The Marker Wadden

Would you like to go with me to the Marker Wadden, my youngest brother asked me during my recent visit to the Netherlands.  The Marker Wadden? I knew about the Wadden Islands and the Wadden Sea, but had never heard about the Marker Wadden.

He explained to me that it was a project of Natuurmonumenten, the Dutch Nature Society, to create a number of artificial islands in the Markermeer.

Ok, I knew about the Markermeer. Have a look at the left map, taken from the informative Zuiderzee Works entry in Wikipedia. After closing the Zuiderzee with the Afsluitdijk in 1932, it was renamed IJsselmeer, and gradually changed from a salt water lake into a fresh water one. Large parts of the lake were reclaimed to form polders. The original plan was to reclaim also the Markermeer, and a dike, the Houtribdijk, was already built between 1963 and 1975.

But the reclamation plans changed, and in 1986 it was decided that the Markermeer will remain a lake. When you look at the right picture, a Google Earth map of the same region, you will notice the different color of the water in the Markermeer. Because the lake is separated by a dike from the IJsselmeer, there is a lot of siltation, resulting in turbid water. This has a negative impact on the aquatic flora and fauna.

In 2012 Natuurmonumenten,  with other partners, presented an ambitious plan, to create  a couple of artificial islands in the Markermeer, using sand and silt from the bottom. The islands will not be used for human habitation, but will become a bird sanctuary.

The project has been accepted and is now in progress, with support of several sponsors. In the left picture you can see the location of these Marker Wadden relative to the Houtribdijk. The right images shows more details, the north-west island has a harbour and some infrastructure (footpaths and walkways), this island will be accessible to the public (but only if you have your own boat!). The other islands will be strictly nature reserves.

To show these Marker Wadden to the general public, Natuurmonumenten organised a temporary ferry service during the weekend of  8-9 September and my brother bought tickets, for of course I eagerly accepted his invitation…:-)

The ferry left from the Bataviahaven in Lelystad. We arrived early, so we could have a nice seat and a cup of coffee. Many interested people, often  armed with binoculars and cameras.

After about 45 minutes we arrived at the jetty of the Marker Wadden

There were two walking routes on the island, 2.5 km and 6 km. We took the shorter one. At the start it looked like a crowd, but it spread out quite fast.

Work is still going on, but this was a weekend, so no activity.

Here I am posing as a climber of the Marker Wadden mountains…:-)

There is a lookout tower, solidly built.

From the balcony at the top you have a good view of the surroundings.

It was an interesting walk, In many places the work was still in full swing.

A warning sign for dangerous quicksand.

Regarding plant life, the philosophy of Natuurmonumenten is to let nature take Its course.Slowly  plants will start growing, from seeds blown over by the wind from the surrounding polders. I have my doubts about the single patch of sunflowers I saw…:-). Could it be that somebody has bought  a packet of sunflower seed and sowed it here?

We walked over a nice walkway, sat down and had the sandwiches we had taken from home. In a few years time this will be a beautiful region.

It will also become a paradise for bird watchers. During our visit we did not see many birds, because it was  not the migratory season yet.

We spent a few hours on the island and then took the ferry back to Lelystad. A very nice outing.

 

France 2018, part II

Status

See France 2018, part I , for the first part of our trip to France. Here is again a map of the places we visited.

In 1976(!), after my graduation, I applied for a position as a physics teacher at a school in Amstelveen. The rector (headmaster) in those days was Dr B.C. Poeder, he interviewed me and decided to give me the job. He retired long ago, but we had become friends and kept in touch. Therefore I knew that he was now living in France, in the region that Aric and I were going to visit.

I wrote to him, and he invited us to stay a few days in his house, in the small village of Robiac, about 50 km north of Nîmes. Take the road via Vézénobres, he suggested.

I had never heard about that village, but we followed his advice and decided to have lunch there . A romantic, medieval village, no cars allowed, we had to park quite far outside the walls

Walking around we were wondering if there was a place to have some food. We were lucky, found a nice shop where they prepared crepes and galettes. I had a glass of cider. Very nice people too.

When we arrived in Robiac, Carel was already waiting for us at the roadside, otherwise we might have missed the small road leading to his house. The nameplate on the letterbox still refers to his past as headmaster :-).

We were warmly welcomed by Carel and Joanne, his wife. The house is part of what before has been a school. The basement, formerly a goat stable, has been transformed in a guest room.

A big garden with many flowers.

Our hosts invited us for a nice dinner in Barjac, a nearby village.

The next day we enjoyed the swimming pool and the hospitality of Carel and Joanne, but also made a trip to a cave, the Grotte de la Salamandre. This cave was discovered in the 60s, access was possible only by abseiling through a hole above the cave! Five years ago the cave was opened to the public after an access tunnel had been excavated from the side of the hill.

You can still rappel down in the original way ( for an extra fee), we chose the tunnel..:-). A guided tour, clear explanations, the stalagmites and stalactites were illuminated with varying colors, some really very bright, but also with normal white light.

A very rewarding experience.

When you click on the left picture below to enlarge it, you can see at the top people who are abseiling from the hole in the roof!

The next day we said goodbye to our hosts and continued our trip. We had decided to follow the Gorges du Tarn, a long but very  scenic route. It is a canyon, 400 to 600 meter deep, eroded by the river Tarn. Spectacular views, like here of the village of Castelbouc, deep down.

