Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it was the most charming of the places we visited in Vietnam. Beautiful, historic, colourful, if you only visit one place in Vietnam, make it here.

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Japanese Bridge (Chua Cau)

This city was once a major port from the 15th to the 19th century.  The famous Chua Cau Bridge was built by the Japanese in the late 1500s to join the Japanese section to the Chinese traders. It is in what is known as the Old Quarter and the various architecture and industry of old is well-preserved. The bridge is very popular and worth the fee to travel to the Old Quarter.

Boats line the central port, ready to take you on various short or long journeys and fishing nets sit, suspended over the river until used.

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The city is known for its lanterns and its tailors. In both, you will be spoilt for choice.

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And, while it is very pretty by day, it is enchanting by night. My camera at the time was determined to thwart my attempts, but I think you’ll get the picture.

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We stayed in a hotel with a Spanish flavor, although I think they would say French. Five generations of the family had built 5 separate sections, or blocks and there was a bakery well-beneath us. It was a bit of a warren, but very attractive, nonetheless, and at 3 stars I’d be way out of my comfort in 5 stars.

 

There are markets a-plenty and more places to eat than you could possibly visit if you stayed a year. We spent one day visiting My Son.

We were picked up by private car and taken to My Son (miha sonne) via countryside abloom with lotuses. A shuttle took us 2 km up the hill in 38C so we didn’t complain. The ruins are beautiful – great colour and structure of what is left after the bombing of 1968. The blackened walls are a sombre reminder that more than lives were destroyed. The Cham people were from 11C and these were their temples and meeting places – what we had learned were the first buildings erected as they were central to a village.

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The walk was great – picturesque and informative. The vegetation was dense and many gum trees were there. The driver said that they were very very old and that the people made eucalyptus oil ‘for the muscle and the baby’.

On our return, I noticed some extensive waterlily areas and the driver kindly stopped while I sloshed off in the mud to capture them.

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In the afternoon, we held off lunch until the shuttle took is to the beach, where we found soul café, recommended by a previous guide (Thanh). Had a cheap lunch of spring rolls and cau lau. Then we headed for the beach and avoided paying for a simple mat or a more luxurious lounge, choosing the sand instead. I was the only one who headed for the water and it was warm and salty. There were 2 lifeguards and red flags set up between which to swim. Few people were in the water, as most lounged under the grass huts or on the lazy boys. It wasn’t sunny, but still hot.

We saw some fishermen take their round boats out, using just a rudder but getting very far. There were junks on the water, too, but we didn’t see anyone on them. This beach is not the main beach. On arrival in Hoi An, the driver took us to an esplanade which I believe is the main swimming area.

However, I loved the character of the beach we ended at. In fact, the whole character of Hoi An was delightful. We felt safe walking the streets by day or night and knew to tip drivers, restaurateurs and the like. This was the tail end of our trip and a great way to end it.

Travel safe. Buy your water in Vietnam, but have plenty of it and take a hat (although the conical rice hats are the best sunshades I have ever worn).

Waterfalls of Adelaide – Morialta.

So, I’ve decided to do a series on Adelaide Waterfalls, for three reasons: Winter is approaching, there are only three of them, and they’re accessible sights of Adelaide.

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Morialta Falls, like Waterfall Gully and Horsnell Gully Falls, is 10km from the centre of Adelaide, along good roads.

There are several carparks, allowing you to either walk long the creek to the main base, or to start from the latter. We had my niece with us, who has done two walks here, so we were competently led along the Falls Plateau Walk and returned via the Second Falls Gorge Track. If you were limited for time or had no desire for trecking, the direct path to the falls is very flat and takes about 10 minutes. There are warnings that it can get muddy and slippery.

The uphill paths are narrow but in good condition and the start was very steep for about an hour, which was only 2km! There were rest stops where you can also get some nice views.

Then it’s onward and upward, past xanthorreas, to see what the viewers ahead can see.

Escarpments, the lower track and the city of Adelaide in the distance.

