Angkor Outer Circuit

Further afield from the main inner temples of Angkor there are many more fascinating and interesting temples that one can explore. Even though they are ‘outer’ they are not so far in distance from Siem Reap, so a tuk tuk or organised tour can be organised for a days exploration. I chose Journey Cambodia for this as during my research to get to Banteay Srei I saw that they offered this temple as a stop.

After being collected by our amazing guide Sok, we took a lovely drive out to and stopped at first to the east gate to check it out. I absolutely loved this gate, as it was covered in beautiful green moss and it just felt so atmospheric. The east gate also has some cool elephant sculptures on it, and of course the obligatory heads of gods.

When Sok asked us 3 ladies on tour if we were up for a little hike in the jungle before getting to our next temple we all said yes. A morning walk before the heat of the day through the jungle sounded nice. We were dropped off seemingly nowhere, just dumped on the side of the road, but Sok knew the way and soon enough we were heading to our next temple through lovely jungle, seeing some crazy ants and weird insects, and learning about some plants as well. Soon we hit the complex of Preah Khan, which from our remote entry was totally empty. This actual eastern entry was the main historic entrance, but for logistics most tourists now enter from the west. It was wonderful to come to a temple through the jungle, with nobody around. By the time we got to the main entry, we saw people, but for us we got to experience it quietly first, and that was great, because this temple complex is amazing! Preah Khan means “sacred sword” and is one of the largest complexes in Angkor. Preah Kahn was a centre of worship and learning, and this can be seen by the fascinating two storey ‘libraries’ that can be seen. I really enjoyed this temple, it could be one of my faves!

Onto Preah Neak Poan next – a unique island temple that can be reached by walking over a boardwalk. This interesting little complex was believed to celebrate Buddha achieving nirvana. Once over the boardwalk you will see a larger square pool and then four little square pools. I am guessing this one is important to buddhism as while we were there we met some buddhists who had travelled over 100km to get here. They were happy enough to pose for a photo, another one of those little travel moments I will remember!

East Mebon was our next stop. This one is a hindu temple and was erected around 944. On the base of each corner there are beautifully carved elephants seemingly guarding the temple. There is some really interesting brickwork as you get into the heights of the complex. There was nobody here when we visited this one around midday, and it became a bit overcast too, which made for an atmospheric visit. I remember just sitting on a brick feeling utterly exhausted, but also incredibly pleased that I was here and experiencing this history all by myself (I think my friend and our fellow traveller were doing the same in their own little corner of this temple too! lol)

Banteay Srei was up next, and I was really looking forward to this. Prior to my research I had never heard of the place, but after stumbling on a post on it by the fountain of knowledge that is Leighton (www.leightontravels.com) I just knew that I wanted to see this place. Leighton highly recommends it as one of his fave temples, and I have to agree – it is stunning! Not so much for its size or grandeur, Banteay Srei is prized for its Angkorian art. This is a hindu temple dedicated to Shiva and made of a pinkish stone. Banteay Srei means “citadel of the women” and it is thought to have been built by women because a man could not have done the intricate and delicate carvings that are found throughout. The carvings and bas-reliefs in this temple really are mindblowing, it seems like every inch, every little nook and cranny is carved. Even though by this stage I was kind of ‘templed out’ I got a renewed energy running my hand over the carvings of lotus flowers and other beautiful scenes. This temple is quite far, about 32km from Siem Reap (approx an hour drive) but it really is worth it!

There was one more temple on our itinerary for the day and this one was a beauty as well! Even though to the reader it may feel like we packed in so many temples and it must have been rushed it wasn’t like that at all – we got to visit each temple at a relatively leisurely pace, we had plenty of time to stop and photograph what we wanted, and we had a long lunch break too. Pre Rup was the last of the day, and with the sun coming out and being afternoon by this stage I was pretty cooked! lol. Its quite the climb up to explore the pyramid shaped temples, but the views from the top were worth it. Pre Rup means “turning the body” , which refers to a traditional way of cremation. Our guide showed us where the cremations would have occurred, and explained that this was probably an early crematorium for the royals. A nice way to the end the day hey? lol.

Overall a full but fantastic day exploring the ‘outer’ temples of Angkor. For those that only have a day then a tour of Angkor Wat and a few of those temples from my previous post would be a must, but if you have the second day up your sleeve definitely visit some of these temples!