The river is a favourite playground for kayakers.

We had lunch in La Malène

We stayed overnight in Millau, our Airbnb was a nice apartment, located in the historic center of the town.

Millau is nowadays known for its viaduct, but it turned out to be a surprisingly attractive town itself. The next morning we climbed the Beffroi, a bell tower consisting of a 12th-century square tower topped by an octagonal 17th-century tower.

It was a steep climb, but the view was worth the effort. The Millau viaduct was of course clearly visible and deep down the Halles, built in 1899.

In the Middle Ages Millau was an important town, especially because of a bridge across the Tarn river, consisting of 17 spans. Nowadays only one span remains with a house built on it, formerly a watermill. Very scenic.  In a nearby cafe we had coffee with a piece of fouace, a cake specialty of Millau.

The Millau viaduct is (at the time of writing) the tallest bridge in the world, with a height of 340 meter above the river Tarn. It is considered one of the great engineering achievements of all time.

The viaduct has become a major tourist attraction. We drove over it and also under it, when you look up at the supporting pylons from the river valley, they look so fragile!

Our next destination was Albi. Here a view of the town with the Sainte Cécile cathedral and the Vieux Pont (Old Bridge) in the foreground. This bridge was originally built in 1035.

We stayed two nights in Albi in a very nice Airbnb , a complete house, a bit outside the historic center, easy parking, with a very friendly hostess, who advised us where to eat where to shop and where to park when we wanted to visit the town center. Airbnb at its best…:-)

The cathedral is an amazing building, constructed between the 13th and 15th century. Those were the days of the Cathar Heresy, and the Roman Catholic church wanted to make a clear statement of strength. What a contrast with for example the Notre Dame in Paris! It looks like a fortress and is claimed to be the largest brick building in the world.

The monumental doorway was added at the end of the 14th century

The austere outside forms a strong contrast with the flamboyant interior.

Next to the cathedral the fortress of the Palais de la Berbie, the Bishops’ Palace, dating to the end of the 13th century

Nowadays it is the Toulouse-Lautrec museum. We had a quick look , I am not really a fan of him..:-)

But the gardens of the Palace are beautiful.

For dinner, our hostess had advised us  restaurant Lautrec in Albi and that was a good choice!

Albi has of course many interesting old houses. The left picture also shows the belltower of the cathedral

Another useful advice of our hostess was to visit the small village of Puycelsi, one of the Most Beautiful Villages of France . There are more than 150 of them…:-)

The weather was a bit grey during our visit, here is a view of the village

We parked our car outside the walls and explored the narrow streets, visited the church and had lunch.

During our trip we had already passed  many sunflower fields, but on our way to Carcassonne we found such a beautiful field that we really had to stop to take pictures..:-)

We visited Lautrec, another of the Most Beautiful Villages of France. The view of Lautrec might look similar to the view of Puyselci, but careful inspection of the two pictures will show you they are not the same…:-)

The weather was beautiful again, that could be the reason that we liked this village better. The walls are still there and the 14th century market square is attractive

We had lunch in a nice restaurant , Le Clos d’Adele. Good food, pleasant service, value for money.

After lunch we visited one of the other attractions of Lautrec, a 17th century windmill. A steep climb, but worth the effort, we could enter the mill and had a nice view of the surroundings. When there is enough wind the mill is still operating.

With Airbnb the host often doesn’t live in  the same building, so you have to contact him/her about your arrival time. That works well in general, but in Carcassonne it took us some time, the apartment also looked more like a hotel room. But it was ok, from our window we could see the medieval fortress in the evening light. But what were those strange yellow surfaces on the walls and towers?

The next day we explored the old town. It  the largest walled city in Europe and really impressive.

Not surprisingly it is a major tourist attraction with crowds of visitors in the narrow streets. We were lucky to find a restaurant with a secluded garden, where we had a nice lunch, again value for money

The name of the restaurant is Le Jardin du Carcasses, it has good reviews

The Church of Saints Nazarius and Celsus was built in its Gothic form at the end of the 13th century on the site of an earlier church. It was the cathedral of Carcassonne until 1803. Beautiful interior. But keep in mind that this church and also the citadel itself have been “renovated” in the 19th century by the French architect Viollet-le-Duc!

Access to the medieval city is free, but to access the fortress and the walls you have to pay an entrance fee.

Carcassonne is  a Unesco World Heritage site already for 20 years and of course that had to be celebrated. The Swiss artist Felice Varini was asked to create a project.

Quoting Wikipedia:

Felice paints on architectural and urban spaces, such as buildings, walls and streets. The paintings are characterized by one vantage point from which the viewer can see the complete painting (usually a simple geometric shape such as circle, square, line), while from other view points the viewer will see ‘broken’ fragmented shapes.”

In this case he projected concentric circles on the walls and towers of the citadel. They look broken, only from one vantage point they are circles. Quite spectacular, of course many specatators, not easy to take a picture without people.

In the evening we came back especially to admire Varini’s work

Our trip was coming to an end, our last destination was the naturist village of Cap d’Agde. On our way we passed this strange landscape, the Étang de Montady, a wetland, drained in the 13th century.

