By Beau Flemister

 

Cliff-jumped out, the sun wanders lazily toward the afternoon horizon. A particularly gorgeous island — Tai Chau, to be exact — winks at us, beckoning our boat for safe harbor. Elvis and I grab surfboards to paddle over to the shore and scope out how campable the terrain is, as well as the mosquito, sand fly and snake-situation. Drew, Jerry and Dylan motor over in the skiff to scope the climbing scene. The beach is certainly campable, so the two of us follow one of the random sand trails to a peak with a Buddhist shrine at the top. As we hike up, the vacant island is eerily silent, like a host at a party keeping some peculiar secret. This place, though only a few miles from Hong Kong feels far removed, if not magical.


We get to the peak and keep following the trail toward the end of the cliff and as we walk, a swarm of giant dragonflies encircle us, spinning over our heads curiously like chaperons. There must be hundreds of them and we sit down to marvel at this odd sight, listening to their drone. After maybe a minute of no word between us, I break the silence and utter, “How many times per second do you think a dragonfly flaps its wings?”

A stony thought, sure, but Elvis smiles still watching the small dragons and says, “That’s just about the purest thought someone could have in this moment.”

We hear the skiff motor over and point down at an inviting rock face 200 feet below us, underneath the archway. Drew obliges and picks an inverted line over a deep channel of water bisecting the island. He makes it about 40-feet up (side-down) and releases, splashing with a smile into the South China Sea. Indeed, Drew too has disconnected.

And yet. Sopping wet, he returns to the cliff, choosing a new line, nimbly scaling the wall with a seemingly inhuman proficiency. Not that we should be surprised or anything. This same photojournalist dirtbag-vagabond has summited peaks in Chilean Patagonia that no man ever has, literally christening routes he’d created. Just days prior, we’d seen this same vagabond climb rock faces outside the business district so high, he was looking down upon the skyscrapers like a smiling demigod. Perhaps to climb, to reach, to look upward toward the stars is actually the most human of qualities. To build temples and towers that pierce the clouds. To rise higher toward the heavens. To cling precariously to life, flexing every muscle in our being while climbing...up. 

 

BEST AMPHIBIOUS SHORT FOR AN UNPREDICTABLE JOURNEY 

The "Explorer" Short