Thursday, February 28, 2019

Nha Trang, Vietnam - December 2018.

We'd arrived under a brooding sky and sailed out under one as well.
From what I can work out Nha Trang is like Vietnam’s Gold Coast, complete with kilometres of beaches and even it’s own amusement park. I don’t think we saw Nha Trang at it’s best today though as unfortunately it rained for the majority of time we had there. During the Vietnam War Nha Trang was home to the Cam Ranh Air Base which was one of the most important US bases in the war, I’m thinking that the long golden beach must of looked like paradise to the troops on R&R during the war. Leaving our ship early this morning it was a wet and grey as we made our way through the streets of Nha Trang and there’s little more forlorn sight than a wet and grey beach resort I don’t think.
Our first stop today was Ponagar Cham Towers.
Still, we were on holidays so really we had bugger all to whinge about. Our first stop today was at the historical Ponager Cham Towers. From the beginning of the 2nd century AD until over run by the Khmers from the south and the Vietmanese from the north, NhaTrang was home to the Champa Kingdom. Ponager Cham Towers are a relic of those times with the four main towers built between the 7th and the 12th centuries, while the towers copped a bit of damage in WW2 they have been restored fairly faithfully to there original glory. Each of the towers represents a different Hindu deity and the towers are open for tourists to check out, although once again I didn’t feel comfortable wandering inside with my DSLR.
Ponagar Cham Towers date back to the 2nd Century AD.
Photos were a little challenging due to the persistent light rain.
The Ponagar Cham Towers have a commanding position looking down over the Cai River across the flat land to the main beachside strip of Nha Trang. Not only did that mean that we got a good view, it also meant that we didn’t have far to walk in the rain before we jumped onto a boat for a cruise up the Cai River. I’m guessing that the Champa might of been thinking that the hill was a good spot for the towers due more to it being above the swampy ground that exists nearer to the coast, than it’s cruising potential though.
Ponagar Cham Towers
The grounds around Ponagar Cham Towers are worth checking out, this spot is like an island of tranquility surrounded by a sea of humanity I think.
Ponagar Cham Towers overlooks the Cai River.
Leaving the grounds of Ponagar Cham Towers we were back into it.
Ponagar Cham Towers from the Cai River.
Cruising up the Cai River on our little boat we passed by numerous fisherman shacks. These ramshackle houses are where the fisherman live but they are quickly being pulled down and the river front land developed. Our Vietnamese guide assures me that the fisherman are happy about that as the government gives them enough money to relocate and buy a nicer house, I’m not so sure of that though, so once again I’d treat that as a Feral fact. Apart from the fisherman's shacks the river banks are also home to a lot of boat building sheds. Talking of development it was mildly shocking how much land was being reclaimed and developed into shiny sanitised tourist facilities, and yes I know I’m part of the problem and it’s something that I wrestle with constantly in my mind.
The hats were better for keeping the rain off us today rather than keeping the sun off us.
The Cai River cruise was an interesting little sojourn.
Fisherman's shacks line the Cai River in some spots, although the local government is trying to move than on to develop the land apparently.
Cai River
Looking towards Nha Trang from the Cai River.
In some spots every spare bit of land is utilised.
Cai River
A little further up stream we passed some boat building yards.
Boat building yard on the Cai River.
After jumping off our boat we took a drive to check out a ‘rural’ village, we’ll that’s what the blurb for the tour said so I was expecting rice paddies and farm animals. In reality I’d probably call it ‘Suburban Nha Trang’ I think as we definitely weren’t out in the green county side. Still it was an interesting little interlude in the day as first we stopped at a typical farmers house, complete with the farmer who seemed happy enough to share his private house with a ship load of tourists for the day. I’m guessing he makes more in that one day than he makes farming for a year but it still feels a little intrusive. After the farmers house we continued and checked out another house, this one owned by a local Mandarin family who had been in the area for 75 years, this house was a lot larger and had an elaborate garden, as seems to be the case in a lot of places it appears that the Chinese have the most money, prestige, and clout.
After finishing our cruise up the Cai River we visited this temple, the thing is I can't remember the name of he temple.  I do remember the touts though....they seemed to follow us from place to place on their motorbikes.
Rural Nha Trang.

