My Vietnam Launch – Chung Jungle Tour Day 2 – 2018

My Vietnam Launch –Chung Jungle Tour Day 2 – 2018 Backpacking

Standby for lots of photos that will surprise you. We are riding through the real Vietnam and very few people get to see what I am privileged to do with Mr Chung Phan & a huge thank you to the people of Vietnam & Chung!!!

Waking up from a well-earned night’s sleep, albeit expecting saddle soreness of sorts, Chung has organised the hotel for breakfast and that this Day 2 involves over 200klms of riding & numerous stops from Lien Son to Gia Nghia. Our hotel manager was happy to advise her husband works in the Vietnam Tax Office & his father was visiting with them. He is 85 & really looks 70 with 7 children born to him. 3 sons died in the war & 2 children live in the North & the other 2 live in the South so he spends his time visiting each one in turn. A truly amazing human.

Lien Son City was already in work mode with so much activity and a sight I hadn’t seen since Cambodia was a ‘Chinese Cow’ towing a huge excavator down the street. It was moving that fast I struggled to get a clear photo so I’ve used a photo I took of one in Cambodia to show you what they actually are. There is no way this would be legal on the roads back in Australia. I can’t believe a Chinese Cow could even tow this weight, let alone stop in a hurry. A few minutes later 2 elephants were heading to their work along the same street. In Vietnam you are surprised by so many different sights unfolding each & every day.

With brekky scoffed down, literally as Chung was keen to get moving considering the kilometres to be completed. Not far out of Lien Son, 1oklms in fact we entered a minority village with residents called Mnonz people from Malaysia. Such a poor area but all seems good with them. The village was alongside the lake where all homes were long & rectangular, suspended to the recorded flood levels, unpainted, unique timber entrance steps, corrugated iron sheet rooves, no lawns, roaming cows & dogs a plenty. This outlook clearly shows the villager’s struggles and the level of lifestyle however, they remain cheerful and easy going. The cow feed is stored on the front verandahs in blue plastic bags. Some homes have been bricked & rendered with tiled rooves so some people are doing well. I noticed an old woman on the lake shore fishing with a rod and a worker riding an elephant across the waist deep lake to the nearby shops of the village. Life is so serene here.

Chung pulled into this small shopping centre past the lake to get some fuel for the bike and catch up with some locals. Chung directed me to a weatherboard type ‘chicken coop’ structure elevated off the carpark pavement & located central to the carpark. Walking around to the other side with wire mesh sides I jumped back in the natural course of preservation action. Yikes!!! It was a snake, .. a HUGE Reticulated Python!! I am definitely not a snake lover, or even an admirer of snakes so my reaction was real & instant!!!

Getting back to my composure and allowing my eyes to regain focus I was astounded at the size of this reptile. Its head was about 8” wide (without a tape measure) and it was not even moving upon seeing me. Its body girth seemed to be around the 10” mark & with no sign of food inside its belly so proves its massive size. Being still on edge, I noticed Chung ‘creeping’ up from the side. He said “you like snake”? “Not at all” was my instant response. Chung quickly crept under the suspended floor & through the spaced decking boards started tickling the snake’s belly in the hope it would move. Despite a good attempt the snake remained non-plus. Chung, from his memory stated the snake would be around 18ft long & weighing just over 100kgs. The locals get it out at times to measure & weigh it and I was glad today was not that day. A captive python is usually heavier than a wild one due to laziness & obesity & it is very risky to have this snake as a pet but in Vietnam this still goes unheeded.

Another shopping centre came into view further up the road with more elephant walking rides for tourists and it was timely for Chung to schedule into a morning Vietnam coffee. I was starting to be addicted to this coffee and for that time of the day too. Good move Chung. With coffee over, we scooted out to see acres & acres of rice paddies in a real commercial venture with plenty of workers attending to it. Next came a herd of cows being taken to another pasture by the farmer & this can be done daily. Chung, taking no chances with the cows stopped by on the roadside however these cows showed every sign of ignoring our presence. This is the first time I had seen this cattle droving in Vietnam. In Australia it used be done & was called droving in the ‘Long Paddock’.

Next came another bridge crossing where the old bridge was a casualty of the Vietnam War with only the concrete pylons remaining. The old bridge was built in the war & eventually destroyed by aerial bombing. Below the bridge was the fleet of quarry sand barges, so we are not solely in a farming region. In the rear of the photo, you can still see the vast rice fields. Chung was limiting his stoppage times so some of my photos were taken while still mobile. The temple near this bridge was almost destroyed by bombing and only the front & steeple survived. These temples were supposed to be recorded and not damaged through warfare but this surely could not be totally avoided. Out in the landscape, every now & then we could pick out an isolated and historical temple or two, but there’s no stopping on this 200klm journey today unless it’s very important.

In saying that, it was not long when Chung pulled over alongside a very unfamiliar forest of trees, obviously in plantation form. Scaling through the low fence line we wandered up to a tree with a plastic type fabric cut into a ‘v’ shape of the tree. Chung explains this is a 500Hectare plantation of rubber trees. One could only guess how many trees are in this plantation. The rubber tree is milked once or twice a week for its ‘sap’ and collected by a group of men on scooters for the rubber processing plant nearby. The ‘milk’ is a little pungent too.

Whilst riding Chung points to a new & very large factory where it roasts coffee for the exported markets, such is the vast crops of coffee that is the new farming industry gaining upon the rice. Our next stop was very enjoyable too & I always look to see the behind scenes even though we entered a brick factory. This manufacturing plant make the unusual sized bricks out of the quarry clay nearby. I say unusual, as they are very different to those made in Australia.  There were about a dozen young workers with a mixture of women & men. A surprise was to see so many children being present amongst the operation. Obviously, this is the standard Vietnam creche where there is no child care system for workers. The children hovered around me all the time I was there & it was such a joyous time. So much laughing & hide and seek.

The yard was full of pallets of bricks (in their thousands) stacked by women and for the pallets to be compiled takes the triple handling of bricks; from clay form to the oven/ kiln on the above ground level, then stacked on pallets & placed in shaded sheltered areas to cure. The men work the brick machines and loaders & the women do the harder manual labour of stacking & pushing the metal carts. Our arrival was timely for us for the moulding extrusion machine had picked up a stone or 2 in the clay mixture & the operator had to take it apart to clear them. This enabled us to talk about the operation and actually see how the plant functioned. The operator however was not happy being delayed in this malfunction. A 8hole brick costs 1,000Dong ($0.04 USD) & a 6hole brick 700Dong (0.03USD).

One of the young mum’s (26) was happy to show me around and she was amazing company. Chung gladly started moulding all types of animals for the children; an elephant, duck, chicken & a kangaroo to show the girls where I had come from. So talented Chung. Also, Chung had me married to the young mum before we left. No wonder she was smiling & nodding when we got back onto the bike. A very pleasant wave & smile was reciprocated. Thanks Chung. With further riding we noticed so many weddings this day .. & I’m sure Chung was still laughing from my last proposal.

Our next stop, was a cashew nut factory even though it was closed. It is owned & operated by a widow who is a Catholic & won’t work on a Sunday but she showed us through her enterprise. The nut shell is of 2 layers removed by a sort of shredding machine, the nut halved & then packed for shipment. She mainly supplies Ho Chi Minh city first & then later exported to all parts of the world. Looks like she makes a great living from this venture. I bought a kilo to share with Chung for 120,000Dong ($5.10USD).

The next stop was Dray Sap, a UNESCO Heritage site. While he had things to do Chung sent me to walk along a track into the fields (more like the jungle). His direction said, walk for 10-12minutes, turn left then walk towards the waterfall noise. Thanks Chung … I walked heavy, remembering the python I saw earlier. I came across some young men walking in the same direction. One was begging for a photo with him so he could show others. Of course, I complied & he was so thrilled. Finally, I arrived to see families having picnics amongst the rocky boundary, people swimming in the water pools and a circular type waterfall showing its glory. I spent a bit of time soaking all this culture and fun times in. Now where was that track back? Not a time to be lost. Whew!! I found it and walked back almost ‘swiftly’ to the carpark. Chung was not quite ready so I took a wander up to see a solemn sight of an elephant chained up on a concrete pavement fenced in and it continued in its swaying mode even upon seeing me. I talked softly to it & offering my sadness in seeing how sad it looked. The young female started a different movement sequence and turned to watch me. I felt a communication of telepathy but knowing I was safe with the chain not being able to allow it to the fence. I was lost for more words; it was so tough to leave her there but I knew I had given her some precious minutes of relief & connection. Another sad sight greeted me walking up to Chung’s bike. A large dog was caged on the back of a bike, seemingly on its way to market.

For our 7th stop we came across a factory that makes amazing statues out of tree stumps. They are carved, sanded & polished and some have stones placed on them for further stone carvings, benches, tables, etc. They are priced from $3-5,000 USD each & up to 3 men work on each piece.

Winding through the roadway to somewhere unbeknown to me Chung stops at a road sign. He called it a frontier sign as he walked into the high grass … where he stated the Cambodia border is about 10klms behind him on the mountain range. Just a few kilometres up the road we will be approx. 1klm from the border & this is where lots of people sneak under the radar across the border with drugs that are commonly grown in Cambodia. A few kilometres up the road Chung pulls over to show me a small plantation of Cacao trees. These trees have pods coming off their branches. Chung called them chocolate trees .. of course.

Entering another village, Chung pulls over to show me a small mountain in the background. Why?  Turns out it was a volcano once & that is its crater.  A lot of erosion has happened over the thousands of years. The highway, Ho Chi Minh Road wraps around it and once we completed that trek we came across a crop of peanuts. Across the road was another plantation crops of ‘poles’ with full vines growing. These vines were pepper vines & they have about 5kg of pepper seeds on them. When the green skins turn red, they are harvested & sun-dried. This operation makes black pepper & sells for 20,000Dong/ kg ($0.85USD). When the seeds are skinned & dried it becomes White Pepper & sells for 50,000Dong ($2.10USD).

Our next stop was Dak Nong Volcano Park & a memorial was placed here to honour the Army Battalion who cleared the land for future housing and the building of the Ho Chi Minh Rd. So many lives were lost doing this operation and it took up to 15yrs to finish.

Coming into the next town Chung stopped momentarily to see what I would like for dinner … a quick response was “no thanks .. yuk!!!” Boar or pig’s head was not for me … EVER!!! The last stop finally came to fruition. It had been a long day but full of great memories. The hotel Khach San Mingh Sang greeted us in Gia Nghia. This city was only built 10yrs prior as a means to house everyone leaving Ho Chi Minh city. Finally, a hotel with hot running water & a wonderful western bed. Yay!!! With most Vietnam hotels it is mandatory you provide your passport for keeping in their safe in case the Police do a drop in search. There is no way to avoid this so it takes a lot for me to hand mine over.

I’ll end this Day 2 blog here, so stay safe, happy & hopefully enjoy the photos and kick this ongoing COVID-19 & the more-vile vaccines back into history. Stay tuned for my Day 3 blog on my amazing 4day ‘Chung Jungle Tour’.

“Communication … Communication … Talk to each other”. From a song “Kite” on the concert DVD “Go Home” by U2 @ Slane Castle. YouTube have it also.

Thank you again for reading my blogs and I trust you will stay safe, happy & healthy for 2023 and for it to be a far better year for all. I do not receive any commissions &/or ‘perks’ from the above nominated businesses & locations as I am purely happy to provide the acknowledgement and connection.

I always look forward to seeing the feedback so don’t be afraid to comment. My next blog/s will be more of the amazing Vietnam experiences and quite a few were life changing, & not just for me.

Live life to the most and a quote that I truly love is from Eckhart Tolle ..

“If I am not the hero of my life … who in the hell could be?”

My Vietnam Launch – Dalat Jungle Tour with Chung – 2018

My Vietnam Launch – Dalat Jungle Tour with Chung – 2018 Backpacking

Standby for lots of photos that will surprise you. We are riding through the real Vietnam and very few people get to see what I am privileged to do with Mr Chung Phan & huge thank you to the people of Vietnam & Chung!!! Chung explains the 4 levels of society; scholars, farmers, craftsmen & merchants but everyday life in the regions the people are referred to as ‘minority people’.

