“It’s the mountain that lifts our feet to the heavens” – so runs an old Japanese Zen proverb, reminding us that instead of perceiving our uphill trekking as an arduous struggle, everything can be seen from a different point of view: the mountain is there to help, not hinder, no matter how difficult it all looks. Mountaineers always know it only seems like they’re competing against enormous geological entities that dwarf them; the truth is that the heights aren’t ever their foe. Once there’s no sense of combat, then the sheer fun, the exhilaration takes over.
This is the attitude of the owner at Rock & Ropes, Guy Rotman, a climber who seems as much at home on vertical surfaces as the rest of us are on horizontal ones. He thinks in terms of the perpendicular. It’s influenced his entire life, even down to what he rents as property: while others come to Samui to build houses, the piece of land he rents is hardly walkable; it’s a cliff. How many people have you ever come across who rent a cliff? It seems an insane idea, and Guy himself, a few years back, would have probably agreed. But odd things happen in life and as a young 25 year old, Guy, who was looking for some casual labour, got offered a job doing maintenance and cleaning work on high buildings. Not their interiors, but their exteriors. And not their roofs, but their dizzying walls. You’ll have seen such workers perilously dangling on perches as they clean windows and carry out repairs. Just to watch them probably gives you vertigo. Not him. He set off with gusto, and loved the work.
Guy also found out something quite unexpected: the job was totally safe. With so many checks and security measures in place, he realized that it’d be very difficult to have an accident. But at the same time he realized that even if it was entirely secure, he’d still experience the most amazing adrenalin rush.
Guy found that his job still wasn’t enough. He wanted more. Climbing soon began to dominate his leisure life too. Next step: graduate from buildings to mountain-sides. Which he did, using the same safety principles. Pun intended: he learned the ropes. Literally. As with many sports, there was a sense of competition too, not with others but with oneself. “In life many of us simply want to go higher,” says Guy. “Climbing is exactly the same, and there are many routes up a mountain, with varying degrees of difficulty. It’s a challenge, climbing. You look at a slope and think it’s impossible, that you can’t do it. But that’s before you start to tackle it.” And he’s definitely a no-limits kind of person. “I see people just packing up as soon as they start to think they’re old. It doesn’t have to be that way. It’s all in the mind. My climbing hero is currently 92 years old.”
Over the years he’s been climbing, Guy’s become increasingly fit. Ask him and he’ll do pull-ups using two fingers on each hand. He’s acquired the skills that our early ancestors had in abundance, the ability to scale tricky surfaces with the ease of a monkey. But you can do the same, too, he’ll tell you – and without accidents. There’s a lot of apprehension with climbing rocks that evaporates once you realize how safe you are. Guy has fool-proof and panic-proof safety measures in place; all of it is there to ensure that if you slip, start to fall, or whatever, you’ll be quite safe. And you’re not left on your own either – Guy is always there to assist you. But also important, the safety features allow you to dispel your fear and concentrate on having some serious fun. You’ll be hooked.
Rock & Ropes is between Lamai and Chaweng, almost opposite Vikasa Yoga Retreat & Hotel. There’s a small road that goes up at an alarming angle into the cliffside, and if you follow it, you’ll come to Guy’s place. Make sure you walk along that road (it’s five minutes to Guy’s) and don’t attempt to drive it or ride up on a motorbike – it’s one of the steepest roads on Samui and also has an extremely sharp, blind bend. At the end of the road, a space opens out, offering you fine views of Chaweng and its coast on one side and on the other, a rock-face. It’s quite silent up here, a world away from all that’s going on below. There’s almost the feeling of a sanctuary.
The rock surfaces are studded with handholds, some of which are similar to those found in climbing centres, carefully arranged in sets so you can make your ascent harder or easier. Start with an easy route up and as you become more confident you can graduate towards to the more difficult ways up. What goes up must come down, and in this case it’s
rappelling down. It’s as fun as it looks – and again, as secure. There are plenty of safety features and don’t worry, modern climbing tools and accessories are all designed to do the right thing even if someone’s very panicky and about to make mistakes.
Rock & Ropes offers ten different rock climbing routes and two rappelling routes. Altogether there are over 40 different ways to go up or down the slopes. The average visitor stays about three hours. Guy offers a package which includes a round-trip pick-up service, allowing you to relax and concentrate on climbing rather than driving to the destination.
Guy is extremely helpful, and soon you’ll be clambering up rock faces and rappelling down them. He’ll give you simple tips to help you to get the best out of the experience. It’s a fun, fit activity to add into any holiday and it’ll give you some unforgettably good memories. It’ll also give you something else: confidence. Not just in climbing but other seemingly difficult areas. After all, if you can climb a sheer cliff, then who knows what else you can do? “It’s all in the mind,” says Guy. “And it’s also just a question of practice.”
For reservations or further information, telephone 0 612 300 767.