Standing Buddha in a niche, Marble Mountains, Danang, Vietnam

Stone Buddha
The Marble Mountains, just outside Danang in Vietnam, are a honey-comb of niches, many with a shrine or deity inside.

The Marble Mountains: I kept calling them “Magic Mountains” by mistake.

But they are a bit magical!

Near Non Nuoc Beach, nine kilometres south of Danang in Central Vietnam, five marble and limestone outcrops rise up dramatically from the flat plains around them. According to legend, a dragon climbed out of the East Vietnam Sea onto the beach and laid an egg. After a thousand days and a thousand nights, the egg hatched, and a beautiful girl emerged. The broken pieces of shell that were left on the beach eventually grew into the five mystical Marble Mountains. (Story paraphrased from Hotels.com; I want to know what happened to the girl!!)

Craggy and steep, these impossible-looking mountains are topped with Buddhist pagodas, and riddled with tunnels and caves. Alcoves and crannies are filled with Buddhist and Hindu temples and shrines, many many of them more than 300 years old. More recently, the tunnels provided hiding places for the Vietcong, very near the military air base maintained by the Americans during the Vietnam War

It is not just me who finds these peaks magical. They are a popular tourist attraction and well-known pilgrimage site.

Their name in Vietnamese is Ngũ Hành Sơn, or “five elements mountains”: referring to the five elements that, according to ancient Asian philosophy, make up everything in nature. The individual outcrops are named for – and said to represent – one of these elements: Thuy Son (water); Moc Son – (wood); Hoa Son (fire); Kim Son (metal); and Tho Son (earth)). 

My husband and I were staying at a coastal resort nearby (see: Resort Living) and it was an easy cycle to Non Nuoc Village at the foot of Marble Mountains. The village is famous for its stone sculptures and handicrafts – although, these days the marble used by the local craftsmen comes from nearby provinces or China, so that the precious mountains here are not destroyed. 

We had a look through the shops before heading to the entry to Thuy Son or Water Mountain. We bought our modestly-priced tickets and started up the 150+ stone steps that rise and wind through the caves and alcoves to the lookouts at the top.

Marble Carvings of Vietnamese fishermen, Non Nuoc Village shop, Vietnam

Vietnamese Fishermen
Non Nuoc Village is crowded with outlet shops selling marble carvings: from the smallest jewellery, through souvenir knickknacks, to the largest religious and decorative objects for public spaces.

Vietnamese wicker-covered teapots, Non Nuoc Village shop, Vietnam

Bright Lights and Crafts
The shops carry a range of local handicrafts; the teapots come in all shapes and sizes. 

Stairs up the Water Mountain, Non Nuoc Village, Vietnam

Stairs up the Mountain
There are said to be 156 steps up to the viewpoint at the top of Thuy Son,

Kwan Yin (Quan Am) in a Niche, Marble Mountains, Vietnam

Kwan Yin (Quan Am) in a Niche
… but there are plenty of things to look at along the way.

Marble Bodhisattvas and Nagas, Marble Mountain, Non Nuoc Village, Vietnam

Marble Bodhisattvas and Nagas
Around every corner, the visitor is met with Buddhist imagery.

White marble Buddha over a reflecting pond, Marble Mountain, Non Nuoc Village, Vietnam

Buddha over a Reflecting Pond
The rising steps are broken by landings …

White marble Buddha in a Garden, Marble Mountain, Non Nuoc Village, Vietnam

Buddha in the Garden
… where visitors stop to rest and pose for pictures.

Tam Thai Pagoda, Marble Mountain, Non Nuoc Village, Vietnam

Tam Thai Pagoda

Inside Tam Thai Pagoda, Marble Mountain, Non Nuoc Village, Vietnam

Inside Tam Thai Pagoda
Some of the shrines are wildly colourful and garishly decorated.

Stone shrine in an alcove, Marble Mountains, Vietnam

Shrine in an Alcove
Others are more subdued: carved from stone and aged with a patina of moss.

Painted carving of Prince Siddhartha on Horseback, Marble Mountains, Vietnam

Prince Siddhartha on Horseback
Buddhism has strong ties to it’s Hindu roots: the Kshatriya Warrior Prince Siddhartha, was the ninth incarnation of the Lord Vishnu, the second god in the Hindu triumvirate. After his enlightenment, he was known as Siddhārtha Gautama, or the Gautama Buddha.

