Djurite / Mt Arapiles Climbing Trip 3

For those who appreciate a good piece of rock, a magical realm hides an hour’s drive east of the South Australian/Victorian border. Djurite, or Mt Arapiles, is a climber’s playground of perfect rock that just goes on, and on, and on…

My love affair with the place started in 2014 when Mereem, Jean-Luc and I camped overnight in The Pines campground beneath the base of one of the larger rock faces, on our way to Melbourne. Arriving in the dark and pitching our tent by torch light, the sight of the 120m Bard Buttress and Bluffs greeted us the next morning.

Bard Buttress and Bluffs at dawn (photo: Simon Rodwell)

Bard Buttress and Bluffs at dawn (photo: Simon Rodwell)

As we were in a hurry to meet Rosemary in Melbourne, we had only the morning to scamper around on some short, easy climbs. We left vowing to return.

Late in 2014 we were fortunate to have Phil Boase accompany us on our second trip, during which we all had a whale of a time climbing easy multi-pitch routes. Yes, all four of us on a two-pitch route! It was quite some logistic exercise, particularly when both of the younger members of the party decided they needed to pee, halfway up…

South side of The Mitre (photo: Simon Rodwell)

South side of The Mitre (photo: Simon Rodwell)

On the last weekend in February, Jo Rodwell kindly volunteered to look after Nathan and Emmeline, thereby freeing Simon to come and explore this place for himself. The Saturday was hot and very windy, sucking moisture out of us much faster than we could replace it, but we still got up two fun routes, each two pitches in length, on The Mitre, a crag of easier climbs separated from the main rock faces. The second, The Bishop, follows the left hand edge of the buttress in this photo.

Having boosted our confidence, stuffed ourselves with more rice, mince and beans than you could shake a stick at and got a good night’s rest, we psyched ourselves on Sunday morning and set out for The Watchtower, an enormous 105m-high slab of rock that has detached itself slightly from a large face in one of the main climbing areas.

The Watchtower viewed from the west. Our climb followed the left hand edge of the prominent sunny buttress in the centre (Photo: Roelant Dewerse)

The Watchtower viewed from the west. Our climb followed the left hand edge of the prominent sunny buttress in the centre (Photo: Roelant Dewerse)

We had timed our average climbing rate on the Saturday and knew that if I didn’t mess around too much we would finish in time to drive back to Adelaide and arrive before midnight. From a distance the climb looked long but not too difficult.

At the base of The Watchtower. The climb follows the middle crack system to mid-height then moves right and up the middle of the upper face (Photo: Simon Rodwell)

At the base of The Watchtower. The climb follows the middle crack system to mid-height then moves right and up the middle of the upper face (Photo: Simon Rodwell)

Leading off on the first pitch of Arachnus, The Watchtower (Photo: Simon Rodwell).

Leading off on the first pitch of Arachnus, The Watchtower (Photo: Simon Rodwell).

What I hadn’t quite appreciated was that a lot of the cracks (for placing anchors into) were horizontal, requiring different techniques and, in some cases, different hardware than I was used to. Standing at the bottom of the climb, I could see the answer to all my problems: Just Don’t Fall.

This worked pretty well and we advanced at a comfortable rate. I had fun working out how to finally use my very expensive camming devices, and set wired stoppers in opposition to each other, and all kinds of inventive ways to keep us safe. Simon must have been bored waiting for me to make every belay bomb-proof, but there was no way I wanted to face Jo with some lame excuse for why her husband was in hospital, so I just kept plugging in more anchors.

However, to speed things up a little we did combine the second and third pitches. As the third pitch traversed right, the rope drag increased as my anchors were now no longer in a straight line. Several metres from the belay ledge it got so bad I could hardly climb, and had to haul in some slack then hold the rope in my teeth to maintain the slack while I climbed, taking care to let it out again slowly so the jerk didn’t pull me off. Things got a little tense when there seemed to be no more cracks to anchor into…and a lot of air beneath my heels, as well as a lot of slack rope.

Simon seconding the combined second and third pitch (Photo: Roelant Dewerse)

Simon seconding the combined second and third pitch (Photo: Roelant Dewerse)



Eventually we both made it to the top of the third pitch, a little cave with a bit of shade to lie down in. Luxury!