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Parakeets dashed into the thicket, hid among ghost gums and xanthorrea.IMG_4508IMG_4510IMG_4511IMG_4515

Until, finally, the rugged cliffs of the first falls appeared below, nestled in a harsh ravine.

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You approach the falls from behind, almost on top of it, and the aspect is beautiful.

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Anticipating greater things, and an easier, more downhill climb, we headed for the second falls, which soon became visible.

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From one of  the many bridges and lookouts, we had great views.  The valley is impressive.

IMG_4552We were keen to see the Giant’s cave and face the first waterfall, so we took advantage of the de-cline, checked our route once more and made for the correct track, admiring the views along the way.

Within a short time we were at the mouth of the Giant’s cave, with its functional stairways and nooks for young and old to enjoy.  Our final destination was before us and the main path, here, is very wide and suitable for wheelchairs, prams, the not-so-ambulant and groups of people. It is a short walk, with steep natural walls and century-old constructed walls.

At last! We were facing the first falls. Or trickle.

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We’ll have to see it in Winter and compare the flow, but the sight was majestic, nonetheless. We made our way back to the car, but this time being a little more aware of nature. The park is quite well-known for sightings of wildlife and today was no exception.

If you’ve heard about ‘drop bear’, this is a close up of the culprit.

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looks harmless, right?

Apparently there were roos (kangaroos) but we didn’t see them. The entire walk took us 2 hours, with all of our stops and photos. A couple of Richmond FC players ran past at some stage and they definitely wouldn’t have taken that long. It was an overcast day and only about 23C but the demands of the first stretch did make us thirsty. So be prepared.

Morialta Falls is part of Morialta Conservation Park. You can download the maps for free on your smart phone and know exactly where you are (I discovered later). Morialta was the name given to the park in 1972. Prior to that it was a National Pleasure Resort in 1915, after being donated to the Government by James Reid Smith in 1912. He had purchased it in 1901, but in 1870 Angora goats were introduced to the area, following attempts at mining and grazing. It has an interesting history. The original owners are not named, but I think they would be the Kaurna People. Park management still works with Aboriginal people in the development and maintenance of the area.

For the driest State in the driest Continent, I think we’re doing very well to have waterfalls!

Why! I might just see the one near Victor Harbour and make it a ‘Waterfalls in South Australia’ series.

Safe Travels. Visit South Australia and bring water and a hat. Watch out for drop bears.

Make a landing in Carnarvan

On the jagged north west coast of Western Australia, between Coral Bay and Monkey Mia, lies the town of Carnarvan.  We touched on its history and gardens, but only learnt of its links with space long after we’d passed the sugar scoop and parabolic disks.

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Residing alongside the jetty is the old lighthouse keeper’s cottage. It has been maintained and contains original artifacts, furniture, clothing and documents. We loved the view from the front door, when the back door is open, of the ocean beyond the back yard and we were fortunate to meet one of the family who had lived there. Just checking on things and collecting the gold coin donations, she told us how, as children, when the huge ships came in loaded with goods, she and her siblings would run barefoot down the jetty to watch them unload. They would spend all day at this, as the livestock and goods were loaded on to the tram, which went straight to town.

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The jetty itself was 1 mile long (1.6 km) and although it has been repaired and still has tram runs occasionally, it is shorter. There is a small fee for walking the jetty, which goes towards its maintenance.

We left the jetty and made for the River Gums Cafe, seeing good reviews on the internet and in brochures. It was an interesting drive and the winding dirt road entrance was picturesque. The attached caravan made it through the dips, no worries. We had freshly squeezed juice and an iced coffee, which were both very tasty, but the gardens we observed while we sat at our wrought iron setting, were superb. I have tried to locate the names of the plants I photographed, but I apologise, they were too many. If you know the names of any of them, please let me know.

Carnarvan is sprawled but the centre of town is like any big country town in Australia – wide centre median strip and two lanes on each side. As we moved easily out of town on the good highway, we saw the disks, or parabolas on the hill. My husband recalled something about space tracking.

