Wait a second!

Tomorrow, 31 December 2016, just before midnight, an extra second will be added to the Universal Coordinated Time  (UTC)! It is called a leap second.

Why??

Probably everybody will be familiar with the concept of a leap day . A year in the international  calendar has 365 days, but the solar year is a bit longer, 365.25 days. To keep this calendar synchronised with the solar year,  every four years an extra day (29 February) is added to the calendar, a leap day. 2016 was a leap year, the next one will be 2020.

The Chinese calendar is based on the motion of the Moon, orbiting the Earth with a period of 29.53 days. A (lunar) year is 12 months = 12 × 29.53 = 354.36 days, about 11 days shorter than the solar year. To keep this calendar synchronised with te solar year, every two/three years an extra month is added, a leap month. Next year will be a leap year in the Chinese calendar, it will have 13 months with one of the months duplicated. Not always the same month, this time the 6th month. More detailed information about calendars can be found on my website

For those not familiar with UTC, it is the primary time standard by which the world regulates clocks and time. It is basically the solar time at 0° longitude, with the solar day as fundamental unit. The 0° meridian passes through Greenwich, therefore UTC is sometimes called Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). The world has been divided into 24 time zones, they are defined as UTC plus or minus a number of hours. For example Malaysian time is UTC + 8.

So, the UTC is based on the (solar) day and a day is 24 x 60 x 60 = 86400 seconds, right? Why do we need to add a leap second? The answer is simple, but may surprise you.

A (solar) day is not exactly 86400 seconds!

Here is a graph of the “extra” length of day over the last few decades. Click to enlarge and see more details

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It is only a few milliseconds every day, but it accumulates! Therefore it has been decided, in 1972, to add an extra second to UTC, when this accumulated deviation gets more than 0.9 second. The red graph shows when leap seconds were inserted.  As you see, the deviation from 85440 seconds is quite irregular and actually not predictable. That’s why the leap seconds are announced only 6 months in advance.

Why are the deviations always positive? That has an interesting, physical, reason. It is because of the moon! The moon is responsible for the tides, causing friction! This friction slows down the rotation of the Earth! It is a small but real effect, the solar day increases about 1.4–1.7 milliseconds per century. There is geological evidence that about 500 million year ago, the length of the day was shorter, ~ 22 hours.

These tidal forces and eventually tidal locking might be an interesting. topic for a separate blog.

A few remarks

  1. The leap second will be added to UTC, 31 December at midnight. 23:59.59 will not be followed by 00.00.00 but first by 23.59.60
  2. In Malaysia (UTC + 8) the leap second will be added on 1 January.  07:59:59 should not be followed by 08:00:00 but first by 07:59:60.
  3. Computer guys are not happy with an insertion of an extra second. It may cause computer failure. The Google engineers will just slow down the system clock slightly, from 10 hours before, until 10 hours after midnight, resulting in 1 second extra…:-)  Technical details here
  4. Time reckoning is a complicated topic. I have simplified it here…:-)

Jeram Janggut

Because I am the owner and webmaster of the Waterfalls of Malaysia website, my friends call me sometimes the Godfather of the Waterfalls, so it makes sense that I also have Waterfall Godsons..:-). Three of them at the moment, Siang Hui, Teoh and Nick. Siang Hui knows a lot of virtually unknown waterfalls and when Teoh a few weeks ago proposed to make a waterfall trip, SH suggested Jeram Janggut in Negeri Sembilan. An easy hike, he promised.

As it was rainy season, we decided to start early. At 7 am Teoh picked Aric and me up from our home and we drove to Sg Long where we met Siang Hui and Nick. After breakfast we continued in Teoh’s Hilux.

Start from Sg Long

It was quite a long drive to the trail head, first to Seremban, from there to Kuala Pilah. About 7 km before Kuala Pilah a minor road leads far (~20 km) into the mountains. If you have a hard-core 4WD you can almost drive to the fall. We started hiking at 10 am, walking the last few km. Here is my gang, from left to right Siang Hui, Nick, Teoh and Aric.

My gang

The route took us through a plantation, easy going, although often muddy and sometimes confusing because of several splits and junctions.

We wanted to keep close to the river, so we took this small trail, which ended at an abandoned Orang Asli house near the stream. Maybe we could have river trekked to the fall from there, but we decided to go back and follow the main road

Wrong path

O.A. hut

That meant that we had to cross a ridge, first going up steeply, nice views of the surroundings, then going down again. A signboard, “Not allowed to use poison or explosives for fishing”, meant that we had reached our goal.