At this point the headwall looked pretty steep. Feeling slightly nervous I led up over the top of the cave, only to find that the holds were large and friendly, and placements for anchors abounded. A few moves later and the slope eased back, allowing me to move quickly towards the top. Before losing sight of him I took a photo of Simon hanging off his belay in the cave far below.

The cave at the top of pitch 3

The cave at the top of pitch 3

Simon happy that he doesn't have to lead the steep wall above

Simon happy that he doesn’t have to lead the steep wall above

Simon semi-hanging from his belay in the cave. Photo from near the top of the fourth pitch.

Simon semi-hanging from his belay in the cave. Photo from near the top of the fourth pitch.

Not long after we were both on the summit, enjoying the unique feeling of having climbed a long, classic rock climb without undue stress, in perfect weather and on perfect rock. A scramble along broad ledges took us to the head of a gully that we followed easily back to the base of the climb. And yes, we did get home before midnight.

View from the Watchtower summit looking west towards The Mitre and Mitre Lake in the distance (Photo: Simon Rodwell)

View from the Watchtower summit looking west towards The Mitre and Mitre Lake in the distance (Photo: Simon Rodwell)

Male hygiene

Over coffee, we had a family conversation on this topic while staying with my parents this past Christmas. It was truncated by Ruby coming in with a cut leg, fortunately for the males in the room if not for Ruby. I made a little clip of it to record the moment, plus a little of the (mostly) happy chaos that characterised much of our NZ holiday. Hope you can enjoy – and maybe even identify with one of the ‘sides’ of the argument.

There is water in South Australia

I’ve just finished work on a short video I have made, using selected footage from some scenes I shot on our camcorder in our neighbourhood. It is intended as an accompaniment to a meditation on water, as part of our church service next Sunday (22 Sept); one of a series of services on the subject of Creation. The idea with these meditations is to experience God through nature, even though we are inside a building. The following service will, maybe more sensibly, be held in the park by the church! If you’re in Adelaide you might want to pop along to Brougham Place Uniting Church at 10am.

Some sections that are static, allowing words to be spoken without too much distraction. You could be forgiven for thinking it has “frozen” at these times. Overall, however, it still makes a reasonably interesting little video if you have a spare 4 minutes, and shows you a little bit of our garden (particularly the weeds), the nearby Torrens river (including bullfrogs), and Henley Beach. It opens with a shot of a Southern Right whale we watched playing just beyond the breakers at Middleton Beach (south of Adelaide) recently.

The music is from Te Wao Nui a Tane, a song collection set to music by Hirini Melbourne.

I’ve uploaded both a high-resolution file (top one) and a low-resolution one (bottom one) in case your internet speed can’t cope. You can also download the video using the “Share” menu at the top left of the screen, then run it without having to worry about internet speed.

From plan to action

I was thinking this morning about urgency, the spark that ignites the fuel of our planning and our ideas, and moves us to action. I believe it is possible to create that urgency by asking ourselves, “How much do I want this?” and “If I don’t do it now, then when?”.

Here’s a great post by author Philip Martin on this topic, written with writers in mind but applicable to anyone who works in a relatively unstructured environment.

UK and Belgium trip 2013 – Part 1

Belgian housesBelgian housesBelgian housesBelgian housesBelgian housesBelgian houses

Yes, well, it’s approaching one year since we started organising this trip in earnest, and nearly 7 months since it ended, so it’s time I got this story under way before I forget everything that happened.

The story begins with an invitation for Rosemary to represent the Oceania region in the International Association for Mission Studies, then the scheduling of a meeting of the Association in Oxford, UK, in early February 2013. Having taken Mereem to visit Belgian and UK family and friends in 2006, we thought this meeting was a good opportunity for the rest of us to go along too (not to the meeting, mind you), and to see everyone again, this time with Jean-Luc as well.

DSCF7035The trip itself began with what is fast becoming a tradition: hot chocolate at Cocolat, the chocolate shop in Adelaide airport’s departure area. May as well get training for Belgium!

DSCF7038Then an inspection of our plane for the first leg to Singapore, to make sure it was “big enough to have movies” in Jean-Luc’s opinion. The outbound flight went well for us all, as it was during normal daytime hours and only 7 or 8 hours long. Sure enough, the plane did have movies, and games, and food, and drink, and a little activity kit for the kids… heaven!

