Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Emperor's New Clothes

There are certain uncomfortable or awkward situations that you expect when you travel or live abroad, like trying strange ethnic foods (Vegemite!) or misinterpreting someone's words due to their accent.

And then there are the experiences which blindside you...

My favorite part about this sign is the spray-painted graffiti warning: "YOUR MUM AND DAD COULD BE HERE" and a very faint scratched-in rebuttal, "They sure are."
A couple of weeks ago, Drew and I decided to go to a new climbing spot. Drew had read about it in a local rock climbing guidebook and we were keen to try it out. The guidebook promised river-side cliffs, shaded from the hot summer sun. After the scorcher of a summer that we've had, this little slice of granite sounded perfect for an afternoon of climbing.

When we got to the parking area, we were greeted with signs pointing to the Kambah swimming pools in one direction and a nude bathing area in the other direction. Now, at this point, my inner prude freaked out a bit. But our climbing destination was a good half mile downstream of the nudist beach. So I just figured that we'd hike by the beach, avert our eyes, and then reach the cliffs without any undue trauma.

Someone really should have posted a sign saying that the entire hiking trail was a Nude Hiking Trail. No sooner had we secured all of our gear to the cliff and started climbing, then a nude man trekked past us. His ensemble would prove to be popular for the day——scuffed up hiking boots, socks...and nothing else. The worst was the guy who decided that a shady bit of sand near our belay station was the ideal place for him to set up his beach towel.

It was a great day for climbing and, minus a few scary looking spiders, the spot was good for climbing. However, I doubt we'll go back there.  I'm all about expanding my world view but I learned a valuable lesson that day. Sometimes a narrow field of vision is a good thing.

A post-script to our adventure
When we got home and reread the climbing guidebook again, it was there in glaring black and white print: "About 1k upstream you will find a shady rock outcropping. Downstream is a popular nude bathing area."  Drew and I looked at each other in disbelief. We had hiked in the wrong direction and needlessly spent the day saying 'G'day' while studiously avoiding eye-to-body contact with naked hikers. It was a wonder that we had found rocks at all. Second lesson learned: always double check Drew's navigation.