South Africa

Best Beetle FAIL

Posted by | South Africa | One Comment

I wanted to share our experience with the company Best Beetle in South Africa. We had heard from friends that it wasn’t the best experience and they rent crappy cars but that they run and will get you where you need to go for cheap. We were hesitant to rent a 30 year old beetle in a country we’d never visited where you drive on the other side of the road but being climbers, cheap sounded like the best option.

We were wrong.

'Best' Beetle aka 'flat tire/engine won't start' Beetle

We landed in Cape Town in the afternoon and a guy from Best Beetle was waiting to take us to their shop which turns out to be 45 minutes from the airport. When we arrived the lady tells us that our beetle is up on the lift so the mechanic can check the brakes before they hand it over to us. We end up waiting for over an hour for them to hand over the car and finally hit the road as the sun was setting. We were exhausted and set off on what should be a two and a half hour drive to our house in Rocklands. The first part of the drive was ok after I got used to shifting with the left hand and working a heavy clutch. Driving the beetle was always a slow process but that was especially true working our way up the mountains. The beetle barely made it, frequently slowing down to 35 mph while semis were passing us on sketchy two lane roads. We had to stop several times along the way to let the engine cool off since it would start bucking up the steep roads. We finally arrived five hours later.

Our 2nd or 3rd beetle. i forget

Our beetle worked for a good week before breaking down for the first time. Best Beetle claims to have 24 hour roadside assistance. Unfortunately that is a lie. We called, told them the car wouldn’t start, they said they would come in a day or two. A week later after many phone calls, they finally arrived to fix their car. It ran ok for a few days then broke down again. I can’t remember all the different problems we had but I do remember the brakes went out completely one time right before we were headed down the pass which would have turned serious real quick.

The short version of the story is the beetle would run for a few days, break down, we would call and yell at them to fix it, they would come a week later and either fix it or give us a different beetle, then the cycle would start again. This was the worst experience I’ve ever had with any company anywhere. Entirely unethical and I wanted to share our experience so you don’t have to go through what we did. We would have been completely SOL except our awesome housemates Jesse, Kenyon, and Ian rented a real car and were kind enough to let us pile in their hatchback!

Bottom Line: DO NOT rent from Best Beetle!

Rocklands: The Beta

Posted by | South Africa | 4 Comments

Rocklands is one of the world’s premiere destinations for bouldering and my personal favorite. I love the style of climbing. Tall pure lines up orange and black streaked faces with flat landings and solid sandstone jugs awaiting your arrival at the top. It lends itself to amazing highball climbing.

The Sassies. Photo by Les

In addition to highballs there is a plethora of hard climbing all the way up to 8C which attracts some of the most talented climbers in the world.

When do I go?

Rocklands is in a warm, dry climate. The best time to go is winter between May and August. The 2010 season was warm and dry with very little rain. I’ve heard in past years there have been stretches of 6+ days of nonstop rain but we lucked out with dry weather. You need a minimum of 3 weeks in South Africa to make the expense and travel time worth while and 5-7 weeks is ideal. I wouldn’t recommend going for more than two months unless you go with an amazing crew and can keep your psych up! Another good option if you have extra time down there is to do some traveling. South Africa is a huge country with a lot to offer. If you wanted to visit Kruger National Park on the East side of the country it would take you 23 hours to drive there!

How Do I Get There?

Flights to South Africa can range from $1,000 to $1,800 depending on where you’re flying from, when you book, etc etc. Buying plane tickets is mysterious business; you might find a deal by booking well ahead of time or you might find a deal at the last minute. My favorite site for booking flights is kayak.com; it’s simple, fast and searches all airlines. I’ve heard from a few different people that you can claim your crashpad as sports equipment and you won’t get charged a fee, even with a big crashpad. We didn’t do that but we didn’t get charged any oversized fees during our trip.

Rocklands is about two and a half hours north of Cape Town. It’s in the middle of nowhere and the nearest town, Clanwilliam, is thirty minutes away. There is a bus that runs from Cape Town to Clanwilliam but you would have to hitchhike into Rocklands. Your best bet is to rent a car and to book in advance. Whatever you do, do not rent from Best Beetle. That’s a long story that I won’t get into here but I’ll just tell you that was by far our biggest mistake of our six month trip. You can find many options by searching online for cape town rentals. There are several companies that rent cars that are a few years old for a little less money. Many of them have restrictions for staying within 200km of Cape Town but you may be able to talk them into letting you drive up to Clanwilliam. There is also an option with one or two companies to do a lease buy-back where you buy the car but at the same time sign an agreement with them to sell the car back to them when you leave. That’s a good option if you are staying for two months or longer.

Where Do I Stay?

Your two main options are to camp at de Pakhuys ($3-4 per night) or to rent a house. The travelers rest houses are the cheapest and the ones at Alpha Farms are the nicest. We split a house at Traveler’s Rest between five people for $10 a night each. The houses are very basic with no AC, heat, TV, oven, etc. They do have bathrooms with showers and the kitchens have a small refrigerator, a sink, and a hotplate. There is no internet access at the Traveler’s Rest houses but there is wifi that you can pay for at de Pakhuys and Alpha Farms.