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Well, the radar disks were involved in the Apollo 11 flight, tracking its progress and sending information across the world. Now almost inoperative, the disks are housed at the Carnarvan Space and Technology Museum and it is written about very highly. We should have done our research and given this town more time, as the waterways, views and museum, that we have since learnt about, would have been enjoyed.

We’ll just have to go back!

Safe travels! Take a hat, water and tourist information.

Longest Fence in the World? The stories from the Rabbit Proof Fence, Western Australia.

I had not heard of the Rabbit Proof Fence until the movie of the same name was released in 2002. This, in turn, was based on the book, Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence, by Doris Pilkington, published in 1996. But the fence and the media are quite different stories.

As I took the ‘Rabbit Proof Fence’ turnoff between Merredin and Coolgardie, it was with mixed emotions. What did it represent to me and to Australia?

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A wide rest area enables you to read about the history of the fence, constructed between 1901 and 1907.  The construction took place in several sections and this part, finished in 1903, is the place where it started and is named No.1 Rabbit Proof Fence, as a consequence.

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The claim that is the longest fence in the world is not true, as when it commenced in 1901 the longest fence already existed, in Queensland.  It is, however, the second.

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When Australia was settled in the early 1800s, many Englishmen/women missed things from home and arranged to introduce them. Few of these were good for the country, although some, like sheep and wheat, were good for the development of a new nation. Well, rabbits were on the ‘bad idea’ list of imports, their purpose being to provide something to hunt for a Victorian grazier. They thrived in the place and spread quickly to the other eastern and southern states. What did they do? – not much. The following cartoon, appearing in 1880 in a NSW edition of Punch tells the story.

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By Contributor(s): Queensland figaro and punch [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Within a few decades they made their way across the Nullarbor and were at the Western Australian border. Hence, the fence was built.

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There are gates every 34 km for access and huts every 48 km, so that the Acting Chief Inspector of Rabbits and his team of 25 boundary riders could inspect and maintain the fence on bicycle, dray, horseback or camel. In terms of pest protection, it was successful until the early 1930s when drought brought as many as 100 000 emus to the fence line. The rabbits had declined due to droughts and the introduction of targeted disease, so the fence was realigned to protect agriculture from the emus and became known as the State Barrier Fence.

The longest fence in the world?

As an Australian, we have the vast distances to complete such a fence. We also have the second longest road in the world. The Dingo Fence, extending from South Australia to Queensland over 5600 km, was built to keep out the dingoes and wild dogs. In that, it has been fairly successful, but is not maintained as well as the Rabbit Proof Fence.

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CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=423904

A shameful part of Australian history is the Stolen Generation. They are the Indigenous people who were taken from their parents and families over a 70 year period, by government officials. Doris Polkington’s mother escaped from such a settlement with her sisters. The account was recorded in her novel, Follow The Rabbit Proof Fence. In order to get home, they followed the Rabbit Proof Fence for 1600 km, through desert, avoiding officials. The movie faced strong criticism and was confronting for many Australians, but it helped to reach the point where, in 2008, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd appologised to the Aboriginal People of Australia for stealing their children and all that resulted. Rabbit Proof Fence is an extraordinary movie but I haven’t read the book.

An unbelievable story from the fence, is the one I read in Wikipedia, copied here verbatim:

In 1929, Arthur Upfield, an Australian writer who had previously worked on the construction of No. 1 Fence, began writing a fictional story which involved a way of disposing of a body in the desert. Before the book was published, stockman Snowy Rowles, an acquaintance of the writer’s, carried out at least two murders and disposed of the bodies using the method described in the book. The trial which followed in 1932 was one of the most sensational in the history of Western Australia. A book was published about the incident called Murder on the Rabbit Proof Fence: The Strange Case of Arthur Upfield and Snowy Rowles.[12] The incident is now referred to as the Murchison Murders.

A pause for critical thinking…

Safe travels, wherever you are going and whatever your goal. Take water and a hat. Every day we make history.

