“Have you seen Mike?”

Nope. I haven’t. Sorry. I may have met Mike once, although I’m not certain. But I have to thank the elusive man- without him I wouldn’t have found myself hanging upside down over Olympos, supported by a single rope and an Englishman.

We were chatting over discount cocktails at Bayrams, a mix of volunteers from pansiyons around Olympos. The place we think of as little Australia, Bayrams has an international atmosphere and cute kittens – a great choice to take a break from our work at Deep Green. Mid-way through a conversation about the difference between being a vegetarian and a vegetable, two young men walked up to our table. They greeted T, one of our friends, and promptly sat down without an introduction.

“Have you seen Mike?” one asked, messy dreadlocks, piercings and patterned raw cotton shirt contrasting pleasantly with his Yorkshire accent. I think you know the answer reader dear. None of us had. But the young gent, TB, and his lovely friend J decided to join our merry group regardless, and we chatted away into the evening.

A few days later the boys, who turned out to be in Olympos on a rock climbing/beer consuming holiday, invited us along to the canyon which overlooked the village (read:single street). With numerous primal grunts and hearty cheers from the crowd, TB climbed Spidey style up the rock. Much farther than he’d been able to stretch before and far above his grade, he was pretty darn stoked to have reached the top. Aside from being happy for him, and proud of the achievement, the onlookers were rather joyous too – now we had a swing!

As my turn arrived, I donned the harness, chalked up my hands and began to scale the wall like a gecko, speed and agility my new middle names… Or not. The last time I had been rock climbing was a good 5 years prior, and it took awhile to get back into the swing of things. But feeling my way up the craggy rock face without guidance- or a ladder- felt rather enjoyable. It’s as if you enter a dance with the living wall, moving in real time to match the ancient twists and turns of the stone as it formed. As I made my way higher and higher, clinging to the rock like a creepy ex-girlfriend, I realised how much strength it takes to climb. Not only physical strength, taut biceps and staunch thighs, but mental power. The ability to push past the underlying fear of falling, to trust the rope and the person holding it; making yourself vulnerable for a heart stopping second while you jump for a handhold just out of reach and scrabble for purchase. It’s a multi-layered challenge, and one I accepted with eagerness.

I reached a point where I couldn’t continue my ascent. My arms were shaking with strain- It was time to swing. With TB on belay and a crowd gathered underneath, I let go. The first few seconds of the fall were exhilarating, but then it was just like a big swing with an awesome view. Not the chockablock full of adrenaline, heart-pumping, death defying leap I thought it would be. So I did some aerial yoga, got down, put the harness on the wrong way around (on purpose) and began to climb again.

This time the rope was behind me, attached to the harness just above the base of my spine. I felt more free climbing without being able to see it; it felt like I was doing it alone, relying on myself to prevent a fall. The reality of the situation may have been different, but it was liberating for a few moments to feel so in control. When I reached the peak of my climb I became nervous. The freedom I felt from climbing morphed into an anxiety – letting go of that cliff face became much more intimidating without my safety net in sight. Before the fear could set in and take hold, I yelled out, “I’m going!”.

1…

2…

3…

I let go. And voiced a delighted yelp as I dropped face first toward the ground 15m below me. Woohoo! I swung superman style out over the town of Olympos, the adrenaline I was searching for coursing through my veins. The whole place could see me, and I it – friends and strangers gazed up at the crazy foreign girl who thought she could fly.  I moved through the air as if in water, moving fluidly from pose to pose, giggling with childlike joy as I swept my legs above my head like a human pendulum, tolling the hour of happiness. As my swing slowed and I was gently lowered to the ground, I looked up at TB and J…

“I think I just SAW Mike!”

rock climbing in olympos
‘Cause I’m Like a Bird!!!

 

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