The Jeram Janggut waterfall is not spectacular, but nice, with a large pool.

Jeram Janggut

We frolicked around, had coffee and of course took pictures.

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Many pictures….:-)

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Here is a short video of the fall.

We didn’t stay too long, as clouds were coming in, but before we left Aric used his iPhone on a tripod to take an “official” picture of our gang. I am very pleased with the result, we all look good and happy.

The gang

There is a lower tier of Jeram Janggut, quite nearby, but you have to scramble down a steep slope. We just had a look from above.

Lower Tier

Here is a video of this lower tier.

Going back to the trail head took us about one hour. Watching the butterflies having their lunch, we also got hungry…:-)

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We where just in time, when we reached our car, it started raining! Just where we reached the main road, we found a Malay stall, serving Assam Laksa, nothing special according to Aric (our assam laksa expert!) but delicious Kelapa Cendol.

It was a nice rewarding trip. The fall can be reached by (hard core) 4WD, we were lucky to be alone there. Here is a GE screenshot of the region. There are several relatively unknown waterfalls in this section of the Titiwangsa range. Jeram Tengkek is on the WoM website, the others not (yet), for various reasons.

Note the red marker. In 1945, just before the Japanese surrender in World War II, an allied Liberator plane crashed here and was only found by locals in 1961. The remains of the plane are still there and it is possible to hike to the crash site. Something for another trip

map

Let me finish this waterfall post with a screenshot of my Waterfalls of Malaysia site, that shows where the visitors of my website come from. I started checking 5 years ago. In those 5 years almost 1.5 million visitors from 190 countries have been visiting the site. Not a bad result…:-)

visitors WoM

Neighbour, here we come!

In a recent blog, Our nearest neighbour? , I reported about the discovery of the planet Proxima b, orbiting around a star, “only” 4.22 lightyear away from Earth. In several media it was suggested that within a few decades a spaceship could be launched to reach this planet. A spaceship is science-fiction, but there exists an ambitious plan to send a swarm of space-chips to Proxima b within a few decades. I promised to write a separate blog about this Breakthrough Starshot  Here it is.

In 1865 the French novelist Jules Verne wrote De la Terre à la Lune (From the Earth to the Moon), in which he describes how three adventurers travel to the moon in a projectile, shot from the earth by a large cannon. I have read it spellbound when I was a teenager. You can read it online here , it is fascinating (and hilarious too).

The illustrations are beautiful. Here  are some. From left to right the three adventurers climbing into the projectile, the comfortable interior and the firing of the canon.
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Why this introduction? We know now that this method is not used in our space age. We don’t shoot our spacecraft to the moon or other planets, we use rocket propulsion.  The  Voyager 1 (825 kg) was launched by a Titan-Centaur rocket (600.000 kg). The images show the launch, the Voyager spacecraft and a structure diagram of the rocket. The Centaur is mounted on top of the Titan. A huge amount of fuel is needed to launch a “tiny” payload!

Voyager & Titan

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After completing its mission, the Voyager is now leaving our Solar System with a speed of more than 60.000 km/h That is fast but it would still take about 75.000 year to reach Proxima b, if it was going in that direction (which is not the case).

So we can forget about  space travel to the stars, using rocket propulsion, at least in the foreseeable future. Is there another option, more in the style of Jules Verne?

Actually there may be one…:-)

One year ago Travis Brashears, a graduate student at the University of Santa Barbara in California, and his supervisor, Philip Lubin, professor of astrophysics and cosmology at the same university, published a paper Directed Energy Interstellar Propulsion of WaferSats in which powerful lasers “shoot” miniature (~ 1 gram only!) electronic chips away from earth in the direction of a nearby star, with a speed approaching the speed of light! Here are the (main) writers , Brashears left and Lubin right.

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Does this sound as science fiction? For me it does. But apparently not for these guys.

Sure, light exerts pressure, there are several projects going on, using sunlight propelling a solar sail , a bit similar to the sail of a sailing boat being blown by the wind. One successful project is IKAROS, a solar sail of 196 m (!) , launched in 2010 by Japan. Here an artist impression of the sail, with Venus, its destination. The sail is so big. because the thrust of the sunlight is only small.

Ikaros

Next year March the LightSail 2 will be launched. To the left the actual spacecraft, a so-called cubesat. To the right an artist impression of the LightSail in space, with a deployed sail. Notice how small the cubesat is compared to the sail!