Our house at Traveler's Rest

In retrospect, I think I would have preferred to spend more time camping at de Pakhuys since it’s easier to meet people and socialize there. Rocklands attracts climbers from all over the world so you will meet a lot of interesting people on your trip. The campground has bathrooms with showers, wifi you can pay for, and a bouldering area a short walk away.

de Pakhuys Campground

Language:

South Africa contains a diverse culture including eleven national languages. Most everyone you’ll encounter can understand and speak English. In Clanwilliam Afrikaans and English are predominately spoken.

Money:

The US dollar is currently worth 7 South African Rand. In general living in South Africa is ~30% cheaper than in the US. Everything is cheaper including groceries, beer and eating out. A beer at a restaurant in Clanwilliam will cost you 15 Rand ($2) and an amazing burger is 35-40 Rand ($5).

Where are the Boulders?

A new guide to Rocklands was just finished, you can order yours here or pick up a copy at de Pakhuys when you go.

If you want some beta for your projects or just want to get psyched, check out my film Orange Crush!

Where to buy gear and food?

You can buy chalk at the Hen House (coffee shop) but I don’t think you can find any other climbing gear in the area. There is a big Super Spar grocery store in Clanwilliam where you’ll find all your food and beverage needs.

Rest Days:

You won’t find much within 30 minutes of Rocklands so bring some books or other sources of entertainment. One thing you will find is a plethora of is rock to explore. Hiking around on rest days is great fun and you stand a good chance of finding some new problems if you have a good eye. If you venture one or two hours from Rocklands you will find lots of attractions such as Lamberts Bay, Table Mountain, Boulders Beach, Cape Point, etc. Within three hours of Rocklands you can go surfing, shark diving, meet a wild penguin, see the city, hang out at the beach, etc etc.

Cape Point

Unfortunately most of the proper safaris and wildlife parks in South Africa are on the east side. There is one about 30 minutes from Rocklands but the lions and cheetahs are fenced in so it’s not the real deal. It is however, as close as you can safely get to a lion or cheetah which is a worthwhile experience.

Orange Crush!

Posted by | South Africa | 4 Comments

Savage Films presents Orange Crush, a climbing film showcasing a group of friends exploring one of the greatest bouldering destinations in the world, Rocklands South Africa. Featuring 21 world-class boulder problems from 7B to 8B! Enjoy 30+ minutes of HD sports action including everything from highballs, first ascents, V10 flashes, to epic V13 sends!

You can purchase Orange Crush at HDclimbingvideos.com!

Run Time: 34 Minutes. File Size: 1.2 GB.
You will need QuickTime to view the video.

Reviews:

“An excellent video definitely worth downloading at the bargain price of $5. If you’re not planning a trip to rocklands I’m sure you will be after watching it.” – RocklandsBoulders.com
“This is just a supurb video” – Jens, founder of 8a.nu
“The video is well edited, has excellent visuals and will get you psyched! ” – Climb.co.za
“Anyone who is looking to make their first trip to the Rocklands or gain some motivation before there next gym session should download this piece asap.” – DeadPoint Magazine
“If you love bouldering it is sure to get you psyched to get out climbing.” – ClimbingNarc.com

Still haven’t pulled the trigger?! Watch our previous work, Swanky Swizzy, voted 8th best climbing video of 2010 on VideoClimb.com!
Feedback from Swanky Swizzy:
“Higher quality and editing than many dvds.” – kyote
“The best climbing short I know of. By far.” – paully
“This is the single best short I have ever seen.” – Paul Dieterle
“It’s definitely the most well-made climbing video I have seen on the web” – Tyler Roach

Boulders in Orange Crush:
The Rhino 7B+
Hole in One 7C+
Dirty Lies 7B+
The Waterfall 7C
Witness the Sickness 8A
Green Mamba 8A+
Macho King 7C+
Roadcrew Arete 7B+
Cedar Spine 7C
Pinotage 7C+
Springbok 7B+
Splash of Red 7C+
Stretched & Pressed 7C+
Battle of the Skink 7C
Golden Virginia 8A
Barracuda 8A
Dream Life 7B – First Ascent
All In 6B – First Ascent
Vlad the Impaler 7C – First Ascent
Sunset Arete 7C
Nutsa 8A/8A+
Black Shadow 8B

Orange Crush

Posted by | South Africa | One Comment

Orange Crush, a film by Alex Savage, features over 30 minutes of HD sports action in one of the greatest bouldering areas in the world, Rocklands South Africa. It showcases Jesse Bonin, Les Warnock, Kenyon Smith, Ian Cotter-Brown, Matthieu Saulnier, and Alex Savage climbing 22 boulder problems from 6B to 8B! The film features music from Wax Tailor, Aether, Sibot, Dane Moss and more! The song in the trailer is Fire Face by Dane Moss.

