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MAR–BER June 22nd

Another early rise, though not as early as the flight that brought me here. Eleven nights in Marbella, and 21,000€ including the taxi from the airport. One new-ish top third of a face, recovery periods of days, weeks, fortnights, six weeks, months out to a year. Slow, slow, slow. Slow time. I look like me, but me that I recognise more. I feel like me, when I close my eyes and touch my forehead. Already a year just to get to here, already the fourth attempt on top of a lifetime of turning off hoping so I could ride out the disappointment of those previous failed attempts and the ocean of need to do this that preceded all of them.

Finally fucking did it. Finally fucking was able to do it. Alhamdulillah.

Waiting …

Around 1815, back in Geneva airport, waiting to board the last flight back to Berlin, the easyJet person already at the desk, and the both of us slightly dazed from lack of sleep, and the last week, very much looking forward to being home and in bed by 10pm, when we look again, the flight has vanished and so has the easyJet person. Then we discover our flight has been delayed till 23h. Getting back to the checkin area was horrible; Geneva airport is thoroughly designed for one-way traffic, and there are either dead-ends, locked gates, or lack of signs if you wish to retrace your steps.

Back at the post-checkin info desk and no one knows anything. No announcements made, and much sitting falling asleep uncomfortably. The airport is also not designed with long transfers or delays in mind. An hour or so later, with no explanation as to why we are sitting in one city when we should be nearing another, we get a 15,€- food voucher, approximately the minimum legally required and in this airport purchases sod-all – and this from the info desk and not an easyJet person.

Oh-so-much-longer later, we get on board our delayed flight, itself delayed, and with complete lack of explanation from the pilot, and not even a apologetic hot drink, head Berlin-wards. And getting to the city from Schönefeld at 1am is of course the last cruel joke of former communist Berlin, so we roll into bed at 230am, almost twenty-two hours travelling from Cala Santanyí to Wedding.

Today we got an email from easyJet apologising and saying there was technical problems with the aircraft and hoping the events of yesterday wouldn’t discourage us from flying with them again. Well, no; they are the only cheap way to get to a lot of places, and mostly pretty good, and aircraft are complex things which don’t take well to not working. It’s just they handled the whole thing very shoddily, with rubbish poor communication so in return, I get to blog about it over a late breakfast.

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Icarus Tree Suspension Shoot

One of the three suspensions for which my climbing skills have been useful, the cliff-top tree above the gouged out bay where waves hit tide-line caves like the sound of distant artillery. Tree-climbing though isn’t one of my skills. It feels treacherous and slippery, especially with the apparently un-Majorca-like rain we’ve had every day but the first.

So I make myself useful with clambering around the boughs, covering Dasniya with clay, variously organising things like a good assistant on set, and taking what photos I can. I particularly liked the silhouetted trees and Dasniya forward of the grey clouds, and also found something funny – in a Dutch Masters or some such style – of the composition of Bernard and Eric talking together, with Antonie on obscured on camera and Dasniya grappling with the tree.

Later I enjoyed myself setting up anchors around a tree and then hanging over the side above still-turbulent waves and killingly sharp rocks.

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Last Day, & at Caló des Moro

The last day of Majorca, (written when I’m back in Berlin). More rain. It’s highly improbable to have so many days of greyness and rain in a row, and still more so a storm of the size we had, of which the effects linger. We went to Cala Mondragó (I think), to shoot Dasniya coming out of the ocean. Arriving, the beach was destroyed, detritus strewn up well past the sand, and where once was a beach was now a pile of seaweed and other decomposing things.

Back to Caló des Moro then, the beautiful cove we were in on the first day. Post-storm, the beach is also missing, which perhaps is the natural state, as the limestone is cut by the tides all the way to the end of the bay, well above where the sand was, suggesting any sandiness is of the ‘dumped by dredgers’ kind.

Setting up the anchor was a lot quicker today, with all the changes in how it would be shot – these were basically test shoots, as there are plans to return later in the year to get them when the ocean has returned to its pristine clarity. I spent most of the afternoon squatting far above the water, enjoying the view, while Dasniya and François the diver slogged through the cold water. It was a little like Parsifal: most of a day of setting up for 20 minutes of action.

The evening was eating the remainders in the fridge – Majorcan cheese is delectable, and the wine also – the usual night viewing of the day’s rushes, accompanied by a friend of Bernard who is a real estater in Santanyí. The last night in that beautiful studio bedroom, and then 5am darkness arising for the homeward-bound leg.

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Night Pool Shoot

We have a pool also, which I have yet to dip more than fingers in. Dasniya has been swimming around in it most nights, with François the scuba-diving cameraman. Last night the blanketing grey cleared around an almost-full moon, which lit the ocean as bright as a false dawn. Sufficient lack of light to make it possible to do long exposures without them burning out. Dasniya thinks it looks like kitch-y postcards. Rather impressed with new camera discoveries, I made a 60 second exposure pointing directly up, kind of my Hubble Deep Field attempt. Expecting blackness, I was well-pleased to see a sprinkling of stars. Some chroma noise to remove (and one minute arc of motion blur I have no idea how to compensate), and also not an especially interesting part of the sky, just to one side of the Big Dipper, but still, my first attempt as astrophotography.

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Es Maressos Garden

After the storm last night, woken in its depths with lightning and violent rumbling and thudding of waves, our plans for the day underwent much reconsideration, not the least because it was too dangerous for diving; the storm was still generating large swells in the evening, and the previous day’s clear turquoise bays were thick and cloudy with sediment and detritus.

