• 17 . 03 . 11
  • A whistle-stop tour, starting early and taking in the sights of Mui Ne, is memorable for its colours.

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Kaleidoscope

A day that started in darkness, shot through with colour.

Rising before dawn, a jeep met us at the doorstep and carried us north and east along dark roads, occasionally pricked with the headlamps of oncoming early morning scooters. The crash of the South China Sea, ever present in Mui Ne, somewhat muted as we drove along cliff roads, as if reluctant to disturb the peace. Above, navy clouds slowly resolving on a midnight blue canvas. Deposited at the edge of a small lake, a short walk brings us to a different kind of ocean, brilliant creamy silica drifted into dunes that stretch for miles. Makeshift hills, transitory yet imposing, undulating into a horizon gradually appearing with the rising sun. Scattered cirrus clouds suffused with pinks and yellows break up a rich sky as night reluctantly yields to day.

Local children rent out thin slivers of plastic to be used as makeshift slides for fast descents down the sands, laying flat on bellies, face first with gritted teeth and gritty eyes. Tiring ascents to repeat the journey. Lightheadedness, burning calves and quads.

Wedding photos taking place in the distance, the subjects white and black blotches on an ivory backdrop.

Whisked away, we arrive at a small canyon, embryonic compared to its cousin in Arizona. Terracotta earth, reminiscent of Outback Australia with carved cyrillic graffiti proclaiming previous Russian visitors. Red dust swirls in a light wind.

Next, to smaller dunes, saffron coloured and smelling of salt, close to the sea and thronged with people. Local kids tag along, eager to get us sliding again. We pose instead for photos with them, jabber in broken English, chase them playfully around the sands. Departing, we press some small change into their eager hands.

Along a bumpy road to a small fishing town. The harbour filled with a flotilla of fishing boats daubed in primary colours, their paint cracked and faded but still bright against steel water. Bamboo hats dot the beach, beneath them dozens of people bartering for silver and pink fish.

Then to a waterfall, if you could confer such a designation on a one metre drop over which dry-season depleted water has ceased to flow. The approach is the point though, walking upriver in the muddy brown Faerie Stream, sticking to the shallows and avoiding rapids. White sandstone here, hardened by the elements, but brittle to the touch. Yet more climbing for a well-earned view, a panorama of cliffs, coconut trees.

And finally returned to our lodgings, well before the sun is over the yardarm. Time enough to enjoy breakfast, before the day begins in earnest.

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