Simpsons Track, Mt Cootha (Brisbane, Australia)

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Start of track

It’s stinking hot and I only have about two hours free but I’m passing Mount Coottha. I’ve never done any of the walking trails here so decide to stop and check one out. Simpsons Track starts near Simpsons Falls. It’s a short walk from the carpark to the start of the trail. A walk that takes me through a pretty park with barbecues, water taps and picnic tables along with plenty of space to drop a picnic blanket.
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Dry creek bed

The rocky creek bed is bone dry. The heat rises from the rocks. It’s a baking dry heat and I imagine that a drop of water might sizzle on contact.
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The trail

The trail leads ever uphill towards a picnic area near the top of the mountain. Mt Coottha is not exactly wilderness but it’s still fairly rugged for a being so close to the city. My shoes leave footprints in the sand. If it weren’t so hot I’d take them off but I haven’t yet worked up enough toughness to sustain even this short 5km (3 mile) hike without shoes. It’d be okay if the ground weren’t radiating such heat.
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Simpsons Falls

Simspons Falls are predictably dry. In a few months water will likely be tumbling over the falls and into waterhole below. The wet season hasn’t set in yet but when it does the dry dusty track will become a mud bath, the air sticky with humidity and the creek full.
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Red tree in the bush

It’s wonderful to be outdoors exploring the bush. This is one of the key reasons why I’ve made these latest lifestyle changes. I have to balance it with work, study and family. But today I had a little spare time and used it well.

Two lazy days in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)


We wake to an eerily quiet day in Kuala Lumpur. The city has been shut down due to a political demonstration that will take place today. It’s a good excuse to avoid public places and take it easy. The online news reports that most locals will stay home and maybe catch a movie to avoid the rallies. We decide to do the same.

Housekeeping comes to our room at 12:30pm so that’s when we finally get up. We watch The Accountant at Gold Screen Cinemas Pavilion. 


Downstairs at Pavilion is a massive Christmas display. At home thise who are overly politically correct try to dissuade us from celebrating Christmas in schools and shopping centres for fear of discriminating against Muslims but here Muslim families are quite happy to take photos of the children with Santa and to ride the Christmas themed merry-go-round. I think perhaps we’re creating unnecessary division at home. Rather than minimise Christmas, why not add Ramadan to our calendar like we do with Lunar New Year. 

We wander through the covered walkway to Suria Mall at the Twin Towers for a massage and dinner before catching Hell Or High Water at the Suria TGV cinema. You’re not supposed to bring in outside food but I had a hankering for M&Ms so we smuggle a packet in our pocket. They’re checking bags and taking items off people so we are lucky. 

On our second day we take it easy again. Our flight will depart at 11:10pm. We check out about five minutes before the midday cut off. The monorail takes us to the NU Sentral Mall where we watch Shut In at the Gold Screen Cinema. That makes for movies in three days. 


We’re both traveled out so eat McDonald’s for lunch before catching the bus to the airport where we laze in the movie lounge until our flight. 




Here’s some random photos from our last two days in Kuala Lumpur. 


It’s been an awesome trip. We’re ready for home but are looking forward to our Holland and Belgium trip at Christmas, just five weeks away. 

Phnom Penh to Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)

The tuk tuk driver rouses himself from his slumber. It’s the slightly rude man who took us to the market last night. He’s probably just worn down from his labours in a hot and hectic city. To him we’re probably rich foreigners who sleep in a bed rather than a hammock strung across a tuk tuk. We’re not a prospect for repeat business so he doesn’t have to care. It’s understandable but still unpleasant. I resent having to pay him at the end of my ride. If he’d been friendly I would have given him the last of my Riel as a tip (about $US1.50 on top of a $US7 fare). But I don’t. I take them home because I cannot bring myself to encourage his approach. 

The streets of Phnom Penh are now less alien than when we arrived. I no longer feel as anxious as I did just twelve days ago. I had read so much bad press about Cambodia and its people. So much that turned out to be so untrue. Our bag was not snatched. Our pockets were not picked. Our belongings were not stolen from our guesthouse rooms (we didn’t stay in dives though – we paid $12-$25 per night for places with excellent reviews). I don’t know why I read up so much. Usually I don’t. Perhaps I’d lost my touch being back on our large island continent for ten months. I wish I hadn’t and I won’t in future. 