Stone Buddha in an alcove, Marble Mountains, Vietnam

Buddha in an Alcove
As we follow the tunnels through the limestone caves, we come across more altars, …

Stone standing Buddha in an alcove, Marble Mountains, Vietnam

Standing Buddha
… and more Buddhas.

White statues of Buddha

Buddha Teaching
Images of deer are often found in Buddhist gardens. They remind us of the first sermon Buddha gave after his enlightenment: to five beggars in Sarnath, a deer park in what is now Uttar Pradesh, India.

Pagodas roofs, Marble Mountains, Vietnam

Pagodas in the Garden

View North West to Danang from Marble Mountains, Vietnam

Danang
From our first vantage point, we can see north west to Danang

View west from the Marble Mountains, Vietnam

Marble Mountains and Prickly Pear
… and west over the outcrops towards the mountains.

Vietnamese woman selling coconut, Marble Mountains, Vietnam

Coconut Seller
Coconut is a refreshing energiser after a long hard climb!

The Lady Buddha, Hoa Nghiem Cave, Marble Mountains, Vietnam

The Bodhisattva of Compassion
All over Vietnam, you will see statues of Quan Am, the Bodhisattva of Mercy or Compassion.

The Lady Buddha, Marble Mountains, Vietnam

Quan Am
Local Buddhists pray to her for guidance, fertility and protection.

Stairs through Marble Mountains, Vietnam

Stairs into the Caves
In most places, the stairs up and down through the caves are well formed.

Look up through the limestone of Marble Mountains, Vietnam

Look up through the Limestone
In other sections, we were literally climbing through rough gaps in the craggy limestone rock.

Shrine in a Cave, Hoa Nghiem Cave, Marble Mountains, Vietnam

Shrine in a Cave
Another cave: another shrine; …

Sitting Buddha in a Niche, Marble Mountains, Vietnam

Buddha in a Niche
… another alcove: another Buddha.

Xa Loi Tower, Marble Mountains, Vietnam

Tháp Xá Lợi
We come back out into the open behind the Xa Loi Tower.

Heaven

Heaven’s Gate
We make our way through Heaven’s Gate

View over Non Nuoc Village from the Marble Mountains, Vietnam

View over Non Nuoc Village
… and up to another lookout.

Happy Buddha and other giant statues, Non Nuoc Village, Marble Mountains, Vietnam

Marble Carvings
Back at the bottom of the mountain, we admire the sculptures awaiting packaging and transport  …

Giant Kwan Yin in Marble, Non Nuoc Village, Marble Mountains, Vietnam

Giant Kwan Yin in Marble
… as we pass under the blessings of a giant Quan Am

Giant yellow happy Buddha, Non Nuoc Village, Marble Mountains, Vietnam

Bố Đại
… and past a Laughing Buddha who looks as though he’s been abandoned.

Before finding our bicycles and pedalling back to the resort, we stopped into the shops for another look around. We found a small piece of marble to take home with us; the stone might have its origins in China, but the carvers live right here – in the shadow of these magic Marble Mountains.

Text: Happy Travels

Until next time,

Happy Travels!

Pictures: 27February2016

Twin Upper Falls, Linville Falls, NC USA

Twin Upper Falls, Linville Falls
It’s a short walk through a lovely wood to the upper falls at Linville Falls, North Carolina.

We had started planning the year before …

My husband and I had been driving, in our usual hurry, from a friend’s house in North Carolina to an airplane in Nashville, Tennessee. Not far from Asheville, NC, we pulled a short way off the highway to visit the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center. A working wifi, a clean toilet, a few interactive displays, and I was hooked!

I picked up numerous pamphlets and maps, and started dreaming… 

Blue Ridge Parkway pamphlets.

Dreams Start Here!
The Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center just outside of Asheville, North Carolina, has just about everything a Blue Ridge trip-planner needs.

So, when I was mapping out our trip to visit family in Tennessee and Ohio the next year, I expanded the loop with a drive down the Skyline Drive through the Shenandoah National Park and then into the Blue Ridge Mountains via the Blue Ridge Parkway (see: Blue Ridge Parkway, Part 1 and Stepping into the Past, Part 2). Naturally, the days we had originally allotted to the drive had long-since eroded, and here we were: after two days of driving down the Blue Ridge Parkway, we had a fast-approaching deadline, but a lot more road to enjoy.