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Angkor Inner Circuit

With 72 major temples and a couple of hundred minor temples scattered around Siem Reap, the thought of trying to see as many as I could was daunting. Before leaving I had been consulting numerous blogs, trying to pick out the ones that looked the most interesting to me. Luckily on my research I found a company called Journey Cambodia who seemed to offer the chance to see most of the major ones in one day. These main temples of interest, including the formidable Angkor Wat are located relatively close together in what is known as the “inner circuit”. I also found that Journey Cambodia did another tour of the “outer circuit”, which had a temple that Leighton (over at Leighton Travels) highly recommended and that I was eager to see, so I did that tour on my second day (this will follow in my next post, but for those that are interested now, Banteay Srei came highly recommended). You can of course do these temples by hiring a tuk tuk in town, and picking up a guide book. In this way you might fit in a few more of the minor temples in a day, but for me, Journey Cambodia balanced it perfectly. Trust me, by days end you will be Templed OUT!!! The heat and humidity make crawling around temples all day a really tough task, even if you are relatively fit and active! There is just so much to see!!!!

My first temple for the day was the famous Angkor Wat. It is huge, it is iconic, it is the most famous of all the temples… and yet… this weird old anti-establishment anti-“the norm” girl didn’t exactly find it the most awesome amazing place that it was meant to be. Don’t get me wrong, it is amazing, but I found it a bit underwhelming and actually preferred some of the others that we visited later. Maybe it’s just because I’m a weirdo who doesn’t like what ‘normal’ people like, I’ve always preferred the different, the ‘underdog’ so perhaps that is why I found it to be a bit oh-hum. That being said though, the scale of the building is awesome, the stairs to climb to the upper storeys was an experience in itself (I felt a bit giddy with the steepness and the height), and seeing local people come to offer prayers and get blessings from a resident monk was a very cool thing to see too. I suppose sunrise at Angkor would be amazing as well, but luckily we decided against it as our morning was overcast and dreary from the storms the night before and we would have woken up for nothing!

After Angkor Wat you enter via a gate to the complex that is collectively known as Angkor Thom. It is in Angkor Thom that will visit more of the various inner circuit structures. The south gate to the complex is known as Tonle Om, and as you pass over the huge moat you are met with a line of gods on the left, and demons on the right. The gate itself has four huge faces depicting Bodhisattva Avalokitesehvara, which is a pretty impressive way to enter a city!

Entering Angkor Thom we first visit the impressive Bayon. I loved it as from a distance it just looks like a huge pile of rocks, but when you get closer you can see so many features. I loved it’s huge gothic like towers and its many faces that seemed to glare imposingly on us mere tourists. Bayon also has even more bas-reliefs than Angkor Wat, and I really enjoyed looking up close on the reliefs that depicted scenes from every day life from that time. There were also reliefs of some cool scenes like a naval battle, a military procession, and a victory parade with the king. I took so many photos of the bas-reliefs that they all kind of look the same after a while! lol

Ta Prohm… ahh what to say about this absolutely amazing crazy place! Famous for being the place that Angelina Jolie filmed the Tomb Raider movie (which I haven’t seen), I was pleased that this place was relatively quiet (thanks covid!) and that I got to explore this complex and pretend to a bit Angelina myself. Ta Prohm is famous for its overhanging trees. The way the jungle tried to overtake the ruins is amazing, and the force of mother nature and the power of time is here for all to see. Proof of this came when we got to witness local workers cut and chop a huge branch that had fallen the night before during a wild storm. Sad to see an ancient old tree fall, but that’s time and nature for you I guess! For me this was the most fascinating and best of the temples – the dynamic of jungle vs stone was impressive!

Our last temple of the day was little known and little visited Ta Nei. Being off the tourist trail meant that we had the whole place to ourselves, which was so cool! While it might not be as grand as the others, it was lovely to explore this temple without anyone nearby – the chirp of birds and the buzz of insects could be heard clearly in the people-less peace of the mid afternoon. It was the perfect way to end an action packed day. Seriously my head was spinning as my guide was really into facts and figures… by this stage I couldn’t tell my Bodhisattvas to my Jayavaramarans. And god knows which wat was what! (sorry for that lame joke, I couldn’t resist. But in all seriousness, you will visit so many wats you really wont know which is what unless you take a photo of the signs before visiting. It’s the only way I could determine some of my photos – all these wats begin to look the same!)

