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Category: Travel

That Twenty Fifteen


I was just at my usual routine last Sunday. At the gym, climbing. Just started back after idling for a month of not getting grip on those plastics. A competition held there had just ended and there were new routes on the lead wall after what felt like donkey years climbing the same thing over and over again on that same wall. Yes, I haven’t progressed that much. After all what is there to progress when you’re up against the teenagers, people at the peak of their fitness, in their 20s, who can beat themselves up bouldering one whole day and quickly recovered for a multi pitch the next? (Excuses, excuses..) Anyway, the usual me wouldn’t sit still to attempt the new climbable low graded routes but I found myself staring at them for awhile, just couldn’t bring my butt up until Fakhrul made me.

I’ve totally lost it, temporarily hopefully. That motivation, or more like the reason to climb. The psyche and inclination that I usually have seem to be missing. Why did I even began climbing in the first place? How long can I keep this up? And then I realised that the year is ending and contemplated on things that I did.

Truly, it has been a crazy year. A crazily good year, thank God for that. Especially when we started 2015 by welcoming a son into this world. After giving birth to Renan, I never really planned to go crazy as I did. I just wanted to get back to my old fitness level and weekend routines that I loved but I guess the part where I “rested” during pregnancy got me so stoked to outdo one activity after another.

Although climbing went ongoing as usual, I caught the running bug as soon as I joined my first race three months postpartum. It was a 5k then and it felt like the longest run of my life. I committed myself to a 12k two months after that and it felt liberating because its true what they said – your mind will give up long before your body ever will. I truly felt like I was almost capable of anything after that. After those runs on the roads, I took it to the trails and got hooked than ever. Although technically its harder, it is just so much fun running on the trails..

And then there was all of these series of hiking. I started off with the notorious part of Bukit Tabur on the West side and few weeks after, we did the East. I was pretty adamant to do my first mountain this year for some reason so we did Irau in June. I’m having all sort of remorse mentioning Irau because that was one of the life changing experience I’ll never get to forget and I didn’t even write about it! I only wrote a little in IG though. Overwhelmed, I did not say much about that event but you can see few more of it if you dig deep enough..

And then there was New Zealand which deserves an entry all to itself but understandably with all of those weekends packed with things I wanted to do, where do I slot in a quiet 1 am sitting on my butt, composing words whilst hushing a baby to sleep at the same time? But please.. do remind me not to give up on jotting down my thoughts, that this is all worth the effort. That it’s important to revisit my old thoughts and memories because an ageing brain can only hold so much?

The last in the family got married too this year. I have so much to say to her but in the end I found myself talking to the mirror as if I was talking to her, bursting my eyes out with the water works. Appearing all strong and unaffected is so hard when the truth is I am nothing but all about fragility emotionally..

And just as I thought I was done with 2015, Bali happened so unexpectedly. And it was really nice to just chill this time, took it slow, enjoyed the company I was with and just let the beauty sank in.


So I guess all of these unmotivated few weeks are probably relevant, might be feeling drained out since I don’t think I’ve done so much in a stretch of almost twelve months before. And I haven’t even mentioned about all the projects in hand at work that went on full blast simultaneously this year.

One thing for sure for next year and the coming years of my life.. I will keep on collecting memories instead of things, stay curious and keep doing the thing that scares me, experiencing true risk and adventure so I don’t have to live wondering for the rest of my life. Yeah true, I still won’t know how long I can keep up with all this.

But I can’t wait to find out.

Transcendental for The Sundial



The Sundial at The Remarkables, Queenstown, New Zealand | 26th Sept 2015.

Fakhrul. Only you and I know the yearn for the crag of our dreams.

I still remember that day sometime 2 years ago when we saw a picture of this magnificent monolith at the back cover of Rock & Ice magazine. We were blown away by it. At that time this all felt so out of reach. We could only dream.

Today after Renan, everything else in between and 4 hours of yet another traumatic hike of my life, there I was and there you were. Even while writing this in the comfort of my bed, I still pinch myself.. Can’t really quite believe it.

