Sunday, March 31, 2019

Moggs Creek Circuit, Great Otway National Park - March 2019

Conditions were a bit overcast this afternoon.
I had some good luck this week, yes last week I managed to drive half way across Victoria before arriving at my camp site after midnight to realise that I’d left my pack sitting beside my front door at home. So this week I was concentrating furiously as I loaded up the ute in the early hours of Friday morning, I’d made sure that to even get out the door I’d have to trip over my pack.

Luckily (as it turned out) I had to do a few hours at work this morning before heading down to the Surf Coast. Normally ‘work’ and ‘lucky’ aren’t words that would appear in the same sentence together in my Feral world. This morning the lucky part of the sentence was inserted because, as I pulled up into the dark car park at work and went to check my emails I realised that my phone was still plugged into the charger at home….what the fuck is wrong with me?

Now my first reaction was to abandon all plans and retreat to the couch to watch Trump’s latest cluster fuck on CNN (always guaranteed to make me realise that as bad as things are in my Feral world it’d be a whole lot worse if I was living in America). As luck would have it though my few hours of work drudgery allowed my foggy brain to process the situation a bit better. After a quick look at the Aireys Inlet tide times and a few rough calculations I decided that I’d have time to head back to Chateau Feral, grab my errant phone and still get the walk done in the daylight hours…maybe.
Setting off today I avoided the beach and climbed up onto the cliff tops towards the Aireys Inlet Lighthouse.
The view back down to Aireys Inlet.
After a fairly painful (it was the start of a long weekend) drive I arrived at the start of the walk at Aireys Inlet to be greeted by …..grey sky and light rain, maybe my luck wasn’t so good after all. The reason I’d ended up down at Aireys Inlet this afternoon was really due to a process of elimination, I’d wanted to head to the High Country but unfortunately the eastern half of Victoria was once again on fire, the Prom and Mt Blackwood at Lerderderg were still out of the equation due to fires as well. So anyway it was somewhat ironic I suppose that I set off on today’s stroll in the rain.
I'd be finishing my walk with a 4 kilometres walk along this beach in a few hours - hopefully with a somewhat lower tide.
Split Point Lighthouse at Aireys Inlet.
It was after 2pm when I left the ute and climbed up to the Aireys Inlet Lighthouse this afternoon, so with over 20 kilometres in front of me I didn’t have a lot of time up my sleeve today, especially considering that I move at the same pace as a Sloth on Valium. I’d walked the first bit of today’s walk last year on a stroll along the coast from Urquhart Bluff, on that walk I’d been blessed with bright blue sky and sunshine. So today, with the grey and overcast conditions it meant that at least I wasn’t getting slowed down taking to many more photos along the cliff tops.
The lighthouse lookout is a good one.
With grey sky overhead I was struggling with my photos this afternoon.
Looking along the coast towards Point Roadknight and Angelsea.
The view back towards the lighthouse from Sandy Gully Lookout.
Arriving at Boundary Road I left the coast and followed a series of quiet country roads. First up I followed the gravel Boundary Road for a couple of kilometres before turning right onto the bitumen Bambra Road for a few hundred metres and then turning left towards the Distillery Creek Picnic Area. Now if you think that this road walking sounds a little average well you’d be pretty right but the good news is that from now on everything is good again. I’ve been here before quite a few times over the years on walks through Ironbark Gorge and over to Currawong Falls, but I have never realised that the Distillery Creek Picnic Area spread out onto the south side of the road. So arriving at the picnic ground this afternoon I was scratching my head for a couple of minutes while I tried to make sense of my notes, eventually I wandered out the access road (I’d walked in via a walking track thinking that I was being a bit creative) and sure enough just up the hill there was another sign pointing to another picnic area.
Up until now I'd been walking the Surf Coast Walk....
....but now I followed Boundary Road for awhile.
Boundary Road...I was heading for those hills.
Bambra Road
I took a scenic detour as I headed into Distillery Creek Picnic Area.
Once in the correct spot it didn’t take me long to find the signposted walking track heading off into the scrub towards Moggs Creek Picnic Area. It was around now that the constant light rain got slightly heavier so there aren’t many photos of this section of the walk, although really the dry, open Eucalyptus forests always test my talent behind the shutter anyway. The walk now followed a designated walking track for a kilometre before emerging onto a gravel 4wd track, and heading towards Painkalac Dam, I’m thinking this old 4wd track was put in when Painkalac Dam was being built as the old track contours fairly easily through the hills towards the dam which would of allowed the trucks to get in.
Once I found myself in the correct picnic area I was on my way again.
The rain was light but constant now.
My ageing brain could do without flow charts on my walks!
The quiet road contoured around the hills above some farmland, heading towards Painkalac Dam.
