourselves watching the SEA games which were on TV (Kinda like the Olympics, but just for South East Asia)

Then the airport, and catching the airbus back home and well, you know what I've been doing since then....

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