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Sapa

Sapa is a beautiful, misty mountainous region of Vietnam close to the border of China. Not managing to get there on my first visit to Vietnam it was an absolute definite this time around. Catching the late overnight train was the perfect way to travel there without wasting too much time. While not luxurious, the sleeper cabins were perfectly agreeable and being very tired, I was out like a light waking up only an hour or so before Lao Cai station.  Upon arrival we had another bus ride of about 40 minutes up the mountains to reach the town of Sapa.

The indigenous hill tribes of the area mix in the town with Sapa locals and indeed, their presence is a very visual one.  Sapa is probably the most well known area of Vietnam to produce beautiful hand-crafted textiles and it is here that  a textile lover could quickly empty her purse. (And I nearly did!) A variety of hill tribes live in villages near each other and all have a particular style to the work that they do.  Prominently, the Black Hmoung.

With only two days to see what we could of Sapa, we spent the first day doing a trek to Cat Cat Village which is one of the closest villages and consists of a lovely 6km round trek from the Sapa township.  Mostly downhill into the valley stepping amongst the mud ruts and moving through the mist which would settle and lift, it was a great introduction to the area.  The views were as expected – magnificent.  A mix of terraced agricultural fields, valleys and hills and random pockets of huts and small collections of animals. The steep descent into the main part of the village landed us at the base of a waterfall and, what I would imagine, the town square. And as would make sense, it was then a steep ascent back out of the valley.  Granted Cat Cat now caters for the tourist walker but if you had more time to spare you could spend a little more time heading off the main track into other areas of the village. What I found disappointing/upsetting/frustrating was the buildup of rubbish that seemed to frequent the roadside.  This is not limited to the Sapa region though – it is found throughout Vietnam. Packaged goods and water might be great for convenience and necessary(in the case of water) but the huge price the environment pays for the extra dollars that tourism brings in will reach overload at some point.  The huge issue of education around waste management is something that Vietnam will have to deal with effectively at some point. And with a growing population, growing tourist market and limited land mass to make it all a bit more difficult. But with a huge amount of the population still struggling to pay their way and feed themselves, I suppose this is probably not of the highest priority. Travellers themselves need to be aware of their own responsibilities when it comes to waste and its disposal.  I would imagine that I am not the only one that feels uncomfortable when I see the mounting rubbish piles that threaten to destroy the beauty of Vietnam and knowing that the industry called Tourism, of which every visitor is a part of, has contributed immensely to this.

The second day took us on another trek – this time a 16km one through a number of villages.  Once again, gorgeous scenery and the Black Hmoung ladies kept us entertained with their humour inbetween the bouts of selling frenzy.  Cho our guide, was a lovely, sweet lady who told me little tales of her domestic life in a village 15km from Sapa.. As she was doing an all day tour, she bought her 8 month baby along so she could feed and care for her.  As with all the babies carried tightly to their mothers, they always look so contented and cry very little.  As the mist was starting to settle heavy, we reached the final village where a bus took us back up the steep track in order to catch our night train back to Hanoi.  And yes, I was out like a light once again.

Cat Cat Falls with Cho
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Daywalks Around Victoria Updates & Corrections

Walk 2 (Lorne Forest Walk)
p16. Kalimna Falls Walking Track and Link Track are currently closed. You can complete the walk by following Garvey Track (from Sheoak Picnic Area) to Sheoak Track. The alternative walk (Sheoak Picnic Area to Swallow Caves) is also closed. Check out http://www.parkweb.vic.gov.au for further details.

Walk 4 (Around Aireys Inlet)
p24. Currently there is no access to Painkalac Reservoir, including along the walking trail from Distillery Creek and Moggs Creek picnic grounds. We have been told it will reopen within a few months. Gentle Annie and Moggs Creek Tracks are closed. Check out http://www.parkweb.vic.gov.au for further details.

Walk 6 (Major Mitchell Plateau)
p32. The road up to Mt William is currently closed due to flood damage. This walk is therefore closed at the moment. Check out http://www.parkweb.vic.gov.au for further details.

Walk 7 (Mt Rosea and Sundial Peak)
p38. The road up to Sundial Carpark is currently closed due to flood damage. This walk is therefore closed at the moment. Check out http://www.parkweb.vic.gov.au for further details.

Walk 9 (The Fortress Caves)
p50. The Victoria Range and surrounding vehicle access tracks are currently closed due to flood damage. Buandik Campground is also closed. This walk is therefore closed at the moment. Check out http://www.parkweb.vic.gov.au for further details.

