Thursday, January 30, 2020

Singapore - January 2019

Marina Bay Sands.

Sam and I had spent time in Singapore in 2017 and 2018, so finding ourselves there again in early 2019 we had a fair idea of the spots we wanted to explore on this visit. We’d just come off a fairly intense 3 weeks cruising around Asia (cough…like I said ‘intense’) so our main aim on this short stay was going to be….more relaxation! Luckily with us staying at Marina Bay Sands again relaxation wasn’t going to be too difficult, my days were largely spent reading and people watching at the pool and Sam’s day’s normally involved shopping, although with Sam being on a Feral budget the shopping was mostly of the window kind.

You've got to get up early to see Marina Bay this quiet.
The view at night is pretty sweet.
The pool at Marina Bay Sands is the main attraction though.
I was successfully adapting to the lifestyle - although it looks like I'd been grazing at the breakfast buffet for a bit too long!
The view from the rear of the pool area isn't too shabby either. Incidentally that building sticking out into the Singapore Strait is the cruise ship terminal.
Singapore is a big trans shipping port (where ships drop their loads to be picked up by other ships and delivered to the final destination).
There's a light show every hour at night up until around 11pm.

When we did decide to head out exploring a bit we checked out a few old favourites and also a few spots that we’d wanted to have a look at but had never had a chance. Satay By The Bay definitely falls into the old favourite category I think, conveniently this Hawkers Market is only a very pleasant 15 minutes walk from the hotel. Satay By The Bay made for a very pleasant place to sit in the early evening as the sting went out of the tropical heat. Sipping on a cold Tiger beer as the almost traditional late afternoon thunderstorm passed through, enjoying a fair variety of the many different foods on offer, life was pretty sweet!

Sam and I quite often enjoy a relaxing meal here at the back end of our days when we are in Singapore.
It's not exactly fine dining at Satay by the Bay....
....but it's got everything I need!

After our nights eating at Satay By The Bay we would inevitably weave our way back to Marina Bay Sands through the Gardens By The Bay. This is another spot that I don’t seem to get bored with, no matter how many times I’ve visited, the colourful and brightly lit man made Super Trees are stunning from wherever you view them. It’s not just the Supertree Grove at Gardens By The Bay though, the gardens are full of quirky sculptures and public art and then there is the architecture and the views back up the bay towards the city and Singapore Flyer which always test out my skill behind the shutter, especially as we inevitably visit at night.

The walk home after dinner is always sweet.
The Super Trees are stunning at night.

The Gardens feature a large variety of public art works.
Gardens by the Bay.
Looking across Marina Bay towards the Singapore Flyer on our walk back to the hotel.
I'm not sure if this worked or not....I never stop trying though;)
Time for bed.

The next hardship that Sam an I had to endure on our short stay was an evening river cruise. We’d seen these small bumboats coming and going as we’d gazed out over Marina Bay from our room and I’d always wanted to do the tour. Meandering our way back to our room one night after tea we found ourselves at one of the jetties that the river cruise stops at, with the night still relatively young we decided to that the time was right. After buying our ticket we jumped onto the next boat that came along, slightly surprised to find that we were sharing the experience with only a couple of other punters.

Evenings at Marina Bay.
Our Singapore River Cruise docked almost beneath the Art Science Museum.
The Helix Bridge.
Our little cruise was hardly crowded.

Now straight away I have to say if there is a more pleasant was to sit back and enjoy the sites of Singapore slip by then I don’t know what it is. Sitting on the open deck as the bumboat slid through the black water creating just enough of a tepid breeze to make the humidity comfortable was pretty special (it may be a different story when the suns out during the day though?). As you may have guessed I find Singapore a stunning city and I particularly like it at night after the heats gone out of the day, sitting back watching the lights, people and sites slip by on this short cruise turned out to be the highlight of this trip to Singapore I think.

Esplanade Theatres on the Bay.
The Fullerton Hotel is one of the flashier hotels in town.
Passing beneath the Anderson Bridge.
The Cavenagh Bridge.

The river cruise heads out fro under the Helix Bridge in Marina Bay (we’ll it did for us, you can hop on or off in numerous spots) and heads up along the Singapore River to Riverside Point near Clarke Key where it hangs a u-ey and heads back down again. When the boat got back to Marina Bay it did a big loop up past the Merlion towards the CBD before heading back down towards the jetty under the Helix Bridge.