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Sauntering around Siem Reap

The first thought I had of Siem Reap as the plane came down to land was “why the f*** is there so much water?” Never before had I seen such a place, the whole land was flooded! When we stepped out of the plane and walked across the tarmac it was drizzling too, and someone commented “well it is the rainy season after all…”. Uh oh I thought to myself, I didn’t think about seasons when booking this trip! lol. I thought my time in Siem Reap might end up being a washout but apart from that first afternoon and night it cleared up and I had a great time exploring this small city.

With a population of around 130,000 Siem Reap is small enough to enjoy without being overwhelmed by the big city sights and sounds, yet for such a small population it sure felt chaotic and noisy! My friend said imagine Bangkok times x100 of this. I was like no thanks…. trying to cross the road with all the tuk tuks and bikes streaming past was bad enough! But apart from this I really enjoyed Siem Reap – it has a great food and cafe scene, it wasn’t too busy as I mentioned but busy (and hot) enough to feel like I was in some grand Asian city and it was CHEAP. Really ridiculously cheap for an Australian.

tuk tuk biatches

On our first drizzly afternoon, after checking into our gloriously lovely hotel, we decided to head out and grab a late lunch and then explore Wat Bo, which is one of the town’s oldest temples. We went and ate at Wild Cafe, which I had read about online and came highly recommended. This place was amazing, situated in a lush garden, with awesome cocktails and amazing, different variations of spring rolls. We tried a mushroom and truffle variety, the Mexican and duck spring rolls. Soooo goood! After fuelling up, Wat Bo surprised us with so many different pagodas, burial stupas and decorations. I had actually learnt about this place before my trip over at www.leightontravels.com, so do visit his pages as he has more details on the best places to visit and places to eat!

give me all the food!
there were sooo many of these!
khmer architecture
how many monks can fit in a tuk tuk?

After a rest back at the hotel later on that night we went to dinner towards the famous Pub Street. This area is THE tourist and backpackers hangout, so there are plenty of options for restaurants, bars and clubs. After walking around we went down an alley known as “The Alley” and we went to an Italian restaurant which seemed to have alot of Belgian beer and cuisine on its menu! lol!!! I got talking to the guy at the counter who owned the place and yes, he was Belgian, married to a Cambodian who studied to be an Italian chef. So it was pizza/pasta with Hoergaarden that night! lol. My friend, Miss L, is a shopaholic, and her quest on this trip was temples by day, shopping by night, so we headed over to the nearby touristy markets. With a lack of tourism it was pretty quiet, and while you could tell the sellers were desperate, they were not overly pushy. I still felt bad though for saying no to people, but as a wannabe minimalist I didn’t want to buy any ‘junk’. While at the markets the heavens opened, and on the tin roof it absolutely hammered down so loud and the wind picked up and a storm came in. The tuk tuk drive back to the hotel was fun in the torrential rain! (we were so worried it would be bad the next day for our Angkor Wat visit, but by 9am it had cleared up totally. This was the pattern for every night of our stay – rain at night, clear by morning)

the centre of the action
markets

Our second and third days were spent out of town exploring temples, but our evenings were the same – eat and shop! haha. This time I really needed a proper coffee, not the horrible weak stuff the hotel served that morning, Right across the road from us was a Brown’s, which seemed to be like a chain like Starbucks (which Siem Reap does have too). I was a bit iffy to come here at first, as I would rather support Cambodian business, but I since found out Brown Coffee is actually a chain that was started up by some young entrepeneurs from Phnom Penh. This made me feel better about visiting, and their coffee was just the way I like it back home! The coffee was so good we stayed and had ‘all day breakfast’ for dinner! We also went to a smaller market known as “Made in Cambodia” markets, which was heaven sent for my friend as it was real authentic local handicrafts made by people from surrounding areas. While more expensive than the other markets at least here you knew you were getting real quality products. My friend stocked up on heaps of silk scarves, pouches, jewellry etc. Meanwhile I sat back and watched her and laughed as she tried to barter with people. I really don’t like bartering, but my friend is Singaporean and has travelled around Asia heaps and she said this is the thing to do. For me I just feel so uncomfortable… trying to screw a poor person out of a dollar just doesn’t sit right for me. I guess I am a sucker that would pay full price for anything! lol

could be london or nyc, so fancy!