After jumping off the boat we checked out a rural village, although this old truck was probably the most rural thing there.
It looks like most family homes have a shrine, this was inside the farmers home.
The well at the farmers house.
We then moved onto a wealthier families house.
They actually had a couple of shrines, including a smaller one for visitors.
Rural Nha Trang.
With the tropical rain now coming down a little harder we visited one final temple before heading to a small industrial type of area, here we visited a workshop that make the clay ovens by hand. Apparently the local people of the Khanh Hoa Province mark the onset of Tet, the Lunar New Year by smashing their clay ovens, so I guess these guys have a guaranteed market. This spot was a bit rougher around the edges than some of the other spots that we visited and wasn’t quite as sanitised, the workers here had set up a cock fighting ring and here were a couple of sorry looking birds fighting for their life. Now I definitely don’t condone any kind of animal cruelty let alone cock fighting so I’ve had to wrestle with myself whether to post a photo of the cock fighting, in the interests of telling it like it is I’ve decided to put one up, however I want to make to clear that I think those practises are barbaric and the people that facilitate them are gutless wonders.
Next up we visited a clay pot maker.
It took him only around five minutes to knock out one of these pots.
I don't condone this for one second but seeing as I like to put stuff up warts and all I've included a photo.
After leaving the clay oven workshop it was time to head back through though the chaotic back streets of Nha Trang to the ship. With a couple of hours up our sleeves before ship was due to sail we would normally of jumped off the bus in the main tourist strip and checked things out a bit more, however with the rain still coming down this afternoon (and with us being soft) we decided to head back to the ship. Our tender back to the ship from the pier took us under the large cable car that takes the tourists out to the big Vinpearl Amusement Park. This amusement park looks like it does big business with the tourists in Nha Trang judging by the number of fast boats scooting back and forth as well as the busy cable car. The whole set up looked a little ‘Wobbies World’ to me though, although fat, old white man probably isn’t the demographic that they are after I’m thinking. By the time the ship sailed tonight the rain had more or less stopped and had left Nha Trang framed by cloud covered mountains which actually looked pretty good.
Yeah, I know I'm soft.
Heading back to the ship on our tender we passed under the cable cars servicing the Vinpearl Amusement Park.
Heading back for a shower and some fresh clothes before we sailed away.
Vinpearl Amusement Park
Once back on our ship the sun came out for a few minutes for the first time today.

The Dirt.
We visited Nha Trang on a Princess cruise out of Singapore. So being on a cruise pretty well everything was well run and all the logistics sorted for us meaning all we had to really do was to turn up. I'm mentioning all that because it means that I can't actually say what the costs of the individual attractions are (or even if you can visit them when not on a tour?). The tour itself was called Cham Tower, River Cruise & Rural Village and it cost us $90 American each, which I didn't think was too bad. Nha Trang looks to be pretty well set up for tourists, with a long wide sea front boulevard lined by plenty of hotels, restaurants and shops. Vietnam is generally a country where you get a fairly good bang for your buck and Nha Trang didn't seem to be much different in that regard.

Relevant Posts.
Kota Kinabulu, Sabah, Malaysia, 2018.
Singapore, 2017.

We're about to sail back out into the South China Sea, the mountains behind Nha Trang are still brooding under dark clouds.
Sailing away from Nha Trang.
The scenery around Nha Trang was very good, definitely worth spending time on deck to check out - although it's always surprising how few passengers bother to watch these sail aways.
The fishing boats were heading back in for the night.
Sailing away from Nha Trang out into the South China Sea.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Briggs Bluff, Grampians National Park - February 2019