What to say about Cap d’Agde? Here is a picture of the beach, when you enlarge it, you will see that the sunbathers are naked…:-)

Nudist beaches are common in Europe, but Cap d’Agde is a nudist village, where you walk around, have a drink/ food on a terrace, go to the supermarket etc, all in your birthday suit..:-)

We had booked a room (Airbnb) with Bernard and that was a lucky choice, because he had been living there for many years and could tell us the do’s and don’ts. One don’t is that you can not take pictures of other naked people. Another one is that at night, during dinner, you are supposed to be a bit dressed at least…:-)

Bernard had two other guests, Christiane and Alain, a nice couple who had been regular visitors of Cap d’ Agde for many years. We became friends almost immediately…:-) The village itself is a nondescript conglomerate of concrete apartment complexes, but the company made our visit very enjoyable.

The second (also last) night of our stay we were invited to join our new friends to a dinner in a nearby restaurant. There was music, there was drag, and both Aric and I have been dancing! A fun evening and a worthy ending of our trip

It is amazing how much you can do in twelve days. After our return ot Amsterdam we needed several days to recover…:-)

Singapore 2018

Regular readers of my blog may remember that during my visit to Taiping in April 2017, I met a gentleman from Singapore, Dr Lee. We are both interested in (Taiping) heritage and kept contact by email. He suggested that we should visit Singapore, not only for its cultural heritage, but also for its nature, he could show us some interesting places.

So we booked a hotel in Singapore’s Chinatown for three nights and took the Aeroline bus to travel. Quite convenient

On my to-do list were a few of the recent modern buildings and one of them we passed already in the bus…:-). The Interlace (2013) , a 1000-unit apartment complex, which looks like numerous bricks irregularly stacked upon each other

From the bus terminal we took the MRT to Chinatown. The Keong Saik hotel was a good choice, the room was not big, but comfortable, and we had a view of another building on my architecture list, the Tanjong Pagar Centre (2016), the tallest skyscraper in Singapore. Although designed by world famous  Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, it did not look very special from our balcony. The Sri Layan Sithi Vinayagar temple nextdoor was more interesting, but we had no time to visit it.

After a short rest, we met Dr Lee and walked with him through Chinatown.

Nicely restored houses and shoplots, many consisting of three storeys, unusual in Malaysia. Also here mural art. There are several works by Zacharevic, but we had no time to look for them. Next time…:-)

During our walk passed another modern building on my to-do list, the Pinnacles@Duxton (2009), a residential complex of 50 storeys high, dominating the three storeys shoplots of Chinatown. Initiative for this development came from Prime MInister Lee Kuan Yew, who was concerned about the exodus of residents from Singapore’s center.

We walked back via Keong Saik Road, beautifully restored houses. In the 1960’s this was the red-light district of Singapore! Dr Lee told us that in those days you could not pass the street without being addressed by the ladies of the night..:-)

For our dinner we went to the foodcourt in the Chinatown Complex , where we met a few of Dr Lee’s friends. Nice food, nice company.

The next morning Dr Lee picked us up from our hotel and brought us to the “best nasi lemak shop in town” for breakfast. He was formally dressed this time because he had to work in the hospital that day.

But first he dropped us at the Botanical Gardens, where we spent the next few hours. The gardens are 158 year old and, since 2015,  an Unesco World Heritage Site.

We started with the Rainforest, a small part of the gardens, actually older than the gardens themselves! Of course Malaysia has more rainforest, but Singapore is one of the few cities with a rainforest within its borders.

We walked around, beautiful views everywhere

On many places you can find sculptures, Here are two of them, Change Kuda (2011) by Chong Fah Cheong and Girl on a Bicycle (1987) by Sydney Harpley.

A few more pictures. To the right the Bandstand (1930), no longer used for musical performances, but still an iconic landmark of the gardens.

The bandstand was a good spot to take some rest

After our rest we had again enough energy to continue…:-)

Nice flowers.

Interesting leaves.

The gardens are free and open all day but for the famous National Orchid Garden you have to pay an entrance fee. After some hesitation we bought tickets and entered. Very worthwhile. Never in my life seen so many orchid species!

Here is a collage of orchids we have seen.

First we wanted to take a “wefi”, then a friendly visitor offered to take the picture. Even better..:-)

It would have been no problem to spend the whole day in these gardens, but we had decided to spend the afternoon in another beautiful garden, the Gardens by the Bay, created in 2006 on reclaimed land. The public transport in Singapore is well-organised, we took the MRT to the Bayfront station and walked via an underground corridor to the gardens.

This passage has a few remarkable works of art. Left in the upper picture is a painting by Sol Lewitt, Wall Drawing#915, Arcs, Circle and Irregular bands (1999). Further on both walls are covered with mirrors, which gives multiple reflections. Could not find the name of the artist

Perfect location to take a wefi..:-)  Can you find out who of us has taken this picture?

When you exit from the underground passage and look backwards, you see the iconic Marina Bay Sands Hotel towering above you. One of the most impressive buildings I have seen in my life. I have stayed once there, expensive but it was worth the money..:-).

Entering the gardens you pass three smaller gardens, Malay, Chinese and Indian, Singapore is proud to be a multi-racial country. Far away the surrealistic Supertree Grove, but first we had a simple lunch at a snack bar.

Also in these gardens you can spend easily a full day. We had only limited time and decided to visit one of the two domes in the Gardens, the Cloud Forest dome. Expensive but 100% worth it.