On our last morning my friend decided to book herself into a spa treatment so I decided to just walk around and have a quiet morning to myself, buy some postcards and write in them, have a coffee and just explore the rest of town. By this day the clouds of previous days were gone and it was BRUTALLY hot and humid in the sun. Walking around this morning made me thankful for the cloud cover we did have while exploring the temples. I took a pitstop at FCC Angkor and had a great coffee and juice. I loved this place as it had a real Indochina plantation vibe to it. I also walked by the riverfront, stopped at the post office to get my stamps, then walked through the royal gardens and residences. I really enjoyed checking out the local street scenes by day and seeing how people go about their daily business.

It was back to the hotel to pack our bags and head back to a night in Singapore before ultimately home. Our hotel was amazing, but eerily quiet and somewhat spooky. As mentioned in a previous post, with over 270+ rooms there were only 3 in use while there. We didn’t see anyone! It was strange! They had a beautiful pool area but I didn’t want to go in as nobody else was there! The hotel also had two other restaurants, a boutique, a spa treatment centre and a gym but they were all closed at the time of our stay. I guess pre covid with so many guests this place would have been pumping! I do hope it makes a revival, as its so glamorous and fancy , the grounds were immaculate and the staff were so friendly and helpful…. and bored. They looked soooo bored. They need guests! I am not sure how expensive this place was pre covid, but for a huge room with two double beds, and for 3 nights it was USD 200!!! Anywhere else in the world for such a place would be at leasdt USD 400 a night I reckon! So if you want a luxury holiday on the cheap, now is the time to visit Siem Reap and stay at the Sokha Angkor Resort!

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Siem Reap, Cambodia

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens’ quote from his wonderful book “A Tale of Two Cities” kind of sums up my experience in Siem Reap last month.

I feel Sept 2022 was definitely the best and worst of times for the inhabitants of Siem Reap that rely so heavily on tourism. The best of times because travel was opening again. People were starting to come in. The hotel I stayed in finally opened its doors on 1st Sept after over 2 years of closure. There was hope.

The worse of times… there is not enough tourists coming in. The hotel I stayed in had 3 rooms being used out of a possible 275. It was spooky and creepy feeling like the only one staying in such a big grand hotel. Shops shut. Go to visit some place on google maps – closed, derelict, decaying. People desperate for money. Too many tuk tuk drivers, not enough people needing them. Too many places open to eat, not enough people in them.

Coming to SR post-covid was definitely beneficial to a tourist like myself – the sites which pre-covid were teeming with people were quiet. It was great to be able to get photos of the wonderful temples without hordes of people in them. Everything was cheap, and bargains were to be had. The temple card that you need to apply for in order to enter the complex was offering a special 2 days for the price of 1. It was obviously super easy to get a seat at a restaurant and service was quick and amazing. Life for the tourist going to visit SR right now is wonderful. YET….

This didn’t sit well with me. I am not naive, I had been to third world countries before. I had seen struggle. But by gosh, SR was a shock to the system. I don’t know if I have become more sensitive to people and their struggles now that I am a parent, but I left Cambodia feeling sad, depressed and just hopeless. I don’t see how it will pick up any time soon. I hated seeing kids my daughter’s age begging for a dollar instead of being at school. I hated seeing cows, dogs and cats on the side of the road so skinny with their bones sticking out. I HATED seeing girls a few years older than my ten year old wearing mini-skirts and walking along with some 60 year old fat bald european man, knowing that they had to do you know what to probably feed their family.

It sounds like I didn’t enjoy myself, and this is not the case!!! I had a wonderful time, and the temples of Angkor are definitely deserving as being “wonders of the world”. They are truly spectacular, and I think anyone that calls themselves a “traveller” or even “tourist” needs to see these amazing ruins for themselves. The people of Cambodia are also amazing – such gentle, graceful people, smiling and joking even though times are tough. Never did I feel pressured by the people to buy, they were never aggressive. They were always polite and smiling. And I think that’s what got me the most! That is what “copped me in the feels” so to speak. It’s the people who are the kindest and gentlest and nicest that seem to suffer the most. I guess my time in Cambodia just reinforced to me that the world is not fair. And that no matter how much you wanted to you cannot help everybody!