On Saturday, 21st July, Chung arrived promptly at 8am out the front of my hotel standing in the rain with a poncho & plastic wrap bags for my backpacks.  Within 2 minutes he had everything loaded onto his Honda 150cc motorbike & for just a few minutes the rain had stopped for the photo. We are now on a 4day Jungle Tour as Vietnam Easy Riders. It’s amazing when you meet people and instantly find comfort & trust in taking the big steps with them. I was now on a journey where no-one would know where I am or if I’m OK. I must Skype my daughter each night to ensure all is well to alleviate this ‘fear’.

Day 1 is heading towards Lien Son, some 170klms away & this alone will be a test for my novice pillion passenger riding. Chung gives me a few pointers & then .. we’re off!!! We will have many stops & some will be not as per programme for there is always much to see along the roadways. Our first stop just out of Dalat was a very large bamboo structure hothouse to see all types of flowers grown. Roses, carnations, tulips. 1 rose was selling for 5,000Dong ($0.32 AUD) which is a lot cheaper than Australia. Just about everything is grown in the Dalat region. Acres of flowers is an understatement. Just up the road Chung pulls over for his well-known hilltop view looking back onto Dalat, and here he was gracious in taking my much-elated photo to prove I was on a great journey. Notice the rich reddish-brown roadside soil.

Our 2nd stop, 30mins out from Dalat on road DT725 was Me’ Linh Coffee Garden & what a tourist mecca it is. A dozen large buses no less, plus many cars, scooters & people!! This place catered for everything. Café to restaurant food, coffee to alcohol & incorporated weddings & the like and shops full of merchandise and tourist souvenirs. The range of coffee was amazing, and Chung tried his best for me to ‘enjoy’ the Weasel Coffee with his usual grinning humour. Yeah … sure … NOT!!! At best, I went below the tourist level to see the weasels in their hutches and that was plenty enough for me. I can’t get my head around having coffee that was excreted from animal faeces & also they gladly place it on display. Surely, I’m not the only one that struggles with this? I resorted to my beloved Viet coffee and that was superb with Chung still widely grinning. The weasel coffee was double in price than the normal range of coffee at 70KDong/ one cup ($4.40AUD) or 400K Dong per 100g ($25.40AUD), however this didn’t stop the tourists from buying it. I’ll pass.

The 3rd stop was a silk weaving factory, full of machinery and mostly women .. & noisy. This stop was amazing to see how they used the simple silkworm and its cocoon to make the silk thread. Silkworms last 30days in life, then into a cocoon, then a moth. I hadn’t seen a silkworm since I was about 13yrs old and it brought back so many memories. Farmers only get one crop of coffee per year, so they supplement their income in mulberries and silkworms throughout the full year. The workers boil the cocoon and then feed the silk onto large reels, then dried. Once dried, the reels are placed onto the weaving mill. I’m trying to get my head around the sheer volume of silkworms needed for the mass silk cloth production just in this factory alone.

The next attraction stop was Thac Voi (Elephant Falls) which was in about 70% of water flow to what it can ultimately reach but it certainly created its roar. Like all waterfalls the view is better from below, so along with about 100steps, tricky bamboo & steel bridge crossings & slippery timber walkways and side-stepping returning visitors on the narrow ‘pathways’ I finally made it. Chung obviously stayed up above as he’s seen it many times. Many decades ago, the elephants used to congregate here and enjoy the water available, hence the falls name. Reaching the bottom and taking what photos I could I soon became the photo icon with many tourists, local travellers, etc wanting to take theirs with me. They were excited to see an Australian, albeit oldish, mostly bald with white rim hair, etc and being very accommodating to their banter. Chung was wondering what had kept me, so I used my new-found ‘celebrity’ excuse.

For our 5th stop we come across the local market of a village (no name sign seen). As a Westerner there was very little to my taste. Live frogs, eels, snails, catfish, etc. I’ve definitely lost my appetite for flesh; however, the fruit & vegetables were prime eating. Such quality & better than our supermarkets back home. Just up the road Chung pulls over to show me a ‘curry bush’ that when you crush the small seeds, they produce an amazing fluoro red colour. I dare not taste it as I have a low curry threshold. Lol! Our next stop was just up the road a little further where we stopped centrally on a concrete bridge over a fast-flowing river called Song Krong No’ which divides the Dak Lak, Lam Dong & Dak Nong provinces. Next to the bridge to the East was the pylon remains of an older bridge built in 1945 completely blown apart in the Vietnam war (70s). Most bridges were destroyed to slow down the progress of the Viet Cong in the latter stages of the war.

Doing more mountain climbing we were able to pause & sight the beautiful landscape of below valleys and aligning mountain ridges noticing the escalation of the coffee farmers etching their way further into the ‘jungle.’ The coffee farmers seek approval for their crops and once granted carry out the plantings accordingly. They are not required to pay taxes, etc until they achieve their first & ongoing crops that usually takes 3-4yrs for the red berry to appear to achieve the one harvest crop per year.  Satellite dams or ponds are more widely used now to get them through the dry season which I believe is not even harsh compared to Australia’s drought seasons.

Travelling through the wilderness on a surprisingly still bitumen road we come across a very small village. Chung sees some action from a typical village home and stops quickly. He asks me to stay next to the bike and wanders in to greet the family. Within a minute I was ushered in, for now I will witness the daily living of a minority family as they are commonly called. This 3-generation family is typical and very poor … but flows happiness and a very warm greeting. I’m invited into their miniature house to see one ceiling electric light giving a small ‘glow’ to the large single room where the eldest daughter, (about 20) is grinding the rice for their next meal. Her husband is out working in the jungle and one of her much young sisters (7yrs old) is cradling her baby daughter in the custom baby sling for the time being. Everyone helps in all daily chores. The old parents are busy too. Grandad is making his rice wine (Happy Beer) and Grandma (now stopping her bamboo basket weaving) is already off to the jungle some kilometres away to gather more firewood after Chung passes a cigarette to her and a lolly pack to the young girls. I felt so empty in not having anything I could give to them in my appreciation. I emphatically showed my appreciation by warmly … and lovingly saying goodbye through Chung’s translations. Their next-door neighbour was about to travel to the next big village on his oversized packed aluminium recycled waste scooter. Typical Vietnam where, if you can fit it on your scooter, it’s all OK.

Our next stop was another bridge over vast open water. The bridge was built during the dam’s construction around 2003 and looking over to the Dam’s North end you can see the revised floating village. During construction and the rising water levels the villagers could not, or would not relocate so they transformed their village into a floating one and continued living in their preferred location.

With the sun dipping quickly we finally made it into Lien Son at 6pm. With little time available we dropped our stuff into a Chung-organised hotel and arranged for a light meal of birds’ eggs, banana, soup & chicken at the nearest café. Before hitting the pillow, I spent a lot of time trying to have my clothes, shoes, socks, etc dry before the morning.

I’ll end this Day 1 blog here, so stay safe, happy & hopefully enjoy the photos and kick this ongoing COVID-19 & the more-vile vaccines back into history. Stay tuned for my Day 2 blog on my amazing 4day ‘Chung Jungle Tour’.

“Communication … Communication … Talk to each other”. From a song “Kite” on the concert DVD “Go Home” by U2 @ Slane Castle. YouTube have it also.

Thank you again for reading my blogs and I trust you will stay safe, happy & healthy for 2023 and for it to be a far better year for all. I do not receive any commissions &/or ‘perks’ from the above nominated businesses & locations as I am purely happy to provide the acknowledgement and connection.

I always look forward to seeing the feedback so don’t be afraid to comment. My next blog/s will be more of the amazing Vietnam experiences and quite a few were life changing, & not just for me.

Live life to the most and a quote that I truly love is from Eckhart Tolle ..

“If I am not the hero of my life … who in the hell could be?”

Airlie Beach Getaway, Queensland – February 2023 – Blog 5

Whitsunday Crocodile Safari

This is my last Airlie Beach blog so I’m hoping you will like this nature blog. From my last blog I had a day in between my wonderful Camira Sailing Tour of the Whitsunday Island and starting the surprising crocodile safari. I booked my tours through Sailing Whitsundays .. located next to Mikas Bar & Restaurant in the main street all in the one session and my programming worked superbly. The cost of the all-weather safari-style excursion was all inclusive at $150/ person with pickup & drop off at your respective resort, an Australian Bush morning/ afternoon tea of a billy tea & damper with local honey & Cane Sugar Syrup plus a full bbq lunch & salads & afternoon tea. is their website.

Our bus driver, Steve Watson promptly picked me up at the bottom of my steep hill at my Club Wyndham Resort at 8.25am & again, I am the first pickup. He advised we do not have a full passenger list for today’s safari so not that many to pick up however, it did take the full 30mins to complete this task through Airlie & outer Airlie. I believe the safari can take up to 30people.

My fellow safari crew were a young family with a baby, a Townsville man in his 30s with his visiting parents from the Netherlands who both don’t speak English & a married couple in their 60s. The Netherland couple were virtually silent and managed a few smiles & lots of head nodding from their son’s translations.

After the pickups were completed, we headed to the township of Proserpine, some 25klms away to turn left into Glen Isla Rd & then into a signed private property and a paddock gravel road to a large gravel clearing with an enormous shade sail rotunda type roof structure & a few sheds. The rotunda was fitted out with a permanent bbq and serving counter bench, several steel tables and bench seats.

Unbeknown to us at the time, Steve is the Owner/ Operator of this safari tour and has for a very long time and is now hands on, due to limited staff available to him since COVID.  He gave us a quick summary of the safari’s history, along with himself and the workings of the operation and what will be expected of us in maintaining our own safety in addition to the safety he will provide. He then explains the sheds behind us with the equipment shed having the recorded flood levels placed on its roller door. Cyclone Debbie in 2017 was by far the highest flood level reading and that was a very damaging cyclone to hit the region and rated a Category 4 (Severe) with wind speeds of 215klms/hr. It was the most costly to hit the region and with 14 lives lost. Come 2023, the region is just showing very good signs of recovery. He is yet to post the recent January 2023 ‘flash’ flood level on the door and that was above the lower markers. The smallest building to the right is the toilet but not the usual domestic one he stated, but a ‘drop’ toilet & if you really need to go, then accept the ‘vibe’ of it. Lol!!!

When Steve finished his talk, he instructed his 2 assistants (Steve & Jim) to place the barge boat into the Proserpine River some 30m away & said that is worth a look. With the other customers still asking questions to Steve I raced towards the river to catch a brief glimpse of the 2 assistants swinging the tractor-driven crane rig with the barge attached into the river below. They had obviously had this all prepared earlier and I was very lucky to get a glimpse of this faster than usual method. I was watching the man in the barge hoping he had a tight grip on the barge. Not a place to fall out of a boat. The man in his 30s was very pleased I showed him my photo of this as he really wanted to see how it was done.

We were all ready to board now and it was a concentrated effort going down the gangplank steps so as not to slip or lose balance entering the boat. The lady with the baby was extra careful of course. Steve, again confirmed the safari is not a fauna park or farm & sightings cannot be guaranteed however 99.8% sightings have been achieved in over 6,000 tours over 20yrs of operation. Being a safari that he has operated for decades he does not feed the crocodiles to gain visibility or to change their habitat or eating habits. This area is a true environment for crocodiles and their breeding. This area of the river has been used at various times by accredited researchers & scientists in reviewing water quality, sightings, breeding nests, eggs, etc to help manage this eco-system & preserve this Freshwater Crocodile habitation & his operation has assisted greatly in their research.

This river is for Freshwater Crocodiles whereas the Saltwater Crocodiles are elsewhere and are much larger than the ‘Freshies’. You can tell which ones they are by the head shape and teeth. The Freshwater Croc has a sharper shape snout and aligned teeth whereas the Saltwater Croc has a broader snout & un up & down jaw line with irregular jutting teeth. Freshies can grow to a rare 3m but 2.5m is the more common large adult size. They are not ‘man-eaters’ and feed mainly on frogs, lizards, turtles, bats, birds & small mammals. Male ‘Salties’ grow to 7m but commonly 5m & the females around 4m mark. They begin nesting at 12yrs of age & live 70-100yrs.