We really made it. I love you.


Where do you begin?

When only upon getting there that you realized the 2 hours solid hike you read about was not exactly as you had in mind? We could see it from the car park. We just had to follow our nose. Except that you’re only human, or might as well be an ant – and that is a mountain range laying in front of you.

I guess at this point for me it was just a question of how bad I wanted it.

At the moment this picture was taken, I guess it was pretty bad. So we kept going, kept walking whilst deep inside I raged with my mind for suggesting this in the first place. And also for packing way too much for the shoulders to bear.

Then I remembered the first emotion I had when I first saw it – just like great architecture, as an architect, you gotta see it. I remembered back how the flare of an idea of exploration and adventure burned in my heart. That kinda idea is always a good idea to have at the comfort of your office chair.

Until you’re not in your office chair.


“It’s just there.”

We need a new word for “just”

Oftentimes it is underestimation that gets me to the base of places that I wanted to go. And then the not wanting to hear Fakhrul say “I told you so” that actually made me arrive.


We only had this paper

“From the first cattle stop from the Remarkable Road, walk down the private road going south. Then along a deer fence and traverse to the base of the ridge. From here scale the vague path up the ridge line and onto the spur with The Sundial on.”

I probably memorized this that day like it was some kind of effing fairytale.


That damn deer fencing

I have mixed feelings about my husband’s stiffness towards bending the rules. If I were to follow my nose to The Sundial, we needed to cross those fencing but we wasted a lot of time deciding about crossing over. My logic said the fencing didn’t look like its meant to keep humans away, but someone was too worried we might get caught, or worst, get shot 😳🔫

From where we were standing, the fencing looked endless uphill and way off the supposedly the right direction. We did walked along it anyway.

Until we made the wrong turn.


Checking with the locals

Whilst contemplating about crossing over the fencing, I called a bunch of numbers posted in the Queenstown Climbing Club page hoping to be pointed out at the right direction.

Turned out that everybody I called had never been. Even a person from a rock climbing company that offers guide services hasn’t!

Even the locals don’t go. Fear started creeping in. Doubt popped like fireworks. Very little information. Just a lot of intuitions.

There’s a saying. Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement.

What a hell of an experience it was.


Crossing over

15-16 years ago, when we were teenagers (and I’m not particularly proud of it), I used to sneak out in the middle of the night with Ewa to go out when I was left with my maid and parents weren’t at home. We would climb over our house gates just for few hours of freedom during night time. We didn’t do anything dramatic, just drove to KL town to see what night life was like, to feel every little bit like a grown person unattached to school, exams and routine. Then quietly sneaked back in. We were pretty good at it for few times, until we were caught.

We were just a couple of curious kids.

Curiosity. Its the lust of the mind. And its the cure for boredom.


Into the woods

Winter was just over. Spring was only unfolding. The land we stepped in was pretty much barren. Mostly twigs, barbed shrubs and thorn bushes to get through. It wasn’t pleasant. I covered my face the whole time and still came out with cuts

After half an hour of unclear paths and drained off from being paranoid over strange sounds, we were desperate to get out. Suddenly walking uphill along the endless fencing didn’t seem like such a bad idea, even though it might take you elsewhere.

There was a peculiar sense that we were being watched. Not a malevolent presence, just something keeping an eye on things. I wasn’t particularly scared, just the idea of not knowing felt suffocating.

John Muir promised, that in every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks. You never know how tolerable and strong you are – until being tolerant and strong is the only choice you had

Its a great thing when you realize you still have the ability to surprise yourself.


“When the going gets tough, the tough gets going”

Nothing could prepare me from the consequence of underestimation and overconfidence. As soon as we got out of the woods and shortly after I breathed a sigh of relief, I just kept checking my watch in disbelief of how long this hike had taken. Yet it just kept getting further, taller and harder.

Unlike rock climbing, when it comes to hiking I think there are only two grades; either you can do it, or you can’t. I turned my head to my back and saw the unpaved private road where we started in distance and thought, we’ve come this far. It is JUST there (refer #2)

Well, that’s nature for you. It has a way of dealing with your ego.