First taste of Singapore: Noodles and sour-sop

First taste of Singapore: Noodles and sour-sop

We had arranged a short stopover in Singapore, to catch up with our old friends Jo, Pat and Sophie, and meet the latest addition to their family, little Tomas, for the first time. We also wanted to experience again the fantastic food and tropical environment of this unique island, and introduce the kids to it. We were still in good condition after our flight so settled quickly into the YMCA at No. 1 Orchard Road then headed out to explore, starting with a bite to eat.DSCF7060

As the light faded the buildings lit up, to our delight. It was at about this point that Rosemary discovered the Spanish fashion shop Desigual (subsequently to be referred to with an expression of rapture), and emerged some time later with a vividly coloured woolen dress. Yes, wool…in Singapore. No concessions to local climate here, but they were evidently doing a strong trade. That’s fashion for you.


The evening was still very warm and humid, though fairly cool by SIngapore standards, and as a special treat we had a night-time swim in the pool on the YMCA’s roof, before all retiring for the night.

The next morning we had a breakfast ranging from the tried-and-true (toast) through slightly adventurous (spongy purple boiled buns) to the somewhat unusual (can’t remember exactly what it was – something involving fish – but it was wrapped in a banana leaf and Rosemary wasn’t having a bar of it). It was the first time the kids have seen a conveyor-belt toaster and they wanted one for themselves. Rosemary had some work to do so I took the kids wandering through the nearby park, sculpture gardens and cemetery. We collected unusual leaves, seed pods and dead insects for Rosemary’s inspection, and had a great time, as you can see from the video below:

DSCF7062DSCF7061After that we took a taxi to Jo and Pat’s apartment. Jo was home with Tomas, who is a very cheerful and happy little boy who doesn’t seem to let anything flap him. We made our way through their neighbourhood together, keeping to the shade as the day heated up, and spotting mango trees and beautiful flowers everywhere.  We had lunch in an open-sided food court, stopped briefly for Jo to have another “I haven’t seen you in years! What are you doing here??” conversation (we have ceased to be surprised that Jo’s network of friends by now touches the majority of the world’s population) then went shopping.

I had to capture the fruit and vege stall. See if you can identify more than 5:


DSCF7067On returning to Jo and Pat’s apartment we found the apartment complex maintenance guys cutting down coconuts from a palm at the edge of the carpark, either for their own use or to prevent them from hitting cars when they fell. Jo suspected the former. It was a tenuous process, not without its fair share of drama, and JL and I enjoyed watching.

When Pat and Sophie arrived home we had a swim in the complex’s pool, then a quiet dinner and evening together. The kids got some sleep (thanks again for letting them use your room, Sophie!) before it was time to call the taxi for our late-night trip to the airport. After checking in we had time to visit the huge Angry Birds house in the departure area, and appreciate Changi airport’s facilities.

We all left Singapore happy and refreshed, and the kids still talk about how much they enjoyed it. Thanks once again to Jo, Pat, Sophie and Tomas for making our stay such a good one!

Next stop, London. But that is another story…

AFL acronym competition – with apologies to my Aussie friends

Javier Barcelo, a Spanish friend who adopted rugby while living in NZ, once shared with me his rather low opinion of Australian Rules football as an apparently structureless mess of a game. I thought of him the other morning over breakfast when Mereem, completely unprompted, volunteered her own acronym for AFL, the Australian Football League.

She was contemplating the Weetbix box as she slowly worked her way through a bowl of the stuff.

Hang on - isn't that meant to be "Kiwi kids are Weetbix kids"?

Hang on – isn’t that meant to be “Kiwi kids are Weetbix kids”?

Her eye fixed on the logo and she pondered it, then said,

“AFL stands for… Action for Losers”.

Now where did THAT come from? Not me, I hasten to add, and certainly not from her schoolmates or Jean-Luc, as it is the No.1, No.2 AND No.3 game here in SA. In fact, at times it seems to be the ONLY game. All Blacks? Wallabies? Who’s that?

Perhaps it was some sort of divine inspiration. Anyway, if you can think of a better one, please post it as a comment!