Steve, with his microphone and pa system setup on the boat was a huge plus for us in order to clearly hear his commentary. He rattled off a few names of the crocodiles he has identified over the years and where some of their respective nests are, albeit they are hard to see through the overgrowth. These nests can harbour around 50eggs and incubation takes around 65-110days. The female usually guards the nest until hatching time. The incubation temperature determines the sex of the crocodile with the temp range 31-32°C producing males. With higher or lower temps producing females. Pigs & goannas eat the eggs & floods destroy the nests and these factors create an alarming statistic where less than half of eggs laid will hatch & of those hatchlings that live, less than 1% survive to adulthood. The hatchlings and young crocodiles also become food for other animals, and crocodiles can be cannibalistic. Around 50% of the hatchlings will die within their 1st year. Hatchlings are about 70grams in weight & 25-30cm long & maybe protected within a creche for up to 5weeks in the water by their mother.

Steve then explains how to determine the true sex of the crocodile by rolling it over on its back and then using your hand to invade its private area & that will provide you the evidence. Steve stated we will not be doing that today or anytime in the future. LOL!!!

Crocodiles are a rare type of reptile in that they are the only ones with a 4 chambered heart like a human whereas other reptilians have 3 chambered hearts. Unlike us they can slow their heart rate to an amazing level, some 2-3 beats per minute thereby allowing them to be submerged for more than 4hours. They also have glands at the back of their fleshy tongues to exude built up salt. They also have a 3rd eyelid that enables them to see & swim at the same time. The Freshie Croc has the longest tail and is 49.5% of its total body length. When you see only the head of the crocodile in the water you can determine its total length as the head represents 1/7th of its length.

Crocodiles seek to keep their temperature range between 30-33°C so they will use the water, sun & shade to do this. The larger the crocodile the less tolerant they are in anaerobic activity where they build up excessive amounts of acid into their blood. Whilst crocodiles can withstand very high levels of blood acidity than most animals it can prove to be fatal. That’s probably why you saw Steve Irwin (Crocodile Hunter) yell ‘Crikey’ and lay on top of the crocodile when capturing them. To keep them calm. He can have that!!!!

Steve took us up the river and explained how the river is constantly changing with the tidal forces, floods, and bank erosion with the sandy loam alluvial soil. Crocodiles clambering up the banks to their nests, etc doesn’t help either. You have to marvel at Steve’s brilliant observation ability by pointing out using a laser to show you the smaller crocodiles sunbaking on the banks in true camouflage. He was picking them out over 20-30m away and we had to inch closer so that we would not disturb them to get a closer look. Very hard to pick them out and you must really focus. The river water varies from 4m to 25m in width and usually about 4m deep in most places. Some of the young crocs are quite nervous and portray different mannerisms when we approach. Open mouth, sinking or raising their stomach from the bank which can be assumed as a threat or non-threat to scurrying off either up the bank or into the water.

As we now progress to going down the river Steve points out his named female crocs and where their nests lay. He knows their names by their markings, scars or lost scutes (spikes) on their tail, etc. After seeing quite a few young crocs, we encountered, albeit briefly a protruding head of ‘Dorothy’ a mother submerging at the bank edge close by to her nest. Her head appears to be 50cm long, therefore 3.5m in total body length. She is not impressed with us and not recognising Steve (kidding) she submerges fully and only resumes her position once we provided a safe distance. Crocodiles rarely provide you with the perfect photo shot so you have to take what you can get & remember to keep your whole body (arms) within the boat.

Alighting from the boat and reaching the top of the bank to safety, Steve shows me how much the river changes in that the original jetty once used, is some 100m to the East from the other side of the river bank. That is a lot of river route changes. In time, the erosion will reach where the tractor is sited with the crane. How is the lost land to the owner is compensated? Steve leases his safari grounds off the land owner, so Steve cannot see how this would be done. He may have to seek approval to put in place a revetment wall at some point or the owner to do so to eliminate or restrict the major erosion taking place every time it rains, let alone floods & king tides.

I would imagine you would see a lot more crocodile activity around dawn and into the warming sun of each day, and seeing its mid-day, the activity is limited. Seeing plenty of the muddy river bank, full of holes of numerous crocodile food mud crabs and crocodile slipways & its foliage/ mangroves it was time to return to the pontoon steps and alight for a true Aussie bbq lunch with steak, sausages, chicken, onions, breads, salads, etc superbly cooked by Jim. If you wanted a soft drink, you could purchase these out of the esky. I settled for a Ginger Beer and that hit the spot on this high temp, high humidity day.

With the lunch being completed we were urged to join the wagon-train of carriages now that the tractor has been connected, for we are going out to the Goorganga Plains Wetlands that we first came through on the bus road, but this time off-road. Passing by and getting a close look at a gathering of kangaroos and the large male watching us closely was a thrill for the Norwegian parents. Surely, the roos know that there are crocodiles not far from them? Apparently, the crocs stay close to the river however, Steve starts a story when he came down while the plains were still in flood sometime ago where he saw a group of cows in a circle in above-knee water which seemed quite odd. He took his tinny close to them to find out some 15m away was a 4m+ crocodile in waiting which confirmed the cow’s weird behaviour. He phoned the farmer who soon came down in another boat to help relocate the cows. A close call I’d say.

Steve stops the tractor and starts to talk about the nearby tree and some of the bushes surrounding it and some of their medicinal purposes they have been for the aboriginal & now the medical fraternity in addressing pain relief, mosquito bites and the like. He needed a volunteer to wash his hands after showing us the dye colour of the bush fruit berries. Very strong reddish dye.

Meandering at tractor speed we encroach upon a billabong full of birdlife. Here Steve points out all the various types of birds and which ones are migratory. So much birdlife!! Steve’s knowledge is amazing and there is just too much information to take in. Listening intently to his commentary took me away from taking more photos but you can never complain when you are fully immersed in nature, but my apologies to the readers. I was slack! I can’t even remember what breeds of birds and of which countries they had come from … too many to name.

Steve shows us where the flood levels reached on this plain and what lies over at the far distant mountain range to the West and how this affects the township of Proserpine and the river. This area is very accustomed to heavy rain and flash flooding. I don’t think I could get accustomed to the crocodiles. Fact!

After doing the lap of the plains we returned to see more kangaroos and the gravel bivouac area to an amazing aroma. Jim had cooked us a damper and more billy tea, just like we were on a bush camp. Impatiently, I had to wait for the pleasantries of another editorial from Steve & to wash our hands before I could dive into the 2 types of dampers, a fruit raisin one and the plain damper cooked out of cast iron pots. Yummo!!! Well done, Jim!! The cane sugar syrup on the damper was superb and brought back many childhood memories. Steve also had a small portion of Vegemite he was able to ‘con’ the Netherlands parents into trying. He repeated the need for a very thin spread of Vegemite to the damper, but the mother rejected the taste immediately, but the father didn’t mind it. Steve, again stated they had too thick of spread on the bread. We all agreed it is an acquired taste.

Using a very small portion of left over bbq sausage mince, Steve threw a piece into the air when suddenly, a black shadow appeared at speed and took the mince, mid-air. So fast!!! From memory, I believe Steve called it a Swiftlet. It is a rare bird that can eat whilst flying whereas most birds have to land to feed. He throws another piece up and we still can’t imagine the speed & accuracy  of this bird. Truly amazing!! No chance of a photo of this!!

With things wrapping up we were ushered back in the bus after we all personally thanked them for a great day & for me to be dropped off at the main street of Airlie for my repeated lagoon swim and beer afterwards. My reward!

Coming into the township of Proserpine again, Steve talked about the cane carriages & the mini trains to transport the sugar cane from the expansive fields to the sugar mill some kilometres away, stacked along the tracks parallel to the roadway. This region in Nth Queensland is the major cane field area & mass producer of sugar by far in Australia. Bundaberg, further South is another major sugar cane area and they have a famous Bundaberg Rum distillery which produces a huge volume of rum and one of the best ginger beers. Some of their rum bottles become valuable collector items and at times they create limited rum offers.

I’ll end this blog here and appreciate you all for taking the time to reading my travel blogs. My next blog will be returning to my ‘Jungle Tour’ with my great friend, Chung out of Dalat, Vietnam who will take me on a 4-day into deep Vietnam. Take care and enjoy life.

I don’t receive any commissions for promoting or mentioning companies in my blogs as I rather speak honestly on my experiences with them. I will never be compromised.

Airlie Beach Getaway, Queensland – February 2023 – Blog 4

Camira – Whitsunday Beach Sail Tour

With the weather becoming more tropically sunny I fluked a great time to venture out to the Whitsunday Island and its famous crystal white beach, sailing on the 85’ catamaran, The Camira. From my Club Wyndham Resort directly overlooking the Port of Airlie, I could see this magnificent purple catamaran leave everyday inching its way out in the bright blue calm sea. What a way to wake up to everyday & while enjoying breakfast on the balcony.

I had booked this cruise day a couple of weeks online prior to my Airlie trip knowing it would be an awesome and almost mandatory activity to do in this magical place. Online allowed me to book this using my pensioner card on a discount and as a voucher and with 3yrs to use it and being able to programme a day of good weather. The weather timing was more critical to me, as obviously I am classed as a landlubber and done my fair share of ‘hanging’ over the side.

Rechecking my daypack in bringing the required photo ID for the supplied alcohol (I think I pass for over 18), beach towel, sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, swimwear, phone (camera) & a light jacket if the weather turns sour plus my Quells (sea sickness).

Eating breakfast on my balcony I exchanged my temporary anxiety of sailing (after taking my dosage of Quells for seasickness) to an adrenaline burst of new energy in making record time walking to the Port of Airlie, directly below my resort. I was obviously quite early so I people watched those that were leaving early to the reef stay cruise, far out to sea. Before long at 8am, we were called for boarding, much like catching a plane supplying our boarding passes to one of the crew & walking down the terminal ramp.

The crew were all dressed in a casual uniform with most of them providing a welcome guard of honour and the rest busily loading the supplies and getting the catamaran ready for departure, set for 8.15am. Our first duty was to find the central baggage cupboards located in the central lounge area. This was the hardest thing we found to do on the cruise for the area provided was like a pantry cupboard but with some of the boat equipment inside. Imagine about 30people with luggage going into two single sized cupboards. Seriously, this was a problem accessing your gear a few times through the day. It was mandatory no bags to be outside of these cupboards for safety reasons.

Everyone was keen to find their preferred sitting area, whether it was inside on the padded bench seats, the outdoor bench seats, or the trampoline-type sail cloth deck area of canvas between the hulls at the bow (front) of the catamaran which of course was the most popular. The first thing I noticed was how most of the people were excited but pronounced this mainly in silence with smiles only. I tried several times to make conversation, but it was not reciprocated. More sad than weird I thought. This certainly is not the first time I had been with a lot of people in a small space and being totally alone.

The captain did his usual welcoming and introduction of the crew and advised morning tea is about to start. Withing 60seconds the buffet was swarmed by everyone, and it was a must to get in early for the buffet of food was excellent. Fresh fruit, croissants, toast, yogurt, juices, brownies, biscuits & the list goes on to match the coffee, juice & tea choice. Before long, it was 11am & that meant the bar was open to all over 18yrs of age. I qualified easily!! The rules were access to unlimited beer & wine, cider & soft drinks but with no mass taking of cans or wine. 1person per pick up serving and responsible drinking. You would be deemed to have had enough when you can’t venture to the beer esky yourself. Lol.

Camira is one of the fastest sailing catamarans in the world (up to 30knots), but unfortunately the weather was too calm for sailing so we could only apply the headsail for a little sailing effect and using the engines all the way. The captain & owner, very unrecognisable in his casual gear was full of conversation with me and volumes of information, but I stumped him with the sea turtles nesting area. He quickly threw me to the cook, Trevor for that information as his wife is a marine biologist. Unfortunately, those beach areas cannot be reached by the Camira & certain exclusion zones are in place. I was relieved to know the turtles had a range of beach areas available to them.

With certain tide times the snorkeling is either done just prior to lunch or after, due to the beach embarkment on Whitsunday Island later on. Our day, had us getting our cumbersome stinger suits on prior to lunch which is what I had hoped for. These stinger suits were like putting on a condom really .. sorry for that analogy, but it certainly felt that way. Lol!!! We all looked so very well in black … good on you, lycra .. pure sarcasm for those who should not wear it. Bags & bags of snorkeling gear were thrown out onto the deck canvas for all to choose their respective sizes and whether we preferred a buoyancy vest or pool noodle for snorkel floating or if you were not a strong swimmer or to tread water for about 40mins, or so. Once we had our gear ready the mad scramble was to be on the first tender to the fringe reef, just off the shore of an island (not sure which island it was). The first tender took the stronger swimmers as they will be in the water longer. I was compliant in being on the 3rd tender and that still gave me plenty of water time. The boarding photo shows a young lady looking at me taking the photo. After snorkeling I was able to track her down and Charyse was thrilled that I took it of her and her friend next to her & was able to send it to her to complete her pic Camira biography. Finally, I got to speak to someone, even for a little while.