I guess what I am trying to get off my chest is that if you ever felt like you wanted to visit Siem Reap, and Cambodia in general, now is the time to go. Now is the time you are needed the most! And yes, be prepared for some “culture shocks”, be prepared for things not to be so rosy, but please go with a open heart and open mind and you will be rewarded with amazing ruins, great food, wonderful people and a holiday knowing that your $$$ are helping some of the world’s poorest people. The guides and locals I spoke to all said the same thing to me – get the word out there! tell people to come visit! So I guess this is what I am doing. I am not someone that sugar coats things. I am a hopeless liar! So maybe this post isn’t painting a “picture perfect” holiday. But I would hope most of the people I know that read my blog are not the “perfect” holiday types anyway. Most of you, dear friends, love to explore off the beaten path. You don’t mind if things don’t go perfectly to plan. You don’t mind a bit of sweat and dirt and heat. So please, go and visit Siem Reap and enjoy this amazing place!!!

Here are a few impressions to begin with…. because I took sooooo many photos, and there is so much history and culture to write about, I will do what my mate over at Leighton Travel’s (https://leightontravels.com/) does and write about each temple site. Speaking of, if you ever have questions about Siem Reap you can of course ask me, but Leighton has spent many months during covid lockdown “stuck” in Siem Reap – he is an expert and was super helpful when I had questions. His Siem Reap pages are so worth checking out!

I didn’t realise rainy season meant everything would flood. So much freaking water! Everywhere!
The amazing colours of Wat Bo in downtown Siem Reap
the place to be at night – Pub Street
The famous image of Angkor Wat

Angkor Thom gate
Tonle Om Gate
Bayon
to get to Prasat Neak Pean we crossed this cool bridge!
the famous Ta Prohm
the remote Ta Nei temple – the only ones here!

the intricately carved marvel that is Banteay Srei
a mini jungle hike early in the morning got us to Preah Khan
East Mebon
Pre Rup – by the early afternoon the sun was out and it was scorching!
nothing beats sitting by the Siem Reap river with a cold drink!
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Poking around Pemberton

Before I start writing about my wonderful trip that I took last month to Cambodia, I thought I’d do a quick write up about last weeks trip to the small timber town of Pemberton. This small town four hours south of Perth is known for its amazing old forests, home to some of the biggest trees on the planet! Myself and a friend went down for a few days to go on hikes and to take a break from hectic city life. It was beautiful, and staying in a chalet at the Karri Valley Resort was a treat!

While alot of time was spent just relaxing by the lake, we also had some adventurous moments, like TRYING to climb a 65 metre tree! I say try because I failed miserably! Lol. The Bicentennial Tree is the second highest climbable tree in the world. At 65m its scary high…. But you know what made it really really scary? There is no safety ropes, no safety nets, no safety workers, no nothing! Basically there are metal pegs shoved into the tree and you just climb. I seriously thought it would be a bit more regulated but nope! Just park, walk to the tree, and start climbing. I got up to the first viewing platform at 30m and couldnt go further. My legs were jelly. Im not really afraid of heights but the fact I’m skinny enough to slip through the rungs and fall to my death did not help. (Apparently nobody has ever died climbing this tree but I didn’t want to be the first!) After some deep breaths I came back down, which was another whole level of scary. My fingers were hurting from gripping so tight afterwards! I really can’t explain how nuts this is! The photos don’t do it justice!

Anyway I can definitely say I prefer hiking… both feet on the ground! Lol. Pemberton offers heaps of walks with various lengths. I enjoyed doing the Big Brook Dam and the Beedelup Falls trails. The 1000km Bibbulmun Track also passes through town so maybe one day if I can tick off that dream I’ll pass through Pemberton again!

