Secret Majick house

Paraport Eagle

 Paraport, Hampi, wild area

It was a great new area and a good but open cave at the Eagle rock plateau, just a one hour walk from civilisation near a big pinnacle where eagles always stay. I would sometimes get woken up by animals but I would always pretend to be asleep and inspect things later. The logic being that nothing will attack you if you pretend to be asleep. Monkeys never slept on the big Eagle rock pinnacle and when I went to the base of it I realized that either it’s unclimbable even for them or they are scared of disturbing the sometimes aggressive birds. It’s a massive multi levelled plateau with a lot of great boulders scattered around. One of my favourite problems was this steep ramp line of perfect greyrock. Technical climbing on small holds and slopers then a violent move to a jug. Then you can chalk and contemplate a 6c topout. Because of that move I gave it the name. 
Violent Liberation with sit 7c

 Violent Liberation standstart 7b

There are a lot of hills and valleys to cross on the way back to the nearest village of Sanapur and it was one of those days once a week when I had to go back there for shopping. When alone and if it’s not too hot I always try to walk a slightly different way through these complex hills to explore any possible good areas. This time It was a new way back to town and I stumbled across a flat grassy plateau with an impressive overhanging ramp line on a big 7 metre boulder. Definitely worth coming back for this I thought but is there anything else?  After walking round and round the big rock a few times I realized it was the only real way up or down the thing. I also saw a smaller boulder with some easier warm ups and classics just nearby.
Then something majick started to happen. For some reason I became magnetized towards the big hill 20 metres away. Just trees, bushes then bigger and bigger rocks. For some reason I pressed on through the trees, spiky bushes and round a few more corners and boulders before it suddenly appeared in front of me. A little doorway totally hidden from the outside world by the vegetation and rocks leading into the hill made with dry stones and strong mud blocked round the edges with more stones. A secret house !?

The hidden doorway 
I was entranced and wondered just who made this place and why ? It felt very strange entering as if I was going into somebody else's world but luckily it was empty. After more inspection of the interior I realized, nobody has lived here for a very long time as there are no signs of fires or human items. My mind was running riot imagining who was last living here. A secret cult of sadhus? Illegal animal hunters? A hippie gang in the sixties? Outcasts on the run from mainstream society? Maybe it was from the Tungrabadra canal construction in the 1950’s or maybe from Vijaynagar times when just 4 or 5 km away was the biggest city in South India.  
 It was nestled inside the hill under some huge boulders and I just sat there for a while trying to soak in the feeling of the place. Somebody had put a lot work in to make it protected, but probably from tigers back in the days when there were lots more than now. It was all built up round the edges with mud stone walls to back up the boulders making a big open plan room with another side door but you would have to crouch like an elf to squeeze through that way. If an estate agent had been showing me the place I would have had just one complaint, it smelled of cat piss!

  I thought to check further inside the hill so clambered and squeezed through into what seemed like another series of caves. Round another corner and It was getting eerie now with just thin shafts of sunlight showing the way. I stopped still listening to the place and wondering which animals all the bones were from spread all over the place. Some were big, some small, all types of bones were there. I guessed it was a gang of hiyenas who had dragged animals in there to feast on. Not to worry, I thought but I’d gone far enough so went back on myself and to the main cave again.

 Hungry for more boulders I went outside again and just behind off to the side found a lovely garden area with lots of nice looking blocks for climbing. Everything looked quite hard and I was attracted to an extremely overhanging groove line with a finger jam half way up. I felt the hold and imagined making progress up from there, yes I could do this I thought. It looked hard but I was desperate to try now so decided, I will come and stay here for a while.

 I hadn’t really finished with the Eagle rock area but collected my shopping from the village and main luggage from the old cave to stay in what I first thought of as the ‘Secret majick house.’ I really wanted to do the nice 6c, 7a medium hard things first before getting stuck on something harder like that beautiful groove. 
Majick house groove 7a the first good thing I saw on that walking day so the first proper thing I climbed after 'moving in'

If you stay in a completely new cave it can be a bit scary as you really don’t know what else lives there or nearby.  The cat piss smell thing was dwelling on my mind a bit but I tried to forget about it. You will get those medium size jungle cats staring at you at night but they are just curious and not a threat like leopards or tigers. But I couldn’t tell the difference between all the cat family smells, to me it’s all the same, just cat piss. The first couple of days there was just a lot of ants, red millipedes, a dangerous looking jet black snake that I evicted and a big black scorpion who I made friends with.