Instead, we photographed and filmed the waves breaking on the promontories, smashing into the cliffs, spray hurled up as high as the houses above then falling in turbulent veils. Not a particularly large storm, windy days on the coast of Victoria churn the oceans just as much; it’s the shape of the bay, which funnels the waves, giving nowhere to go except to bash from all angles against each other and the rocks.

I joined in the videoing, and looking at some sites for things tomorrow, and in-between, turned my gaze to the minutia of the gardens. Layered down the slope of the underlying limestone, paths wind amongst a carefully tended wildness. In summer, it probably makes sense, the thin, small trees above baked earth; now, it seems in places almost like the high-altitude flora above the tree-line. Dasniya then spent some time in the pool, testing some underwater footage we’ll be shooting later this evening.

And earlier, some not happy news: Heppenheim for this year is most likely not going to happen, as there is unexpected street works, of the digging and heavy machinery type.

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Bedroom

This is where we wake up each morning. We moved the table later today so we have a complete, uninterrupted view. The windows – if they can be called that at such a size; walls perhaps – also open. Last night in the storm with the lights out, I opened the one directly in front so we were exposed to its massiveness.

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Es Pontas

Some years ago, I saw a video of the most-grunting Chris Sharma, the Tom Cruise of climbing, deep-water soloing a sea arch, which he finally summited after much heroic falling into the brine. It was impressively hard, unrepeated, and went at 9b. It took me a while, when I discovered I’d be accompanying Dasniya to Majorca, to work out where Majorca was (besides, that is, in the Mediterranean), and to work out from there where we would be staying.

The website of the house only located it as near as the town, though from the images, I could see there was a sea arch within view, which gave me something to work on. This mainly because there was talk of perhaps doing something on it, and the photos I’d seen made it difficult to differentiate a four- or five-meter high bridge of limestone from a 20- or 30-meter one. I thought it looked like the former, so while Google Mapping my way along the coast from the town, when I saw a ship-sized off-shore bulge, decided from the shadow it was way too large and kept scrubbing along the coast. Nothing. Either it’s too small to show up, or it’s somewhere else, because it can’t be that shipwreck of a rock.

Turns out I was wrong. Combining all my information with a search for climbing turned up as the first video, Sharma yelling his way up into the crotch of the arch, the top of which is visible from our bedroom curtain-wall windows. I’m rubbish at estimating heights, so let’s say it’s two or three Berlin apartment blocks in size, and the climb goes from the inside of the right leg, topping out to the right of the keyhole. As far as climbing goes, it’s that particular type of hard, overhung limestone sports climb, which has all the beauty of cleaning behind the stove while one’s head is in the neighbouring cupboard.

It’s dead beautiful though when getting pounded by storm swells, like a supertanker, inexorable against the water.

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Es Maressos, Cala Santanyí, Majorca

The Mediterranean is un-sea-like. I mean, it doesn’t smell and taste of salty ocean the way it does in Australia or elsewhere down below. The swell is also more subdued. But oh is it glorious to be perched above a vast, disinterested body of water once more.

We woke at 4am, me finishing a peculiar dream where all my teeth wobbled and then fell out, ivory rubble on the night asphalt. Some half-awake packing, and 5 minutes of last-minute internet madness, then off to the Geneva airport once more. Lucky for Speedy Boarding because the queue was like Guangzhou Main Station at Chinese New Year. A shortish plane journey where I alternately snoozed and worked out how a GoPro works (a bit like a mobile phone from 2001), met the remaining two of our six, and then arriving, finding our car, a supermarket stop somewhere, and arriving proper.

We six are staying in a house, so to speak. By Australian standards, it’s a normal-to-large family home, mostly on one level, with a winding stairwell to the master bedroom, and from there a ladder to the turret roof, where the view approximately east takes in a swathe of ocean bookended by dry limestone cliffs and shrubby arid flora. Beside, and off the entrance/dining area is a pool which flows over one end, giving the illusion that it becomes the sea. And below that, off to the north-ish side, is the small studio, curtain windows on two walls overlooking gardens and that aforementioned swathe, and where Dasniya and I shall be sleeping and waking the remainder of the week.

Yes, it’s quite surreal. The ocean is an endlessly deep, clear, and brilliant turquoise, cobalt, aquamarine, azure, depending on the sun, or leaden when the clouds move over. To the left, just viewed out our bedroom windows is the massive sea arch which Chris Sharma soloed in 2007. Yes, that one. It’s our bedroom wall, more or less.

Not that we have spent much time admiring the view from here. Unpacking, a quick lunch, a walk along the coast to look at locations, repacking ropes and other equipment, a drive through towns and through narrow roads bordered trench-like by hand-built limestone walls, olive groves and houses, buildings of ochre, terracotta, umber, to another vast plate of ocean and sky above equally rampart-like cliffs, and then on to another more subdued bay down a narrow path, following the coastline until arriving at a rectangular bay shaped like a chisel-stroke, the sea unbearably light blue, and for us hours of discussions, walking, looking, pondering, eventually for me building something of a seven-metre, three-point anchor above a cave undercut into the stone by the tide, in front of which, Dasniya will hang.

Which we will return to tomorrow. We have a cameraperson, a diver, a musician, an artist, a performer, and me, something of ‘assistant’.