Walk 13 (Langhi Ghiran)
p68. Lagoon Track and Link Track are closed due to flood damage. This walk is therefore closed at the moment. Check out http://www.parkweb.vic.gov.au for further details.

Walk 17 (Clearwater Creek)
p90. Clearwater Creek is correctly known as Watties Creek according to the Parks Victoria website. This makes much more sense. The confusion appears to have come from the 3rd edition of Meridian’s Lerderderg & Werribee Gorges map which calls it Clearwater Gully. There is already a Clear Water Creek just north of O’Briens Crossing.

Walk 19 (Pyrites Creek)
p98 There has been some trail maintenance done in Wobbly Gully during Autumn 2011, which has made the trail much easier to follow.

Walk 20 (Mt Kooyoora)
Kirwans Track and Mount View Road are currently closed to vehicles due to flood damage. These tracks may still be open to walkers. If so you should be able to start and finish the walk at Melvilles Caves Campground. Call Parks Victoria or check out http://www.parkweb.vic.gov.au for further details.
p103. The campground mentioned is Kiata Campground, this is a mistake as Kiata Campground is in the Little Desert! Obviously it should be Melville Caves Campground (which has no shelter or water).

Walk 25 (Cathedral and the Jawbones)
p124. The map icon places the Cathedral Range incorrectly.

Walk 27 (Pine Mountain)
p136. Pine Mountain is a return walk, not a circuit.

Walk 29 (Mt McDonald)
p146. The fire trail between Low Saddle Road and North Ridge Saddle appears to have become overgrown (post fire regrowth) and is no longer easy to follow.

Walk 31 (Mt Feathertop)
p161. The map indicates Federation Bungalow Site. This should be Feathertop Bungalow Site.

Walk 35. (Cape Liptrap Coast Walk)
p178. According to Parks Victoria Five Mile Track is ‘closed until further notice’ (http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/great-otway-national-park). It’s always been very wet during the winter months but it’s obviously got a lot worse. The access path from the lighthouse road to the beach was a little bushy (and steep at the end) but was never a real problem. Looks like things have changed. The grading of the walk is now probably difficult. I suspect that as less people visit this remarkable stretch of coast the walking trail along the top of the limestone cliffs will also get more difficult to follow.

Walk 36 (Oberon Bay)
p184. The southern park of the park (beyond the airbase, 14km within the park) is closed due to recent flood damage. This walk is therefore not accessible at the moment. Check out http://www.parkweb.vic.gov.au for further details.

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Ben Lomond Guide update (3) As of 17/5/2013

ben lomond guide cover s_0001

Memory Of A Journey, the climbing guide to Ben Lomond, was published in November 2008. For those of you who already own the guide and have climbed at Ben Lomond, you will know that it is the premier crack climbing venue in Australia. The guidebook was comprehensive up until 2008, giving route descriptions and topo photographs to over 350 routes. The book is unique in that it also has 100 pages of memoirs by Robert McMahon, the main pioneer of new routes on the mountain. This is the most recent update.  It details 54 new routes done in the last 5 years and is indexed to the guidebook. Copies of the book are are available online from Open Spaces Publishing www.osp.com.au

Ben Lomond Guide Update 2013

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New Title: Daywalks Around Victoria

My latest walking guide, Daywalks Around Victoria, will be in the shops tomorrow. The Open Spaces team (Katherine, Tracey, Ti and I) have worked on this guide over the last year or so and we believe it sets a new benchmark in Australian walking guidebook design.

It also marks a major step towards our aim to combine traditional book publishing with online content and compatibility. Daywalks Around Victoria is the first book of its kind where each walk can be freely downloaded as a GPX file for use in a hand-held navigation device, or as a KMZ file to be opened directly in Google Earth. Daywalks Around Victoria features 36 walks that I feel best represents Victoria’s diverse and often unique geographical regions. Many of these walks have been popular to generations of Victorian walkers while others are almost unknown. I have no doubt that some of these walks are among the best of their kind in Australia. Like our previous titles Daywalks Around Victoria will have dedicated update pages on our web site at osp.com.au where readers will be able to check on trail closures, changes in conditions or approach issues. Daywalks Around Victoria is has a RRP of $29.95 and will be available in all leading outdoor equipment stores in Victoria and from our online bookshop here.