Breaking point

We lost the sight of The Sundial. It was confusing, because it was JUST there. Fakhrul sat us down and said if we wanted to go home, might as well now, considering how long it had taken us. I really didn’t want to get stuck out there in the dark especially when we were poorly equipped for it.

Fakhrul left his bag and ran up to scout as I tried to catch whatever breath I could. I was giving up, there was no point acsending as it got steeper that I was gonna topple backward and without knowing the direction to go.

Whenever Fakhrul emerged and shook his head, I was in total disbelief. Where had it disappeared to?! I looked at Ewa and felt so guilty for talking her into this. I just couldn’t believe it, it wasn’t going to happen for us. If I had a breaking point, this was it.

“Elly, sorry weh. Kita fail. Aku nak balik..” She didn’t say anything but knowing her, she would’ve been OK with anything. But still I felt sorry for everything and tried to console myself that the hike itself was well worth it. Except that I still couldn’t believe it.

“Check that side!!” I yelled at Fakhrul and pointed to my right. My mind roamed to the kids we left in Queenstown with his mom. I promised to call her every 3 hours only to realize half way hike that she didn’t have her line on roaming. I had no means to contact her so staying on the safe side that day was vital.

I heard Fakhrul called out in distance and turned. I thought I saw thumbs up, which I actually did! He rushed down for his bag and excitedly said, “It’s there. It’s amazing!”

I am not ashamed to tell you guys. I cried.


“Every dreamer knows that it is entirely possible to be homesick for a place you’ve never been to, perhaps even more homesick for a familiar ground.”

It didn’t disappear, it was just hidden on the other side of one of the ridges.

I kept thinking of how many pictures I dug on this magnificent monolith. The awe could never beat seeing it standing in front of me. This was our summit, our destination, and alhamdulillah, we arrived!

I was homesicked. And then I was at home.


Shit happened

Tere was not much time to waste, we only had about an hour or so to feast on whatever food we carried, put on our gears and get cracking on the climb. We were rushing for the 3pm cut off time for descend.
Fakhrul went first and setup all the runners and Ewa belayed. And very quickly I volunteered to go second and Fakhrul asked whether I wanted to top rope or lead climb it. I’ll be damned if I put myself into that hell hike and not lead climb it.

Just the thought of lead climbing can make me sick to my stomach. Everytime actually. It will be hypocritical of me if I pretend like I’m immuned to the scare of falling, the heights and paranoia that gears or my knots might not be working. The fear multiplied on a foreign crag and its weather – especially it was crazy windy on that side of the ridge it felt like I was gonna be blown off. The belayer was not on a flat ground either and it was rocky everywhere at the bottom. So the first move going to second runner had to be flawless or it was gonna be an ugly fall.

I kept telling Ewa the day before that I hadn’t taken a dump since we flew from KL. And just like that, all the collective fears of lead climbing triggered that undesired sensation.

“Korang. Sorry, aku kena berak!” I was so angry at myself. People usually had to be in peace to feel the urge to shit, yet there I was, in the most intense situation and not much time either, I had to have a go at The Sundial! That was the first time I took a dump in “wilderness”, so hey, yay for me! 😑

I could go on about how long it took until I was finally finished and the texture of my shit that day but to cut short, everything about it was unideal.

One business after another, it was time to climb. There was no time to think, so I just went. The rock quality was awesome, I didn’t feel like I needed the chalk. Handholds were crimpy and pinchy but footholds were almost everywhere.

Suffice to say, I had the climb of my life.



“It’s a round trip. Summit is halfway point.”

Getting up was optional, getting down was mandatory. Shortly after I came down from the climb, I saw Fakhrul moving suspiciously like he was in pain and asked if he was OK. He didn’t reply. It was silent for awhile, just the sound of wind gushed over the uneven ledge we were standing. I looked at Ewa and we shared the same worry.

