A Travel Destination At My Back Door

With spring well and truly settled in here in the Southern part of the world, the days are getting warmer and the sun is in the sky longer.  Today I headed north from Maroochydore on the Sunshine Motorway.  The plan was to pick up a friend from Perigean Springs and take a hike in the Noosa National Park.

The park lies between Noosa Beach and Coolum and is divided into sections along the coast.  The section we were visiting today was the Noosa Headland Section which has a web of walking tracks running through and around it making it suitable for almost anyone to access.

As with most National Parks one can find a diverse range of wildlife and plants here.  The list includes  the koala, a ground parrot, the wallum froglet and glossy black-cockatoo.  I have seen Echidnas wandering the tracks here as evening falls as well.

noosa-national-park-walking-tracks
Courtesy QLD NAT PARKS

The Coastal track is a little over 5 kilometers and takes roughly two hours walking at a steady pace.  The tracks are well signed and often cross each other so it pays to take note of which one you are on.

The Coastal track runs from Sunshine Beach in the south, around the headland in finishes at Noosa Beach.  Parking is easier at the Sunshine Beach end as there are several jumping off points whereas, at the Noosa end, the track starts at the day use area and there is very limited parking.  There used to be a bus service from Noosa Beach to the day use area but that has been discontinued and once the small parking area is full it means a 700-metre walk in from the beach.

We opted for the Sunshine Beach end and parked at the end of Surf Street before taking Track 5 (Blue on the Map) which would bring us out on the beach at Alexandria Bay.  This beach is more commonly known among the locals as A Bay and has gained some notoriety as a clothing optional beach.

The day was fine and hot and so we made sure we had hats and a good supply of drinking water. Good walking shoes are also recommended as parts of the track can be a little rough underfoot.

An hours walk from the nearest car park ensures this pristine beach is free from the crowds.
Alexandria Bay.  Just an hours walk from the nearest car park, this pristine beach is free from the crowds.

When we actually arrived at the beach it was quite deserted with only a few folk strolling along and the odd sunbather in the dunes.  I guess it is rather isolated from the rest of the world with a one hour walk in from either end,  there are plenty of beaches that are far easier to spend the day at.

Steep steps lead off the northern end of the beach as we headed up to the actual Headland.  Here there are magnificent views of the coast and over the park itself.

From the Noosa Headland back to Sunshine Beach A Bay is a desrted paradise.
Looking back from the Hell’s Gate back to Sunshine Beach, A Bay is a deserted paradise.

As we approached Hells Gate, a group of young women was sitting on a rock resting and my friend, Peter, suggested that I might like to take a photo of A Bay beach, indicating that the rock would form the foreground to the photo.  He laughingly offered to be in the photo as a focus point.

Pete opened his mouth and offered to be a part of the pictuer with these four lasses from Switzerland. Was shocked when I took him up on the offer and put it to the girls...
Pete opened his mouth and offered to be a part of the picture with these four lasses from Switzerland. Was shocked when I took him up on the offer and put it to the girls…

It was a lovely setting and so, to his horror, I asked the girls if they would mind indulging Peter’s whim.  After some moments of confusion because of a language difference, Peter duly settled himself in amongst the bevy of beauties.  A veritable thorn in the rose bush if ever there was one.

The four girls came from Switzerland and were studying here before heading off to see more of the country.

The rocky headland at Alexandra Bay.
The rocky headland at Alexandria Bay.

The headland is called Hells Gate as there is a deep cutting that channels the sea making a cauldron during rough weather. A similar outcrop at the other end of A Bay is called Devils Kitchen. From here, and indeed all along the higher points on the track, one can often spot a whale or two as they head to and fro between their winter and summer ranges.  Today was not one of those days unfortunately however, we did see a lot of coral spores that had been blown down from the huge coral reefs to the north.

Coral Spore drifts before the wind along the headland
Coral Spore drifts before the wind along the headland

A Bay is around the halfway point and so we headed on around the shoreline checking out the view from the various bays along the way.  There are lookout points at Dolphin Point at the end of Granite Bay and then again at Boiling Pot just beyond Tea Tree Bay.