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These projects are using sunlight. The project of Brashears and Lubin is futuristiic.

  1. A ground-based laser will be used as a “shotgun”  Estimated power needed 100 GW. That is a lot! The Three Gorges Dam in China, the largest power plant in the world, generates 22.5 GW.
  2. The spacecraft will be a chip with a mass of about 1 gram, with a light sail of ~  1 m2   . The plan is to prepare about 1000 of these miniature “spacechips” and launch them simultaneously in a mothership, orbiting the earth. From there the starchips will be shot, one after another on a daily basis, during 3 year.
  3. The laser will give a spacechip in about 10 minutes a speed of 20% of the speed of light. That is fast , 60.000 km/s
  4. The spacechips will reach Proxima b in about 20 year. Hopefully at least a few of them will have survived the journey.
  5. They will send back pictures to earth.
  6. Estimated cost of the project US$ 5-10 billion.
  7. Proposed launch date about 20-30 years from now.

Here is an artist impression of the launch. Mind you, the spacechip is the tiny dot in the center of the light sail!

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Futuristic indeed. The time span of 20-30 year is because much of the technology still has to be developed. Designing a spacecraft on a centimeter-size, gram-scale chip, developing a light sail with a thickness of 1 micron or less, building a 100 GW laser and many more challenges.

Here another artist impression. The plan is to build a so-called “phased”  array of smaller lasers, with a combined power of 100 GW. If you use 100 kW lasers ( at the moment the maximum power available), you need a staggering 1 million of them.

Laser array

I am skeptic, as usual…:-) But not everybody is. Yuri Milner, for example is optimistic.  This Russian/American tech entrepreneur and multi-billionaire,  started as a physicist and is very interested in the big question “Are we alone in the universe“. In July 2015 he announced, together with the British physicist Stephen Hawking, the Breakthrough Initiatives , a program to search for extraterrestrial intelligence. At that time the program consisted of two parts.

  1. Breakthrough Listen.  Basically a large-scale version of the SETI project. Funded by Milner with US$100 million.
  2. Breakthrough Message. A prize pool of 1 US$ 1 million for the best (digital) messages that could be sent out into deep space. No concrete plan to actually send these messages, because for example Hawking thinks it might not be advisable to do that. See my blog Anybody Out There?

In April 2016, part 3,  Breakthrough Starshot, was announced by Milner and Hawking. Milner and Mark Zuckerberg (FaceBook) will contribute another US$ 100 million to explore the technological feasibility of the program outlined above.

Milner, Hawking and Dyson

From left to right Yuri Milner (holding a protoype of a spacechip in his hand), Stephen Hawking and “eminence grise” Freeman Dyson, a physicist and cosmologist, now 93 year old. If you are interested in really futuristic ideas, have a look at his Dyson Sphere 🙂

Below is an animation of the process. A few comments may be useful.

  1. There are 135 lasers in the array. You need at least 1 million.
  2. The spacechips are launched simultaneously in a container, but released and shot one after another.
  3. When they reach Proxima b after ~ 20 years, they will pass the planet at full speed (60.000 km/s). So fast that the camera on board can only take a few pictures. Also data will be collected about magnetic fields etc.
  4. These data will be sent back to earth, using miniature lasers on the spacechip, focused with the help of the light-sail.
  5.  About 4.22 year later, the ground-based laser array will receive these data. Hopefully…:-)

I have been working about two weeks on this blog, reading and collecting as much information as I could find. To be honest, I became more and more skeptic.

A few days ago Scientific American has published a very informative article about the Starshot Program: Inside the Breakthrough Starshot Mission to Alpha Centauri. Many scientists were asked for their opinion about the project. There is respect for the technological challenge, but scepsis about the scientific value.

Jean Tinguely

Jean Tinguely (1925-1991) was a Swiss artist, best known as a creator of “machine sculptures” .  Made of scrap metal and junk, with an electric motor which keeps part of them in motion, these useless, playful and sometimes noisy machines have fascinated me from the first time I saw them, in the Municipal Museum of Amsterdam. That was in 1973, more than 40 years ago…:-).

This year, 25 year after Tinguely’s death, the Stedelijk, as it is commonly nicknamed, has an impressive retrospective of his work, named MACHINE SPECTACLE with over a hundred machine sculptures, many of them in working order. The exhibition is open until 5 March 2017 and definitely worth a visit.