The place felt great and I was settling in well, enjoying the climbing and just loving being in this wild new hill with fresh rocks. It was on the 3rd night in the cave when I heard some big feet slapping around on rocks further inside the hill. It must be a really big monkey, I joked to myself. Monkeys don’t walk around at night though and for a good reason. It was late and I’d finished my cooking so the fire had all but gone out, just a few embers. I was trying to think positive but it was too late to pretend to be asleep and I had already got it…….Catvibes! This was it. I was totally out of my depth. Suddenly it was there and crouched about 4 metres away looking and checking me out. There was still a small boulder between us so I could make out half of it’s body. It seemed big so I didn’t want to move. It was a staring competition in the half dark cave so I wasn’t going to move at all, not yet anyway and I was determined not give out any 'fear vibes.' I was gripped and It’s heavy breathing continued but still neither of us wanted to move. I think it was deciding if I’m worth eating or not and I was aware that if it attacked I would almost definitely lose the game.
No jungle cat this but the big one with spots, Churtah (leopard.) I could only just make it out in the moon light but it was the breath which was scaring me also. That heavy sound was somehow loaded with tension and indecision. Anybody who has played with a cat knows how their minds work, getting aggressive when something moves quickly. That’s just what I kept thinking; only If I move quickly will it attack.
 A few minutes passed like hours in that stalemate situation. I didn’t want to move at all never mind quickly but I couldn’t take the tension any more. We were both totally still and then I got a brainwave. Two metres behind me were some embers left and dry grass nearby. I just carefully and really slowly backed up not leaving its presence and reaching behind me scraped some dry grass onto the embers. We had hypnotized each other into a kind of trance but when the fire came the trance was broken and it was gone. After that night I changed my nickname for that place to “cat cave”.  I was probably near to its territory area. 
That night I didn’t sleep that well not letting the fire go out properly and listening to the darkness intensely. Should I leave not just for my safety but out of respect for the animal was also a recurring thought. In the morning I decided to stay as I was enjoying being there so much. It was still on my mind for the next days though and I would always get a small fire going even before cooking. Then every extra day that passed the more I started to relax again. 
It had taken me weeks just to do 20 or 30 problems but some were hard and took days to send. That groove had me totally hooked even though I’d done it from standing quickly adding the sit start took another 4 or 5 climbing days. I didn’t mind that much as it’s great to have a quality project 20 meters from your place. I solved it in March after a few weeks in the cave and even named it Rare groove

 Rare groove sitstart 7c+

 Rare groove standstart 7b+

 Soon the little garden and the blocks around were climbed out and it was time to walk further every day. Even though it was Hot season now I wanted to stay longer in the catcave and explore more nearby areas. The temperature was at least 10 c degrees cooler in the huge cave so perfect for chilling in the afternoon.
 That 1st season in the catcave was like heaven. Even when I’d exhausted the garden I soon realized that the next good boulders were not far away at all. I saw the leopard only once more from quite far but it ran away. It seemed like it knew me and as we had hypnotized each other it let me ‘borrow’ a small piece of the hill. Its almost psychic ‘super senses’ had realized that I was no threat at all.
 I was quite happy being alone but then someone gave me a note from an Italian girl I'd met in Manali. I went to her guest house and met her sraight away. When I told her I was staying in a great new cave her eyes lit up. Dressed in long cotton pants, long shirt and equipped with just a torch and some beedies we got the shopping and she trekked up there with me that very evening. 

When we walked in I could see she was entranced by that place also. “How the hell did you find it?” she asked. She was very scared of spiders (there was a few) but stayed for 7 or 8 days and loved it. I was just all the time desperately hoping that after sunset we wouldn’t run into the leopard or even worse, the oh so unpredictable mummy bear! I didn’t tell her about the experience with the leopard for fear of putting her off coming. 
 Paola was quite enjoying  the new life as a jungle girl even doing her share of the jungle duties like collecting and snapping sticks, feeding the fire and suchlike.  Watching me climbing was amusing enough and she was always laughing when I fell. That was the best bit for her except when I actually got to the top of something then she was even more pleased. “Wow you’ve actually done something today,” she said. It must be strange I thought, watching boulderers projecting things when you don’t do it yourself. All that effort, day after day, falling, falling, falling. The afternoons were beautiful in the big secret cave chilling, cooking and doing yoga. One afternoon she went outside and didn’t return for ages. I got worried so I went out looking for her. All around I walked shouting her name repeatedly but to no avail. Well never mind I thought and went back to the cave still half worried. When she returned 2 hours later she looked really serious, “I was sleeping next to a bear shit” she said. 
  Exploring continued unabated with easier climbs coming to hand and classics in every direction. Only 5 minutes away ‘coffee shakes’ sticks in my mind as an absolute classic big arête with a great fat ‘in the sun all day’ sloping blob hold right at the top. I named it after drinking too much sickly strong black coffee to try and wake up and beat the sun on the morning I climbed it. As oppose to the real ‘ice coffee shake’ which in the cave I could only dream about! 

 Squib from Isle of man on Coffee shakes 7a+ in 2014

Staying in the cat cave seemed so majick. Even when I was alone again it felt great as it’s got a feeling which is obviously special. I stayed and made it my base and didn’t get even one visitor the whole season except for that Italian girl Paola who I had shown the way to get there. Sometimes I heard shepherds passing 100 meters away but they never came and didn’t know I was there. Unlike other more open places I’d stayed nobody simply stumbled across this cave by mistake (except when I was magnetized in the beginning) It was too hidden behind bushes and boulders. Almost anybody would walk straight on past not realizing it’s there. 
                               Inside the catcave 
One morning I was wandering around near the cave with my big machete knife in my hand messing around with bits of wood for the fire when I saw a local guy with some wood in his hands also carrying a machete. Suddenly he looked terrified and dropped all the wood and went haring across the small garden down the steep hillside. I went to edge of the plateau where I could see him going so fast that he was almost falling and sliding down slabs. I started down the hill after him and after 10 metres he looked around to see me and started to go even faster almost losing his flip flops. Then I stopped and thought to myself; what the hell am I doing? With a big knife in my hand, chasing another guy with a big knife in his hand, in the middle of nowhere in the wild area. I wandered back to the cave trying to work it out. It’s like the cat when something moves fast they just want to chase it. Maybe I’ve been staying too long in the forest I thought!

I had to have a day away from the cave on HOLI festival which I never missed in the days before the demolitions.
 When Hampi was Hampi, Holi 2007

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