The view along the Difficult Range towards Halls Gap from Briggs Bluff, this is great walking country.
I’ve been neglecting the Grampians a little bit on the blog I’m thinking, a situation that I’ll be rectifying a little over the next month or so. The walk up to Briggs Bluff is a bit of a classic in bushwalking circles I think, it’s a great little walk with lots of rugged scenery and mildly adventurous walking. Summer isn’t really the ideal time for walking up here normally but I had a plan, yeah I was heading off pretty early today in the hope that I’d be back at the ute before the temperature really cranked up.
I was on my way pretty early this morning.
It was around 8:30am when I re-set the GPS and shuffled off towards the towering rocky ramparts. The first section of the walk follows the tourist path for a kilometre or so up to Beehive Falls, it’s very easy walking along here on the crushed gravel path. With little to worry about as far as navigation goes on the wide track and the surrounding scrub still recovering from a serious bushfire, my eye was constantly drawn to the orange cliff lines that I’d soon be making my way through. With Mud Hut Creek being basically dry I was pretty sure that the falls would be a little underwhelming so I was a little surprised to arrive at the base of Beehive Falls and find a small trickle of water. I was here with James a couple of years ago on a grey day in winter and while the extra water flowing down helped the photos of the waterfall a bit, the surrounding rocks didn’t look their best under the grey sky.
Almost as soon as I'd left the ute the scenery was impressive.
My first look at Briggs Bluff - I've got a fair walk ahead of me before I'd be sitting up there.
After a cursory attempt to get a fresh photo of Beehive Falls it was time to set off and climb into the rougher country. Leaving the base of the falls the track immediately starts to climb steeply and keeps climbing that way for the next twenty minutes. Parks Vic have spent a bit of money up here and have done a lot of track work since the walk was closed after the fires and things are a bit different on the ground now. The first change that I noticed was that after climbing through the first cliff line the track more or less stops climbing and starts to head south along a broad sandy terrace. I’m guessing that this re-route and flash new track is something to do with the new Grampians Peaks Track, and I was even more convinced of that when I spied a new track cutting through the trees in the valley below me that looked like it came down from up near Pohlners Road.
Beehive Falls was just a trickle today, Mud Hut Creek was bone dry further up in the hills.
Leaving Beehive Falls the track gets a little rough for awhile, although it's better than it looks here.
As I climbed I started to get views out over the Wimmera Plains.
Looking up towards Briggs Bluff as I climbed, the scenery has a bit of an epic feel to it.
With my new track following a terrace one cliff line lower than the old route I slowly made my way south towards the distant Mt Difficult. The huge continuous cliff line beside me meant that I had to head a lot closer to Mt Difficult before I could eventually climb up a rock shelf and then start back towards Briggs Bluff. If anyone is reading my waffle and thinking of following in my footsteps then just be aware that this new section of track adds 2 or 3 kilometres to the walk, although having said that it’s a very nice walk. With the route eventually curving around and heading back in the direction of Briggs Bluff I still had to climb up to meet the old track on the higher terrace, the track workers here have built a very impressive dry stone staircase up a steep chasm here, if this is a taster for the Grampians Peak Track then it will be a very impressively engineered track when it is eventually finished…..circa 2030 I’m thinking!
This new section of track heads along a lower terrace than the older one, I'm thinking that it's part of the new Grampians Peaks Track?
I could see this new track coming in from over near Pohlners Road which I'm pretty sure is also the GPT.
After walking a long way towards Mt Difficult the new track climbs this ledge and starts to head in the direction of Briggs Bluff.
I climbed this impressive dry stone staircase up onto the higher terrace.
After climbing the dry stone steps the new track passed an impressively large tarn (that was almost dry at end of summer) before eventually re-joining the original route at a long rock rib. I was now back in familiar territory as the track climbed through a rock arch before once again climbing another cliff line to get the next terrace, the track workers have worked thier dry stone magic up here too. Arriving at the sign posted turnoff to Briggs Bluff it looks like the budget ran out though as the route suddenly became a lot rougher and more indistinct. Actually the real reason things get a lot rougher is the fact that the Grampians Peak Track heads off along the old Mt Difficult Range Track here and doesn’t head out to Briggs Bluff.