Here is one of his works that actually belongs to the museum collection. It is called Meta II, created in 1971, and I have seen it in 1973. It makes an awful lot of noise…:-)

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Not during my recent visit. Many of Tinguely’s creations are actually quite fragile, the museum staff has been busy many months to get some of them them working again. Therefore it was decided not to keep them running permanently. Only on specific times, they work for a short period and only when you push a button.

Tinguely

Here you see a few of his machines. Some of them have a timer, so you can see when you have to push the button, many have not, you just have to try. Not really a good design.

The result is that the (many) visitors walk around the many rooms with (inactive) exhibits, until they hear a noise. Then they hurry to where the sound came from, because it lasts only a short time.

Quite funny, in a way.

 

 

Here are a few working ones. Doesn’t it make you feel happy when you see those useless contraptions in action? But, as you will notice, only for a very limited time.

A few more, not in action. Click to enlarge and see details. Notice the paper tape in two of the pictures. Those machines create “art” themselves when they are operating! Tinguely’s Metamatics (Wikipedia) has more info about this

And here is Gismo, created in 1960, also belonging to the collection of the Stedelijk. It is so fragile that even during this retrospective, it will be operated (by one of the museum staff)  on a few specific days only. Check the website if you are interested, scroll down to “When do the machines move?”

Gismo

This one, looking more serious, has been on loan from another collection, the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Created in 1967.

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But how serious is it? The title  is:  Requiem pour une feuille morte. Not a requiem for a dead  girl (fille) but for a dead leaf (feuille)  Here is this requiem in action.

Tinguely belonged to the Parisian avantgarde in the mid-twentieth century and was a member of the Nouveau Réalisme group, founded in 1960 and dissolved in 1970. Many well-known artists in this group, like Yves Klein, Spoerri, Niki de Saint Phalle and Christo.

Actually Tinguely and de Saint Phalle were married and have been working together often. In this exhibition one characteristic work of her is exhibited.Niki de Saint Phalle

And here is a co-production of the two artists, named  Crocrodome (1977)

Crocrodome

A very interesting one is this model for  a huge project in a forest near Paris, Le Cyclop. Started in 1969. Many artists have been contributing to it, it was finished by de Saint Phalle in 1994, after the death of her husband. I had never heard about it, really like to visit it when I am back in Europe.

Model for the cyclope

Very impressive is also the Mengele-Totentanz, a late work (1986) with an interesting background story. A farm, near Tinguely’s studio was struck by lightning and burned down. Several cattle could not escape and died. Tinguely immediately started to collect scrap metal from the remains and created this huge work of art. Part of the installation is a harvester made by a firm named Mengele (the firm still exists). But Mengele is of course also the name of the notorious German concentration camp physician. It gives this monumental work a double meaning.

Mengele Totentanz

The Totentanz belongs to the collection of the Tinguely museum in Basel and has never before been exhibited in the Netherlands. Must have been a big job to disassemble it in Basel, transport it and then assemble it again in the Stedelijk…:-)

Here is a video

Really a very interesting exhibition

Strata revisited

It was in 2005 that I read a post in one of the Malsingmaps forums about an unknown waterfall near Tanjung Malim. GPS-tracks and the coordinates of this Strata waterfall were given.

Here is the track (in red) and the waterfall, superimposed on a topo map of the region. Click on the map to enlarge it.

strata_diamond_creek

Notice that the track is broken, it is not very accurate. Starting point is the Diamond Creek resort, which did not yet exist when the topo map was printed. I have indicated (in white) the location of the roads in this (rundown) resort. I have also marked (in blue) two rivers, to guide the eye. The Strata fall is located in the Sg Sekiah, the Gerehang river has also a waterfall, which I hope to revisit soon

Of course I was interested to visit this fall, so in the following months I went several times to Diamond Creek, and finally found the waterfall. I have written two reports about these trips. The first report, The Strata Fall, Prologue & First Acts , describes the first attempts where we followed a trail high up the left bank of the river and found the Upper Strata Fall. In the second report, Strata Fall, the Grand Finale, we decided to river trek and finally found the main Strata fall.

The map shows the two routes, the yellow one leading to the upper fall, the brown one following the river to the main fall. The reason that the original (red) track is so scanty, especially in the last part, is that the river flows in a deep ravine where GPS reception is not easy. Even with my Garmin GPSMap 64s, there was a lot of scatter, which I have smoothed out.

strata_detail

That was more than ten year ago! Recently one of my friends wanted to visit this fall and I gave them my GPS-data. They did a recce, but did not reach the main fall.