Inside the dome a “misty mountain” has been created, with a waterfall, and pathways leading up and round the structure. Amazing and fascinating, just look at the pictures.

Of course flowers, mosses, ferns everywhere. These are fuchsia flowers, a favourite of mine.

Look carefully, two pictures show real flowers, the other two are fake!

In between the Lego “artworks”, there are real pitcher plants and other carnivorous plants.

A lot of maintenance is needed, but the result makes it worthwhile.

Interesting artworks, made of tree roots.

There is a Secret Garden too

When we bought tickets for the Cloud Forest, we thought about combining them with tickets for the “canopy walk” at the Supertree Grove, but the friendly lady at the ticket counter advised us to wait, because there might be rain in the afternoon and then the walk is closed. Good advice, there was a downpour while we were inside the dome, when we came out we noticed that the canopy walk around the trees was empty.

We went back to our hotel and had some rest. Later Dr Lee picked us up and with two of his friends we went to the Kent Ridge Park, to have a view of the harbour. Nice surprise, his friends had brought pulut & mango for us. Delicious

Next we went to Labrador Park, where we walked a part of the boardwalk. Nice view of another building on my list: Reflections at Keppel Bay (2011), a luxury residential complex designed by Libeskind, another famous architect. Singapore knows how to choose…:-)

Here is the boardwalk

TIme for dinner. We went to the Alexandra Village Food Centre, where we had a tasty soup and claypot chicken rice from the well known Tai Liok restaurant . It really is an advantage to go out with Singaporeans, they know where to find the good food!

The next day, after breakfast in our hotel, we took a bus to the Southern Ridges for a long hike, from the Alexandra Arch bridge to the Henderson Wave. Surprising that Singapore has so many hiking and walking opportunities. On the map you can see also the location of the Labrador Park.

The bus passed two buildings I had seen before already, the Reflections and the Interlace

It was an interesting walkway. We met many student groups on a Learning Journey, as it is called.

We continued until the Henderson Wave, a pedestrian bridge with a unusual artistic design

From this bridge we had a nice view of the Singapore skyline. Dark clouds again, it was quite rainy during our visit

The Henderson Wave, as seen from below.

After this walk we took a bus to the city center, as we had planned to visit the National Gallery in the afternoon. There were still remnants of the Christmas celebration. Again we had a very simple lunch

We walked around and had a look at Singapore’s landmark, the Merlion.

View of the Theatres on the Bay, colloquially known as the big durians. Memories came back of a “concert” by MozART Madness, attended many years ago…:-)

Boat Quay, dwarfed by the skyscrapers

We walked around in what is called the Civic District. Here many of the heritage buildings are located. Left another “wefi”, right the St Andrews Cathedral (1861)

The Victoria Hall began as Town Hall in 1862, the Asian Civilisations Museum is housed in what originally were the Government Offices (1864). The Old Parliament House, possibly the oldest surviving building of Singapore was built in 1827 as a mansion for a Scottish merchant. The National Gallery occupies two more recent buildings, the Former Supreme Court and the City Hall, both built in the first half of the 20th century

We decided to keep the National Gallery for the next day, and walked a bit more along the padang in the direction of two conspicuous buildings. The left tower is part of the Raffles CIty (1986) designed by architect I.M. Pei who has been responsible for many of Singapore’s skyscrapers. The right building was new for me, and it was only after I came  back home that I found out that it is  the South Beach development.

Looking back from the padang, the skyline of Singapore, the National Gallery, the Victoria hall with in front of it the Singapore Cricket Club.

It was in this club , the oldest one of Singapore (1852), that Dr Lee invited us for our farewell dinner. The club has a dress code, fortunately we had brought long pants, shirts, shoes. We started with an aperitif and what could be a better choice than a Singapore Gin Sling?

After our dinner we walked to the Singapore river for a few night view pictures. The majestic look of the Fullerton hotel suggest that is one of the prestigious old hotels of Singapore like the Raffles. Not true, the building is from 1928 and for many years it has been the Post Office of Singapore. It was only in 2001 that it became a five-star hotel!

After the posh dinner in the club, we enjoyed at a stall coconut ice cream as a dessert…:-)

The next morning we visited the National Gallery. There was so much to see and admire that I decided to write a separate post about this impressive museum: National Gallery, Singapore

 

In the afternoon we took the bus back and arrived home around 11 pm, tired but very satisfied. There is much more to do in Singapore and we are looking forward to come back soon.

 

Summer in October!

When I decided to come back to  the Netherlands in October, I knew the weather could be unpredictable, hesitating between autumn and winter. In old times October was called the aarselmaand    (hesitation month)

So it was an unexpected, but very pleasant surprise that my first weekend was warm and sunny, even breaking records!

Here is a report about three summer days in October. Click on a picture to enlarge it

Saturday 14 October

With my brother Ruud I visited the Spaardammerbuurt, famous for its Amsterdamse School architecture. First we had coffee and cake in the Buurtboerderij Ons Genoegen. This “farm within the city” dates back to 1880, was almost demolished around 2001, but just in time saved by a group of concerned citizens. More about this interesting story can be read here (in Dutch). It is amazing that such a rural enclave exists, sandwiched between two railway lines.