In the car, I alternated between thumbing through the maps and guide books and watching the road and scenery, while my husband drove. I had to try and pick the highlights as time slipped through our fingers like sands through the hourglass…

Morning View over mountains from Skyline Village Inn Spruce Pine, NC USA

Morning View
It is hard to believe that people get up to this glorious view every day! Skyline Village Inn, Spruce Pine, NC.

That is how, on our third morning on the Blue Ridge Parkway, we came to be driving backwards.

Because I had booked our overnight accommodation based on where I thought we would/should be, we ended up backtracking from the tiny hamlet of Spruce Pine (Mile 330.8), north to Linville Falls (Mile 316.3). The waterfall looked too good to miss.

As it turned out, the town of Linville Falls wasn’t too bad either!

Wild turkey in the spring grass, NC USA

“Turkey in the Straw”
The wild turkeys at the side of the road were a morning treat as we drove north. Unfortunately for me and my camera, they move pretty quickly for a heavy bird!

Man in gators fishing in the Linville River, NC USA

Fishing in the Linville River
The river is quiet near the car park and National Park’s Visitor’s Center – clearly it is a good spot for fly fishing.

Pathway into the Linville Woods, NC USA

Into the Linville Woods
There are many short trails leading to waterfall over-looks; all of them are well maintained.

Tree Roots in the Linville Woods, NC USA

Tree Roots
The extensive roots of the trees form an intricate webbing underfoot.

Hikers on the Trail into the Linville Woods, NC USA

Hikers on the Trail

View over Linville Falls, NC USA

Linville Falls
Our first breath-taking view of Linville Falls as it plunges down through Linville Gorge, was from an upper over-look. The river drops a total of 46 metres (150 ft) down several tiers.

Yellow wildflowers on the Edge of the cliff at an over-look, Linville Falls NC USA

Flowers on the Edge
Wildflowers cling to the steep drop-off next to our viewing platform. The canyon floor seems a long way down!

View of Linville Falls, NC USA

Upper Linville Falls
Just a short walk away, there is a completely different perspective over a different section of the falls.

Orange Fungus, Linville Falls Woods, NC USA

Fungus
The walking paths are full of colour and beauty, from the fungus at our feet…

Mountain Laurel , Linville Falls Woods, NC USA

Mountain Laurel (Kalmia Latifolia)
… to the spring flowers on the trees.

Rocky Fall Base, Linville Falls, NC USA

Rocky Fall Base
At every turn, there is a new view of the racing water.

one of the Twin Upper Falls, Linville Falls NC USA

One of the Twin Upper Falls

Rhododendrons at the Linn Cove Viaduct Center, NC USA

Rhododendrons at the Linn Cove Viaduct Visitor Center
After completing our morning’s walk, we drove back further, to the Linn Cove Viaduct (Mile 304.4). We had driven over the 379 metre (1243 ft) concrete bridge in the dark the night before, and were determined to get a better look.

New geen leaves on a tree trunk under the Linn Cove Viaduct, NC USA

Growth under the Linn Cove Viaduct
The Viaduct was the last section of Blue Ridge Parkway completed – designed to protect the ecology of Grandfather Mountain, one of the world’s oldest mountains. It’s hard to get a good look while you are one it, and there is nowhere to stop, so we decided to take a walk that was meant to take us to a viewing platform.

Greenery under the Linn Cove Viaduct, NC USA

Under the Linn Cove Viaduct
We clambered through greenery, …

Roots and rocks under the Linn Cove Viaduct, NC USA

Path under the Linn Cove Viaduct
… and over rocks and roots, …

Car through greenery on the Linn Cove Viaduct, NC USA

Car on the Linn Cove Viaduct
… but we never found a clear and unobstructed view.

Linn Cove Viaduct from a pullout on the Blue Ridge Parkway, NC USA

Linn Cove Viaduct
Begun in 1979, the concrete viaduct is said to be “one of the most complicated concrete bridges ever built”

Grandfather Mountain from a pullout on the Blue Ridge Parkway, NC USA

Grandfather Mountain
Completed in 1987, the bridge comprises 153 concrete segments, only one of which is straight. It snakes around the slopes of Grandfather Mountain.

Stack Rock Creek (Mile 305) from a car window, Blue Ridge Parkway, NC USA

Stack Rock Creek (Mile 305)

Linville Falls Post Office, NC USA

Linville Falls Post Office (Mile 317.5)
Heading south once again, we stopped in at the charming town of Linville Falls for lunch – and even made use of their quaint Post Office. (iPhone6)

Looking through Road Tunnels on the Blue Ridge Parkway, NC USA

Road Tunnels
Here are two of the vehicle tunnels along the Blue Ridge Parkway; 25 of the 26 Parkway tunnels are in North Carolina.