My friend Edwin had told me that he had visited Strata beginning of this year, crossing the river to the right bank and following a rather clear trail to the fall without river trekking. That sounded interesting! He was willing to go again and be our guide. Here is our group.  From left to right  Paul, Fahmi, Edwin, Jan, Chin and Tan. Picture taken by Aric

Our group

We started walking from the Diamond Creek resort, with a 4WD we could have gone much further in. Sometimes it was a bit confusing which road to choose..:-)

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Passing through the plantation and entering the forest, we came closer to the stream and the point where we had to cross the river. The sign Hutan Simpan Kekal says that this is a Permanent Forest Reserve. So we were shocked when we saw that less than 100 meter further, a new logging bridge had been constructed over de river.

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This was all still unspoiled forest when Edwin came here earlier this year. Shameful. And a problem for us. Of course the building of the logging roads had also destroyed the existing trails. So how to proceed? With some scrambling we managed to climb up to the logging road (marked with a red X).

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We decided to cross the stream on this logging bridge and then try to find the trail on the other side. We chose what looked like a kind of trail

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But it was not a real trail and soon it petered out in a chaos of tree trunks and branches. Pictures taken by Chin, our selfie-man. Edwin suggested to do a recce, because he was confident that it should not be far to the old trail.

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We waited for him (picture by Aric)

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When he came back after about ten minutes, he said that he had seen the trail down the slope, to reach it might not be easy, but should be possible. So we continued and indeed, after scrambling not more than 100 meter, we reached the trail. Kudos for Edwin!

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The trail was remarkably clear, not overgrown, apparently also used by other hikers.It was only about 500 meter to the fall, which took us less than half an hour. And a beautiful waterfall it is!

Strata fall

We arrived at the fall at 11am and stayed one hour, because we were expecting rain in the afternoon. Enough time to enjoy the view, and take a bath. And pictures of course, or selfies…:-)

Of course I also wanted to refresh myself. Because I sweat easily, which attracts wasps and bees, I often take a plunge with all my clothes on and often also my shoes. As you can see in the left gallery picture, the pool is not deep. Except to the right of the fall and that was where I aiming at. When I touched the rocks, I could feel already that there was a strong current to the left. I tried to swim back but did not make much progress. Edwin noticed that and rescued me!  I was not (yet) panicking, but appreciated his help.

On our way back, we found, as we actually expected, that there was a better way to cross the river than using the logging bridge. We found even a marker, proof that more people come here.

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Here is the map of our hike. Click to enlarge. Part of the logging road is indicated in brown. The scrambling part is the dashed-green line. The river crossing and the location of the marker are given.

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Here is a short video of the Strata Fall

It was an interesting and rewarding trip. I have described the hike in detail, it might help others to find the way. Sad that they have started clearing the forest. Here is one more picture of the damage already done

Logging

 

Supermoon, 14 November 2016

Just a short post about the Supermoon of 14 November, widely publicised by the media the last few weeks as a not to be missed, once in a lifetime event. For example on Facebook

It’s a hype.

Supermoons are not rare, they occur regularly, on average every 14 months. The last one was 28 September 2015, the next one will be 4 December 2017.

Full moons have different sizes because the orbit of the moon is slightly elliptical. The image shows the moon orbit, exaggerated. The average distance to Earth is 385.000 km, but the moon can come as close as 356.500 km (perigee) and as far as 406.700 km (apogee). The moon orbit also rotates itself with a period of 8.85 year

lunar-phases-elliptical-orbit

As a result of these two effects, a full moon can sometimes occur when the moon is in or near its perigee. An observer on Earth will then see this full moon brighter and larger, than when it occurs in its apogee. Dividing the apogee distance by the perigee distance, we find 406.700 / 356.500 = ~ 1.14, so the moon will look ~14 % brighter and ~ 30 % larger. This effect is easily observable, as you can see in the image below.  By the way, the name Supermoon has been introduced by astrologers, the correct name is Perigee Full Moon.

mini-supermoons-of-2015

So, why this sudden interest in this particular Perigee Full Moon of 14 November?