We walked from the Buurtboerderij to Het Schip following this route. Not the shortest one, but worthwhile, you don’t realise that you are surrounded by development

When we arrived in the Spaarndammerbuurt, we were a bit disappointed to see that Het Schip, the famous creation of architect de Klerk, was being renovated, so I took only a few pictures. You can find more  in an  earlier blog Amsterdam Architecture

During my last visit the Schip museum was closed, fortunately it was was open now.  It is housed in a former school building and worth visiting.

We ended our trip at the Central Station. Beautiful weather and the forecast for the next day was  even better…:-)

Sunday 15 October

The second day I went with my friend Yolanda to the Utrecht Hill Ridge, a  forested ridge of low sandhills, created 150.000 years ago as a moraine during one of the glacial periods. We followed a marked hiking trail of 12 km, indicated on the Google Earth map below.

It was a pleasant, easy walk.

Our hike took us to the Beerschoten and Houdringe estates and to the Pan forest. Stately lanes, beech and oak forest

Many  trees had beautiful autumn colours.

Mushrooms all over the place.

Hard to imagine that in winter this nice lake will become a skating rink.

The former coach house of the Beerschoten Estate now houses  an information center

It was a Sunday and with the sunny weather there were many visitors. There is also a sculpture garden

Monday 16 October

The third day I walked on my own in the region of Alphen, my birthplace. A polder walk of about 10 km. Green in the map below. Also indicated (in red) is one of the numerous Dutch polders . A polder is is a low-lying tract of land enclosed by dikes. This polder was created around 1785. Because they are low-lying, the rainwater must be pumped out by windmills into a river, in this case the river RIjn.

I took a bus to Aarlanderveen, where I started my walk. Nowadays Aarlanderveen has no shops and only one cafe. The cafe was officially closed, but the friendly owner was willing to serve coffee  with apple pie. A good start of the day.

The landscape can not be more Dutch…:-) Meadows, cattle, windmills.

You walk on narrow trails through the meadows, sometimes crossing fences

The polder marked in red needs 4 windmills, because in its deepest point it lies about 5 meter below sea level and one windmill can “lift” the water only about 1.5 meter. So they have to work together, like in the sketch below. The Dutch word for it is a Molen-viergang and it is the only viergang in the world that is still operating.

Mill no 4 uses an Archimedes’ screw, the other three have scoop wheels.

Here is windmill no 4, the Putmolen, built in 1801. later than the other three, because one more mill was needed to drain the lowest part of the polder. That explains the odd numbering..:-)

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Here is Mill no 1, when you click on the image to enlarge it, you can see no 2 and 3 in the background. This windmill discharges the water in the Rijn river.

Some details of this windmill. The right picture shows part of the scoop wheel.

Windmill 2 and 3

On the GE map you see that there is an (older) polder between the “red one”and the Rijn river. The easiest way to remove  the water from the new polder would be to discharge it in this old polder, which had its own windmills.But understandably the owners of the old polder refused this, so for  the new polder a separate drainage channel had to be created to the Rijn. Such a drainage channel is called a “wetering” in Dutch.

The problem is that the wetering of the new polder has to cross the wetering of the old polder. The left picture shows the location where this happens. The yellow line marks the wetering of the old polder, the red line is the wetering of the “red” polder. It passes UNDER the old wetering via a siphon (a duiker in Dutch). The right image shows how it works. This siphon was built in 1786.  Amazing.  I have marked the location of this siphon on the GE map

Not many birds in this time of the year. I noticed a heron and a cormorant. And of course many swans..:-)

A few more pictures.

It was a very interesting hike. A very informative website about the Molen-viergang (in Dutch can be found here.

Tabur East, 19 July 2016

Bukit Tabur, also known as the Klang Gates Quartz Ridge, is located just north of Kuala Lumpur. With a length of more than 16 km,  this quartz “dyke” is the  longest of its kind in the world. The razor-sharp ridge is clearly visible on Google Earth.

Quartz ridge

It is a popular destination for hikers, but some parts are steep and require climbing, you must not have fear of heights.  At Tabur West  quite a few (sometimes fatal) accidents have happened, so recently it has been decided that you have to apply for a permit first. As a result Tabur East has become more popular and during weekends it can be crowded. I have climbed Tabur West several times, last in 2009, but Tabur East only once, in 2002. Here is the report I wrote then..:-)

When Edwin asked me if I would like to join him and a few friends to Tabur East, I eagerly accpeted his invitation. And what a wonderful hike it was! We went on a weekday and met only one other couple during our hike.

Here is again the Quartz ridge, with both my 2009 hike to Tabur West and the recent hike to Tabur East. Click on the image for a larger view.

Quartz ridge_trails

First I had breakfast in Deen’s Nasi Kandar , where I met Edwin, Paul, CYTan and Kendary. From there we drove to Jalan Melawati where we parked our car and met Peter, Elaine and Rina. Before we started of course a group picture had to be made. From left to right, standing: Peter, Elaine,me, Paul, CYTan and Rina. In front Kendary and Edwin. Peter is a regular hiker of Tabur East and acted as our guide.

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From the car we first followed the water pipes to the actual trail head. There a sign probably told us that we were not allowed to enter…:-).

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From there a steep climb took us to the ridge. Fortunately the many exposed tree roots made it easier and here and there fixed ropes were helpful too.  Some pictures (click to enlarge)

A short video of the climb

When you reach the ridge, the view is spectacular and really worth the strenuous climb. On the north side you look down on the Klang gate reservoir, on the south side there is the concrete jungle of Kuala Lumpur.

