Sunday, February 13, 2011

Mui Ne: Jeep Excursion

Our days in Mui Ne were molasses slow - time fails to pass quickly when you're reading under the sun, taking dips in the frothy sea, and wandering lustily from meal to meal.  Our daily cycle of decadent sloth was only interrupted once - and a welcome interruption it turned out to be. We were at first hesitant to hire a Jeep to explore the sand dunes located just 40km out of town.  Early seventies neocolonialism at its finest - being chauffeured around the Vietnamese countryside in an army-issue jeep while bumping obnoxious, driver-provided Western techno.  We had seen many of these cacophonous voyages pass us on the street and it didn't seem like our cup of tea.  However, we had our limbs twisted by a number of acquaintances and ended up splitting the journey with a young, optimistic Canadian named Andrew, whom we met a few nights before at our hotel.
 Our excursion commenced after lunch.  Our driver picked us up at our hotel and preceded to turn up the music as we made our way to the first destination: The Fairy Stream.  We made our way down a dusty alley that passed a local fish sauce factory (industrial wasteland), choking on the thick fumes emanating from the sun-baked baskets until we came to a wooded area, fresh air, and the famous stream.

We gave our shoes to some locals at the entrance, unsure if we would ever see them again or what the bounty would be to collect them.

We made our way up the dingy, shallow stream wondering why we had come, until the canyon began...

The juxtaposition of the burnt-orange cliffs and the verdant jungle were a photographers dream.

Our adventure up the stream continued past the local gangsters, who tricked Gavin into stepping in quicksand and laughed as he fell in the stream...watching a giant fall from grace will get a laugh out of anyone!

We marched up a small hill through a rice patty.

We got a glimpse of the minuscule waterfall at the end before heading back towards our waiting driver.
Our driver continued into the town proper of Mui Ne.  As it turns out, the resort area filled with tanned tourists in bikinis slinking from beach chair to bar couldn't be more different from the rustic fishing village a few kilometers away.  Our ten minute photo opt quickly turned into a nightmare as we were beckoned down to the beach by some of the local fishermen.

One of the fisherman somehow persuaded us to get into his boat.  If you can call it that.  It's more of a bucket with an oar if you ask me.  Very reminiscent of the nursery rhyme...

He took us out into the bay and even had Andrew rowing at one point.  While I was terrified of drowning the whole time, we quaintly bobbed around the bay and laughed at our misfortune (these boats are made for 100 pound Vietnamese guys, not 500+ pounds of westerners).

Luckily our driver was patiently waiting for us when we returned and the tour continued to the majestic white sand dunes.

After a short trek through a swampy, lakeside copse, we stumbled upon the Sahara Desert, or at least a place that looked eerily similar.  White sand stretched as far as the eye could see in some directions.  Feeling like Lawrence of Vietnam, we set out for the steepest precipice we could find.
The activity of choice at the sand dunes?  Sliding down the hills face first on sand sleds (sheets of plastic).  After a few failed attempts, Gavin and Andrew perfected the art of dune sliding and proceeded to do it until they thoroughly wore themselves out.

Covered in a layer of sand, sun burnt and parched, we retreated across the dunes, back through the swamp and finally to a shady cafe for the most delicious Revive I've ever had in my life.  Can't knock it until you've had it.  I also played with a few caged squirrels.  Their lives looked pretty miserable.

After the excitement of the dunes, we were exhausted, yet still had two more destinations.  We briefly stopped off at a startlingly picturesque red river bed.  It appeared to still be active for part of the year, carrying excess water during the wet season down to the sea.

Our final stop on the tour was the Red Sand Dunes.  Although they're not nearly as breathtaking and clean as the more grandiose white version, they were a perfect place to relax and watch the sun fall from the horizon before returning back to our hotel.


David said...

Whoa there partners, where'd the sand come from? Why is it duneing and why did it never come up in any of the war in the jungle movies I've swallowed whole? In other words, where was Francis Ford Coppola when we needed him? I am amazed and especially by the contented cattle. This is one of your best posts yet, The audience will be crying out for more. DLE

Carol said...

Amazing photographs, I had no idea Vietnam had such varied turf.

Isis said...

Hey !!! Awesome photos !!! The colors are amazing, especially the red dirt against the blue !!

Glad you guys are having such Fabulous Adventures !!!