Green Knob Overlook and signpost, Blue Ridge Parkway, NC USA

Green Knob Overlook (Mile 350.5)
After our long morning, we were fast running out of time, so stopped only briefly at overlooks that appeared interesting.

Craggy Dome from the Blue Ridge Parkway, NC USA

Craggy Dome
The weather turned, …

Driving into rain clouds, Blue Ridge Parkway, NC USA

Into the Rain Clouds
… and we drove up into the clouds …

Looking Glass Mountain from Log Hollow Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway, NC USA

Looking Glass Mountain from Log Hollow Overlook (Mile 416.3)
… and out the other side.

Storm clouds over Graveyard Fields , Blue Ridge Parkway, NC USA

Storm Clouds over Graveyard Fields ( Mile 418)
It seemed fitting that black clouds should roll over Graveyard Fields when we stopped there; no one is sure where the name comes from, but all the proposed explanations are gloomy! (Phone6)

Visitors on the Highest Point of the Blue Ridge Parkway, NC USA

Visitors on the Highest Point (Mile 431)
Like any good tourist, we had to stop at the highest point on the Parkway: the Richland Balsam Overlook (6,047 ft/1843 m).

Thomas Divide Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway, NC USA

Thomas Divide Overlook (Mile 463.9)
After over-nighting in Cherokee, we were back on the Parkway just so we could say: …  (iPhone6)

Traffic backed up at Oconalute River, Blue Ridge Parkway, NC USA

The Final Marker: Oconalute River (Mile 469)
“We finished it!”

It was a beautiful drive, and we can’t wait to do it again –

Maybe in a different season, 

Text: Happy Rambles, Ursula :-)

or maybe just stopping in different places.

‘Til then,

Happy Rambles!

Pictures: 27-28May2016

Indian man in a colourful turban, Pushkar, Rajasthan

Man in a Colourful Rajasthani Turban
At the Camel Fair in Pushkar, the turbans are as colourful as the “characters” you meet!

That direct, forthright gaze!

Eyes red from the ubiquitous dust and the smoke from the dung-fires; skin weathered by time and the elements; teeth broken and stained by hard-living and tobacco – but still happy to stare at the foreigner’s camera with a complete lack of self-consciousness.

For me, one of the many joys of being in India is the ease of making “environmental portraits”: candid, street-style pictures of people (or animals) in their natural environment.

The annual Pushkar Camel Festival or Kartik Mela – in Rajasthan, Northern India, ends with the full moon this Saturday, November 4th. A number of my friends – including photographer Karl Grobl and local guide DV Singh – are there, and I can’t help but feel a little envious as I watch all the pictures coming through my news feed, especially as it has been four years since I was there with them and enjoyed the Camel Fair myself.

But seeing their pictures reminds me that I still have countless photos I have yet to process. So, I was motivated to return to old files and revisit some of the wonderful faces from Pushkar’s dusty fair grounds. I have shared some pictures from the fair before (See: Scenes from a Fair and A Gypsy Portrait), but it has been a while!

Please enjoy these environmental, candid portraits of some of the fabulous faces at Pushkar’s Camel Fair.

Indian men around a camp fire in the dark, Rajasthan

Around the Fire
The people who bring their animals or other trade-goods to the Pushkar Fair grounds sleep on site: in tents or under their carts. When I arrived on my second morning there, it was cold, and still dark. Those people who were up were huddled around their camp fires.

Indian man around a camp fire in the dark, Rajasthan

Young Man at a Fire
There are only small twigs and branches in the surrounding desert – the resulting fires are thin, and don’t give off much warmth against the cold November morning.

Pup tent with a camel in the background, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Pushkar Campsite
The campsite comes to life slowly, as dawn starts to lighten the horizon.

Indian man feeding a Marwari horse, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Feeding the Horses
The Camel Fair is not just about camels: the prized and rare Marwari horses, with their strong bodies and inward-curving ears, are also a feature.

Indian man in a Blanket, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Man in a Blanket

Seated camels eating, Ferris Wheels in the background, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Camels and Ferris Wheels
The camels, with their carefully shaved coats and painted markings, are everywhere.