 

Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie, WA

Coolgardie, gateway to the gold mining region, was a stretching stop on the way to Kalgoorlie, that proved to be very interesting. Seeped in history and with charming heritage buildings, Coolgardie lays claim to the first gold sighting in WA,1893, and has excellent facilities for a family stopping there for any length of time.cof

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an old township
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well-maintained automatic ? toilets
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The gardens, said to be ‘the lungs of the town’ in 1916, providing outdoor recreation
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gazebos and trees for shade
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delightful playground
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historic buildings

There was a discovery trail suggested outside the visitor centre, covering the Eastern Goldfields and promising history, geography, culture and exercise. Had we more time, we may have explored further, but headed for Kalgoorlie as our main destination.cofKalgoorlie is etched into Australia’s early mining and railway history and we thought it was worth seeing, at least once. We are glad we did, as the buildings are impressive, the museum informative and the sight-seeing within easy reach.

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centenary buildings

Parking at the visitor information centre (look for the yellow ‘i’ signpost), we received excellent advice about what could be seen in a day. The major sightseeing spots were within a 3km radius.

We started in the very building we were in and explored the City Hall, with its displays of World War I and II, sporting and local heroes and beautifully maintained dress circle.

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We walked the main street, Hannan Street, named after one of three men who found the first nugget, and admired the architecture while we looked for ECOmaniac where the owner recycles things into crafty objects. Very interesting wares. The old market place was a bright construction, well-restored.

There are mining monuments all around Australia, but the one to St Barbara in the main street of Kalgoorlie sent shivers down my spine – it connected me with the present and the past. My family tree goes back to a place in Poland where they mine coal. St Barbara is the patron saint of miners and she is revered in that region of Poland. It reminded me of the great distances travelled by people, to harsh environments, when a new country or mineral was discovered. This circlet tells the dramatic story of Barbara, betrayed by her own father and is just down the street from the Paddy Hannan statue.

 

We jumped in the car to Hannan’s North Tourist Mine, cofwhich was very informative and you’ll find modern-day mining trucks

as well as old machinery, recreated buildings, a miner’s tent with a recording of Paddy’s find, and even a gold panning area where you can keep what stones or gold you find. You find yourself realising that people will endure a great deal in the hope of making it rich, quick.

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The Chinese arch and garden of remembrance were a nice touch, to pay tribute to the many miners who came from China during the goldrushes.

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There are souvenirs and a cafe, as well as outdoor BBQs and tables and chairs in the shade.

A short drive from here is The Mt Charlotte reservoir and lookout. The site informs you of the woodland area and the 360 degree trail has information and photographs about the opening, at the turn of the twentieth century, of the water supply which was the only one for 200km. It is the head of the Golden Pipeline, designed to get fresh water to miners and stop the deaths caused by lack of water.

One claim to fame of Kalgoorlie is the Superpit – once the largest open cut gold mine in Australia (now beaten by another in WA) which has a stunning viewing platform. The mine produces a massive 28 tonnes of gold a year.

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Those massive trucks are at the bottom of the pit
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the viewing platform is very safe

Burt Street, one of the original features of Boulder, established first, was damaged by an earthquake in 2005. A stone’s throw from the Superpit, it has recently been restored to its original state, from the late 1800s. Charming and with a symmetry that blended with the colour scheme, it was very quiet and the locals said that it was hard to keep up business when school holidays were started, and summer coincided.  It’s a hot and dusty place and many people stay home or in the main street of Kalgoorlie to do their Christmas shopping. We had a very good free- trade coffee in Newton’s Espresso Bar.

So, were we in Boulder or Kalgoorlie? Both – the towns merged at the start of the 19th century to sustain growth and share the only water supply for over 200km.

Kalgoorlie-Boulder explored sufficiently, we made for a petrol station, filled up with diesel and made it to Norseman before sunset.

There is a railway line that connects Adelaide to Perth, via Kalgoorlie, the Indian Pacific. Most drivers crossing The Nullarbor do not go through Kalgoorlie, as there is a quicker way to Esperance and Perth.