The CBD of Singapore from the Singapore River.
Elgin Bridge.
Clarke Quay is a bustling place at night.
The Merlion at Marina Bay.
The Singapore CBD from water level on Marina Bay.
Heading back to the room after another great day in Singapore.

The day after our river cruise Sam and I decided to retrace the journey only this time in the daylight and on foot. Like the cruise, the river walk is pretty sweet. We followed the river upstream on the left bank mostly, passing through the bustling Boat Quay which looked like a great spot for a feed or a drink. Reaching Read Bridge near Clarke Quay we crossed the river but instead of heading back down the river straight away we headed over to the green oasis that is Fort Channing Park.

It was getting close to the Chinese New Year when we visited this year.
There are a lot of cultural and historic sights to see along the river walk.
Public Art outside the Asian History Museum.
Looking across the river towards the Fullerton Hotel... it looks pretty good in the daylight too.
Outside the Asian History Museum.

Fort Canning Park features another wonderful area of green parkland, these areas are synonymous with Singapore I think, well they are certainly what I think of when I think of Singapore. There is network of walking tracks criss crossing Fort Canning Hill and the lush green canopy means that the sting is taken out of the heart and humidity a bit, even in the middle of the afternoon.

Fort Canning park is another of those little green oasis that help make Singapore so special.
Fort Canning Park.
Fort Canning Park.
The tree cover helps to take the sting out of the heat and humidity.
Fort Canning was an old British fort back in the day.
After our little Fort Canning excursion Sam and I returned to the river and slowly made our way back down to Marina Bay, this time on the opposite bank. This was our last full day in Singapore so Sam and I savoured our gentle walk back to the hotel, soaking in the sights, the heat and the humidity and trying to etch everything into our memory to sustain us until our next visit to this wonderful city.

After our walk around Fort Canning we headed back to the hotel mostly sticking to the opposite bank of the river.
There is some nice public art near the Fullerton Hotel.
The Singapore River was an originally a working port and market area.

Relevant Posts.
On this visit we stayed at the very flash Marina Bay Sands Hotel again. This place is probably most famous for it’s roof top infinity pool, it’s a stunning spot to chill out for awhile although it tends to get fairly busy. At least as good as the pool though is the location of the hotel, it’s the perfect spot to easily access the Gardens by the Bay with all it’s attractions. The Singapore River Cruise stops at numerous spots along the river as well as in Marina Bay itself, the hop on hop off service costs $25 Singaporean (generally a similar exchange rate to the Aussie dollar).

Relevant Posts.
Sentosa Island, Singapore, 2018.
Gardens By The Bay, Singapore, 2017.

The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands feature a huge variety of top end gear....good for window shopping when on a Feral budget.... well as a large food court and children's area...
....not to mention a tacky Venice style indoor gondola thing.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

The Crinoline Walk, Alpine National Park - January 2020

The final scramble though the cliff lines protecting The Crinoline looks more daunting than it actually is I think.

The Crinoline is one of those romantic (to bushwalking dorks like me) destinations that has always intrigued me. The mountain originally came to my attention though the pages of Wild magazine back in the day, the red layered cliff lines protecting the summit firing up my imagination. The strange thing was that I’ve never actually got around to attempting the walk, I’ve been past the trail heads (yep, there is more than one way to skin this cat) many times on adventures deeper into the mountains, however I’ve never taken the time to visit this pretty mountain. So…with the eastern and northern sections of Australia’s Alps still on fire I figured that the time was right to have a little excursion to The Crinoline.

I got a cracker of a summers day for this walk.

After consulting the Parks Vic website (is it just me or has anyone else noticed that the new Parks Vic website looks like it was designed by the marketing department, big on great photos and fluff-but the important stuff seems to be buried fairly deeply) and the Vic Emergency map. With the fires a fair way to the east and north everything looked promising, the closest closures that I noticed were Tali Karng and the Avon Wilderness which are still closed from last years big fires. Heading up to Licola first thing this morning I’d passed a couple of large flashing signs stating that camping was again open along the Macalister River, so I was a little perplexed when, just after I crossed the Macalister River at Licola I passed a sign informing me that the Alpine National Park was closed…hmm. Still with the bushfires a long way from here and a fairly benign weather forecast I wasn’t overly concerned, and after arriving at the track head there was no sign that the track was closed…time to push on.

There was no shortage of advice at the start of this stroll.
After some good and very welcome recent rain there was a bit of water about today.