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On the ridge going is easier, but you have to walk carefully. Nice quartz crystals everywhere.

To reach the top of Tabur East, a final steep climb is needed. Because the rock is so hard and full of hand- and footholds, it is not scary, if you have no fear of heights.

Arrived on the top, it is time to relax and take pictures.

I always try to have my picture taken in a position that looks spectacular, while still very safe. This one is a good example..:-)  The group picture is also not bad.

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We continued a bit further, going down slightly until we reached a steep cliff from where we could see the next quartz hill, Tabur Extreme. No access from here. But a nice place for dramatic pictures. Rina climbed down first until the edge of the cliff, followed by Edwin and the rest. Adrenaline-filled fun.

Of course then they had to climb up again. Carefully. Watch Rina, a real daredevil…:-)

Generally going down a steep slope is more difficult than climbing up, because you can not easily see the suitable footholds. Here it was not too difficult because of the many footholds plus helpful ropes.

We took another route back, the least agreeable part of the hike, because it was a bit slippery here and there. The reward was that in our descent we crossed a durian and rambutan farm. Rina turned out to be an expert tree climber and collected lots of rambutans. The durians were delicious too.

Walking back to the car, I had a last view of Tabur East.

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It was a very nice hike, not in the least because of the pleasant company

Ayer Hitam, finally!

Numerous times I had heard and/or read about the Ayer Hitam Forest Reserve in Puchong. With a waterfall, maybe even more than one….

But I had also heard that this forest reserve was a research project of the UPM university and officially out of bounds. As I am a good citizen, I was reluctant to trespass…:)

Last week I joined a so-called hashwalk, for the first time in my life. I will blog about it later. After the walk there was an open-air beer party where I met Master Ho, 76 year old and still going strong.  When he was 15(!) years old, he started a hiking group Pathfinders55, which still exists today. We came to talk about Ayer Hitam and I accepted his invitation to join him for a hike there.

Here is the location of the Ayer Hitam Forest Reserve. Surrounded by urban development, it is surprisingly large. Our hike is marked in green.

Large map

Here is part of the Reserve in more detail (click to enlarge). Our hike was about 10 km and took more than four hours. The grey line comes from Google Earth and probably marks an”allowed” trail. On our hike we did not meet any enforcement officials, maybe because it was weekend

map2

Master Ho had sent me a whatsapp where to meet:

Date: Sunday 22/5/2016
Meet time at the the purple(or pink you may call it) colour single storey
corner shop opposite the coconut stall
Start time: 9.30am

I was surprised that there was quite a big crowd that Sunday morning. The pink/purple house was easy to find and Master Ho was waiting for us. We took a group photo and started our hike. Clear trail, climbing up, then down, crossing a stream, then up again.

After about one hour we reached the waterfall. Many people there, enjoying a bath and relaxing. No rubbish! I understood that the local community is taking care about the place.

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Here is a video of the waterfall

What next? We could take the same way back, but we also could have a look at the Blue Lagoon. Easy decision of course…:-)  So we continued our hike, passing another nice waterfall (no people, access difficult) and an orang asli settlement. Nobody living there now, probably only when fruits (durians?) are harvested. Romantic setting.

Here is a video of another river crossing. Master Ho and I decided to get our feet wet. Of course I was hoping that at least one of my friends would fall…

Here is Peter, taking a bath in the BLue Lagoon

The second Blue Lagoon is even more attractive, with a small waterfall at its end.

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A pity that these lagoons are out of bounds, but understandable. Fortunately they are located deep inside the Reserve. It took us about two more hours to hike back to the pink house. Here are a few pictures to show the beauty of nature.

All the time we were in the jungle, but just before the end, we came out in the open and noticed this rock face with bright flags on top. Maybe because the day before it was Wesak?

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A very rewarding hike!

Qing Xin Ling

Have you ever heard about the Qing Xin Ling Leisure and Cultural Village in Ipoh? I had not, until Aric mentioned it to me as a possible “stay-overnight” place during our recent trip up North. It turned out to be fully booked, but we decided to have a look at it anyway, because you can visit it as a day-tripper (RM 6). In the reviews (see the link above), people complain that the place  can be overcrowded on weekends, during  our visit it was still ok.

Here you see the location of Qing Xin Ling. Ipoh is surrounded by limestone hills, the image shows Gunung Rapat. Many caves and “wangs”, depressions enclosed by high limestone cliffs. Many Chinese temples too, one of them located at Qing Xin Ling. Recently the temple committee has transformed the temple grounds into a “Leisure and Cultural Village”, which has become so successful that the residents, living nearby, are complaining about traffic jams and parking woes.

Map

We paid the entrance fee and walked around. Mixed feelings. The location is beautiful, two lakes, surrounded by steep limestone cliffs. You can walk around the lakes, a number of brightly colored chalets has been built on the shores. Without the day trippers walking and cycling(!) around, it could have been a paradise.

But this serene atmosphere has been destroyed by the many artifacts constructed, to make it a kind of theme park. For example, what is a boat doing there, between the two lakes? From the deck you have a nice view of the two lakes, but for the rest it is an eyesore. Very strange.