Rolling backwards off the tender into the refreshingly cool water was quite an adrenaline feel and a first for me. Surprisingly, I expected the water to be much colder. I struggled to stop the water entering my goggles, etc & it was quite frustrating until I realised my stinger suit head piece was compromising my goggle seal, so a few valuable minutes was wasted. Once I had rectified that, my snorkeling became amazing in seeing the reef below and numerous fish of all sizes & colours against the vast species of corals. Unfortunately, I lost my waterproof Go-Pro at my Machu Picchu trek & never thought to replace it. What a shame!!! The other snorkelers had their Go-Pros and were also diving further down towards the coral for a closer inspection whereas I had my buoyancy vest on. I accepted the circumstances and was more than happy with this experience and what I had seen. With what seemed like a flash of time, I was recalled to the tender to dry off & stand in line for a superb bbq & lunch buffet. Trevor did an amazing job in cooking the bbq to perfection. The sausages, steak, onions & hash browns was of prime quality. Adding to my plate I could not help but overflow my plate with the range of salads, breads & the exceptional prawns … & I mean exceptional prawns!!! I’m certainly not a big eater however the snorkeling had me churning for food.

Again, weirdness took over and it seemed like everyone was again excited in their snorkeling experience by simulating silence. I was still in a buzz of my water experience & willing to share in conversation, yet the only commentary on eavesdropping was about the food so I guess they were also churning in feeding their hunger. This ‘silence’ experience was doing my head in with so many people not willing to communicate outside of their group.

With another hour of cruising to Hill Inlet on Whitsunday Island I managed to get a few beers in and sunbake while sitting in my portside area of the hull with a very full stomach. Everyone, now in their swim gear & yet no-one talking and looking like they wanted a nanny nap in being soothed by the smooth tones of the diesel engines below deck & the gentle sway of the sea.

The air was broken by the captain on the pa, announcing for all to get ready for boarding the tender to clamber on shore of the Whitsunday Island at the cove beneath of Hill Inlet. You will be required to depart the tender in about 2’ of water at the shoreline so do not put your shoes on yet. Silly me, I forgot to bring my thongs (flip flops), thinking I would be trekking through the bushland to the other side of the island as described. I had my socks & joggers & with now wet feet & no time to dry I started walking with the group along the entire way of the almost black painted timber boardwalk in bare feet. With the boardwalk in full heat mode my feet soon dried for me to put my joggers on before my feet blistered with the heat & gained ground on my well-advanced group. The top of Hill Inlet seemed around the 400’ elevation mark so there were a lot of steps & the need for reasonable fitness & that I easily qualified, even in this high humidity heat.

The boardwalk pattern was a giant ‘Y’ shape of about a kilometre in length, so you had to concentrate on taking the swerve to the right and seeing that view at the top as you had to do this first to the dead end and then return the same way before taking the left swerve over & down to the famous Whitehaven Beach. Each viewpoint had a large plaque identifying the area so that information was priceless. The views were mesmerizing in the calmness & wonderous of nature. The all shades of blue to bluey-green waters, the crystal white, almost pure silica sands were unbelievable to anything I had seen before or even imagined. My photos do not show the real effects as my naked eye did, but my memory brain file will last till eternity. The near pure silica sands (virtually, mineral free) over the centuries have drifted here to form this great white beach of some 7klms in length. These finer sand particles drift within the water to form the various shades of blue, bluey-green haze of water colour with the rays of the sun. The guide said every day is a different theme of colour pattern with the tides, currents & sunshine.

I had to take a selfie to prove it was me on this trip & my photos, plus to promote my cousin’s microbrewery, @thewobblychookbrewingcompany at my hometown of Yamba, NSW. Currently, it is the only microbrewery with a restaurant and 20room boutique motel accommodation on the one building site in Australia.

If there were seating on these viewing platforms, you would sit for hours enjoying this amazing nature of colour & calmness. With the group already departed quite some time before me I thought it best to venture further down the left path to feel the pure white sand in my feet & to partake in ‘eloquently’, somehow to put my stinger suit back on and laze in the calm waters of the beach .. or is it a bay or cove? My group are around, but they are scattered all over, seeing we are no longer connected to the crew guide. We must be alerted to the time in order to keep to the Camira schedule, so after some 30mins of water ‘floating’ I returned to precisely the correct time to board the first tender at Hill Inlet Bay on the other side of the island. The lady crew member yelled out ‘turtle’ but it quickly went below the Camira before we could focus our eyes. Climbing back on board the Camira and looking over the side no-one could see any turtles even after confirmation from the crew the turtles are plentiful today. Bummer!!! .. to miss this nature sight.

Back on board I sat in the cabin lounge seats to listen to some pa music instead of soaking again in the hot sun, when an elderly gentleman (yes there were a couple of us oldies onboard) sat next to me (this man was sitting next to Charyse on the tender) & asked how the cricket test is going between Australia & India in India. My answer was a clear no, as I was solely enjoying today’s tour. He quickly gathered his phone to get the live stream & that conversation went well over an hour … man, of all the conversations to gain this day was an over exuberant, bordering on anger of a follower of cricket loosing big time!!! I yearned for the previous communication of silence again. When he slammed down his phone on the table, I thought that was my best cue to escape & that I did!! Got myself another beer & ventured to the sun.

With the long voyage back to the Port of Airlie some of the passengers backed up again for the afternoon tea and more beer, etc but not me. I remained quite full. This was the real time to enjoy the passing islands & water views and soak within the ambience of sea air & cancel out as much of the engine noise. It was surprisingly relaxing, & as promised, we docked at exactly 5.30pm for disembarking and enthusiastically thanking the crew immensely.

Walking up the pier ramp I looked to my right to see a couple I had met at my Club Wyndham Resort upon my arrival there. They came from Sydney & were taking the sunset Camira cruise before they left Airlie Beach the next day. We had a great 20mins catchup before they boarded & I returned to my resort for my Lean Cuisine TV dinner & beer & to watch the latest Maverick movie. What a day .. & night (great movie, well done Tom Cruise).

I’ll end this blog here and appreciate you all for taking the time to reading my travel blogs. My next blog will be the river crocodile tour, ending my time at Airlie Beach. Take care and enjoy life.

I don’t receive any commissions for promoting or mentioning companies in my blogs as I rather speak honestly on my experiences with them. I will never be compromised.

Airlie Beach Getaway, Queensland – February 2023 – Blog 3

Segway Rainforest Discovery Tour

From my previous blog I had my chill out day getting the local bus from Port of Airlie (directly below my Club Wyndham Resort) to nearby Shute Harbour to see what that offers. Shute Harbour is a few kilometres south of Airlie and it is the typical one road in & out. Arriving after some 10mins & doing my normal viewing out of the bus’s side window there was mainly a small commercial sector, sheds & a harbour of all types of boats, more of the commercial side, the ferry barge and of the locals’ smaller boats. I guess everyone that lives in Airlie has a boat of sorts. The incoming road was full of utes and empty boat trailers lining for some 400m & this I’m told was a normal day. With a flash decision I decided to stay on the bus due to the lack of activity that I believed was available to me plus, I’m a far way from being a sailor or shipmate. What I did miss on the bus return was the Shute Harbour Walk from a roadside sign that took you to the top of the peninsula hill and ocean views. Bummer.

Before long I was back to good old Airlie and browsed freely on my blogging, finally getting a decent coffee at The Deck Café & much later a beer after my lagoon swim. To reiterate on the coffee, it was basically the best I had in all the 9days at Airlie. No-one here, including Hamilton Island can make a decent coffee. Argghhh!!!! Check out the photo of the Hamilton Island coffee that cost me $6.10. It was also supposed to be delivered to my table however, after a long delay I found it on the counter for me to take back to my table. A simple apology is all that I received.

With my sedentary day of chilling out over, I was keen to engage the next day in my pre-booked Segway Rainforest Nature Tour $139 through Sailing Whitsunday Tours.  Our tour guide, Zak picked me up at my Club Wyndham Resort right on time at 9am with coaster bus & trailer. I was the first pick up but as the others boarded the timing became much worse due to their tardiness in being prompt which added some frustrations to the group. Zak did well to hide his emotions.

Heading out along Shute Harbour Rd towards the Proserpine township we turn left into the Brandy Creek Rd then joining Forestry Rd to the Whitsundays Great Walk in The Conway National Park, a total of 7klm of winding roadway from the Shute Harbour Rd turnoff.

We enter a clearing of gravel area to operate as a carpark and here Zak scores the prime area for our set up & Segway training. Our group consists of 3 women from Melbourne & a young recently married couple with the male being the only one that had previous Segway experience. We were previously advised to bring along a hat, camera, jacket or raincoat in case it becomes inclement weather & a must for covered shoes. The other requirements are for the rider to be between 45kg and 117kg and the ability to stand unaided. Looking at some of the other riders their shoes were not the best for Segway riding or walking in a rainforest.

Zak gave us a quick tour overview and information for using the Segway along with the required safety advice. He advised with the current market each Segway was now costing him $10,000AUD due to the USD currency conversion rate plus the American model is of far better quality than what can be bought from China & co. The Segway weighs in about 23kgs and has a specialised motor for each wheel, a series of lithium batteries & gyroscopes that with the incorporated computer calculates more than 2,000 sensor readings per second assuring the highest degree of safety available. Segways can be speed governed for further safety as ours are today. One by one Zak unloaded a Segway out of the trailer & assigned that key colour to the rider and placing the provided individual lunch box into the Segway pouch and a coloured helmet.

Each person was shown how to go forward, reversing & stabilising using the feet position and the motion of the body with the upright control bar but the more crucial aspect was of mounting & dismounting and parking the Segway. This proved to be the more difficult operation for some of the group along with the barrage of laughter that was forthcoming. The Segway is controlled when your feet are placed in the wide stance and upfront of the foot pad; from there you lean forward ever so slightly with the control bar as well & that will set you forward & at the variable speed on the leaning position. Moving the control bar sideways will allow you to turn in that direction. Reversing is slightly leaning backwards along with the control bar. To park, is to in our case, lean the Segway up against a tree, then dismount. It will the go into park mode. Got it?

Taking everything in my stride I couldn’t believe how quickly I became accustomed to riding a Segway. Zak was most surprised too and questioned whether I had been truthful in ever using a Segway before. I even started showing some group members on what to do which helped Zak immensely. Once everyone did a few circuits of the gravel carpark we were all deemed to be ‘accredited’ and we started the nature journey. The very first hurdle we were given seemed absolutely daunting but we all managed to navigate it successfully, with Zak close by, was to do a turnstile type entry past the locked park gate. Talk about confidence building after navigating that tight semi-circle.

We were now off on the long gravel pathway through dense rainforest along the Whitsunday Great Walk with the constant challenge of keeping to the safe areas of the bumpy gravel pathway & away from the camber side edges and at the same time looking for nature (flora & fauna) and watching your speed. Seems daunting at first, but it became easier has we ventured on. Zak rode up front placing plastic-coloured cones over hazards for us to avoid (rocks jutting out of the pathway, etc).

Within the next 200m we came across another gateway (now left opened) and this is commonly called the ‘Jurassic Gate’ like in the movie. I’m not impressed by this now that I’m the last rider in the group being the more competent rider. The tail guy always gets it from the T-Rex dinosaur!! Lol!!

The rainforest is quite dense within the rugged hilly landscape with deep ravines and creek runoffs below. You could only imagine what this area would be like in severe rainfall with its steepness and ruggedness. We came to an instant stop with very little warning as we had come across a young Monitor Lizard sunbaking on the pathway to gain his UV energy. He, or she was clearly making a statement that this was its area and was not considering moving out of the way any time soon. Taking photos was no problem to the lizard either but it eventually took us to inch closer before it showed any form of movement to allow us to pass.