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Albany and the South Coast

The “city” of Albany is located a 4 hour drive south of Perth, and is the largest town in the Great Southern Region. Located on the Southern Ocean this is Western Australia’s most southerly town, and because of this, it is usually cold!! But get a beautiful weather window and Albany has so much to offer, with a mix of great history and beautiful natural scenery!

main street

After our day of hiking on the Saturday we decided to explore Albany and its surroundings in the comfort of our car! After a hearty breakfast in town (visit La Botanica for awesome coffee!) and exploring the quiet Sunday morning main street we headed out to the National Anzac Centre, which is Australia’s only museum dedicated solely to the conflict of World War 1. Even though I have grown up in Australia, and learnt all about the Aussies that fought in world war 1 in school, there was still alot I learnt in this museum. For example Albany, a small town back then (even now there is only 38,000 people) had 41,000 Australian and New Zealander men leave from this port in 1914. From all around Australia and NZ men came from far and wide to Albany to leave on a convoy of ships to go Europe. For so many of these poor men Albany was the last time they would see Australian soil. It is a sobering thought and definitely a solemn place of quiet reflection. Nearby there is the Padre White Lookout and the Desert Mounted Corps Memorial where a dawn service is held every year on ANZAC day to remember those that gave so much for our country.

After spending time exploring the centre and the nearby historical bunkers and war memorabilia it was time for a change of pace and head towards Albany’s famous coastal features. The Torndirrup National Park cops the brunt of the brutal Southern Ocean and the fierce Antarctic winds that whip up in the winter time. Due to this there are some amazing coastal cliffs and natural features like land bridges and beaches. Even on a calm day with minimal swell it was cold and the ocean looked foreboding! Sadly with calm weather this meant the blowholes weren’t blowing water up, but they still blew air and it gave me a fright the first time I stood next to the hole! I would love to perhaps go down one day in winter and see the ocean at its furious best (but I hate the cold so there is no chance of that haha). Come at the right time of year (sadly most of winter lol!) and you will see the large whale migration, where whales come close to shore with their babies and frolic in the waters.

From exploring the numerous little beaches and coves we headed back towards Albany for an afternoon coffee and to grab dinner before heading back to our accomodation up at the Porongorups (about half an hour north of Albany). We stopped at the Albany Wind Farm though, which was a great experience! I didn’t realise we would get so close to the turbines, and just how large they were! With all the wind that Albany experiences it makes sense to harness the energy. We walked a small walk circuit, which intersected with the famous Bibbulmun Track! For those that follow my site I love hiking, and often do day hikes on the Bibbulmun’s northern section. The track starts (or ends depending where you walk) in Albany, and goes past the wind farm and all the way up 1000km to Perth. It was exciting for me to see where this section of the trail, as the part I usually walk is in the Perth hills, and not the ocean.

Overall I highly recommend Albany, and can’t believe it took me 40 years to get here in the first place! I will definitely be bringing the family down – I think husband will love the coastline and beaches, and Miss A is always a fan of exploring rock formations. It’s definitely a great spot in this big wide country of ours!

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Pottering about the Porongorups.

One would think after climbing a 1000 metre mountain in the morning that our hiking for the day would be done, but no! After our morning on magical Bluff Knoll we decided to tackle another hike in the area so that we would have the whole of the following day to explore Albany and the surrounding sites. So we decided to tackle the famous Granite Skywalk on Castle Rock. But first it was lunch break, and after a gorgeous lunch at the cozy Porongorup Tearooms we then went on to our afternoon hike. Sadly (or not sadly for this glutton) I couldn’t resist the amazing homemade scones with homemade jam and cream for dessert. This absolutely unnecessary gluttony mixed with the tired legs of the earlier hike made for a long and slow afternoon hike. By the end I was in agony, but it was so worth it!

easy start

Just off Porongorup Road, at the end of Castle Rock Road you will find the carpark, picnic area and lovely new clean toilets. Use them as there is nothing for the rest of the trail! The hike starts easy enough, and apart from a full belly I was feeling good! It had drizzled earlier in the day so the trail was super muddy, which was fine for prepared people like myself, but for those certain tourists that wear white converse shoes or worse, sandals, it was a nightmare. The higher up the trail you went the more wet and muddy it got.

the ladder
balancing rock

As you get higher up the trail the muddy path gives way to rock. The Porongorup Range is basically made up of numerous massive ancient granite domes, that rise up to 600 metres from the earth. When I say these are ancient, I really do mean ancient – apparently these rocks are the oldest mountain range in the world that are over 1 billion years old! These granite rocks make for some great scrambling, and as you get closer to the skywalk you will begin the challenge of climbing up the rocks (with the help of some handrails and a ladder).