The values given for apogee and perigee are actually averages. Because of the influence of sun and planets they vary slightly in time. Here are the perigee distances during the Supermoons of 2015 and 2016 :

  • 356.876 km in 2015
  • 356.511 km in 2016

The perigee distance on 14 November is a little bit smaller! To be precise , 365 km smaller, ~0.1%. So the Supermoon of 14 November will be 0.1% brighter and 0.2% larger. Observable for the unaided eye? Not at all, believe me…:-)!

Why the hype?  When you look at the Perigee Full Moons in the past and future, you  have to go back to 1948 to find an even smaller full moon perigee: 356.462 km (49 km smaller).  And from now on you have to wait until 2034 to find a smaller one: 356.447 km (64 km smaller). These Supermoons will be ~0.02 % brighter.

That’s why it is said: the brightest Supermoon in 86 year…:-). Technically correct, but….   a hype.

My suggestion, try to observe the moon tomorrow, when it is rising, just after sunset. The moon looks always larger when close to the horizon! This is an optical illusion, the Moon Illusion. Combined with the Perigee Full Moon it will be beautiful

And when you are not free tomorrow, it is not that critical. One or two days later you can still admire the Supermoon.

Oysters and Mussels, October 2016

Originally Aric and I had planned to visit the Netherlands in August, to attend the Mussel day in Yerseke (August 20), but for various reasons we had to postpone our visit one month. Both of us love seafood and one of the first meals I prepared after our arrival in Amsterdam was a delicious mussel dinner.

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But Yerseke is also famous for its oysters and the oyster season starts in October!

At the end of Aric’s stay we rented a car and made a two-day trip to Zeeland, the most Western province of the Netherlands, where Yerseke is located.

It was a trip full of variety with historical towns, the Delta Works and of course oysters and mussels 🙂

Our first stop was in Halsteren to visit the Moses bridge! The Moses bridge? I had never heard about it until Aric discovered an interesting website Atlas Obscura with unusual/unknown tourist attractions all over the world. When you search for the Netherlands, you will find the Moses Bridge as one of them. Here it is.

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The bridge spans the moat of a 17th century entrenchment Fort de Roovere near Halsteren. It is partially submerged in the water of the moat, giving the impression that you “split” the waters when crossing, like when Moses crossed the Red Sea  😉  Here are a few more pictures

After visiting this bridge we continued to Yerseke, where we arrived in time for lunch. Yerseke is a small village in Zeeland, heavily damaged during WWII, only interesrting because of the oysters and the mussels. We had our lunch in the Oesterij where the oysters, after being harvested are kept in oysterbeds for cleaning, before being marketed. You can buy them in the shop, or taste them in the tasting room.

We started with a combination platter of three different oyster species. With a glass of wine 9.50 Euro, they are even here not really cheap.  It’s an acquired taste, for us it was heavenly bliss. Next we tasted the baked oysters, nice, but we prefer the real oyster taste, so we finished our lunch with more raw oysters.

I had booked a hotel in Middelburg, we  still had time to spend and decided to visit the historical town of Veere. In 1541 Veere became a staple town for Scottisch wool and prospered. Later it was a fishing town, now it is mostly tourism. A small town, easy to walk around. Peaceful atmosphere.

Veere has a beautiful 15th century town hall and an interesting church, also dating back to the 15th century, but never finished, so there is only part of a tower!

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Here are a few more pictures.

End of the afternoon we reached Middelburg. In June 2015 I visited this beautiful capital of the Zeeland province and wrote a blog about it. Our hotel was located in the historic part of the town and consisted of only a few rooms, located above a cafe, that was actually closed on the day we arrived. But there was a note on the door, asking us to call a mobile number, so the owner expected us…:-)  More Airbnb style, but it worked well. Here our hotel and room.

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It was a beautiful evening, we walked around a bit, also looking for a restaurant. That was not easy, Middelburg is quite a provincial town. Finally we found a Greek(!) restaurant, that was open. Very pleasant service, a glass of ouzo before we even ordered our food. A big starter and an even bigger main course. We had a nice conversation with Martha, the Greek owner of the restaurant. Resulting in a picture..:-)!

The next morning we took a few more pictures, of the Kloveniersdoelen (1607) and the Sijsmolen (1728

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On our way back to Amsterdam, I wanted to have a look at the Storm Surge Barrier. In 1953 a high tide combined with severe storms caused breaking of dykes and flooding in Zeeland, resulting in almost 2000 casualties: the Watersnoodramp. I was eight years old at that time and still remember how frustrated I was that I could not go to Zeeland to help closing the dykes…:-).