It is a confusing mixture of memorabilia ( an old motorbike, a push bike, a horse cart) and kitsch. Aric as birdman, stickers instead of love locks. Hm, a tree root,  let’s paint it as a snake. Shall we add two dinosaurs? Anything goes…:-)

It becomes much more interesting when you walk up to  what I would call “memory lane”, a path leading to the upper wangs, where a number of stalls and shops have been created with old/antique stuff. Here you could spend a lot of time. Mostly bric-a-brac, but still interesting

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When you continue after this memory lane, you enter a completely different world. A trail leads up to Iron Hill, the top of Gunung Rapat. Recently this trail has been included in the “village”. In the beginning the trail is clear and well maintained, but it becomes steeper, there are ropes. You will pass old machinery dating back to when iron was mined here. As we were not prepared for a hiking tour we went as far as we could go, but went back before reaching the summit. Halfway, we had a nice view of Ipoh.

Will we ever come back here to stay in one of the chalets? No. But, better prepared,  we like to explore the trail to the top of Iron Hill.

 

Lata Tampit 14-10-2015

Lata Tampit in Janda Baik is a waterfall described in my Waterfalls of Malaysia website, but I have never visited this waterfall myself. So, when my hiking friend Peter Leong told me that he was going to visit this waterfall with his gang and if I would like to join,  I accepted the invitation, hoping the group would be of an acceptable size. It was …:-)

We met at the Mc Donalds in Genting Sempah and from there we drove to the Latto Caruk chalets. The resort was closed and rundown. We went through the gate and followed a clear trail. Bamboo forest, one steep part, two easy river crossings.

There are seven waterfall tiers, we skipped the lower ones, at the fifth tier a big group was camping, we continued and after less than 45 minutes we reached the top (7th) tier of Lata Tampit. Here we were the only ones. The waterfall is attractive, with a pool. A huge tree had fallen across the pool, a perfect place to rest and take pictures

Here you can see a senior citizen climbing the tree to join the fun

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And fun we had.

The waterfall with the huge tree form a very scenic background for pictures.

Here is a short video of the waterfall and our group enjoying lunch

We did not stay very long as the sky darkened. Soon it started raining, actually it was more of a drizzle. We passed another tier on our way down, I just took a single shot, must come back here to take pictures of all tiers.

For lunch we went to restaurant 126 in Bukit Tinggi. I had been there several times, many years ago, could not recognise the place…:-)  Once a simple shed, now a huge two-story building. Personally I had the feeling that the food in the simple shed was better…:-)  After some shopping we went home contentedly. A nice, easy trip

View of the restaurant, highway in the background

Restaurant 126

A Google Earth screenshot of our walk

GE screenshot

 

Kemensah Krazy 12-4-2015

A few months ago Aric asked me if I was interested to join him and a few of his friends on a hike, called Kemensah Krazy.

website

They were thinking about the Kemensah Kinda Krazy, 15 km, “ideal for those who want to have a feel of what the jungle is all about without going to extremes

Could I go the distance…:-)  Hm, I was pretty sure I could, with my almost daily morning exercise in Bukit Kiara. So I registered for the 15 km hike. Checking more carefully what to expect, I found on the website this profile of the 15 km hike. It made me slightly nervous…:-)  Distance no problem, but up and down all the time, total ascent (and descent) 850 meter

profile

The start was at 9 am, but we had to be there at 7:30 am to collect the race card and a BIB number, which you have to fix on your shirt. The race card will be punched at the various checkpoints and the BIB number contains a tag that will record your start and finish  time. Here is my BIB  number. With my nickname Kwai Loh..:-)

BIB

The whole event was organised very well. Free shuttle buses took us from the car park to the start. There breakfast was provided and you could leave a bag with a fresh set of clothes at a counter. For our hike there were six checkpoints, with free water and fruits.

For the 15 km hike there were about 200 participants, just after the start there was a big crowd, slowly moving forward. The organisers had done their best to create an attractive circuit. Sometimes wide logging roads, but also narrow jungle trails and a few steep slopes. Those slopes formed real bottlenecks, at one place we had to wait for about 45 minutes, in the hot sun. We had decided to walk at our own pace, Aric and his friends were faster than me, and often I walked alone, which I did not mind at all…:-)

It was a tough hike, much more strenuous that I had expected. There were a few moments that I thought about giving up. Actually there were quite a few participants who did, halfway. And almost everybody was huffing and puffing. I may have been the oldest participant and one Indian couple asked about my age. When I said I was almost 71, they replied: Wow, we are half your age. That you can do it, gives us strength to continue.  Really nice to hear.

The last (very steep!) part of the hike could be skipped without missing a checkpoint. Aric was waiting for me around there, to tell me that…:-) Sweet. But I decided to struggle on.

And I made it !!

When I shared the finish picture with my siblings in Holland, my youngest brother commented : “Everybody else went home already?”  LOL. But his next comment was that he complimented me…:-). Actually it was true that I was one of the last finishers…:-)  It took me more than 6 hours to hike this 15 km.

Here is the official result. A few participants finished after me. Aric (Cheah Yoke Seng) finished late too , but that was because he had been waiting for me! Later he told me that he and his two friends also had moments where they considered giving up!

results

Here are my certificate and my medal.