Zak quickly reminded us again to keep to the safe distance of 3m apart to ensure our safety. Sometimes 3m wasn’t quite enough as I soon experienced, for around an upcoming hairpin bend the group started talking loudly. We encountered a group of about 6 walkers, all gorgeous young women that would make any male fall off their Segway. I surely wasn’t expecting this!!! I was able to ask if there were any more coming, but all I heard was laughter … I think I heard “you wish” .. LOL!!! They were walking out of the park obviously starting very early morning on their walk, unlike us at 10am. We certainly weren’t expecting anyone coming our way out of the blue & to meet on a tight blind corner was the added adrenaline.

Before long, Zak stopped to give us some plant detail & showed us the Gympie-Gympie Plant growing alongside this pathway that everyone must avoid at all costs, for it has tiny edge fibres on the leaves that can cause an anaphylaxis reaction & ongoing immense pain. The leaves are a heart shape and look very normal to other plant leaves. This plant has many nicknames, such as stinging tree (20m) or bush, Qld Stinger or suicide bush. Never ever rub the area affected and it is best to use sticky tape to remove the microfibres or tweezers. Some patients experience the burning & pain several years later with possible fibres still embedded in the skin. The pain is likened to being burnt with hot acid & being electrocuted at the same time. In 1866 a surveyor reported his packhorse was “stung, got mad & died within 2 hours”. There are tales of workers long ago committing suicide to eliminate the ongoing pain. Look this plant up on the internet to get more detail.

From that warning we proceeded to a much safer tree, a fig tree where it had self-sown onto a host tree and over the years ‘swallowed’ it and kept growing. The one in the photo is about 100+years old and the later photo, where we could walk inside it with the host tree decomposed, was well over 150yrs old. More photo opportunities for Zak to take all our photos ‘parking’ our Segways. Nearby we came across the camouflage effect on a tree trunk caused by different elements of fungi and algae growth. This is where the Australian Army derived its battle uniform to blend into landscapes. Rainforests continue to be explored for all types of hidden elements, from fungi and herbal medicine treatments, new species of insects and plant life, just to name a few.

After more lizards, rock path hazards and road cambers we reached the milky waters of Impulse Creek (milky from last night’s rainfall) where we all found a rock sitting area and opened our special morning tea ‘lunchbox’ to eat the home-made blueberry muffin & chocolate brownie Zak’s wife made the day before, an apple, bottled water & a container of mixed dried fruit & nuts. The muffin & brownie were amazing, Zak’s wife is obviously a great cook & I praised her to Zak in my feedback. Zak also had tea & coffee onboard so I enjoyed the coffee of course. The sound of the rushing creek and the shape of the water scarping over the rockbase where we sat was so soothing and crying out for us to sit in the water, but alas, no way to change into swimwear, nor time to soak in the creek. A side note, the creek can experience flash flooding.

With our rest stop over it was back to riding the 4.7klms of roadway again, but this time we were left to ride our own way and with Zak riding last to pick up the hazard cones along the way. Zak, being very experienced mentioned this is the time where the riders can get over confident, so take your time & enjoy the ride. Not a truer & timely bunch of words said.

I was 2nd last in the group with Zak further behind and I was certainly in no rush like the others, for I wanted to see other hidden gems along the way. Coming up towards the oldest fig tree again, a loud scream echoed out around the corner up ahead. One of the Melbourne ladies, had run over a smaller monitor lizard’s tail before it went into the rainforest, thus causing the lady to fall ungracefully off her Segway. She was unhurt & shocked but then felt much better in that her swerve saved the lizard from potentially a worse injury. The rider in front of her swerved around it & with her being directly behind her didn’t see it in time. She had forgotten the 3m rule.

I paused further up at the fig tree to marvel at its magnificence and with the added ferns & orchids clinging tightly to the branches before catching up to the others where another Melbourne lady was looking around in front of me & with little warning I was yelling “lean right, lean right”!!! Too late! She came tumbling off just missing the mud in the left embankment. Again, another rider lucky not to be injured. She kept saying she didn’t know what she had done to cause this accident despite me repeating she was looking around and didn’t notice she was travelling down a left camber in the pathway & therefore didn’t push her control bar to the right to return to the middle of the pathway. With all the drama now over, we returned to the turnstile exit which left me plenty of time to play further around the carpark waiting for Zak, and for him to load up the trailer of Segways. I had such fun scooting around and being last to load thereby limiting my time standing around or waiting in the confines of the bus.

This tour was certainly a good one to do but I would say it would be far better to do it much, much earlier in the day when the rainforest is more alive. We didn’t get to see the larger monitor lizards or much birdlife due to the noise humans make when walking & riding through. This would explain the early walkers returning when we were starting our entry. This walk must be high on the list for the locals to enjoy their fitness walks every chance they get. So much better than the closed in non-inviting gyms.

Everyone certainly enjoyed our half day tour navigating some 9.4klms of the Whitsunday Great Walk and our return bus journey still had Zak providing the commentary for us all back to our respective resorts however for the remainder of the day Zak dropped me off at Airlie main street to change into swimwear to enjoy the lagoon once again with a beer after before heading back to my Club Wyndham Resort. A day well ventured.

I’ll end this blog here and appreciate you all for taking the time to read my travel blogs. My next blogs will be the full day on a magnificent catamaran and then a river crocodile tour. Take care and enjoy life.

I don’t receive any commissions for promoting or mentioning companies in my blogs as I rather speak honestly on my experiences with them. I will never be compromised.

Airlie Beach Getaway, Queensland – February 2023

Falls to Paradise Tour

Settling into the lifestyle of Airlie Beach and my Club Wyndham Resort is amazingly easy and it seems to come so naturally. You might have to show some caution as it is an easy thing to subscribe to & be lost in the transient, backpacker style of chilling out no matter what age you are. LOL!

To set a change to this lifestyle & started booking some nature tours. The first one being Redcat Falls to Paradise Waterfall Nature Tour @ $149.00 AUD located at the Cedar Creek Falls. It was not totally my thing to do this tour package, but I wanted to support the local tourism companies and the outer support companies that enable these tours to be done & keep the local economy going. In this same breath I was not inclined to rent a car for outside travel and left this to the tour operators for this type of service. I was not in the mood for more driving.

The Redcat tour started by making your own way to the main street office (West end) with check-in time being 10am and the departure at 10.30am after signing the mandatory disclaimer & health form. Our day today provided the need for two vans. Our van & guide was Donna who loves her work and her required 3 days a week work duty. She was over the 5-6day work demand. With everyone on board we head west towards Proserpine to the Cedar Creek Waterfall turnoff, some 20mins (20klms) to the Conway Rd turnoff, then, 12mins (13klms) of partly winding road linking up to Saltwater Rd, then Cedar Creek Falls Rd into the Cedar Creek Reserve.

About 2/3rds of the way we have the adrenaline rush of crossing the road weir that on this day was covered in about 600mm of flowing Saltwater Creek from the heavy downpour from the night before. What we didn’t notice till later was the number of cars that parked along the roadway & the volume of people chose to walk through this creek water knowing the safety mantra of “If its flooded .. forget it” rammed heavily through our government warnings & media. Apparently, it must not apply to North Queenslanders. Lol! The other scary hidden scenario is the most heavily populated crocodile river is the Proserpine River not very far away. Yikes!!

From the creek to the falls is 1.1klms so it’s a short walk and with our vehicle crossing we managed to beat the volume of walkers to the limited picnic spot on the edge of the billabong at the waterfall. The waterfall was almost at its best with the previous downpour and made a pleasant & loud water noise. I have been to waterfalls prior & very disappointed on what was presented so at least this was presentable. Donna, our guide said with the rain the night before, the walking trek can’t be done under the Redcat operation due to being classed as very slippery however, we can do this under our own risk but wouldn’t advise it. This is what I booked for and was dressed primarily for trek walking and later to swim in the billabong. I’d have to walk through the rocky bed of the creek and about 300mm of water and re-dress to my trek wear, so it wasn’t worth the hassle & decided to spend my time swimming in the billabong.

Please note, there are no facilities here to change clothing so dress appropriately, or wisely. Some of the walkers that arrived struggled to use the towel changeroom method, so you had to be noticed in looking away or being totally oblivious to what was happening. The obvious entry into the billabong is in front opening however, I later found I had chosen the most awkward, slippery & dangerous entrance like many others nit thinking the main force of the waterfall would come through the front opening & therefore the larger boulders stayed in this area. The underwater boulders and rock shapes, along with the moss covering & slipperiness was amazing, all within about 600mm of water .. talk about owning every step! I soon lost balance and caved unceremoniously into the rather surprisingly warmish water & not collapse onto the rock formations under. From there I was able to breast stroke further into the billabong centre where is became much deeper.

Unbeknown to me, during this time my fellow tourists were provided a morning tea with no announcements for me to leave the water. With about 30mins of soaking up the billabong water and environment I left the water through the left hand side to a pebble laid bed which was so much safer, easier & quicker than the front entrance. Thankfully Donna helped me out with a few photos and then I was able to get a conversation going with a sole British backpacker & a newly married couple without the access to the morning tea, now returned to the van. Arghh!!! For flora & fauna there was very little to be seen however, the bird life was plentiful in sound only, possibly due to the noise us tourists were making for them not to be visible.

Without much ado & what seemed to be a very short timeframe, we were ushered back to the vans for a short trip back towards Airlie Beach to Northerlies Beach Bar & Grill for lunch and a beverage included in the price of the tour. This tavern is very well patronaged by the locals & tourists as it is on the shoreline of the Coral Sea & you can look out the various islands and back towards Airlie Beach & the Yacht Club/ Marina. Donna passed on the tavern’s 2 tickets, one for a select choice of food on the menu & an alcoholic drink or soft drink. Anything else was at our cost. I was able to have another conversation with British backpacker, Amy & the married couple, but the others kept their distance so that was weird & a shame for the disconnection.

We had plenty of time for lunch and I walked to the beach and enjoyed the serenity until Donna provided another photo opportunity which was very pleasing & to advise the other guide lady will be doing an island tutorial under the pergola now. The tutorial provided many facts and descriptions of the main islands & how Cyclone Debbie had devastated the region in 2017 with 270klms winds & surging seas, etc. Some of the island resorts may never be restored, such was the devastation and only a handful have survived and now operating.

In regards to the Whitsunday Island and its famous shoreline always under threat she lost me when she sprouted the crap of ‘Climate Change” which this con is being rammed down our throats by the UN & our weak compromised governments and bureaucrats. I strongly advise everyone I meet to read the real expert, Ian Plimer’s book “Green Murder” which is the real bible of Earth & its climate pre-dinosaur years to now. I declined in jumping in as I respected the means of the tutorial however, I would have loved the opportunity in discussing this with the young lady guide later on to steer her research past the climate narrative.

The tour concluded 3pm sharp as previously advised, however we all had the opportunity to stay longer & use Northerlies transit bus back to Airlie, leaving every 45mins if we so desired. Our group all loaded back into our van, but we were two people short (2 young ladies who didn’t really mix very well with us) were not within the other van. With another 20mins or more passing, finally a young man sitting in the other van looking at his phone the entire time advised the guide the young ladies had used the Northerlies transit bus an hour ago. The ladies never advised anyone apart from this young guy, so we were all not impressed by the lack of courtesy from these self-indulgent young people, including the young man stuck in his own media world.

With Donna holding her anger within I quickly changed the subject and had a great conversation with everyone back to Airlie seeing I’m now in the front passenger seat & not in the rear seat like before. We were let out back at the Redcat office and without many good-byes the office frontage was quickly deserted. Amy had vanished within seconds so that was unfortunate to not being able to wish her safe travels back to England the following week.

On refection, I was a bit flat knowing I had not received the full exposure of the waterfall tour, missing out on the trek walk, morning tea and the non-connection of people doing the tour at $149 but that is the risk you take even after scanning the website reviews. At least I felt better knowing I was helping keep Donna & other guides in their employment to some scale.

Looking around at the street I was encouraged to cool off again in the Airlie Beach community lagoon and then later a cold beer & a taxi back to the Club Wyndham Resort for another swim in the pool & spa. Tomorrow is a complete chill out day so I might take the local bus to see Shute Harbour some 10mins away & return to Airlie at $2.40 to start the day off.

I’ll end this blog here and start on my next Airlie Beach nature tour using a Segway of all things. Stay happy, healthy & celebrate every day. Take care.