The Delta Plan was meant to protect the Zeeland province and one of the most ambitious parts was the storm surge barrier, which could be closed in case of emergency. The dam was completed in 1986, each sluice-gate is tested regularly, the whole barrier has been closed 25 times until now, when the water level was more than three meter above normal.

On our way to this barrier, we first visited the small village of West Kapelle, to see the unusual lighthouse: a former church tower. When we walked around, we noticed an unusual civilian war cemetery. A British(!) tourist explained to us what had happened. In 1944 the port of Antwerp had fallen into the hands of the Allied forces, but to gain access to this important port, the German defenses in Zeeland had to be destroyed. Therefore the dyke near West Kapelle was bombed, flooding the village. Hundreds of people had taken shelter in a mill and drowned. Note the many graves of young children.

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To build the storm surge barrier, an artificial island was constructed: Neeltje Jans Now it has become an (expensive) fun park, which we skipped. But on the island there is a well known restaurant, specialising in oysters and mussels. A delicious ending of an interesting 2D1N trip.

Giethoorn, Venice of the North

When you search Wikipedia for  Venice of the North, you will see that quite a few towns in various countries are so nicknamed. In my opinion Amsterdam really deserves that title, with its numerous canals and about 1500 bridges. But Giethoorn is also sometimes called the Small Venice of the North.  It is a village in the Dutch province of Overijssel. In the map of Holland I have indicated the location.

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Giethoorn is a tourist attraction, especially popular with Chineset tourists. I had been there once, many years ago, it was Aric who had read about it and was interested to visit it. We went by public transport, first by train, then by bus. Giethoorn is located in what was in earlier times a peat swamp. What remains are lakes and many canals, used in the past to transport the peat. In the map below I have shown the route we have walked. Cars can not enter this part of the village, you have to walk or rent a boat.

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We were advised at the tourist office to walk. Most (mainly Chinese) tourists rent a punt. In the past you needed a pole to move it (not easy), now they are provided with a silent electric motor and called “whisper boats” 🙂 Restaurant menus and the timetable for the bus were available in Chinese.

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When you reach the foot/bicycle path, you feel like entering a different world. Thatched houses, many on their private island, only reachable by wooden bridges. We were lucky to visit Giethoorn off-season, it was relatively quiet.

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Here a collection of pictures, it is difficult to stop taking photos. Click to enlarge

Halfway we got a bit hungry and decided to stop at the Smits pavilion, surrounded by water. I was expecting they would serve “uitsmijter” , a traditional Dutch lunch, but that was not the case. The frikandel with fries was an acceptable alternative.

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Refreshed we continued our walk, with more photos of bridges, thatched houses, whisper boats…:-)

For Chinese couples it is customary to make a wedding album before the actual wedding takes place. A professional photographer chooses romantic locations for the photo shoot. Here a couple had come to Giethoorn! It proves the popularity of the place with Chinese..:-)

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When you mention Giethoorn to a (senior?) Dutchman, they probably will reply: Of course, Fanfare! Fanfare is an iconic Dutch movie, shot by movie director Bert Haanstra in 1958. You can say that the movie put Giethoorn on the map. The cafe where part of the action took place, still exists and is of course now called Fanfare 🙂

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The movie is available on YouTube. It’s a comedy, worth viewing. English subtitles.

We enjoyed the trip tremendously. The statue which Aric is trying to imitate, depicts Albert Mol, one of the Fanfare actors. Of course he also had to try the giant wooden clogs. The giant leaves in the last picture you would expect rather in the tropical jungle..:-)

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Many houses in Giethoorn still have traditional thatched roofs. They are beautiful but expensive, € 90 – € 110 per m2. Thatching a roof or repairing it, requires skill, as you can see in the last picture.

One last image of Giethoorn. Visit this Venice of the North when you get the chance!

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Replacing a Geocache

For those of you, who do not know what a Geocache is, have a look at the Wikipedia entry about Geocaching . I became interested in this activity in 2002, and have hidden more than a dozen geocaches in Malaysia. Often in such remote locations that they never have been found..:-). At the moment I have only two “active” geocaches, a real “oldie” in the Kanching recreational forest, The Kanching Falls , and a more recent one in Bukit Kiara. I hid the Kanching geocache in 2003 at the 7th waterfall and it has been found 35 times.