This is the spot where the old track (the rock slab) and the new track (heading off to the left) re-join.
Heading off towards Briggs Bluff things aren't quite as polished.
The Briggs Bluff Track now gets very rocky, I was frequently walking long rock ribs and climbing over small rocky outcrops. With long sections on rock it’s important to keep an eye on where exactly you are heading along here as for the most part there is no discernible pad. After crossing the dry headwaters of Mud Hut Creek I soon reached the final climb up to the summit of Briggs Bluff. The climb to the summit is once again a little vague (it may be easier later in the day when you wouldn’t be staring into the low morning sun), while it might be a little vague it’s still pretty strait forward really as the top is always in view and it was just a matter of picking my way around the scratchy Grampians Scrub and climbing the steep slabs.
Traversing rocky country over towards Briggs Bluff.
We'd had a little rain this week so there was a little water around in some small rock holes.
Looking back down to Roses Gap from Briggs Bluff summit.
The top of Briggs Bluff was a very pleasant place to be on this Friday morning, with barely a zephyr of a breeze and only enough high cloud to add interest to my photos I was pretty content with life. The north east facing Briggs Bluff cliffs are quite impressive, the 400 metre high cliffs giving a vertigo inducing view down over the billiard table flat Wimmera Plains. It’s not actually the view off the cliffs over the plains that is the most impressive up on Briggs Bluff though, the view back along the Mt Difficult Range towards Halls Gap is simply stunning and the view north towards the Mt Stapylton Complex is only slightly less compelling.
The highest peak on the right is Mt Difficult / Gar.
Lake Lonsdale in the middle distance, with the faint smudge of Langi Ghiran in the distance.
Looking up to the Mt Stapylton Complex from Briggs Bluff.
Briggs Bluff
Looking north from Briggs Bluff.
As the saying goes ‘all good things come to an end’ and indeed it was time to start heading back to the ute. Being late morning now the day was starting to heat up a fair bit and with lots of rock slab walking and virtually no shade I was copping the brunt of the sun now as I retraced my steps. While a rough calculation has me having walked up here close to twenty times I never get sick of this place, the changing light and seasons always offer a different perspective. Dropping back down the new section of track I started the long walk back along the base of the cliff line, this section of the walk now has a bit of a Budawang’s feel to it I’m thinking. Dropping down towards the final scramble back down to Beehive Falls I passed the old track coming in on my right, this old section of the track used to be a fairly easy scramble up (or down) through the rocky bluffs and I’ll miss the adventure of it. Passing by the falls I was soon back at the ute, jumping in and cranking up the air-con I noticed the ambient temperature was already in the low 30˚, it was time for lunch and a swim!
It's important to keep an eye out for clues on the section of the walk to and from Briggs Bluff.
I'm heading down there....
...and through the wonders of blogging I'm already there.
The new section of track.
The new track follows a terrace below this stunning cliff line.
Maybe it's just me but this place reminds me of the Budawang's a bit.
Typical Grampians scenery, sandstone and Grass Trees.
The Dirt.
I walked 13.6 kilometres ad climbed 577 metres on this medium grade stroll, the distance is the GPS distance which includes the new section of track. This is one of the best short walks in Victoria I think, it’s a little adventurous without being super hard and the scenery is jaw dropping in spots. I used some old Tyrone Thomas notes and mud map, John & Lyn Daly have all written up versions of this stroll. I also carried the SV Maps Northern Grampians Sheet. As I’ve already mentioned summer can be baking hot up in the Grampians, a situation that is only exacerbated when walking on bare rock but it is still possible to walk up here so long as you plan your day to minimise walking in the hottest hours. The pay off for dealing with the heat is that most of the time you will find yourself walking under a blue sky, something that helps my photos immensely (and I need all the help I can get!).

Relevant Posts.

Starting to drop down to Beehive Falls again.
Beehive Falls
Beehive Falls
The walk gets really civilised after dropping down passed Beehive Falls.
And another great walk is over.
Time to find somewhere for a swim I think.

Mushroom Rocks, Baw Baw National Park - June 2016

I mentioned in my last post that I was heading out and doing a snow walk next and indeed that's how it turned out. The weather in Me...