Airlie Beach Getaway, Queensland – February 2023

Airlie Beach Getaway, Queensland – February 2023

Being an ‘Owner’ within Wyndham Resorts for more than 2 decades these COVID years has made it so difficult to book an opening in all Wyndham Australia resorts due to very limited owners travelling overseas so I was quite shocked some months ago in securing a 10day getaway. With February not the prime month to visit Airlie Beach … but hey, all places are worth the shot seeing Australia does have the best climate in the world. Some ‘off seasons’ are really pleasant. It’s up to you to embrace what the universe provides. Airlie Beach was the prime backpacker haven; however, things have redeveloped somewhat and really suited to families now and a very good recovery is well underway from the devastation from Cyclone Debbie in 2017. Airlie is back on board for all visitors.

The timeframe from Christmas, New Year & now to February is just a blink so I gave myself less time to plan my activities time. I’m a person that does the initial setup then stay in The Present, so plans don’t go astray & get disappointed. Scanning the What to Do websites I secured a Sailing Whitsunday Cruise Day for Whitehaven Beach, etc on the catamaran, Camira for $191.90 using my pension card (10% discount). I also took the advantage of using the voucher option so that I could pick the best weather day provided I confirm 48hrs in advance. The voucher also carries for 3 years too if things go astray. The Camira sails out of The Port of Airlie directly down the steep hill of Club Wyndham Airlie Beach, 8mins walk too.

To backtrack, I left my new hometown of Yamba NSW to stay overnight at my son’s & daughter-in-law home at Banora Point (NSW/ QLD Border). We had a great meal dining out and also with another son staying with them also. The following morning, they dropped me off at the southern end of the G/Coast rail line, Varsity Lakes. The single adult trip cost $42AUD .. WOW!! That has increased! The rail network of Brisbane & Greater Brisbane is the worst design, ever!! No foresight in planning at all. It basically consists of a human hand with 5 fingers going out to outer suburbs in the main compass directions however, each one terminates at the end of the line. There are no loops in the system. It really is a disgrace. End of rant!

Oh, not really! More rant! For the next few weekends there are major works scheduled for the CBD line to the airports. I am already on the airport train and now I have to alight at the CBD Roma St platform for the setup of shuttle buses (R700) included in the fare. This added another 50mins to the trip so I was fortunate, or checked is better, that I went online to see the timetable & that’s where I discovered the planned changes.  I always plan to be at airports extra early as the norm, so I’m well covered for this change.

I usually fly Virgin Airlines within Australia, cheaper & still great service & they keep to their timetable, unlike Jetstar & co. To get to Airlie Beach you have to fly out of Brisbane Airport to Proserpine Airport, 14klms South from Proserpine township & then a further 25klms NE to Airlie. To journey to Airlie Beach, you can only get there by a 13hr car drive or commercially through Brisbane Airport, not Gold Coast Airport, Sydney Airport, etc. Booking my flight, I noticed the going out costs change somewhat, and I took advantage of that by arriving a day later (losing a night/ day at the resort) & gained the 50% cheaper fare. Flying Saturday is dearer than other days. Leaving Brisbane is competitive & varies in pricing, whereas arriving in Brisbane is uniformly dearer from all airlines & any day is full price. My departure price was $165 & the return flight $365.

My flight was 2hrs (1,090klms = 13hrs straight car driving) from Brisbane and went extremely well. It’s been over 4yrs since I last flew. I did a train trip to Sydney last November if you read my last blog due to my flying COVID concerns. Airlie Beach is a bit North of the larger city of Mackay and it’s best to land at Proserpine Airport. Being a small airport in the scheme of things you climb down the stairs front & back of the plane & walk the hot tarmac. There are several options on getting to Airlie with taxis the most expensive or a range of shuttle buses with Connection Shuttle Bus the cheapest at $36 return fare which is the cheaper offer. Single fare is $22. The bus will also pick you up out the front of your resort too however, they can’t negotiate the steep hill of Wyndham with the large bus, so I’ll be down at the roadside kerb for pickup. The other major shuttle bus company was $42 return so be careful. You can book ahead giving your flight details or you can go to the counter at baggage collection & pay from there. The smaller shuttle buses must only be booked online.

My large shuttle bus dropped me off at the roadside kerb as per normal practice however, despite the driver’s calls to reception he could not get them to meet myself & others at the roadside with their golf buggy so it’s the long walk up. Seriously, if you are not fit & healthy, do NOT attempt this street Mount Whitsunday Drive hillside. When booking your resort just check if they provide their own shuttle connection as Airlie Beach Hotel does with their accommodation. Most connection buses regularly quote the $22 single fare and if they are sited on the hill without a golf buggy ride pickup from sea level, look out you’re in for a goat trip. You may have to get a taxi to scale this ‘mountain’.

Photos above are of my Club Wyndham unit & the pool/ spa below. My first 2 Airlie Beach days was venturing the CBD, drinking at various places, having lunch & dinner out, listening to live music and getting a taxi back to the reception of my resort for $8.50. Over the next week the taxi fares from the same spots went from $7.40 to $10.15 & that remains a mystery into their charges (same company). The first few mornings I had to have brekky out too, as the resort didn’t provide a menu at the time & also when going to Woolworths for food essentials it closed on my arrival Sunday night at 6pm sharp. I got there at 6.02pm. The other days they close at 9pm. Coles & my bank (ATM) are located outside of Airlie at Whitsunday Shopping Centre (Centro) some 4mins by taxi however, I used the cash out at Woolies. The Post Office I needed is located further out in an industrial area with a McDonalds I not placed on Google Maps yet. The rest of the day was enquiring & booking activities to fill in my 9 days. My resort has a CBD shuttle bus service (3 services per day, 9.30, 1.30 & 4.30pm), so it is best to fit in with them or a taxi to avoid my mountain street.

The Pub under The Airlie Beach Hotel is the place to be. A little bit pricey in some quarters but Airlie Beach is another level of expenditure, so make sure you pack your budget. You’ve been warned .. although I’m a pensioner & conscience about funds, so it maybe just me. I have paid $12 a schooner here so what’s your thoughts? I drank their own beer, Airlie Beach Hotel Lager @ $9 schooner & that was quite good .. but not as good as my cousin’s Wobbly Chook beer back at Yamba .. & cheaper. This location is an upgrade from the rest of Airlie Beach & they have a great live band stage with a superb sound system and cater for a lot of people with varying tastes of music & food. The band plays at certain times on Fri, Sat & Sunday nights.

Photos above are of the Airlie Lagoon/ bay, Club Wyndham set halfway up the steep hill (Grey/ blue roofs) & The Pub with beer & band. Paradiso Restaurant & Pavilion has a great waterview located along the parkland & shoreline behind the main street shops & if the wind is favourable the humidity water sprays, like in Las Vegas are most welcome. Today is a real humid day and the water sprays not really coming to our table areas with the breeze. Arghhh!! They serve great pizza, pasta & meat dinners and uses the QR scan code for ordering so I suspect there is a credit card surcharge applied at the end. Limited beers here so not as vast as The Pub. They have two locations opposite each other. One with high tables & stools, the other with normal dining, but the same kitchen.

Other great places for all dining are The Deck (middle of the main street) with brekky 6.30-11am, lunch 12-2.30pm, Pizza & cocktails 3-5pm, Dinner from 5pm & Mika (Mexican, pizza & meat) with happy hour 4-6pm & 1st floor dining. The local, more Aussie ‘pub’ is Magnums with accommodation on the main shopping street with Woolworths directly behind. Here you get the backpacker & real aussie feel & culture.

My first Airlie Beach outing was the Hamilton Island Day trip 7/02 booked through Sailing Whitsundays $134.00 for a 50mins cruise out of the Port of Airlie, where you are given 3 included tickets (2 for the ferry & 1 for lunch). I took the slightly dearer lunch at the Marina Tavern as opposed to the cheaper Popeye fish & chip option.  The Marina Tavern is left of the terminal & past the Marina Café, so don’t get confused. I had the tavern’s Angus Beef burger with chips, valued at $26 using my ticket. This day was of intermittent rain at the island which made the pedestrian journeys very awkward so the shuttle buses were in full use running at 15mins loop of the island. The Green bus does the North to South streets from the marina terminal, Aldi grocery, Post office & shops to the Hamilton Island Resort while the Blue bus does the rest of the island except the marina area. You can of course splurge out for your own golf buggy hire @ $72 for the day once you take the Green bus near the resort. The buggy shop is near the Nature Animals ‘island zoo’ where you can see a glass cage of a snake, 2 koalas (Yindi & Billy) in an enclosure & a couple of lizards for free in the courtyard. To gain further entry, & pat the koalas, costs $32 each adult, kids unknown. The public has almost free reign at the resort facilities (Catseye Beach, lagoon open pool, billiard & table tennis, etc). The adjacent Whitsunday Resort is off limits. 

Hamilton Island has its own concrete plant and the other bulk materials come in by the large barge I saw at the marina. I wonder how they get the concrete into the steep hillsides of the resorts and massive houses. They must use massive line pumps as a truck would really struggle on these hills. The island also has a State School for all the residents and of course well-equipped for everything else in living on an island of this standard.

With a rainy day this island becomes quite limited outside of the resort facilities. For example, I would have stayed for the 15mins bus interval to sat & walk around One Tree Hill where you can overlook the crystal clear blue of ocean water and look back at almost the full frontal of the resort & apartments but I had to settle for the quick glimpse out of the water-shedding bus window.

Photos above are of Hamilton Island showing leaving from Port of Airlie, resort lagoon, resort apartment frontage, satellite photo of Hamilton & Dent Islands & Billy at the nature/ zoo. After my voucher lunch at The Marina Tavern (Angus Beef Hamburger & chips) + a stubbie of beer I noticed the rain was clearing and decided to do another circuit of the Green Bus back to the resort and from there I was more confident of a bit of time prior to the next cloud downpour and took to the resort trail (behind the resort apartments up to the Resort Lookout).

With very little for me to do in regards to the resort facilities I took the gravel winding nature sandstone gravel pathway to the top of the resort lookout (2nd highest lookout at 560’ .. 170m), while the highest being 230m at Passage Peak. The trek path is quite steep and a bit slippery in parts so don’t do this if you have health issues & it is best to let someone know that you’re undertaking this walk. That was the last comment on the trek sign .. so, I laughed knowing there was no-one within 500m of me. Oh .. well .. here goes!! When you reach the summit of the Resort Lookout it has a large flat plain and slightly hidden on the right lies the lookout platform with a binocular setup and an island viewpoint map and almost 360° view with the airport below too. Certainly, worth the walk up & what a view!

Photos above involve the Resort Lookout and the views. With taking some obligatory photos I scrambled back down the path to be met with some Japanese looking tourists (they could have been Australians so you can’t instantly assume they are international nowadays). The man & 2 women were about my age so I let them know about the summit & they were getting close to it and to walk safely & rest often. I hope they reached the resort safe & well?

More Resort Lookout view photos above. Finishing my little trek at 2pm I caught the Green Bus out the front of the apartment building back to the Marine Tavern where I noticed several places (shops, bakery & Popeye café) were closing leaving basically the tavern to await the ferry back to Airlie. Another stubbie of beer to replenish & re-hydrate while watching the rain start again. Without much ado I patiently waited by the terminal for the ferry and despite the rain & the wind pickup it was a pleasant return journey.

Alighting from the cruiser I walked back to my resort and up the Whitsunday Island Drive (steep hill) but feeling more fit I did it without much hassle and to sink another stubbie & some nibblies watching the sunset background happening over the marina and headland to the East & fellow resort people enjoying the spa & pool below. Cheers to another great day in Airlie.

I’ll end this blog here and start another one of my other tours within the Airlie Beach region with some great photos of this wonderous area, knowing the weather will improve from the drizzle rain @ 28°C to 35-39°C temp with 83% humidity … wow!!!

My Vietnam Launch – Dalat – 2018 Backpacking

My Vietnam Launch – Dalat – 2018 Backpacking

Standby for lots of photos that will surprise you.

My Nha Trang hangout beer bungalow continued to serve up many great conversations with other tourists, Ray, Lee, Adam & his gf, Amy where I was convinced, I needed to get my itchy feet moving and overcome my laziness staying in this comfortable zone city; so, I took the comment from some of these new bungalow friends stating Dalat was the next decent stay place & started to book the bus trip (4hrs 119K Dong, $7AUD). My bungalow was such a cruisey place to just hangout & see the beach world just pass you by.