One month ago a geocacher reported that the geocache had disappeared. So I had to go back to Kanching and replace the geocache. It was at the 7th tier that Aric and I had our backpacks stolen, a few months ago. See my post Robbed at Kanching. Therefore I  did not want to go alone. Several of my friends had never visited Kanching and were eager to accompany me! Here is the Fellowship of the Geocache…:-)  From left to right PK Chan, me, Peter Thang, Clinton, Damian, Emily, Chee Wai and Pola Singh. Suat took the picture.

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There are seven waterfalls in Kanching. The first four tiers are easily accessible via a cemented path. Two of them have pools, suitable to take a bath. When we started around 10 am, there were not yet so many visitors, but on our way back, there was really a crowd.

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Before you reach the first waterfall, you have to pass a crowd of monkeys (long-tailed macaques).

They are watching you if you have any food they can grab.

This alpha-male did not mind to have his picture taken, but modestly he protected his family jewels

 

 

Here are the first four tiers. The fourth tier is the most popular one.

After the fourth fall, cemented steps continu for a while and lead to a bridge. After that the trail is clear and well-marked, but steep. The fifth tier is my personal favourite. The sixth tier is a very tall cascade. Finally you reach the top tier. A nice pool invites for a bath.

Here we had coffee and delicious cake from Suat. I checked the geocache location and found that the geocache was indeed missing.

I had prepared already a replacement cache. It is a glass container with the usual content, a logbook, pencil and some goodies. Chee Wai and his daughter were interested to see what was inside.

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Problem was that there were a few more people. In Geocaching lingo they are called Muggles.  I decided to talk with them and explain the geocaching concept. They were interested, so I did not need to be secretive hiding the cache. I asked them to take a picture of the group, before I hid the cache. Here it is.

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Going down a steep slope is more difficult than climbing up. Here are two videos. The first one is taken when we left the 7th tier. Another group of people was going up

This one is taken during the descent beside the tall cascade. The exposed tree roots are very useful

Here we are back at the bridge, after which the cemented steps start. The other picture shows the crowd at tier 4. Just after taking this picture I managed to loose my balance, falling and sliding down. I needed helping hands to stand up again…:-) Luckily no sharp rocks, only some scratches on my arm and leg. Could have been much worse.

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We were back at our cars around 1:30 pm. Perfect time for lunch. Clinton knew a nice shop near Jalan Ipoh. Delicious food.

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A very successful trip

Bukit Apek waterfalls

Almost ten years ago, in 2006, a friend took me to Bukit Apek. It is the blue track in the image below (click to enlarge). At that time I was not aware that there were waterfalls…:-). When I was told there were waterfalls, I went two more times, one time to the lower fall (red track), a second time to the upper fall (green track). It resulted in a page on my waterfall website: Bukit Apeh falls (I understand now that Apek is the correct spelling).

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On this page I wrote:

It will be interesting to see if it is possible to follow the 
stream down into the Ulu Langat Valley. The distance to the 
nearest road is about 1 km, as the crow flies. 
Altitude difference about 200 m

When I talked about it with my Kiara friend Peter Leong, he got interested and recently he and a friend did a recce. It is the red track to the right. At the end of the road, passing a water treatment plant, a clear trail led to a water catchment. Here the trail split, they explored the right fork, it might lead to the Lookout Point. The left fork should lead to the falls.

To check if that was true, we went back with a few friends. From left to right Steven, Chee Seng, Suat, Chee Kwan and Peter. An afternoon trip, we started at 2:15 pm


To reach the trail, we had to pass the water treatment plant, which was heavily fenced with barbed wire. Warning us to be careful, Peter himself got hurt and needed a bandage.

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The trail follows an old pipeline to a small reservoir. One of the most scenic trails I have walked! Shaded, mossy, Lord of the Rings atmosphere.

Here a few pictures of the pipeline

The small reservoir, where the trail forks

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From the catchment we followed the left trail, well marked, must be used regularly by hashers, many hash papers. This part is less interesting, a bit monotonous. After a few hundred meters  it joins the trail leading to the two waterfalls. I wanted to see the lower fall and that meant we had to descend a steep slope.

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Here is the lower fall.

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I had brought a stove to make coffee, here Chee Seng is boiling the water. Of course Suat had brought her delicious homemade cake…:-)

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Time to take pictures

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I don’t remember what I said here to the two alpha-males…:-)

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At the waterfall we met another friend, Michael, who had started the hike from the other (Saga) side. He joined us on our way down, after we had taken a group photo. After about one hour we were back at our car, where cold beer was waiting for us..:-)

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Here is a GE screenshot of our hike.

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