Camel, Ferris Wheels in the background, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Camel and Ferris Wheels
Their soft eyes and long lashes, and the flowers and pom-poms they wear, belie their notoriously bad tempers.

Indian man in a Green Turban, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Man in a Green Turban

Closeup of an Indian man in an Orange Blanket, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Man in an Orange Blanket
Cigarettes, pipes, and cheroots are everywhere.

Rajasthani camel heroes gathered into an impromptu family grouping, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Impromptu Family Group
If I see a camera, I duck for cover, so I’m always surprised by how enthusiastically I am met when I walk around with mine! A patriarch in this household (the man whose picture leads this post) insisted I stay at his campsite until he gathered up the whole family for a group shot. He then proceeded to give them stage directions from over my left shoulder, so that half the group is looking at him rather than me!

Closeup of an Indian man in a Cream Turban, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Man in a Cream Turban
Rajasthan is an arid, sandy place. November days are hot, but the nights are cold, necessitating the twig- and dung-fires that burn all around the campsite. It is not surprising that everyone has red and irritated eyes.

Closeup of an Indian woman in a green dupatta, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Woman in a Green Dupatta
These people spoke no English, so I’m not sure how many of the children in this group belonged to this woman. I can’t imagine how difficult her life in the desert must be.

Indian men in a circle, Camel Herder Camp, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Camel Herder Camp
Cover a camel cart in tarpaulin and throw a few woven mats on the ground, and Presto! you have a campsite.

Young Indian man and his Marwari Horse, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Young Man and his Rajasthani Horse
My presence there prompted the youngest member of the group to leap up on his Marwari horse …

Closeup of a young Indian Man, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Young Man
… to practice his Bollywood smoulder.

White and brown Marwari horse, , Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Marwari Horse – Equus Ferus Caballus
From the Marwar (or Jodhpur) region of India, these beautiful horses were originally bred by the Rathores, the rulers of Marwar until the 12th century. Today’s horses are descended from a careful cross between native Indian ponies and Arabians. During the feudal period, only the Rajput families and the Kshatriyas (the warrior caste) were allowed to ride them, as they were considered divine.

View of camels feeding, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Camels Feeding
Smoke and dust hang in the winter morning air.

Camels at the Water Trough, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Camels at the Water Trough
One of my favourite spots was the water trough …

Fancily-clipped camels bellowing, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Camels Bellowing
… where the beautifully decorated animals gave voice to their discontent.

Young Indian boy watering several camels, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Watering the Camels
The job of giving the huge animals their drinks can fall to the very young.

Closeup of an Indian man in a Blue Scarf, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Man in a Blue Scarf
That direct gaze with strangers – so common in India – is something I see much less often in other parts of the world.

Closeup of an Indian man in a Blue Scarf, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Man in a Blue Scarf
Once you have eye contact, it doesn’t take much to elicit a radiant smile.

Closeup of an Indian Girl in Yellow, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Girl in Yellow
The rising sun finally cuts through the smoke and dust, …

Closeup of an Indian boy, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Boy in a T Shirt
… casting a yellow glow over everything, and reflecting in the children’s eyes.

Indian Man Drinking from a tap, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Man Drinking
The central water supply is a busy place.

Camel with shaved patterns on its side and rump, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Shaved Camel
I just loved all the different shaving and painting designs the camels sported, …

Close up of a camel in pom poms, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Decorated Camel
… and their colourful pom poms!

Closeup of an Indian man in a red Turban, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Man in a Red Turban
But, it was the people, and that direct gaze, that I kept coming back to.

There really is nowhere quite like India!

Until next time, Text: Happy Travels

Happy Travels!

Photographs: 13November2013

  • Jan Lively - November 2, 2017 - 1:24 pm

    Oh Ursula Dear, what a joyous look back on our time together at Pushkar !! That was probably my favorite part of the entire India trip and now thanks to you, I get to relive it again. So thank you for your pictures and for your studied research and narrative. Seeing you in my Inbox always, and I do mean always makes my day. Do hope you are well and yes, we are good too. We love to go, but we love being home too.
    Thanks again and keep them coming. . . .ReplyCancel

    • Ursula - November 2, 2017 - 2:56 pm

      Darling Jan!
      So glad you enjoyed the pictures and the memories. You do make me smile. ?
      I’m happy you and the Handsome-One are enjoying some home-time.
      Catch you again on the trails one day! xReplyCancel

  • Gabe - November 2, 2017 - 1:36 pm

    Beautiful portraits & animal shots. Love the horse earsReplyCancel

    • Ursula - November 2, 2017 - 2:57 pm

      Always glad to hear from my number one fan. ?ReplyCancel

Bull Elephant in the afternoon light,Etosha National Park, Namibia.