We experience the last of our Cambodian snow. That’s what Tony called the dust kicked up by traffic on the gravel roads outside Battambang. Next time I see snow I hope it’s the real stuff in Belgium or Holland at Christmas.


Airport officials make us reprint our boarding passes. Ours have bar codes but don’t look like the airline ones. Flexibility will take a little while to ease into officialdom here. 


It’s a short flight to Kuala Lumpur. Forty minutes over Cambodia, forty minutes over the sea and forty minutes over Peninsular Malaysia. Our captain plays tour guide. He clearly loves his job and it passes the time for us. 


We’re both quite tired and have both picked up stomach bugs in Kampong Chhnang. So we have a lazy afternoon in our room then catch a movie.


We eat at a local restaurant.


And have a short walk around our hotel before calling it a night. 

Kampong Chhnang to Phnom Penh (Cambodia)


Sitting behind the driver is no place for the feint of heart. So it’s a good thing that Paul and I long ago relinquished our Western sensibilities and accepted the realities of travel. We rattle and bounce down a road built for lighter loads and slower speeds. Overtaking means hurtling headlong into oncoming traffic at breakneck speed. It’s just now it’s done here. As a passenger you just hold on an watch the world approach.


Arriving in Phnom Penh is a shock to the senses. It’s loud, dirty, busy and obnoxious after our ten days in quieter towns. I can only imagine what a shock it would be to young men and women who have left a farming community in search of big city fortune. Dust fills the air. Horns blast. Rubbish litters the ground. Advertising signs visually holler. It’s no better or worse than other global capitals. It’s just that here the contrast between the rest of the country and its capital city is so stark.


The bus station is tucked into the centre of the city. How the bus driver gets us there without squashing smaller road users is a mystery to me. The bus station is everything I imagined it to be. There’s more people waiting than seats available. It’s exposed to the elements and city grime so I feel for the German couple who will wait five hours for their connection for travel to the beach. Tuk tuk and moto drivers swarm us as we step off the bus. They don’t believe we want to walk. It’s their daily battle to make money for food. I don’t ever begrudge them this. It’s just that it’s tiring after a while.


We drop our bags at Feliz Hostel and Cafe. We have returned because we like it here. A short tuk tuk ride takes us to the Russian Market just before closing to buy a few items. A second hammock so I can take a friend camping. Some more paintings. Two cross stitches for me to make because they are one tenth the price at home and I enjoy it as a form of meditation. We haggle hard now. The prices start far too high. The goal is to get close to half the asking price or walk away. We manage to spend a few dollars.

We eat dinner at the Chinese restaurant where they make fresh noodles. Paul loves the beans there and me the noodles. We’ve remembered where it is. A massage follows. It’s the best massage I think I’ve ever had. $20 for a 90 minutes full body oil massage followed by $8 for a 60 minute foot reflexology. It’s our last chance at a cheap massage for a while.

And so we end our trip to Cambodia. Tomorrow we fly back to Kuala Lumpur for another two day stop over. It’s been awesome.

Kampong Chhnang (Cambodia)


Channy joins us at the breakfast table at our guesthouse. He quietly makes conversation. His English is perfect and he makes the dance gently. A quarter hour later, after first making relationships, we reach the point where a price can be discussed. It’s a fair price to which we all agree so Channy’s tuk tuk will become our chariot for the day.

More prices need to be negotiated at the waterfront. The skipper starts at $US30 for two hours. I’ve read online that the going rate for this type of boat (for foreigners) is about $US10/hour so I start at $15 hoping to settle on $20. We reach agreement at $23. Some might haggle a harder bargain but, as my father says, we give money to beggars easily but when someone is actually working for their income we haggle down to the last cent. Where’s the incentive to work then? Do we value the beggar more highly than the working person?


Our skipper motors the boat upriver for half an hour against the wind and tide. The engine splutters away behind us as we pass a workshop building composite plastic river boats, houses on stilts and mechanic workshops lining the banks of Tonle Sap, which is no longer a lake; it’s now a river.


Floating villages come into view and the engine is cut. Poverty surrounds us at every turn. Tin shacks, huts made of bamboo and leaves, children who should be in school and hardworking people. That’s what comprises the floating villages. Like all communities some people have done better than others. But modern floating houses are the exception not the rule.