Halfway between Noosa Heads and A Bay lies Granite Bay. Popular with surfers catching waves from the point
Halfway between Noosa Heads and A Bay lies Granite Bay. Popular with surfers catching waves from the point

Tea tree Bay is a popular spot and is at the end of the paved track that allows pushchair and wheelchair access to the park.  Koalas can often be seen in the trees although again, it was not to be for us this day.

The path along the seafront cters for wlkers, runners and cyclists. There are plenty of places where you can rest and take in the expansive views as in this lookout just east of Granite Bay
The path along the seafront caters for walkers, runners, and cyclists. There are plenty of places where you can rest and take in the expansive views as in this lookout just east of Granite Bay

There are some extraordinary views to be had all along the track with stunning sea views going back into the hinterland behind the coast.

Apaddleboarder waits for a wave to take him back to Noosa Beach
A paddle boarder waits for a wave to take him back to Noosa Beach

We finally made it back to civilization and Peter treated me to a burger and beer from Betty’s Burgers and Concrete which is just over the road from the surf club at Noosa Beach. This had to be one of the best burgers I have had in a very long while.

After the burger and feeling well satisfied we caught a bus back to Sunshine to pick up the car and head home.  A great day’s traveling right here in my own back yard

 

 

A New Beginning

Crow's Nest
Crow’s Nest

After several false starts at this Blogging business I have turned to WordPress to support my blog. With it comes a change of Domain and henceforth I can be found at street2stream.com.  The change is subtle, but I have to agree with my mentors, cleaner.  I have transferred all of the material I have put out there to this site and so I am now happy that this will take me long into the future.

It all started when a fellow asked me if I had a business card so that he could look up my site when he got home. This set me to thinking that I should get serious with this and produce something that would help get me known out there.

As I began to design what I wanted, I realised that I had no solid contact details that I could take forward.  I had a website which didn’t really allow me much freedom in design and it didn’t seem to want to connect with my WordPress page.  I spent a day trying to sort that out before remembering that the niece of a friend knew a little about  how it all works.  A quick message on messenger and Malliree was on the case.  Although I was only seeking some pointers she spent some serious time trying to sort it all out. When she sleeps, I do not know, as she was sending me questions all through the night.  Thank you Mal for all your efforts, I really do appreciate them.

I follow a great travel blog called “Goats On The Road”, and decided to follow their advice and hook up with the web hosting site, SiteGround. After speaking with their sales team I decided that I would take the plunge and change horses.  I secured the site and so have spent the day sorting out a new and hopefully improved website and page

This means a new email address keith@street2stream.com along with a new URL for the blog.  It can now be found at street2stream.com 

 

The sun dips low on the horizon near Siem Reap, Cambodia
The sun dips low on the horizon near Siem Reap, Cambodia

Since beginning my photographic journey I have progressed from an early Pentax Film camera to the world of digital. My first digital was a Fuji Finepix s100fs, which was a bridge camera with a large zoom range but a fixed lens. Was a brilliant camera at the time but technology moves on and I have progressed through a Canon 450D to my current Canon 70D model.

 

I started out taking almost exclusively nature shots, mainly of birdlife but anything I could see that took my fancy. After a time I ventured into other genres as I learned a little about the art. Now-a-days my focus is more on Street shots as I enjoy capturing the things that people do in their everyday lives.

Sadly people often see a camera pointing at them and take it as a slight against their personal space. For me it is always a catch 22 as to whether to take the candid shot or wait to ask permission first. Of course, waiting looses all the spontaneity that a candid shot provides and it is often these shots that are the best. What the answer is, I don’t know but I hope that we don’t all become so precious about privacy that we forget to live.

I hope to bring my world of ideas to light through these pages over the coming months and years, portraying the world as I see it through the stories my lens tells.

Please feel free to comment on anything that takes your interest.

Weekend In Vung Tau

After a pleasant nights’ sleep at the Hong Han Hotel, I woke fresh and hungry.  One floor down I could smell the delicious flavours of freshly cooked food along with the rich aroma of freshly brewed coffee.  I may have mentioned, that in a short few days, the particular kind of coffee made in Vietnam had become a firm favourite.

Breakfast In Vietnam
Tastes Yummy

After packing my meagre belongings I wandered down one flight of stairs to the first floor where breakfast was being served on the small balcony overlooking the street.  It was the usual fare, to which I had quickly become accustomed, with tasty bread rolls and a selection of fruit and various cooked offerings.  My favourite was a kind of a cross between an omelette and scrambled egg, all washed down with a coffee.