Bull Elephant in the Afternoon Light
Raising dust as he trudges the well-worn path in the afternoon light, an old bull elephant approaches the King Nehale Waterhole in Etosha National Park, Namibia.

It was mesmerising.

Elephants in the wild move with a lumbering grace that lulls one into a trance.

At the King Nehale Waterhole, on the eastern side of Etosha National Park in Namibia, there is a fence that keeps the people out of the animals’ domain – and vice versa. Thanks to photographer Ben McRae and local guide guide Morne Griffiths, I was camped for three wonderful nights right next to the waterhole. 

I spent hours and hours, across four days, just sitting there, on a bench behind the fence, with my camera on a tripod and the remote in my hand. The air was soporific, buzzing with heat and insect noise, tranquillising me into a dreamlike state as I watched the animals come and go (see: A Day at the Waterhole; Birds and Beasts on the Veld). 

It was the elephants and their waltz-like rhythms that really captivated me. Perhaps is is the hot, thick air that slows these pachyderms down; they wade through it like we move through water, with sedate, measured strides. They are in almost-constant slow motion: plodding, swaying, swishing a tail or tossing a trunk in smooth, unhurried movements, then, for no apparent reason, the whole group stops still for a few moments. It is like watching a tableau where almost nothing happens for ages; then you lose focus and let your attention drift, and all of a sudden the whole scene has shifted.

It’s hypnotising.

Elephants at the Waterhole, Etosha National Park, Namibia.

Elephants at the Waterhole
My first visits to the waterhole were rewarded with family groups of elephants.

Elephants at the Waterhole, Etosha National Park, Namibia.

Elephants at the Waterhole
In the heat of the day, the elephants come …

Elephants at the tree, Etosha National Park, Namibia.

Elephants at the Tree
… and go. The single tree growing at the edge of the waterhole provides little escape from the unrelenting heat of the day.

Elephant walking into the Waterhole, Etosha National Park, Namibia.

Incoming Elephant
New elephants approach the waterhole periodically. Apparently, these huge pachyderms have tender feet, so they follow the winding paths they have cleared through the rocks that surround the waterhole.

Elephant splashing at the Waterhole, Etosha National Park, Namibia.

Splash!
Elephants can drink up to 200 litres of water a day – but their time at the waterhole involves as much splashing as drinking.

Elephants walking away from the Waterhole, Etosha National Park, Namibia.

Elephant Afternoon
They are mottled with water and mud as they follow the well-worn path away from the waterhole.

Elephant on the veld, Etosha National Park, Namibia.

Elephant on the Horizon
On a morning drive, through the veld in Etosha National Park, it is not long before one of these magnificent creatures comes into view. 

Elephant on the veld, Etosha National Park, Namibia.

Elephant Walking
Without pause or change of pace, the great animal approaches, crosses the road directly in front of our jeep, and lumbers off.

Pied crow (Corvus albus), in the trees, Etosha National Park, Namibia.

Pied Crow – Corvus Albus
Back at our campsite, the birds watch carefully, lest we leave food scraps anywhere.

Elephants at the Waterhole, Etosha National Park, Namibia.

Elephants at the Waterhole
Other animals seem to give the elephants a wide berth …

Elephants at the Waterhole, Etosha National Park, Namibia.

Elephants at the Waterhole
… as they nuzzle and play. Elephants – especially the females and immature males – are very social animals, and bathing together reinforces group bonding.

Two giraffes and an oryx at the waterhole, Etosha National Park Namibia

Giraffes and Oryx
Even when the elephants aren’t around, giraffes approach the waterhole very gingerly, watching their surrounds carefully.

Elephants at the Waterhole, Etosha National Park, Namibia.

Elephant Clans
It is as if there is a secret roster system: when one group of elephants has been enjoying the water for a period of time, another batch comes into sight on the horizon.

Elephants at the Waterhole, Etosha National Park, Namibia.

Incoming Elephants
The newly-arrived clan files into the back of the waterhole …

Elephants at the Waterhole, Etosha National Park, Namibia.

Face Off
… while the original group continues to play a while, before moving off.

Elephants at the Waterhole, in the trees, Etosha National Park, Namibia.