That said, smiles abound. Children wave and call “hello”. It’s the only English word they know (except “one dollar”). Young men wearing nothing but underwear seem to be having a swimming race, diving from one boat and stroking quickly towards another. A boy rows from one house to another down a watery “street”. It’s not idealic but humans are resilient and this is home to them.


Back on dry land we travel out of town to a pottery village. It’s interesting enough to see the pottery being made but it’s the landscape I enjoy most. Rice fields are dotted with tall sugar palms. Skinny cattle graze on what grass is available in the cultivated landscape. Gravel roads stretch into the distance creating a contrast of orange and green.


We visit a mountain temple with yet more steps to annoy Paul. It’s peaceful at the top, though perhaps we were meant to walk further than we did. The instructions about what we were to expect were lacking. We are happy though to experience the temple and walk back down.


It’s 3pm by the time we return to town. We eat lunch then take a rest in the aircon. Our chariot departs again at 5pm.


Sunset over the rice fields is the icing on our Cambodian cake. Channy knows a place. He enjoys taking photos there. Words are unnecessary.

All that’s left to do is take one last walk through town, eat dinner, return to the festival to listen to some more music then head home to bed. Tomorrow we return to Phnom Penh on our long journey home.


Channy is a good guide and driver. His contact details are above.

Battambang to Kampong Chhnang (Cambodia)


We sit at the bus station watching the goings on. Our bus is scheduled for 9:30am but it’s already 11am. We’ve watched as the bus to Siem Riep was loaded equally with rice and passengers. Yes, you read that correctly, the bus was loaded with heavy bags of rice. Probably a few hundred kilos of the stuff.

Almost an hour later our single backpack is loaded into the hold of the bus bound for Phnom Penh (Kampong Chhnang is on the same bus route). Then it is unloaded to make way for our bus’s load of rice. There’s so much that some passengers have to take their luggage on board (we are lucky that our backpack fit underneath). Bags of rice are even loaded into the door well at the front of the bus. It makes a good seat for the passengers whose seats have been taken up by the piles of mattresses wrapped in plastic being transported in the back few rows of the bus.

It’s midday when we pull out of the bus station. We pass some time making up stories to go with the karaoke videos playing at the front of the bus. There’s the usual woman slapping man scene all too common in Cambodian karaoke, the love lorn man, the parents whose son is going off to work in the city, and the dutiful son who returns home with cash earned on a construction site. Hours pass as the rural landscape slips by. My reading of a novel seems to fascinate the woman in front of us who keeps looking and giggling nervously. Her children stare wide-eyed at us.

At first Kampong Chhnang doesn’t seem like much. It’s dusty and quiet. We walk past a prison on our way to our guesthouse. Hmm. But the guesthouse is lovely with friendly staff. Our room set in a garden with a bench out the front and cold aircon inside.

Right on dusk we head out to explore the town and find some food. The hour out of the heat has given us a second wind (the bus had aircon but it was old and ineffective).

We eat diner at a Chinese restaurant where two meals and drinks cost us $US5.50 (everything is cheaper once you leave Phnom Penh and Siem Riep). We are charged in Cambodian Riel for the first time in this trip and the staff don’t look happy to be handed dollars (the unofficial official currency of Cambodia). We haven’t needed Riel until now so have given our small money as donations at temples along the way. It’s okay though because we will collect a few dollars worth here in town.

We sit in a big park eating coconut cake for desert watching people. There’s teenagers kicking a small soccer ball around. A group of men play hackey sack. Some children let off fire crackers. Groups of young people hang out on the grass talking or playing guitar. Children run around. Families eat picnic dinners on colourful straw mats. And we are asked whether we can be in peoples’ photos (or they just snap a shot if they think we’re not looking).


What we don’t know yet is that we’ve arrived in the middle of a big festival. On our way home we come across it and stop off. ¬†We will later learn it’s a Cambodia-Thailand friendship festival. It lasts a full week. We wander the stalls.

I play a side show game (and lose). We try a sausage that ends up being randomly filled with some sort of mince and rice noodle mix that tastes awesome.

And we watch the concert. People walk past us gawking as though we are aliens. Street urchins beg for money (no we do not cave in even when they stand batting their eyes at us for half an hour).


It’s funny how we always seem to find festivals when we travel. And always in the places where we least expect it.

Kampong Chhnang is so local. The contrast with foreign-owned Siem Riep is vast, even this evening. I think I will like this town a lot.