The light rain was still falling as I arrived at spillway for the dam, the local ducks enjoying the damp conditions more than the dishevelled walker this afternoon. After taking a perfunctory photo of the dam I set off towards Moggs Creek Picnic Area, my route now starting a solid climb up to meet Gentle Annie Track. The good news was that whilst the climb was long enough it was fairly gentle, I even got a few views back down to Painkalac Dam through the trees, now a long way below me. After crossing straight over Gentle Annie Track I started an equally longish descent down to Moggs Creek Picnic Ground, like a lot of these tracks this section of the walk is shared with mountain bikers and while these guys and girls are normally great people who generally ride fairly responsibly it still pays to be careful on downhill sections where the bikes could come up behind you fairly quickly.
The Painkalac Dam spillway.
Yep, good weather for ducks this afternoon.
Painkalac Dam
Leaving the dam I started a solid climb....
....getting a few glimpses of Painkalac Dam, now a fair way below me.
After a nice little walk down from Gentle Annie Track I arrived at the deserted Moggs Creek Picnic Area just as the light rain stopped, sweet! It was a little surprising that this large well appointed picnic area was deserted while a couple of kilometres away the facilities along the Great Ocean Road are groaning under the pressure from all the visitors, still I suppose there are no ocean views here and the forest is looking a bit tired at the tail end of a long, hot and dry summer. Suitably refreshed and after having touch base with Sam (the reason I couldn’t head off with my phone at home) I set off once again, now heading for the Ocean View Lookout along another signposted walking track.
Crossing straight over Gentle Annie Track I started to drop down to Moggs Creek Picnic Area.
A lot of these tracks are shared with my mountain bike brothers and sisters.
The walk down from Gentle Annie Track to Moggs Creek Picnic Area is pretty sweet.
The large Moggs Creek Picnic Area was deserted this afternoon.
There is a choice of walking tracks along here, I took the left fork this afternoon. Which ever track you take there is another reasonable climb up to the Ocean View Lookout but once again the climb is fairly gentle. With my route slowly gaining height as I passed through a few gullies I eventually started to get some glimpses out to Bass Strait through the trees, although the gun metal grey water beneath the equally gun metal grey sky meant that my photos were fairly underwhelming. After crossing another fire track and topping out I dropped a few metres down to the Ocean View Lookout viewing platform.
I took the left fork on the climb up to Ocean View Lookout.
Does anyone else think that there doesn't appear to be as many Magpies around as there use to be?
I started to get some views out across Bass Strait.
Ironbark Forest.
The view from the Ocean View Lookout stretches from Aireys Inlet in one direction to beyond Lorne in the other direction so, as you’d imagine it’s pretty good. We are not talking pristine wilderness here though as in every direction the scene has been altered by man, with lots of very flash beach houses clinging to the hill sides and the busy Great Ocean Road twisting it’s way along the coastline. After another long break I decided that I’d better get going if I wanted to be back before dark. I’ve walked up here before years ago and remember a convoluted series of left/right/left turns that saw me finally arrive at lookout from the beach so heading down in the opposite direction this afternoon I was pleasantly surprised to find a clear well sign posted path, about the only danger now would be getting hit by a car as I crossed the busy Great Ocean Road I think.
Split Point Lighthouse and Aireys Inlet.
Looking down towards Lorne in the other direction.
The author is looking suitably dishevelled and grumpy.
There is an easy track to follow track down to the beach now.
Arriving on the beach it was just a matter of turning left and start trudging towards the distant Split Point Lighthouse. This section of the walk was one of the reasons why I’d had to do a few rough time calculations before leaving home this morning, walking along the beach at low tide is a very easy ramble but high tide is a pain in the arse, and not so good for the Hooded Plovers that build their nests above the high tide line. Passing Moggs Creek (which wasn’t flowing to the ocean) I started to get close to a great Ocean Road landmark, the Pole House. This house is built on a pylon protruding out from the hillside, you certainly wouldn’t want to suffer from vertigo if you stayed here I don’t think.
The biggest danger on this walk is probably crossing the Great Ocean Road I'm thinking.
Time to turn left and head back to Aireys Inlet.
Overhead conditions were still somewhat grey.
With the rain having returned again I shuffled the last few metres along the hard sand, the Split Point Lighthouse was now sticking it’s head out from the cliffs above me. Reaching the bluffs I headed inland around the waters of Aireys Inlet, stopping for a minute to take another photo of the local ducks who once again seemed to be enjoying the weather more than me! I arrived back at the ute just before 8pm so the walk was comfortably over before it got fully dark, although with around 4 kilometres along the beach to finish the stroll off, it wouldn’t of been that hard to walk it in the dark I don’t think.
Approaching the Pole House at Fairhaven.
Bass Strait was relatively calm this afternoon.
Fairhaven Beach.
The Dirt.
I walked 21.6 kilometres and climbed 460 metres on this medium-hard grade stroll. I’m thinking that this walk would be a lot better on a sunny day and if the weather was warm a swim is always an option, spring would be good for the wildflowers on the long forest sections. I used the notes out of the Chapman book Day Walks Victoria today, the only time I had any navigational issues was at Distillery Creek Picnic Area but that was totally my fault and not a flaw in the notes. Mr Tempest has also written up a similar version of this walk in one of his books I think. Another option for this walk would be to start at Moggs Creek Picnic Area or Distillery Creek Picnic Area and have lunch at a café or the pub in Aireys Inlet.