 

I chatted with some of the guests who were visiting from all corners of the world, and spent a lazy half hour just soaking up the atmosphere.  Seeking out mine host, Kim, I sought some advice as to where I needed to meet the bus that would take me south to Vung Tau that afternoon.  We agreed that, although it was a short walk, it was probably best if I take a cab, given my proven ability to get lost. As usual, Kim sorted out the arrangements and I rebooked my room for when I returned after the weekend.

kim-og-hong-han
I need to put in a plug for Kim and the Hong Han Hotel.  Kim is easily the best hostess I have come across in my travels.  She takes time to do that little bit extra to make sure that her guests are wanting for nothing.  This photo with two German guests is an indication of the friendships she has forged.  I can recommend the Hong Han for anyone wanting to stay in District One in Ho Chi Minh City. You can find her on Facebook just look for www.facebook.com/Kimmyinsaigon  

The cab duly arrived and, saying farewell to Kim, I took the short ride to the bus station.  In the event, I could possibly have walked faster as the cab had to negotiate traffic and took a somewhat circuitous route, however, I arrived in good time and settled down to wait for the thirteen seater bus.

After a slow start through traffic, we finally found a freeway that took us pretty well all the way to Vung Tau, about two hours to the south.  We stopped for a break around the halfway point, but other than that we made good time.  Once we arrived in Vung Tau, the driver crisscrossed back and forth across the city, delivering each passenger to their door.  I was the last to get off and easily found the address where my friend Alex lived.

Alex was a colleague of mine who had made the move to Vietnam to retire, and this was a great chance to catch up with him and his lovely wife Chi again.  Their home was spacious and cool and I was quickly made to feel at home.  Along with Alex and Chi, the family composed Chi’s mother and daughter, Nho.

Friday night and it was Alex’s habit to relax a little at a local sports bar called Lucy’s. This proved to be the watering hole of a fair number of Xpats from Australia, and along with the usual banter, the big screen televisions ensured that conversation was loud.

Fresh Fruit
Fruit On Displat At The Local Market

The following day, Alex took me to see some of the highlights of Vung Tau.  This involved going two up on his motor scooter and dashing around the streets between all of the other scooters, each setting their own wild course. Always an exhilerating way to travel.

 

We visited the markets where, as in most markets I visited in Vietnam, there was row apon row of produce of every kind. All kinds of meats and veges were displayed. By now, I was well accustommed to the lack of refrigeration and had come to accept that, while it is the custom of where I have lived, this is everyday life in Vietnam.  It speaks to the precious way that Western Society has come to live and in doing so has lost much of its resilience to bugs and disease.

Meat Market
Meat of almost every kind is available here

 

Vung Tau is set on a peninsula and has two fairly distinct areas.  On the East is the main beach where folk from Saigon come to spend a lazy weekend.  The western side is on a sheltered harbour and appeared to be more the realm of the locals.

The Jesus Statue
Keeping vigul over the fishermen as they passed by the peninsular is this huge statue of Jesus

 

 

 

 

Between these two areas,lies a steep hill, up which the little scooter laboured under our combined weight.    Through the trees we caught glimpes of the sea and further over on a ridge, stood a large statue of Jesus, arms raise as if blessing those who passed by in the sea below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the top we came to a lighthouse where it seemed many folk came to simply pass the time away.

 

Lighthouse
The lighthouse on the lookout dwarves this young woman taking a moment to rest

A group of men sat playing a board game while groups of young folk gathered here and there playing instuments or taking selfies

 

Heading back along the coast road, we stopped in at the local supermarket.  Alex drove down a narrow ramp and we came to an undrground carpark much like those back home in Australia.  This one however, only parked motor cycles…. Not a car to be seen and in fact, the entrance was so narrow a car could not fit in.

Shopping Centre Parking
This whole parking place was reserved for motorcycles only

Back at Alex’s, Chi had prepared a lovely Vietnamese meal, after which we went off to take a siesta.  I was soon awakened by Alex rushing urgently past my door and I emerged to find the top floor awash with water.  The rain was falling in a volume I had not witnessed before and it was all hands on deck to keep the water from entering the bedrooms.  In that we only partially succeeded but almost as suddenly as it began, the rain stopped and we were able to quickly swish away the mess.