Certificate

Medal

And here is a Google Earth map of the circuit. There were three loops, green, red and finally blue. The red one was quite strenuous. Will I (we) do it again. No lah.  But it was a good experience

Map

And of course I had to show off with my well-earned T-shirt. Here in IKEA. You may note that my tummy is still there…:-(

Showing off

Journal 12-7-2014

From 29 May until 9 July I have been back in the Netherlands. During that period I have been so busy  that I had no time to update this blog. Here is a journal about what I have been doing. More detailed reports will follow. I arrived on Ascension day and had not much time to overcome my jet lag because two days later Yolanda, Paul’s sister, celebrated her 65th birthday with an afternoon party. Here she is showing her youngest grandchild. It was an animated party, where I met several old friends. The picture to the right shows our former music group, numerous times we have come together to play (classical) music and enjoy  the fellowship (and the food!).

Yolanda My friends

The next few days Paul and I have been done some long-distance walking, an activity we also started decades ago. We had planned to walk three days, a part of the Pelgrimspad  in the southern part of the Netherlands. But the first day I developed a few painful blisters, so we had to cut short our trip. Beautiful countryside, here is a detailed report: The Dutch Pilgrims Path

Pilgrims Path When I am back in Amsterdam, one of the first things I do is to call Inez, my long time friend and soul mate.  We had a nice dinner together in a Turkish restaurant. She is also a proud grandmother now…:-). By the way, don’t laugh at me that I am always complaining that I gain weight when back in Holland (this time it was only 2 kg) Turkish food Inez Turkish food

 

 

Aric arrived a few days later, just in time for the family gathering. My siblings and I always try to have a reunion during my visits, and this time we decided to do it in a grander way, because we had much to celebrate. My brother-in-law and I turned 70 this year, my brother Ruud 65 and my brother Pim 60, nephew Jasper 40, nephew Stefan 35, twin nephews Xander and Aswin 15. And there were several relationship celebrations. So we rented a number of bungalows in a recreation park and spent there the Whitsun weekend. Here is part of the crowd Family meetingAnd here a few more pictures

We had decided to make a trip to Norway during this visit. I had seen pictures of the Preikestolen, near Stavanger in Southern Norway and had become fascinated by this rock, rising 600 meter above the water of the Lysefjord. So we booked a flight to Stavanger and climbed this Pulpit Rock! Here we are. I can tell you that It is quite scary to get close to the edge…:-)

Preikestolen Preikestolen

As it was our first visit of Norway, we also visited a few other places, Bergen and Oslo. Traveling from Bergen to Oslo by bus, boat and train is quite spectacular, beautiful fjords, numerous waterfalls and still a lot of snow in the higher regions. Stavanger and Bergen are picturesque towns with their brightly-coloured wooden houses. In Oslo we visited the famous Vigeland park, an ice-bar and the local nude beach. Our overall impression of Norway is positive, we like to come back. But the country is really very expensive. I took about one thousand picture, here a few. Click here for a detailed report.

After we came back in Amsterdam, we took two days absolute rest, because the trip was interesting but also tiring. The last day of Aric’s visit we decided to go cultural and visit two musea. Not sure if you can call the Erotic museum and the Marijuana museum cultural, but it was fun…:-) After lunch with a pancake, we went to the beach. At 7pm it was still warm and sunny.

Although the water was still very cold (~ 16 C) I even took a bath. It happens not often that you have the beach completely for yourself…:-)! Beach Time flies, so the last two weeks of my stay were quite hectic. One day I met Nellie, my friend of 50 years, in Zwolle.  It was a real cultural visit, the Nijenhuis castle (part of the Fundatie museum) had two interesting exhibitions. We also visited the bookshop Waanders in de Broeren, I was very impressed by the way this old church had been given a new destination.

The next  weekend I did another long (20 km) walk, with two of my former students and the partner of one of them. After heavy rain at the start, the weather became sunny. From the train station of Amersfoort we took a bus to Woudenberg and then walked back to the station. I have documented the walk in an EveryTrail report

Heiligenbergerbeek wandeling

Another tradition during my stay in the Netherlands is that I visit my (only) sister and my brother in law. They live in a nice bungalow near Schagen and this time they took me around the countryside. We visited a plant nursery, specialised in unusual/exotic flowers and got a private guided tour by the friendly owner. Also a windmill, where the miller explained finally what had puzzled me for a long time: why do rotate windmills always counterclockwise! He is living in the mill and was so kind to give us permission to have a look inside. We also went to the seaside. In that particular region there are no dunes, so the hinterland has to be protected by a dyke. And the next morning we visited my brother Arie and his wife Ineke, who proudly showed us their new house in nearby Alkmaar.

Here are a few more pictures of my activities. From left to right, visiting my former vice-principal and good friend Dick, dinner with Yolanda, lunch with Edmund and Johan and dinner with my ex-student Raoul and his Thai husband Aunn.

On the last evening for my departure I had dinner with Pim and Inez in a restaurant in the northern part of Amsterdam. A pleasant surprise, we had to cross over the river by ferry to an industrial area, the restaurant was located in a former machine factory. Delicious food and very friendly service. The name of the restaurant is Hotel de Goudfazant

Then it was time to go back. The last days it had started raining, maybe the country was crying to see me leave…:-) But I was looking forward to Malaysian food and to celebrate Aric’s birthday…:-)

Rain Hokkien Mee IMG_9011