Relevant Posts.
Urquhart Bluff & Aireys Inlet, 2018.
Ironbark Gorge & Currawong Falls, Geat Otway National Park, 2017.
Angelsea to Point Addis, Great Otway National Park, 2018.

Split Point
Aireys Inlet, the end is in sight.
The ducks were out and about on Aireys Inlet, it was that kind of day really.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam - December 2018

Ho Chi Minh City
This is another tale from our cruise around the South China Sea last year, with Ho Chi Minh City being a fair way from the ocean we'd docked in the port city of Phu My this morning and then set off on a long bus ride into the city. Now I’m thinking for 99% of the punters this two hour bus trip was something to be endured, for me though it was a very interesting way to bookend the day. Our bus first had to wind it’s way out of the port before passing through kilometres of industrial areas as it jostled with the trucks servicing the many factories, now that might not be interesting to most people but I’ve grown up around trucks and my whole adult life has been working in industrial sites, so there was a lot for the trainspotter in me to check out. After escaping the industrial area we motored along a freeway through rice paddies and over some huge rivers before heading through the suburbs of Ho Chi Minh City into the centre of town, all in all we got a pretty good, warts and all, look at life around Ho Chi Minh and that was before we ever started to tick off the tourist attractions in town.
We docked at the port in Phu My this morning.
Sõng Soài Rap
The drive into Ho Chi Minh City was through a bit of industrial land and some rural farmland.
Eventually though my people watching through the window of the bus came to an end and we arrived at our first stop, the Minh Phuong Lacquer Factory. It seems like these lacquerware pieces (anything from pictures to small jewellery boxes, right up to large furniture sets) are very popular with the tourists. While they don’t really do much for me it was interesting to see the delicate processes that go into making these pieces. The skill here is that the pieces all have egg shells or mother of pearl shells crushed into tiny pieces and placed with tweezers to make the pattern that the artisan is after (maybe check out the photos and you’ll see what I mean), before they then put the lacquer over the top. Of course after going through the production process we were ushered into the show room for a bit of retail therapy as is pretty standard on these tours….hey, the air-con was good!
The Lacquer Factory.
The Lacquer Factory.
Eat your heart out Picasso.
It's not really my cup of tea - but the air con in show room was good!
It looks a little like something I saw on the sides of a Sandman back in the day.
Jumping back onto our chariot we headed further towards the centre of town. Our next stop was the Notre Dame Cathedral which dates back to 1880. Ho Chi Minh City has a big French flavour to it, as Saigon (as it was then known) was occupied by the French for just less than one hundred years, starting from 1859. The wide, tree lined boulevards, old European buildings and sprawling parks are all a left over from those times. Now Notre Dame Cathedral is nowhere near as grand as it’s Parisian equivalent but it’s still a pretty impressive old building I think. It’s not just Notre Dame that makes this spot special though, as after braving the waves of motorbikes, we were able to cross the road and check out another historic old French building, this time the old Post Office that was finished being built in 1891. The old Post Office is a neo-classical building and with it’s arched windows and vaulted ceilings it looks more like an old railway station to me. The architect that designed and built the Post Office was a man by the name of Gustave Eiffel…apparently he designed a few other things too.
Notre Dame
Saigon Central Post office
The inside of the old post office reminded me of an old railway station a bit.
Now Notre Dame and the historic Post Office were all nice enough but for me the most interesting thing in this spot was an old, grey, slightly dilapidated looking building a hundred metres or so away. This old building is featured in one of the most famous photos of all time (well that’s an under thought out, Feral opinion!). The bare, square box like building is the same building that featured in the many news reports of the fall of Saigon, the picture of the US helicopter hovering on the roof while people clambered up a ladder trying to get on was called the last flight at of Saigon in many news articles a the time, it was a powerful image of a war going wrong (now once again the only research I've done on this is listening to out tour guides spiel, so it could be another Feral fact!). Now days the original building is still there but there is a big, modern highrise building right behind it so you need to use a little imagination to recreate the photo in your head, thankful my Feral imagination is one of the few things I’ve got that still works well.