570 metres from ground level and we are up on the granite skywalk! I must admit to being a bit freaked out by how the skywalk is kind of just drilled into the side of a huge piece of granite rock. 570 metres might not sound that high but when you are up there the wind is fierce (even on this calm quiet day the seabreeze from the southern ocean can feel quite strong!) After a few minutes up the top the wind chill cooled down the sweat of the climb quick smart and it got cold real quick! After some quick snaps of the views of the surrounding farmlands we headed back down.

the weird pano view thing from my phone
the brochure shows where we were!

Overall a fantastic experience and definitely recommended! It can be done by pretty much anyone with a basic level of fitness, but be warned you will need to do a bit of scrambling and grabbing on to some rails to hoist yourself up. My friend and I followed a family up and we helped the young boys whose tiny legs were too short to hoist themselves up at times! It’s a big call to make but I think I enjoyed this experience more than the “premier” tourist spot that is the hike up Bluff Knoll. I just loved the ancient granite outcrops and the “fun” of climbing and scrambling!

INFO:

15km (10 minute) drive from Mount Barker or 40km (30 minute) drive from Albany. This region is about a 4 hour drive from Perth. The trail itself is 4.4km return, so should take you around 2-3 hours. As mentioned it gets muddy – every day when we woke from our chalet nearby we would see misty clouds hanging around the rock, which means its pretty much always damp, so wear decent footwear! Entry fee is $15 per vehicle and this is paid at the pay machines at the carpark. For keen hikers there are numerous other trails like Nancy’s Peak and the Devils Slide Trail. Your entry fee is good for the whole day so you can park at different trails and spend the whole day here.

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Spring Has Finally Sprung!

It has been a while since I’ve posted on this blog…. its been a long dark cold winter and I have enjoyed reading blogs more than writing them. We had our wettest winter in like 30 years here in Perth, including flooding which I had never seen in my life! I had scheduled some hikes with friends during the winter (since winter in Perth is usually a good time to hike) but every time we set a date the day would be a torrential stormy downpour!

Finally Spring has arrived, and on the first warm sunny weekend day we had I took Miss A for a family friendly hike to Lesmurdie Falls. The falls are located only a half hour from the city, and is probably Perths most well known and popular place to experience a bit of nature with city views in the distance. With all the rain we did have the falls were gushing and the wildflowers were blooming! It was a perfect way to spend the morning with my mini-me!

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The best guide ever…

Having done some research, I had booked two day tours with ‘Journey Cambodia”, who were absolutely fantastic in their organisation and price. On our first day we had a lovely enough chap, who was nice of course and informative, but he was just so….. boring! I don’t mean to be rude, but he was just so dry and factual, and while he gave us alot of info, it all went over my head because he just kept droning on and on. On our second day we got a lovely fellow called Sok, and he was the total opposite to our first day guide!

Sok started off a bit timidly, giving us the usual facts and info on the bus as we drove to our first site, but after a while he warmed up and opened up to us about anything and everything. While the guide the day before didn’t mention the Khmer Rouge once, our guide spoke to us alot about it. As he got more comfortable he also told us about modern day Cambodia, and what life is like etc. He also told us alot about current day politics and what that entails, but I won’t divulge here as I don’t want him to get in trouble! It was all eye opening though, and I was grateful to be able to find out more about Sok, his life, and the life of the average Cambodian.

As the day wore on and we got to know each other more, Sok opened up even further and I felt I could ask him more personal questions. I asked him about how he survived Covid, if there were no tourists around and this was his only work. He told us went to work in construction in Malaysia during Covid to feed his family of 7 children, and it was there that an accident happened. He lifted up his hand (even though we noticed it from the get go)… he was missing fingers and had a huge stitches wound running on the back of his hand. Now this is a guy who was born with a stub on his other hand…. he had a birth defect that was basically a stub and a few tiny fingers poking out. So not only was he born with a disadvantage when it comes to construction work, but then his good hand got damaged too! If I didn’t already want to just get up off my seat and give him a big hug he then proceeded to tell us how his first 5 children were all boys, and they were desperate for girls, so they adopted a set of twin girls who were abandoned! This man has gone through alot, yet he was the friendliest, charming, most happy person I have ever met!

Not only was Sok open in telling us serious stuff, but we also had good laughs as well. He was willing to help us get the “perfect shot” with our cameras/phones, and would joke at us to stand like supermodels. We were laughing so much when posing for goofy photos. By the end of the day I told quite a rude joke and we were howling with laughter. He had a great sense of humour and could take a bit of banter!