Saying good-bye to Perry at the iHome Hostel and to pass on my many thanks to Julia who was having a day off I met the Singh bus at 9am out the front of their office nearby only to be surprised by sharing the trip with Adam & Amy. We had to sit in the allocated ticket seats so Adam & Amy were pushed to the rear of the bus & I had to take the central seat sharing with a young Vietnamese girl who wouldn’t speak to me until basically our arrival at Dalat. The bus wasn’t the best I had been on either, so fingers crossed again we make it. We left on such a glorious day where temperatures were constantly in the 39°C range only to depart the city surrounds in escalating rain. The air con was also set on a very low temperature which had us all in shivering mode, not being able to gain our extra clothing in our bags.

Of course, the trip turned into 5.5hrs (the bus was so underpowered on this mountainous 1,500m climb) and the rain never stopped. Adam was so over the trip .. he was fuming whereas I was too cold & starting to get soaked to encourage the venting. We were let out on the outskirts of the city for some unknown reason, so Adam, Amy & I shared a cab to our respective hotels. Adam/Amy’s hotel was first. It was outstanding & very upmarket, but mine, Nguyen Minh Hostel, being only $9.90USD/ nite with brekky) was to be expected. It was now 21°C and teeming rain which also created a wind chill factor to make it somewhere around 16°C & a big swing from my normal sunny/ humid 39°C. My room was quite nice but on the 3rd floor which means 6 flights of stairs and they were only 2ft wide. With a double backpack it was not fun. Definitely one-way traffic on these stairs.

Renovations were underway next door so sleep was impossible with a before 6am start against a non-stop major transport road. This will be another test to my acceptance of dealing with things as they eventuate. Of course, with the weather change and the rain still happening I headed towards getting a cold. With my eyes almost closed for more sleep I trundled down the stairs to be greeted by a very busy woman who looked like does everything here. I was besotted by the woman’s baby daughter, about 3 ½ yrs old & very tiny who hands you a menu & you point to the picture & she races back into the kitchen & shows her Mum who nods & starts to prepare. Soooo cute!!!!!!!

On finishing brekky, I scoured towards the tourism centre only to find it shut down. Oh well!!! Dalat is a city of 425,000 where there is no prominent entry point of interest or significant landmark. It’s just a large town that grew & redevelopment started in a haphazard isolated way, apart from the lake area. My decision was to first venture towards the city centre but not directly. Somehow, by sheer fluke, I found myself out the front of Adam’s ‘palatial’ hotel and almost instantly Adam comes out with a cigarette & sees me walking. We stopped & chatted for a while & he confirmed they would be leaving the next day due to cancellations of their activities, etc due to the poor weather. He was not happy with his well-known Irish weather following him & stated there was a typhoon happening up near Hanoi & their journey is heading North as well. Double whammy.

I wished Adam well & safe travels & further up the road, the rain was getting heavier & I found part relief under a large café umbrella against the roadway wondering where to go next. Out of the blue, 3 Vietnamese young men called me over from a cafe. They were all having coffee. They provided me with a tiny Kindergarten-type stool and wanted to talk about myself & my travels. I ordered a Vietnamese coffee through one of the young men who spoke the best English. He translated our conversations to the others. The coffee came with a strainer, cup & jug to which I was not accustomed to. The young man, then prepared it for me & explained the sequence to ensuring I get the best serving of the coffee. This coffee was amazing and so good but I think I would struggle again trying to remember the procedure. 

One by one they all said good-bye in their broken English & wished me well, leaving just one of the guys behind momentarily where I went to pay for my coffee & theirs, only to be told one of the other guys had already paid for me. WOW!! Such kindness and I was troubled that I couldn’t repay the kind favour for he vanished so quick to his scooter. With the rain now easing I headed towards the city centre & the markets. I could not believe the amount of fruit, vegies, flowers & the like that you could buy here & so cheap. The markets were huge!!! That explains the hectares & hectares of sheltered garden houses we saw coming into Dalat. Apparently, Dalat is a major food supplier (food bowl) to Vietnam. Visiting a few stalls, I loaded up with a huge number of strawberries, giant avocado & oranges and they were the best quality I had ever seen. All in all, I had walked 4Klms in the morning & I was scoffing the fruit down all night to boost my Vit C intake to overcome this cold eventuating & getting an afternoon catchup of ‘lost’ sleep.

Feeling so much better the next day I headed back to the café to hopefully return the favour to the young men I had met for coffee. Unfortunately, they didn’t turn up after much waiting. Their generosity & kindness will stay with me to eternity & I will forever pay it forward when opportunities arise. I walked the outer rim of the city, mainly around the immense lake and ventured wherever there was an attraction to see. The weather prevented me from taking the tourist chairlift ride so it was a lot more walking for me today. For dinner, I had to search a fair distance from my hotel to find something that suited my belief in food .. I’m very conservative on my intake. As you can see in the photo, I had little choice in this menu. Certainly, avoided the eels & frogs for starters. What would be your choice?

The next day, having brekky with the hotel’s baby daughter, I went back to the markets for more fruit. 1kg Strawberries (50K Dong), 1 Mango (10K Dong) & 2 huge avocados (40K Dong) which all equates to $4.50USD and a very cheap medicine to eventually remove my cold. From that event my new travel world was about to change .. BIG time!!!! I found a small area of a large patio to a disused building located above the markets on a busy city road to devour my fruit prize when I heard a “hello” from an elderly Vietnamese man in a wet weather poncho. He saw me from the other side of the road & we sat & talked for ages. His name was Chung Phan, a motorcycle ‘Easy Rider’ that does long tours for tourists or Dalat city day tours. I was slightly older than he, & with that he provided a range of reduced costs for me ($70USD down to $60USD/ day, accommodation included) to think about considering I informed him of no income & living off my savings. He showed me testimonials, the route he takes on his Jungle Tour”, etc which seemed amazing in the land he would cross over. I confirmed I would let him know after I think more about it that night checking on my limited budget. If I could have predicted my imminent future, I would have been far more comfortable in my spending but very few can predict the future & how things would work out. I should have trusted the universe more.

After eating my fruit & saying a ‘good-bye’ to Chung I ventured to another tourist attraction, The Maze Bar just up the road in Khu Hoa Binh (Street). This is a real quirky place. The front is a typical shop front and the price on entry is the price of a mandatory beer drink included. The sign challenges you to reach the top in a set timeframe with different levels of goals in finding the top bar on the 4th floor. This place would never meet the fire regs back home as it is a maze within a building, limited lighting and certainly is a challenge finding your way through various direction options. How would you escape this building if an emergency happened? Taking a bit more care & using what brain cells I had left, I managed to scale to the top in 15mins which is an expert time & the beer was most welcomed as my reward.

Making my way back to my hotel I immediately got the chills .. not from my now eliminated cold but from workers setting up the formwork to columns on a construction site some 5 floors up in constant rain with no perimeter barricades. One slip & they’re gone!!! Scary stuff as per the photo. Travelling through Cambodia & Vietnam I managed to see some incredible and unsafe building practices & I wish I could forget some of them. Running through Chung’s commentary on the way back to my hotel & sizing up the tour opportunity and with absolutely nothing on my horizon I surprised Chung in confirming by email to start the tour. He was quite excited and we exchanged a few emails to make sure everything is sorted. He later learned that my word was absolute truth as he thought I had just brushed him away when we originally met.

That night it was again hard to sleep even after using the fluffy doona as a mattress topper, but I could not also eliminate the ongoing transport & construction noise factor. On top of that, one could not keep thinking about my new 4-day jungle tour & that Chung would also drop me off to my next destination, Mu Nie (Moonay) some hours South East of Dalat on the coast to save me a lot of trouble.

The next day, I gained the chance of a scooter tut-tut to take me to the other side of the city to Crazy House for 20k Dong ($1USD). I gave the rider a tip too. Entry fee to the Crazy House was 50K Dong and this was most certainly a crazy house & of great value. I hope you like the photos and there were too many to place in this blog however this would give you the concept and amazing themes provided. The owners were expanding this house maze to another adjoining block and I got to see their construction method, albeit, I wished it was more structural seeing I’ve been a builder for over 35yrs. Crazy House Photos below with entrance as #1, then external facades in the courtyards, then typical hotel room & internal room murals, etc. Enjoy.

In this complex of weirdness, you can stay in their quirky hotel set up, although the rooms are quite limited and best to book early. After experiencing this one-of-a-kind crazy house, I walked back towards the city lake and saw more attractions and different modern constructions. With my new departure nearing I collected enough cash from my beloved Agri ATM & bought a couple of activity/ colouring books & pencils for the hotel’s daughter and a couple of matchbox cars for their 6yr old son. Both were ecstatic on receiving their gifts and their mother was almost crying with gratitude. For me, the simplest of things in life are the most pleasing.

On Saturday, 21st July, Chung arrived promptly at 8am out the front of my hotel standing in the rain with a poncho & plastic wrap bags for my backpacks.  Within 2 minutes he had everything loaded onto his 500cc motorbike & for just a few minutes the rain had stopped for the photo. We are now on a 4day Jungle Tour as Easy Riders. It’s amazing when you meet people and instantly find comfort & trust in taking the big steps with them. Chung is a wonderful human! I was now on a journey where no-one would know where I am or if I’m OK. I must Skype my daughter each night to ensure all is well to alleviate this ‘fear’.

I’ll end this blog here, so stay safe, happy & hopefully enjoy the photos and kick this ongoing COVID-19 & the more-vile vaccines back into history. Stay tuned for my next blog on my amazing 4day ‘Jungle Tour’.

“Communication … Communication … Talk to each other”. From a song “Kite” on the concert DVD “Go Home” by U2 @ Slane Castle. YouTube have it also.

Thank you again for reading my blogs and I trust you will stay safe, happy & healthy for 2023 and for it to be a far better year for all. I do not receive any commissions &/or ‘perks’ from the above nominated businesses & locations as I am purely happy to provide the acknowledgement and connection.

I always look forward to seeing the feedback so don’t be afraid to comment. My next blog/s will be more of the amazing Vietnam experiences and quite a few were life changing, & not just for me.

Live life to the most and a quote that I truly love is from Eckhart Tolle ..

“If I am not the hero of my life … who in the hell could be?”

Sydney Getaway November 2022 – Day 5

Before I start my Day 5 blog of my recent Sydney visit, I can’t believe I have racked up my 60th blog in my last travel blog, Day 4. Who would have thought I would reach this milestone being basically self-taught on this writing adventure. If I can do it, albeit in a simplified version of blogging, anyone can do it. Please encourage anyone you know to take the journey on whatever subject they are passionate about.

Well it’s Day 5 & my last day in Sydney CBD & another great brekky at the Lobby Café then off towards the nearby Hyde Park (North direction) to first, see where the real elite criminals reside out of sight from NSW citizens (Parliament House  .. der!!!) in Macquarie St. Sadly, we are ‘blessed’ with self-serving inept politicians that always put us citizens last & then lie & bribe us to vote them back in at elections. This Macquarie Street is full of the elites, highest paid medical specialists, financial bodies, etc much like Wall Street in New York. Australia must be the most over governed country in the world as we are only 25Mil in population & we have 3 levels of governance. Per capita we would have the biggest number of public servants and politicians anywhere in the world. As Trump said “We must drain the swamp”. So accurate & strongly wish this to happen soon.

Along Macquarie St, heading North I saw another hero statue of mine, Matthew Flinders who was the first to circumnavigate around Australia starting on the West Coast in 1801 & finishing 1803 amongst his other great achievements. He was also the first one to name the then New Holland, Australia on his maps & they were far more accurate than any other sailor in his journeys & some are still used today. Walking further & around the corner was the magnificent NSW State Library and towards the harbour I came across a beautiful plaque commemorating the greatness & thankfulness of our horses in World War 1. The forgotten heroes & sadly not one returned to their homeland to retire in pastures befitting their service. For some unknown reason to me they were all euthanised under orders.