I asked again and he said, “Cramp! Kaki tak boleh straight!!” Ah sudah, I thought. We probably barely had enough time to get down before dark, crippling down was the last thing we needed.

After Ewa came down for her climb and rubbing hot oil, his legs thankfully improved and it was time for descent. I wasn’t kidding when I said how steep it was – I was on my ass and sliding most of the times. It was pretty easy to mess up and roll ourselves down.

I didn’t want to stop, I just kept going. Just wanted to get home to the kids. My toes were blistering so I changed to flip flops. Bad idea – the minute I started walking with my foot exposed and without gripped soles, I slipped and got cuts everywhere from the thorned grass. And then back in my trail shoes. It wasn’t the climb that wore me out, its the grain of sand in my shoes. At this point, exhaustion would be an understatement.

Pain is the weakness leaving the body. Or so I kept convincing myself.


“What is above knows what is below. But what is below does not know what is above. Above is the place for closure, and below is for knowledge. Knowledge that everything is going to be OK..”

We were astounded by how fast it took us descending. That was what Fakhrul promised me up there anyway. “Getting down is going to be easy..” He kept repeating to motivate me before we reached up. We were low on water so we stopped by the glacier stream we found. I looked up at the ridges as I drank from it and shook my head thinking, it was pretty high up that we were actually pretty close with the snow caps. How the hell did we managed that was beyond me.

We were down so quick there was enough time to work out another route up on The Sundial, but there you have it. No point of dwelling on the coulda woulda shoulda. It was fast because we finally found the right route without getting into the woods. But everything happened the way they are meant to. And I for one wouldn’t have it any other way as long as we’re all safe in one piece on the road home.

Sometimes I think success is not counted by how high you have climbed, but actually how many people you have brought with you. And for that I will forever be thankful for the people who were with me. The ones that I brought and this overconfident silly woman that they brought.

Whatever that is hard to endure is sweet to remember.



“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are more great hills to climb”

My face is still recovering from the burn from the exposure that day. The cuts courtesy of the woods are drying up too. More than a week passed, I’m still feeling a funny pain on my soles sometimes when I walk.. Really can’t make out what it is but I’m keeping faith it’ll go away. I know its no Everest and they are no frostbites and I still have all my limbs, but that day was as far as I stretched myself to.

My sweet mother in law said we were out cari penyakit. True, we did. We didn’t have to do it and between the moment we parked our caravan to the breaking point thinking we’ve lost the crag was a mystery to why we did all this.

This is what I know: for me, its my curiosity to see outside my comfort zone. True mountain /climbing hardcores would’ve smirked at my experience but not every man dreams equally. I may avoid suffering and sorrow, but I cannot feel, change, grow or live that way. It felt that I was wholly alive and no matter what transpires from here on in, I have truly lived. Something pretty hard to feel at the comfort of my office chair.

Tomorrow I will probably be back on ground involved with other struggles more dangerous and demanding. Why? Because a mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimension.

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; and the realist adjusts the sail.” So who am I going to be? I’ll only know when I’m being put in the corner of great nature and about to give up on my own optimistic dream.

Just like in that song; with every broken bone, I swear I lived.

Post Lombok

And did and see an equally amazing things, at 6 weeks pregnant.


P/S: Almost gave up compiling this. Because really, how do you sum up 6 days of prodigious experience in just 3 minutes?

When in Lombok

The plan was to do something amazing.

It was what I intended when I bought tickets to Lombok just few weeks before Australia. I knew we were going to climb some awesome rocks in Australia, but climbing had become a comfort zone then. At this age and after a certain period of consistent climbing, I knew I was never going to do an overhang in some cave or higher-grade routes with nothing but small pinches or slopes to cling my fingers on. So what else there is out there that I might like? Maybe an easier, longer climb, like hiking. And wouldn’t it be amazing if I get on top of somewhere mind blowing like the mighty Rinjani?