Orange Crush will be released by the end of the month and will only be available for download right here on savageclimbing.com!

THANKS to Organic for making the BEST crash pads!!

Featured boulders are:
The Rhino 7B+
Hole in One 7C+
Dirty Lies 7B+
The Waterfall 7C
Witness the Sickness 8A
Green Mamba 8A+
Macho King 7C+
Roadcrew Arete 7B+
Cedar Spine 7C
Pinotage 7C+
Springbok 7B+
Splash of Red 7C+
Stretched & Pressed 7C+
Battle of the Skink 7C
Golden Virginia 8A
Barracuda 8A
Dream Life 7B – First Ascent
All In 6B – First Ascent
Vlad the Impaler 7C – First Ascent
Sunset Arete 7C
Nutsa 8A/8A+
Black Shadow 8B

Rocklands Wrap Up

Posted by | South Africa | 3 Comments

The view from upper Roadside. Photo by Les

The Rocklands video is coming along well. The good news is that it’s twice as long as the swizzy video, the bad news is that it takes twice as long to edit as the swizzy video. I can’t say when it’ll be done but I can say that it contains some of the most inspiring climbing footage you will see this year.

Read More

Rocklands Photos

Posted by | South Africa | 2 Comments

It has been pretty hot the past couple of weeks so the sending has slowed down a bit for me. Les on the other hand has finally busted into the 8A’s sending Witness the Sickness and then a few days later dispatching his project Nutsa. I’ve been working on the Vice which is a hard 8B compression problem. I’m not close on it but it’s one of the few hard lines I’m really psyched on so I’ll keep hiking up to the Fortress to see if I can make some progress! Quite a few more folks have showed up in the past few weeks but it isn’t crowded by any means. There was a party at Alpha Farms the other night and Ian managed to drink enough brandy to provide a loss of balance while standing dangerously close to a river. He got completely soaked, it was awesome.

The Vice

Hacky sack skillz

Our House

Leslie working on Rasta Roof

The old campground

The Rocklands

Posted by | South Africa | 4 Comments

Sorry for the lack of updates but internet is a bit more scarce in South Africa than in Europe. Plus I’ve had some computer trouble and car trouble which hasn’t helped! We have been in South Africa for almost a month now. The Rocklands are a fantastic place to live and climb. The views are spectacular and the bouldering is immense. The climbing here is a cross between the rock of Rocktown and the style of Hueco. It is very grippy sandstone reminenscent of the Southeast. The climbing tends to be dynamic, with good holds spaced far apart. There are many hard dynos here to be climbed.

The Rocklands

The sunsets here are some of the best I’ve ever seen and the stars are incredibly bright here. You can easily see the milky way. Pretty much everyone speaks English, but for most locals it’s not their first language. Most people around here speak Afrikaans which I believe is a combo of Dutch and native African languages. Dankie means thank you, that’s about all I know. The landscape here is very open, you can see for miles and miles but it’s not flat, there’s a lot to look at out there from mountains and hills to rocks, etc. There is so much rock here and you can easily see it all since there aren’t many trees to be found.

We’ve been here for one month and it has only rained three days. Pretty much everyday is clear blue skies with lots of sunshine. We hear that it’s not the norm for this time of year, usually it rains a lot more so we’ve finally gotten lucky with the weather! The temps here are really warm considering it is winter. Usually it’s in the 60′s and 70′s with a few cold days mixed in. Luckily it doesn’t need to be cold to climb hard here. We have a crew of five Americans staying at the Loes house out near the Sassies. It’s Me, Les, Ian Cotter Brown, Jesse Bonin, and Kenyon. Between the five of us we’ve managed to tick a double digit boulder problem almost every day and it seems with our various strengths, one of us will be able to climb almost every problem here. Which is a good thing considering there are so many good lines here.

Les on Pinotage 7C+

Outside of the climbing, life is pretty good here. Everything is way cheaper than Europe or the US. A beer at the bar costs 12 rand or $1.50. An amazing meal with several beers at one of the nicer restaurants might cost you $15 at most. Or you can get a burger at De Kelder’s for $5. The burgers here are some of the best I’ve ever had!

Jesse on Green Mamba 8A+

Life in this part of South Africa is very simple. There is only one paved road within 30 km of here and it was just paved last year! Many of the locals do not own cars so you’ll see them walking along the road or waiting for a ride. The closest grocery store to our house is in Clanwilliam which is a 30 minute drive on the road that was recently paved. Our house doesn’t have a tv, radio, heat, AC, or even a postal address. It does have five beds, a kitchen, and only costs us $10 a night so it’s pretty nice! The days are short, we wake up at sunrise, around 7:30AM, and it gets dark at 6PM. We have a hard time staying up past 9 after eating a big meal and drinking a few beers so we get more than enough rest. I think the world cup kept many climbers away from the rocklands this year since it’s pretty empty here. There are maybe 20 people at the campground and no one is in the other houses near ours.

To sum up my initial impression after living and climbing in The Rocklands for one month, this might just be my favorite bouldering destination. Life is good here.