I kept walking down towards the harbour where you cannot avoid The Opera House, Harbour Bridge in all their glory or now, the empty cruise ship terminal (1st photo below). The Queen Elizabeth liner certainly didn’t stay long (2 days). Moving to the western side of Circular Quay you are presented with a great sandstone building of the NSW Contemporary Arts Museum which looks like it is heading fast towards the WOKE format, so I won’t be entering there. Continuing along the harbourside you can start to walk under the southern approach of the Harbour Bridge & see the maintenance scaffolding in numerous locations for the ongoing preservation painting of the steel structure & the like. The workers look so tiny up there. Of course, the sun plays havoc with your camera this time of the day. Arghh! Lunar Park still looks the same across the harbour & it must be 4 decades since I set foot there & for some strange reason, I have no yearning to revisit in the time I have left. Lunar Park photo is in the background of the bottom RH photo.

Keeping to the water’s edge you come down some steep stairs & around to Hickson St & the start of Piers 1 & 2 & Wharves 3-5, etc of luxury apartments set on the old wharves with plenty of expensive boats moored there. I wonder how they replace the timber piles supporting these wharves? The Body Corporate fees must be massive, let alone the purchase price! I did marvel at the Bentley Sports coupe parked out on the street.

Around this Rocks area you can see the really old sections and the fast re-development of this Rocks headland with another view of new construction & the recently completed Barangaroo Crown Casino Tower behind. If you look closely as you wander around you can see the unusual Palisade Hotel (built 1915-16) & Sydney’s Oldest Hotel, Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel, cnr Argyle & Kent Sts & then the Oldest Pub, Fortune of War, 143 George St, all are heritage listed. By this time, I had done a complete circumnavigation of The Rocks area and enjoyed a great late morning tea at the bakery adjacent to the Fortunes of War pub in glorious sunshine.

Walking back towards Circular Quay it was great to see a wonderful plaque at the staircase behind the Contemporary Arts building of the First Fleet but alas, so many people were oblivious to it and looked like any other plaque at first glance. Shame, so many people walked past this every day & not take in the enormous significance.

A surprising popup display structure was the Louis Vuitton Exhibition at the start of Circular Quay near the forecourt of the Contemporary Arts building which must have cost an absolute fortune! Even had an electrical wheelchair access lift to the side for disability access and the internal display, whilst definitely not my fashion style certainly no expense spared. Fashion does cost money … lots of it!! Recently the world’s wealthiest man who owns volumes of fashion & perfume houses, etc took over the mantle of Elon Musk so that proves it. The massive vibrant screen is the last display before the exit & captures your movement walking past & places the inter-twining swirling colours & blackness into a fluid sensual 3D abstract affect. A very weird experience. Luckily, the lady following me showed everyone her moves while I drifted (sneaked) towards the exit, as I’m shy to displaying my ‘moves’. Lol!!

Moving on past Circular Quay heading East, I rewarded myself with an expensive schooner of beer at The Opera Café near the water’s edge such was the luxury setting ($11.30 thank you). Not wishing to partake in another luxury beer I wandered off to the nearest tourism spot, The Sydney Museum in Bridge St. Seeing the large Indigenous Flag on its facing was a bit confronting at first as there was no Australian Flag alongside which is obviously divisive to say the least, for we are ONE!!! Everywhere you go nowadays it’s in your face. Our governments are driven to divide us & create a chasm of race-based division & the Labor govt is pushing for an Indigenous voice to parliament through a scheming referendum in 2023. We already have 11 Indigenous voices (Politicians) in parliament through the elections which per capita of indigenous is a great result already. Speaking of indigenous, it is a wrongly worded category, for I am indigenous too. I was born here! I can’t wait for the sheep to awake to the scheming Left Wing, Socialist, WOKENESS & Critical Race Theory BS world-wide & in Australia.

Moving on from politics & back to my Sydney journey, entry is free to the Sydney Museum and it is nice inside and well presented. The first display is a low-level table-like cabinet with the models of the entire 11 First Fleet ships & a summary of each including their respective details & history. I really liked this display for I have recently read an accurate history of the First Fleet heavily & accurately compiled from real ships journals in a book “Beating France to Botany Bay” by Margaret Cameron-Ash. An amazing insight into all facets involving the First Fleet & the real facts.

After the model ships you are provided paintings and prints of the historical commencement of the Sydney’s settlement and the city’s evolution including the ups & downs experienced including the diseases, slums, violence (robberies, fights & murder) & poor city planning with rapid immigration & trade. The next display is a film presentation which I found quite biased to the indigenous (Aboriginal) side & it was like a tweak to re-write history … as it was a shift from accurate settlement journals. Yes, there was illness, starvation, crop failures, etc but there was always an avenue presented for a positive connection with the aborigines even though each party was testing the other out, being the devil’s advocate. It was a bit one sided in my opinion, hence only the large Indigenous flag out the front of the building.

“Indigenous” is a term I struggle with. It was derived from Canada in recognising their original inhabitants but in Australia it has been twisted to meet an agenda of ‘First Nation’. To clarify, I am indigenous! I was born here, have an Australian Passport … so all of us sharing this birthplace are indigenous. Also, ‘First Nation’ is another political term to identify the aboriginal & Torres Strait people. These people never formed a nation when our First Fleet arrived. They were isolated tribes, some 200+ or so & they all did not have the same language either. BTW, I have many aboriginal friends & grew up with most of them, so don’t throw the racist card at me & they follow the same principles of me in regard to the political crap we are constantly bombarded with. Australia will this year have a referendum to change our Constitution to enable “A Voice to Parliament” where the ‘Indigenous people’ will have a tier of government to oversee, consult, approve or deny basically every government decision & to enable education, health & lifestyle to all indigenous people. The government is lying to us as there already is a voice presented with 11 indigenous politicians in our current parliament. The most ever. Also, the government has basically been paying indigenous councils, groups over $33Billion each year for decades but everyone knows this money goes to the elite indigenous people & groups & not where it is needed. Australia is being divided by the government by race.

With more city meandering & site seeing of city life I managed a good 11.73klms today but I do have to go out & find food for dinner later which in fact brought out a further 3klms seeking out a good steak hotel. I head home early tomorrow morning on the XPT (Regional Train of 10hrs) back to my birth town of Grafton & then a 50mins bus trip to Yamba, so there’s’ not much to write about these trips. Hope you enjoyed the last 5 days of my Sydney blogs & photos? Take care & all the best for 2023 & sincere thanks for reading my blogs. Keep scrolling down for all my blogs (good night reading to help you sleep … LOL!!!). Cheers.

Sydney Getaway November 2022 – Day 4

Day 4 in Sydney CBD & with only 1 more day left I started with my favourite Vegie Brekky at the Lobby Café within my Wyndham Sydney Resort & their unbelievable Zinger Juice which gave me the added power to walk to The Powerhouse Museum Sydney in ‘nearby’ suburb of Ultimo, along Goulburn St heading West (about 20mins). This museum opens at 10am & is a completely free entry. There’s also an associated café in case you are there before opening times. The museum is basically West, adjacent to Darling Harbour so not a bad walk.

This is the first time I have seen this museum and was very surprised as to what I found inside. There are approx. 400,000 items on display and some are huge as you will find out looking at the photos. The very first display on Ground Floor is the NSW #1 locomotive with carriages which started service in 1855. It served for just 22yrs and was quickly secured as a museum item. It is very rare for any country or state world-wide to have in their possession their #1 locomotive so it is a thrill to see we had secured ours in prime condition and is a perfect display of yesteryear.

Following this display, you find yourself overlooking the vast floor space of the previous power station with original gantry cranes still in place and all the working machinery & history of the steam power mounted on the floorspace and how this power type served in our history to fast-track Australia’s energy & innovation to various industries. Some displays even showed how steam & air power was invented & by whom. A complete history and a lot of miniature displays in working order. I was so thrilled to see so many students today doing their educational tours there. Learning real education instead of all the WOKE curriculum crap in the classroom.

Progressing from the same elevated platform behind, you can see the lowly-suspended original Catalina Frigate Bird 11 seaplane. More on this important plane later. In the same area there are other forms of transport, namely another steam locomotive, horse drawn carriage & another higher-suspended past regional ‘Careflight’ aircraft & a suspended rocket missile replica. In this mixed transport area, I was surprised to see the original Central Railway Station Indicator Board in all its glory. It was designed by NSW Railways back in 1906 and served the passengers for some 76years. The board shows a display of a Sunday in 1937. The board was cleverly operated from the floor by workers using key operated rods, gears & levers changing even the clock faces. A real feat of engineering. In 1982 this board was replaced with 20 television monitor board from my Day 1 blog photos.

To the Northern end you are guided into the space arena with all kinds of space, rocket & satellite machinery and working models giving you an insight of the internals of spacecraft and what expertise goes into how this adventure is undertaken. There is a display of an actual moon rock & scaled moon traveller buggy. As the saying goes “the more you look .. the more you see”. I believe this is the favourite area for the junior school students. The sky is not the limit nowadays.

Now back to the truly amazing Catalina seaplane which was provided by the then Prime Minister from the RAAF base at Rathmines, NSW for the sole purpose of flying the first flight (1951) & then of many from Sydney to Valparaiso, Chile, some 13,600klms & taking 2 weeks to undertake the flight. It was refitted, flown & fully operated by Sir Patrick Gordon Taylor GC MC. He later gifted this plane to the museum in 1961. The flight left Rose Bay Sydney to Brisbane then continued to hop from various Pacific islands towards Valparaiso Chile. In early 2019 my eldest son, Scott & I travelled to Peru, Ecuador & Chile & even stayed at Valparaiso so I have a clearer understanding of this feat. We travelled to Auckland, then Santiago Chile, then into Lima Peru, all in 22hrs with 3hrs in total stopovers. That was tough for us, so how do you do a 2 weeks journey in a propeller plane with little comfort?

I noticed with great delight that the first return flight incorporated a safe landing in Australia waters of my hometown of Grafton on the Big River, The Clarence River before the huge celebratory landing at Sydney with Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies on hand to congratulate them. A famous background story of Capt Taylor was when on a Tasman crossing flight aboard The Southern Cross plane with the very famous Sir Charles Kingsford Smith where he was the co-pilot & navigator. During this crossing mid-flight, the Port engine was failing & Taylor scrambled out onto the strut of the wing (Bi-Plane) & transferred oil by a thermos from the Starboard engine to the Port engine. This saved the plane & crew & he was awarded the Empire Gallantry Medal for his courage. I’m now interested in reading his books, Frigate Bird, Call to the Winds & The Sky Beyond.

In addition to this city Powerhouse Ultimo Museum the NSW State Govt is currently spending an enormous amount of money to construct a sister museum, named Powerhouse Parramatta in the Western Suburbs of Sydney where it will be the largest cultural infrastructure project in NSW since the Sydney Opera House and one of the largest structural engineering and architecturally complex projects underway in Australia. The museum will be the largest museum in NSW at 30,000 square metres & will incorporate the unique design and architectural features to include 18,000 square metres for inspiring exhibitions and education programs, sharing more of the Powerhouse collection than ever before.

Finally, after quite some time I was out of the maze of the museum and searched for another outlook of the Darling Harbour (West side) coming across the Marine Museum along the Western dockside. This is a very large exhibition of past warships, an historic submarine, war vessels & even my beloved HMAS Bark Endeavour, a replica of the famous HMS Endeavour sailed by Ltn Cook, later to become Capt James Cook. To view this ship & others you will require a ticket $25 Adult or Concession $20. This exhibition is a great sight but you can’t help notice the everchanging backdrop of the Eastern Darling Harbour dockside & CBD skyscrapers with the new Barangaroo Casino Tower on the left of the photos.

I continued my city walk via the Queen Victoria Building (QVB), completed 1898 for a light lunch & the best coffee at Metropole QVB café before winding back to my resort but failed to beat the thunderous storm event & chilly ice winds. How the city changes and people scatter everywhere when rain falls. My day walk totalled only 9.44klms so that is below my daily average, but my feet are telling me it surely was longer. Must be getting older. Lol!! With all day activities over these past few days, I was not inclined to pursue the nightlife of Sydney. A few theatre shows were already booked out & not really of my preference. I thought it was best to manage my body stamina with all this walking I’ve been doing.

Stay tuned for Day 5 where I venture way back in time to early settlement & convict days via The Rocks area and old wharves adjacent to the Harbour Bridge. Take care & stay safe. Thank you for reading my blogs. Very much appreciated.