That was the purpose – to do something challenging enough that I can personally be proud of, that it will become a story to tell and inspiring to my children. To do that while I still have it in me, while I still feel strong enough on the knees and in my mind to make it, while Allah still grace me with some vigour at this age that sometimes can feel so old. Maybe before I move on to the next phase of my life, maybe before the number two. Despite what I felt just over a year ago, the urge of having another one was evident as Daisy started her kindergarten and slowly became independent of me. As I watched her playing with her make ups or talking to herself in the mirror so adorably, I thought, I don’t mind having another one of her. And as I grinned to Fakhrul’s eyes as he tried to amuse me with one of his dorky jokes, I thought, I don’t mind having another one of him too.

So arrangements were made, emails were sent, quotes from different tour guides appeared in my inbox for me to compare. In between recovering from an epic trip that is Australia and hopeful for another one to Lombok, my weekends were spent away from the walls and I went for the trails instead. Those long morning walks, calculating kilometers and monitoring heart rates. I started off with easy long routes at FRIM, completed the hard up and down the hill of Bukit Gasing, carrying 14 kilo of Daisy half the way as if she was the weight of the bag I’ll be carrying up the mountain, then finally felt good enough about myself at Gunung Nuang. After Nuang, I was pretty confident that I could make it up to Rinjani, since most reviews said that although some might find it pretty hard, its doable even for people who don’t usually hike.

But Rinjani did not happen.

I wouldn’t say unfortunately either. It was simply never meant to be. Or precisely, another one of my not-yets in life. Allah had a better plan and after all who am I to deny His will? So I put it on the list and chuck it in the bucket. With a bit of program alteration, adding more days and an extra travel buddy which is no other but my 5 year old who was originally going to stay behind, I went to Lombok anyway.

And did and see an equally amazing things, at 6 weeks pregnant.










P/S: I am agitated to share the video. 😀

When in Australia


Dear friends. Readers. Strangers.

I’ve been slow on words. Very slow. Actually probably the slowest I’d ever been. A part of me doesn’t want to give up this space. A part of me want to keep it just to myself. Lately I’ve been questioning about how much should I reveal about my life. For some reason these days with all the things we share on this virtual space, privacy seems to have better meaning than before. And that’s how I feel most of the time. But the deepest surface of my heart still want to blog. It kinda starting to become old school now, blogging, don’t you think?

Or maybe there is nothing significant happened in my life. Sometimes I feel that monotony is eating me deep inside, that routine was getting lethal. But there were some lucky strikes, like of that previous two posts I shared with you. Yeah, maybe only travels are worth sharing these days. They are personally unspecific, a general subject and hopefully inspires people. Or could be my trick of trying to get you people fund my travels if you want me to write more.. 😛

Since we started climbing, we have totally altered our ways of traveling. We were totally uninterested with the cities, with the shops, with rubbing shoulders with other tourists, we even omitted architectural interest out of this latest venture of ours. We pursued different purpose, craved for different kind of journey, which made climbing the crème de la crème, the pick of the crop of the trip. We travelled for 5 days, slept in a different camp sites for 4 nights until we reached the superlative of it, at the top of one of the crag in the magnificent, remote Arapiles. Never would I have thought that I am this girl, who would be more than just OK sleeping and cooking in a cramped van, suffered a cold wind of night or go outside to pee in the dark.

There’s so much to say about this trip, but I just would sum it as a merely, perfect, one. As perfect as I could’ve hoped for and wanted to. With people who are my companions and compassions in life. That even a wrong turn brought us to the right place. Where we were late but on time. When we wanted more days and then had more days. Like seriously, too-good-to-be-true happened on this trip and I will forever be grateful for that.

True enough that the most beautiful thing in this world is the world itself. There were a lot of times where I stood in many places during the trip and it reminded me of how small I actually am, the true artist inside our Creator and feeling blessed for the opportunity. If ever in the future of my little indefinite life I get to experience this again, I will be way too lucky.








P/S: I bought my .com after it finally became available! Funny how I rarely write or post these days but still managed to upgrade this space.  So yeah, its now shalizamokhtar.com. Save yourselves some trouble from the slightly longer type. 😉

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