Always, always take water and a hat. Go west young ones, and see the world!

Safe travels.

Tesselaar Tulips

While scrolling through my emails a few months ago, the BIG4 site had a beautiful photo that caught my eye. It was of a field of tulips, so I explored further and, before we knew it, we were on our way to Victoria, to see the Tesselaar Tulip Festival.

I’m not sure if thousands or millions is the correct power of ten to express the number of blooms and they are gasp-worthy in colour and formation. I’ll do a collage of pictures, but I really want to show each variety.

And there aren’t just tulips – add daffodils, renunculi, magnolia, camelias, azaleas, rhododendron… I’ve run out of my flower vocabulary. If you are ever in Australia in Spring and near Victoria, then be lured here. There is a fee to enter but it is a oncer.

 

The farm was started by a Dutch couple who came here in 1939, on their wedding day and on one of the last boats to leave Europe before WWII started. The beautiful blooms attracted a good deal of attention and people would stop and jump the fence, until finally the crowd was so large that the owners decided to charge a nominal admission. It is currently run by the grandson of the original owners. There are food stalls, souvenirs, coffee and a band was playing. Of course there are plants, but if you intend to travel interstate, we have strict laws in some Australian states about carrying plant matter – you can’t!

Found in Silvan, in the Yarra Ranges of Victoria, it is very near the Dandenong Ranges, whose fern-laden forests and renown gardens are certainly worth a visit. If you are into steam trains, then a ride on Puffing Billy is a must, sweeping you through rain forest, over farmland and past quaint towns.

We came from Healesville via Don Road, Launching Place, Woori Yallock and Seville and saw a variety of scenery, from towering trees to rich, volcanic farmland.

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A very pleasant way to spend a morning, we visited a winery on the way back and were home for lunch.

Safe travels! Take your hat, water and a camera.

Lake Mountain, Victoria

It’s mid-October which is Spring in Australia, and while in shorts we enjoyed 22C at the base, there were remnants of snow on Lake Mountain, Victoria, providing me with my very first view, although it had frozen over to ice.

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The drive here showcased many landscapes and sweeping views of mountain ranges. Traveling from Healesville along the well-maintained and signed Black Spur Scenic Drive, we were awed by the forest trees, reminiscent of Denmark and the tall trees of Western Australia.  The biggest difference was the multitude of towering tree ferns.

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Mountains sweep away to either side of you and in Winter, the Alpine resort is very busy with snow-goers. Several lookouts are provided along the way to enjoy the view.

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I don’t know if you have spotted it, but we saw an odd change in the landscape.  While some hillsides are green and thick with vegetation, others had these strange pelts of white sticks.  We walked to the summit (1433 m) but not the ridge lookout. From here, the sticks were obviously trees. If you enlarge the next picture you can see the ‘bristles’ on the top of other mountains in the distance.

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You can see over the Victorian Alps and the small town of Marysville nestled in the centre of the rolling hills. There was often vegetation at the base of the trunks, or strips of green revegetation along hills, but the ghostly silhouettes led us to inquire.

Gum trees need very high temperature/heat to germinate. The fires, that are not uncommon in Australia in Summer, serve to spread the growth of gum trees. However, in 2009, ferocious fires of an historic magnitude swept the area and Black Saturday was born. Destruction, of humans, environment and buildings, was on a scale never seen before and not since. Marysville was almost completely destroyed. People lost their lives, their homes and their livelihoods.

New solar-operated signs now warn us of the danger of bushfire and we should heed them.

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I am aware that similar devastation has recently occurred in California and it is shocking for a country. People do band together and they rebuild and never forget. Things don’t return to how they were and we have to move with the difference.

The heat was so extreme on Black Saturday that the gum trees will probably never regenerate. Once the centre of Australia was rainforest and 500 000 years later it is desert. Lake Mountain will evolve and we can still enjoy its breathtaking scenery and charming villages.

Safe travels. Take note of bushfire signs.