Does this place look familiar?
How about this one. Here's one I took earlier;)
The Reunification Palace.
I'm not sure if this is the actual tank that burst through the gates back in 1975.
Next up we headed to the Reunification Palace for a bit of a look. The palace even features an old North Vietnamese Army Tank in the grounds, although I’m not sure if it’s the same one which crashed though the gates in 1975 marking the Fall of Saigon. We didn’t actually go into the Reunification Palace today though, we just checked it out through the gates before jumping back onboard our bus and making the short trip over to Ben Thanh Market. We had around an hour at the bustling and somewhat claustrophobic markets, although after venturing inside the rabbit warren of stalls it didn’t take me long to realise that this wasn’t for me. Thankfully Sam isn’t that keen on cheap knock off’s either so we decided to explore a little around the area onside the market. If you ever find yourself at Ben Thanh Market then that is the time to be on high alert when it comes to looking after your passport and wallet I think, it’s prime pick pocket territory I reckon. Thankfully Sam and I had now mastered the road crossing technique so we were able to make our way around the neighbourhood in relative safety.
Ben Thanh Market
It was a bit too crowded inside the market so Sam and I spent some time exploring the surrounding area.
It wasn't all motor bikes in Ho Chi Minh City.
This place is definitely bustling. 
Exploring Ho Chi Minh City on foot.
Ben Thanh Market
Ben Thanh Market
After visiting the Ben Thanh Market we made the short trip over to Dong Khoi Street, this is reputably one of Ho Chi Minh City’s busiest streets and is home to a lot of shops both of the knock off and high end variety. We had a few hours of free time to wander around here but to be honest the heat and humidity were pretty extreme so we squibbed it a bit. After checking out the French inspired Opera House, the National Museum of Vietnamese History and Union Square we retired to an air-conditioned cafe for lunch, yep we are hardcore travellers!
The Opera House
There is a real French feel to a lot of the architecture in Ho Chi Minh City.
Ho Chi Minh City
Dong Khoi Street is one of the more popular shopping strips in Ho Chi Min City.
Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City
After our relaxing lunch it was again time to jump back on the bus and head back to Phu My and our ship. It was now afternoon peak hour in Ho Chi Minh City and we did indeed achieve peak motorbike I think, the bikes where everywhere, even taking to the foot paths if the roads were a bit slow. Once again this all sounds a little ho hum, but coming from a western style city I found it fascinating watching the (somewhat) organised chaos around me, everyone seemed to be getting to where they needed to go and best of all there was no agro. It was early evening when we got back to the ship and we just had time for a quick shower before heading up on deck to take in the view as we sailed away from Vietnam.
Heading out of Ho Chi Minh City at knock off time.
There were new factories being built everywhere with no shortage of Australian and American companies setting up there. Maybe Trump is making Vietnam Great Again with his Chinese tariffs? It looks like everyone has moved shop across the border.
The workers live in these new cities, there are miles and miles of them lining the highway.
Crossing back over the Sõng Soài Rap on the way back to the ship.
There isn't much land wasted here, in between the sprawling industrial cities we passed beside farmers working in their rice paddies.
The Dirt.
We visited Ho Chi Minh City on a Princess cruise and with the ship docking a good hour and a half from the centre of the city in the port town of Phu My, we decided the best way to check things out would be on a Princess tour. We went on a tour called Lacquer Factory, Central Market & Dong Khoi Street which cost us just under $100 US for the day, with the tour lasting for around ten hours it's a big day out.

Relevant Posts.
Nha Trang, Vietnam, 2018.
Singapore, 2017.

Like I've said before - I'm soft!
Back at the ship, our day in Ho Chi Minh was over. Time for a shower!

The ship actually docked a fair way up the Sõng Thi Vái, judging by the number of dredges out as we left tonight it must take a lot of work keeping it open for big ships.

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...