Afternoon at the Waterhole
The late afternoon light bounces off the water as the elephants splash about.

Two giraffes drinking at the waterhole, Etosha National Park Namibia

Giraffes at the Waterhole
The poor giraffes look very ungainly when they do, finally, decide to get a drink.

Black Backed Jackals, , Etosha National Park Namibia

Black Backed Jackals (Canis Mesomelas)
As the light and temperature drop, the jackals come out.

Elephants at the Waterhole, Etosha National Park, Namibia.

Dust on Fire
The angled afternoon sun lights up the dust the elephants raise as they leave the waterhole…

The King Nehale Waterhole in afternoon light, Etosha National Park, Namibia

The King Nehale Waterhole
… and casts an orange glow over the whole scene.

Red sunset on the veld, Etosha National Park, Namibia.

Sunset on the Veld
The sun drops quickly over the veld, but there are special lights around the waterhole, so I can continue to sit and wait and watch as the animals come and go.

Two bull elephants at the waterhole in blue light, Etosha National Park, Namibia.

Bull Elephants
Everything looks different around the waterhole after dark. In the blue light after sundown, two males approached each other …

Two bull elephants at the waterhole in blue light, Etosha National Park, Namibia.

In the Blue Light
… and spent a lot of time engaging in the elephant equivalent of arm-wrestling. This is how they fight for dominance, although – from where I sat – it didn’t feel like there was any real aggression happening here.

Tree and rhinos at the waterhole after dark, Etosha National Park, Namibia.

Tree at the Waterhole
Under the protective cover of darkness, the rhinos, who have been elusive during the day, come out to drink.

Elephant at the waterhole after dark, Etosha National Park, Namibia.

Elephant After Dark
I sit, half daydreaming, watching as a bull wanders off, before taking myself off to bed.

As I lay in my sleeping bag at night – in complete safety – I listened to the roars of the lions in the distance. Jackals were yipping and yowling as they scrabbled through a tent nearby, where some silly fool had left meat jerky unattended.

Text: Take only PicturesBut it was the rhythm of the elephants’ slow waltz that lulled me to sleep, even as the night’s parade of animals at the waterhole continued.

Soporific indeed.

Photos: 19-20August2015

View over the coastline from above Rocky Beach, Bournda National Park, NSW AU

Crystal Clear Waters
It is not for nothing that this section of New South Wales (NSW) is called The Sapphire Coast. The views from the Kangarutha Track in Bournda National Park are stunning.

It is always a treat to explore one’s own back yard – especially when that yard includes some spectacular coastline.

As much as I love travelling, it is nice to spend some time at home – particularly when the weather is right for walking! My husband and I have been members of the National Parks Association of NSW for a lot of years, and every so often the walks that our local chapter offers line up with “pockets of availability” in our schedules. So it was that we were out on a glorious Sunday last month with a group of nature-lovers, walking one of the “60 Best Walks in NSW”

Rated at a Grade 4/6 difficulty by WildWalks, the Kangarutha Track runs up over the bluffs  and down into the coves for nine kilometres along the Pacific coastline through the Bournda National Park. One of the advantages of doing it with a group was that we could shuttle vehicles to the other end of the track, parking some at our end point at Wallagoot Gap, and leaving the others at our starting point south of Tathra.

We had the most perfect winter weather: sunny and clear but not too hot.

Do join us!

View south from Chamberlain Lookout Vista Point Tathra, NSW

Chamberlain Lookout – Vista Point, Tathra
Google Maps are not perfect! Although I had programmed our meeting point: the Kianinny Boat Ramp, Tathra, into the search engine, the map delivered us to a lookout at the top of a cliff. Fortunately, we could see the parking lot far below us, and we had plenty of time to enjoy the view before setting off again.

Signpost: Kangarutha Walking Track, Tathra

Kangarutha Walking Track
Once the cars are shuffled and the whole group has gathered, we can set off. As with most walking tracks in the NSW National Parks network, this one is pretty well marked.

Walkers enjoying the view over the Pacific, Bournda NP, AU

Watching Water
This walk has a lot of ups and downs – according to my walking app, I gained (and lost) 655 meters in elevation. After the first steep climb, walkers are happy to pause and enjoy the view over the coastline.

View of the coast from Northern Bournda National Park from above Kianinny Bay, NSW

View from above Kianinny Bay
The walk takes us through the northern half of Bournda National Park. Our first view, looking south from above Kianinny Bay, is pretty spectacular. A tourist boat is tiny in the water below us.