I started this walk at the track head down near the Melbourne Grammar School Camp so I had a fair climb in front of me this morning. Having never been up here before I wasn’t too sure what to expect when it came to the track this morning as I’ve found that things can be a fair bit rougher when it comes to tracks on this side of the Great Dividing Range. Setting off I passed by the usual clutch of signs warning of my impending doom if I tackled the mountain, however I pushed on regardless. I was now climbing from the Wellington River Valley up onto the ridge line that is the watershed between the Wellington and Macalister Rivers and despite the forecasts of doom and gloom I found myself climbing a really well defined and benched section of the long distance McMillans Walking Track (MWT). The climb up here was way better than I’d feared and to make things even sweeter as I climbed the views started to open up, first down into a rugged gorge in the creek below me and then a little further afield over towards the Avon Wilderness.

The MWT section of todays stroll was well graded, clear and well marked.

The MWT is well benched.
I started to get some views down into this nice gorge as I climbed.
Nice walking as I climbed to the ridge line.
Reaching the ridge line my route suddenly turned from westerly to northern as I started to climb the crest towards the still distant and still un-seen Crinoline. The going got progressively rougher as I made my way north now and only got rougher when the MWT wheeled off to the west again. Climbing the ever fading pad I made my way slowly up very steeply onto a high knoll, the pad more or less disappearing on the climb. Now while at best I was following an intermittent pad the going was still reasonably straight forward at the light forest didn’t present too many impediments to forward progress and as long as I stayed on the highest ground and kept heading north then I’d eventually find myself standing on The Crinoline, well that was my theory anyway.

Reaching the crest of the ridge I turned onto Smith St...?
My first objective once on the ridge was this knoll.
The route crosses some of these nice grassy openings on the climb.
The climb is fairly steep in parts.

After topping out on the first high knoll the route eased off for awhile, the red rocky wedding cake layered cliffs of The Crinoline now demanding my attention. I’d heard that the climb involved loose and slippery scrambling through these cliff lines so I was certainly concentrating as I started the last climb. I’m not 100% sure if I climbed the exact route everyone else climbs, although I appeared to stay fairly close to the route as marked on the old VMTC map that I was using. Now I suppose I could embellish this a bit with a bit of bloggers license however in reality this climb wasn’t too bad…yes, it was pretty steep and a little loose however there was really only one 3 metre cliff line that I found that the use of my hands was necessary (it could be possible to bypass this cliff line to the west a little bit?).

Once on top of the first knoll I got my first good look at The Crinoline.
While the pad fades in and out the scrub is fairly light up here.
The ground on the slopes of The Crinoline consists of this loose red gravel which requires a little caution.
Looking back down my ridge (and to the distant Macalister River Valley.
Once up the easy scramble it was a short walk to the summit.
Once back on two feet above my little scramble it was fairly gentle walk over to the small copse of straggly Snow Gums crowning the summit, with only one very short very narrow and exposed saddle to negotiate. Like I mentioned the summit of The Crinoline is home to a few Snow Gums, however they are still trying to recover from the last bushfire that came through here ten years or so ago so they are pretty scappy and bushy still. As well as the Snow Gums there is also a very small cairn up here, although really the summit isn’t the main attraction. It’s the views that make this place special and the open plateau makes it very easy to meander around and take things in.

The Crinoline summit cairn.
Looking back towards the cliff lines protecting The Crinoline.
Long Hill.
The route across to Long Hill drops through this high saddle - I'm thinking that I might head back and explore a bit when the weather cools down - lets hope it doesn't burn this summer.
After having a long break on the cliff line that marks the northern limit of the plateau while I gazed across to the imposing cliff lines protecting Long Hill, I reluctantly grabbed my pack and started my journey back down to the ute. Being a retrace my walk back down to the Wellington River was a fairly strait forward affair, having just climbed the same route I was able to avoid the one or two spots where I’d dropped too far off the side of the ridge as I was climbing and pretty much stayed on the highest ground until I started to pick up the intermittent pad again. While it was strait forward when it came to navigation I still had to be a little careful on the rough ground, particularly as I dropped down through the cliff lines.