After our tour my friend and I got off the bus and it felt like we were saying goodbye to a long time friend. We of course gave a tip, for me personally, probably the biggest tip I had ever given someone. But he deserved it, and I know he will put it to good use for his family because he just seemed so loving and proud when talking about his boys and little twin baby girls.

If you want a fantastic guide in Siem Reap I can highly recommend Sok. If you want to book him through Journey Cambodia you can email them at info@journeycambodia.com and ask for CHEA SOK. Otherwise his number for whatsapp is +855 1233 4657.

Sok asked us if we wanted to do a bit of a jungle hike to get to the east entrance of Preah Khan Temple – it was great, we saw so many insects and nature and had the whole area to ourselves

Sok telling me to glare into the sun… from his angle the photo is fantastic! From my friends phone I look like I’m constipated ;-P
Sok and his girls for the day! We loved you Sok!
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Ellis Brook Valley

In typical Perth fashion for this time of year I am writing as the rain falls, it’s super cold and my daughter is home from school sick with a cold. Yet the week before it was a balmy 23 degrees, Spring was in the air and we felt good and ready for a hike! That’s September in Perth for you – an alternate between winter and summer in the space of a few days! Anyway with the sun gloriously shining on a Saturday after so many weeks of rain I decided to take Miss A out on a trail she hadn’t been on yet. I had read reports that the Sixty Foot Falls in the Ellis Brook Valley nature reserve were finally flowing, so I knew this was the time to do it before they dry up again for another year.

The park is only located about half an hour from my house, making it a quick and easy morning trip for us. At only 2.1km the loop is a relatively short walk, but it is very steep and rocky going up to the top of the falls. Once at the top I sat and caught my breath while Miss A does what she does best – get her shoes wet in the mud even though I told her not to! lol. Oh well, I let her have her fun and made my husband wash her shoes when we got home! hahaha. Along the way back down we also passed the old Barrington Quarry, where sometimes if you are lucky you can see abseilers and rock climbers. This time we didn’t, but I had seen some before. After a few hours we headed back home – happy to have got some sunshine on us after such a long crummy winter, and looking forward to hopefully more weekends like this in the coming weeks!

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I Finally Climbed Bluff Knoll

It only took 40 years but I finally managed to get down south from Perth and finally conquer one of the states most iconic landmarks!

After two years of no travel, and a very rough start to my year 2022 I decided it was time to do something for myself, that I had wanted to do for a long time. Lucky for me, my old high school friend, Miss K was up for taking a day off work and making an extra long weekend out of it. So I booked a cute chalet in the small township of Porongorup and head down for a 4 day long weekend.

Bluff Knoll is the great southern region’s highest peak, at 1099 metres. Located in the magnificent Stirling Ranges National Park, these ancient peaks climb up from the broad sweeping flat landscape that is predominant in our part of the country. While 1099m might be nothing to alot of you overseas, for us Australian’s it’s pretty damn high! The climb, subsequent snack stop at the top, and then back down took a round trip of about 4 hours for us. It;s only a 6km round trip but this trail is UP UP UP! It is very steep and full of steps. Going up was hard for my unfit self, and going down was hard because my knees were screaming at me! The climb definitely taught me that if I my dream of ever doing the Everest Base Camp trek is to happen I better sharpen up my fitness big time!

this hurt!

We were blessed with the most beautiful hiking day anyone could ask for. Being late April, the mornings were starting to get fresh and the chance of bad weather coming in grows as we head towards winter, but for us we had a glorious chilled morning that warmed into a pleasant enough day to not get too hot. I can’t imagine doing this in summer, but I also can’t imagine doing this in winter! Alot of people do climb in the winter as it’s one of the only spots in Western Australia that can get snow on the top! With winter climbing though comes inherit risk – the trail is narrow in parts. It has loose rock and can slip easier in the wet. Many people have died falling over the edge of the trail, or of course getting too close to the edge for that “perfect insta selfie”. It was really high up the top…. I kept well back and definitely didn’t get close to any overhangs.

Overall I could not have asked for a better experience of Bluff Knoll. I had such a good time with my friend, the views were stunning, and the hiking was glorious. I will definitely come back and bring Miss A along when she is a bit older and will appreciate it.

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