Walkers on a dappled path through tea trees, Kangarutha Track, NSW AU

Into the Tea Trees
Once we’ve caught our collective breaths, we set off again – climbing higher through the Melaleuca (myrtle – myrtaceae) tea-trees, …

Walkers going down into Boulder Bay, , Kangarutha Track, NSW AU

Down into Boulder Bay
… before dropping down again steeply into Boulder Bay.

Smooth rocks, Boulder Bay, Kangarutha Track, NSW AU

Boulders in the Bay
It is pretty easy to see where Boulder Bay gets its name!

Tidal water over a rock, Boulder Bay, Kangarutha Track, NSW AU

Boulder in the Spray

Tidal water over sand, Boulder Bay, Kangarutha Track, NSW AU

Boulders in the Sand

Incoming tide, Boulder Bay, Kangarutha Track, NSW AU

White Water – Boulder Bay
In summer, this would be a perfect spot to cool off.

Blue and turquoise waters and coloured rocks in Boulder Bay, Kangarutha Track, NSW AU

The Colours of Boulder Bay

Seaweed on white rocks, Boulder Bay, Kangarutha Track, NSW AU

Still Life Found – Seaweed

Walker on a dappled path through tea trees, Kangarutha Track, NSW AU

Once Again – Into the Myrtle (Myrtaceae)
What goes down, must climb up again!

View over the coastline from above Rocky Beach, Bournda National Park, NSW AU

Through the Trees
The sapphire waters recede below our track.

Walkers on the path over the bluffs, Kangarutha Track, NSW AU

The Sapphire Coastline
Bournda National Park follows the coastline for about 13 kilometres south.

Rock Pools at Rocky Beach, Boulder Bay, Kangarutha Track, NSW AU

Rock Pools at Rocky Beach
We drop down to sea-level again at Rocky Beach. The waters in the rock pools are crystal clear …

Rock Pools at Rocky Beach, Boulder Bay, Kangarutha Track, NSW AU

Reflections in the Rock Pools
… and glassy smooth.

Rock Pools at Rocky Beach, Boulder Bay, Kangarutha Track, NSW AU

Grasses on the Rock Pools

Sapphire Waters and jagged rocks, Bournda National Park, Kangarutha Track, NSW AU

Sapphire Waters

Echidna spines Hiding, Kangarutha Track, NSW AU

Echidna Hiding
Although we usually see kangaroos and wallabies when we are out walking, on this occasion, the only wildlife we spotted was a little spiny anteater who was trying desperately to hide, …

Sea Eagle over White Rock, Kangarutha Track, NSW AU

Sea Eagle over White Rock
… and a sea eagle, too high overhead to get a good shot.

Walkers having lunch at White Rock, Bournda National Park, Kangarutha Track, NSW AU

Lunch at White Rock
White Rock marks the half-way point in the walk and provides a great vantage point for a scenic lunch stop.

Inlet north of White Rock, Bournda National Park, Kangarutha Track, NSW AU

Inlet north of White Rock

View south of White Rock, Bournda National Park, Kangarutha Track, NSW AU

Sapphire Waters south of White Rock

View south of White Rock, Bournda National Park, Kangarutha Track, NSW AU

View from White Rock
It was mesmerising watching the waters ebb and flow over the granite rocks of the rugged coastline.

Heart shaped by rocks on the sand, Games Bay, , Bournda National Park, NSW AU

Heart – Games Bay
The next time the trail drops us back to water-level is at Games Bay, where someone has left their heart in the sand.

Seed Pods, Kangarutha Track, Bournda National Park, NSW AU

Seed Pods
As we continue south, the mix of bush changes around us.

Wallagoot Gap, Kangarutha Track, Bournda National Park, NSW AU

Wallagoot Gap
The lookout at the dramatic Wallagoot Gap marks the endpoint of our walk; …

Sign for the Bournda Coastal Walking Tracks, Wallagoot Gap, Bournda National Park, NSW AU

Bournda Coastal Walking Tracks
… although there are further tracks south, around Wallacoot Lake, we head to the carpark, only a short walk away.

Text: Take only PicturesWe couldn’t have asked for better weather.

My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed the walk – although, I confess, we were both too exhausted to move the next day!

Until next time,

Happy Walking

Photos: 17September2017

  • Gabe - October 19, 2017 - 10:32 am

    It was a beautiful day outReplyCancel