Looking fairly pleased with myself up on The Crinoline....yes I've got my hat on backwards again. Like I've said before...I'm old! ;)

It's fairly easy wandering around up here.
There is a very high, narrow and exposed saddle that I had to cross. Thats the Wellington River Valley 800 metres below me.
The Wellington Plateau and Purgatory Spur over in the Avon Wilderness is on the skyline. It's still closed from last years fires at the moment however.  I've long harboured an ambition to walk that very, very remote route...we'll see.
Back down below the cliff line everything was fairly straight forwards again.
Back on down on a reasonable track again I crossed a nice little snow plain that looks like it is a semi formal camping spot, there is even some water drums 20 metres away to the east although they were empty and smelling pretty ordinary today. After attempting to clean out the guttering for the water drums I resumed my descent again, the track now once again obvious and fairly easy. Dropping off the ridge line the bush flies were increasing as I lost altitude and were starting to annoy me a little however really the flies were the only negatives on what was a great day. Dropping further into the valley along the benched track I stopped for one last view across to the bare, bushfire ravaged Wellington Plateau - when Parks Vic eventually allow access to the Wellington Plateau and the Avon Wilderness again I have a rough plan for a long walk out there.

There are a few native pines up on the ridge.
Easy rock hoping along the crest.
I picked up a bit of a zig zagging pad when I reached these grassy openings. 
The drums were empty and smelt rank.
I did a little bush plumbing but couldn't really get the water flowing - I think it needs half a metre of fencing wire to get into the elbow...?
After a bit of an up close and personal encounter with a Goanna I suddenly found myself at the bottom of my descent, meandering my way the last ten mutes or so back to the ute. Arriving back at the ute I threw my sweaty boots in the tray and was about to head off when I glanced across at the signs marking the start of the track. Hmm, while I’d been off on my adventure the Parks Vic guys had come along and put up a sign closing the track due to bushfire and flood damage. Now I won’t lie, my immediate thoughts went along the line of ‘Fuck me I hope they don’t fine me for heading up’. Quickly putting those negative thoughts out of my head I started to ponder why the track was closed. The sign said the track was closed for fire and flood damage however having just walked the track I’m here to tell you that there was no recent (think at least 5 years and probably closer to 10) fire or flood damage, yes the Snow Gums up the top were still trying to recover however since the big fires started ripping through the alps in the last 10 to 15 years it’s getting harder and harder to find mature Snow Gums in the Australian Alps so I don’t think it was closed for the trees.

Much like the rest of the Australian Alps the country up here is still recovering from bush fires.
Heading back down towards the Wellington River.
There were some nice views through the trees as I dropped down.
The Wellington Plateau was ravaged by fire last year.
Old mate meandered down the walking track in front of me for awhile...
....before climbing a tree.
Pondering the situation as I drove into Licola to buy a drink I was starting to think that Parks Vic must have it closed due to the fire over on the Howqua, gee that’s a long way away though. Dropping into the Licola General Store to spend some coin I mentioned to them the situation….and they weren’t too happy with Parks Vic. They couldn’t believe that the Great Alpine Road and other roads further east where the fires had gone though had been re-opened while at the same time the Alpine National Park was still closed around them when the fires had all been a fair way away. I guess Parks Vic are playing it safe which is fair enough, although it must be hard for these little communities that rely on the tourist dollar.
Almost back at the bottom.
Tamboritha Road has just come into view through the trees.
The Dirt.
I walked 12.5 kilometres and climbed 985 metres on this medium-hard grade walk. As I mentioned earlier I wasn’t too sure what I was going to get on this walk, however on the ground things were pretty good really. The MWT section of the walk was particularly good being benched and fairly well graded, once on the ridge line things get a bit rougher as the track fades away, the fairly open scrub made progress pretty strait forward though. The final climb through the cliff lines of The Crinoline required a bit of fairly easy scrambling and may freak some people out a bit. I used some very old notes out of Glenn van der Knijff’s Bushwalking in the Victorian Alps book along with S.R.Brookes brilliant Victorian Mountain Tramping Club Snowy Plains, Mt Kent Map and my GPS maps. Being an alpine peak people need to be aware of the weather if anyone decides to follow me up here….oh, and make sure you jump onto the Parks Vic website to make sure the track is open before you leave home!

Relevant Posts.
Lake Tali Karng Walk, Alpine National Park, 1994.
Vallejo Gantner Hut to Catherine Saddle, AAWT, Alpine National Park, 2017.

The No Entry sign went up between when I left the ute and when I arrived back. It looks like the areas on the river are open but everything else is closed.

Crossing the bridge into Licola the Macalister River was a chocolate colour after the recent rain.

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...