All Pitch In
Everyone pitches in to get the water draining away

 

Outside the town had faired little better with water rising almost waist deep across the street.  I was bemused that most folk bearly gave it a second though and went about their business in the usual way.  It was only those affected by the inundation that took time out to clean up, along with a few neighbours who pitched in to lend a hand.

Water Scooter
Kicking up a mini bow wave on a scooter

 

 

On A Bike
Unperturbed this lady peddals her cycle through the flooded street on her way home from the shops
Business As Usual
These folk appeared to be carrying on as if there was little unusual about the water in the street

 

 

 

Clearing The Drain
Alex lends a hand to clear the drains as the street where he lives becomes a river
Toan Thang
The bus that brought me south sweeps through the street creating a bow wave that washes into the shops along the road edge

Apart from a few inconsiderate cab drivers who swished past at such a speed their bow wave sent a cascade of water back into the shops, it was smiles all around with neighbour helping neighbour (and me just taking photos to record the moment)

Bow Wave
Paying no mind to the water he is pushing into the shops this taxi driver shows the same respect that taxi drivers seem to do the world over
Mopping Up
Cleaning up as the water recedes

 

That evening Alex and I spent a couple of hours at Lucy’s watching the rugby before adjourning across the road to the wharf where there was a huge resturant set up.  Food was great, as was the company and soon we were racing home on the scooters for a good nights rest.

 

Integration
These monkeys have learned that humans provide a never ending supply of food

The next morning Alex took me on another tour, up another steep road, to where there was a military base. As we neared the top of the road we came apon a small settlement.  Here tourists had stopped to interact with the monkeys that abounded here.  As usual, it was necessary to take care as they were quite bold and likely to snatch away anything that may have taken their fancy.

Monkey On The Roof
Hanging out on the roof waiting for a meal
Juicing Sugar Cane
This machine produces a fresh sweet juice that was popular amoung the tourist and locals here

Onwards and upwards, we came to the end of the road where, in a makeshift building, families were having a meal or simply hanging out enjoying each others company. Children were rushing about, as they do, entertaining themselves with simple games.

Simple Pleasure
Fun with A Raquet.  A slight of hand ensures that the raquet doesn’t fall and spoil the show

 

We sampled a local drink that was made onsite.  It was the sweet juice from crushing sugar cane and while very sweet was quite nice and refreshing.

 

Alex told me that he walked that road daily for execise when he first arrived in Vung Tau which was quite impressive in the steamy heat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doanh Trại Quân Đội Nhân Dân Việt Nam.
The Military Base at the top of the road.

 

Quân Đội Dân Việt Nam translates to Vietnam Peoples Army

Heading back down we met up with Chi and went to an upmarket restaurant along the coast for breakfast.  Again food here was great and the views provided a panorama of activity that kept me thoroghly entertained.  I was taken by a fisheman who was tending his lines, all the while rowing his boat with his feet.

Power Of Feet
This fisherman checks his lines while rowing with his feet to keep on station

The water way was busy and there were craft of all kinds plying back and forth with those in tiny vessels taking their chance between the much larger hulls.  Barges, full to the gunnels slipped passed, almost as if praying no wave would come along for fear of being swamped.

Plimsol Line
Low in the water, this barge makes its way into the Saigon River
Sea Walk
Beautiful gardens line the rocky shore where we ate breakfast the second morning of my stay

The restaurant was on some acreage with the paths and gardens beautifully kept.  It was pleasant to end the meal with a stroll along the paths before heading back into town.

Relaxing Moments
Chi and Alex stroll through the restaurant gardens after a sumptuous breakfast

The rest of the day was spent in pleasant company and all too soon I had to prepare for my return to Saigon.  This time I was taking the River Cat, which is a fast ferry service connecting Vung Tau with Saigon and taking a little over two hours.

River Transport
This high speed feery was my ticket back to Saigon from Vung Tau

The trip across the bay was a little rough but that soon settled as we entered the river. I watched the passing scene with interest as we cruised along.  The river banks were largely covered in dense jungle and often there were large floating islands of vegetation to navigate past.

Where the Jungle Meets The Water
Low in the water this boat slides past the jungle covered banks of the Saigon River

 

A Watery Sunset
The sun makes a brief appearance before hiding away behind the clouds as we come into Saigon on the River Cat

As the sun set we came into sight of Saigon with its towering bridges and the buildings beginning to dress up in their evening refinery as lights came on across the city

Under the Bridge
Phu My Bridge, Saigon River, Vietnam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bridge On Saigon
At the end of my journey I came across this bridge. Quite dramatic in the evening light
Saigon River
A tug boat hauls a barge of freight along the lazy waters of the Saigon River

With my pack on my shoulders I wandered once again through the darkening streets of Saigon.  I was headed for my room at the Hong Han.  Walking up the Nguyen Hue, I marvelled at the light show that the buildings put on and the peacefulness of this city filled, as it is, with so many souls.  I had just one more day to spend in this city and I reflected on the people I had met and how, in such a short time they had touched my life in such a rich way.

Pretty In Blue
The lights playing over this building change in an animated choriogragh bringing life to the drabness of the buildings.

 

 

 

 

A Week In Vietnam Night 2

My walk had taken me as far as the Saigon River and it was well into the night before I found myself heading back to the street where I thought the hotel was.

It was only then that I realised I had no clue as to where the hotel actually was or even what it looked like…………….

I tried using the GPS on the phone but as soon as I reached one end of the street it would tell me I needed to be at the other.  After the third trip along the street, trying to avoid emptying my wallet for all the girls selling souvenirs, I finally stopped and asked a group of  them if they could help me find it.

Linh, Dung & Tinh
These three ladies, Linh, Dung and Tinh, along with Russia, were there to help find my lost hotel

That was when my stay in Vietnam became an adventure to remember.  These girls, Dung,  Linh, Tinh and Russia, turned the search for my hotel into a quest and between us we hustled up and down the street having a blast.  Although they couldn’t understand me, nor I them, we seemed to reach a level of communication that got us by.  I was almost disappointed when we finally found the front door, hidden away and looking like any old shop front as if desperate to remain hidden from the maddening crowd.

Even at this late hour Kim was still on duty waiting to make sure all her guests were tucked away for the night.

From Russia with Love
Russia was one of the girls who help in the quest to find the Hong Han Hotel

I decided that, if I was to buy any souvenirs, I would only buy from these girls who had helped me out finding my hotel.  I saw lot of them on the street over the next days and learned a little about their way of life.  I learned that when sales were poor, they compensated by not eating and so, as I cruised the street checking out, first one, then another coffee shop, I would invite them in for a sandwich or drink should they pass by.

Huong
Hue’s sister Huong
Hue
Always ready with a smile and a wink Hue ,like all the other girls, carries a heavy tray of souvenirs always hoping that she will be “Lucky” and make a sale

 

 

The group grew to include Hue and her sister Huong and spending time with these girls taught me so much about what it means to live and work on the streets of a city such as this.  I realised that I live a privileged existence: like being inside a plastic bubble, where there is always a safety net to catch those of us who might fall.  For the locals born of this city, life is a continuous battle for survival. Yet despite all of this, the people here were always friendly and ready with a quick smile. It is a way of life very different from that which I have grown up in but one that I felt had a reality that will remain with me. These girls made my holiday all the richer for knowing them.  .

 

 

 

I gained their friendship and, I think, respect, for one night I was sitting in the middle of the street on the pavement chatting to them when another new girl arrived.  I had not seen this new comer before but she had a very young toddler with her even though the hour was late.

Hue And Me
Hue and I taking a moment to relax on my last night in Saigon

She  appeared to be having trouble with her phone, so I offered her mine to use.  She promptly put her toddler on my lap and in that instant the atmosphere became quite tense.  Hue, who was sitting behind me moved up very close and I felt a hand at the zip of my trouser pockets.  I was all at once disappointed, for I had felt that we had built a friendship that was better than being pick-pocketed.  Then I realised that the zipper was being closed and Hue then patted down my other pockets to make sure they were closed.
It turned out that the new comer used her child to pick the pockets of the unwary and Hue had moved in to protect me from becoming a victim.  Such a small thing but it meant so much to me.  It earned her a dinner out in a restaurant.

By the end of my time, the girls had asked if they could have a number so that they could keep in contact.

They have continued contact with me, even after I returned home to Australia, and often ask when I will return.  One day soon I hope, for there is still so much to do and see there