Quốc Lộ 32 - Nature's Face

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This is the first in a set of pages on Quốc Lộ 32 in northern Vietnam. Quốc Lộ indicates a national highway few of which are fast roads, but as they twine their way through the countryside the visitor is taken to its heart. Highway 32 is my favourite of the diverse possibilities, lifting the traveller from Hà Nội and the plains of the Red River, through winding valleys to the uplands, west of Sa Pa and mount Phăng Xi Păng... Sun setting on bridge over river with buffalo and figure. The sun setting on buffalo being escorted home ...which is mainland south-east Asia’s highest peak. Rather than following the path of the road these pages select aspects of the route. Below the concentration is on what is natural to the area rather than the human impact - not always so easily separated, as the people and the hill terraces are to be seen everywhere in this part of the Vietnamese countryside. Welcome to this beautiful road. Tree clad hillsiddes running towards mountains. This view and the one to the right show that there are still tree covered hills looking much as they might have looked in the past, but such dense woodlands are now rare outside the National Parks. The photo below is more typical Dense wooded slopes along deep valley. Barren rocky mountainscape Whitened karst peaks above slopes of varied vegetation. Vietnam's karst country is predominantly in the far north east and beyond, into China, however, outcrops such as these are to be seen more widely Treed karsts with clouds almost obscuring them. Karsts appearing as the morning mist clears. And from the largest objects in the valley to the small - Green snake hanging on twig. This is a harmless Chinese Green snake in rather undignified pose Long valley with three roads visible running to the distance. This road is making its way up the valley from the right, passing below the photographer and then "hair-pinning" up to the left to take its traffic over a pass Road clinging to vertical hillside, vehicle just visible. Long zig-zags of roads are very common in the far north of the country, as are unprotected sheer drops - that dot is a bus - some of its occupants may be worried Small river in larger scoured bed. To another sort of 'impact', above the effects
of damming in the last 10 years...
Misty view across patched hills to mountains. A more traditional human impact - the shaping of the fields and woods ...Compare below where the vegetation reaches towards the water's edge and the water level is at a normal seasonal low, not a new level River bending between semi-cultivated banks, towards patched mountainside. A young tributary of the River Đà winding through the valley near the mid-point of Highway 32. Here fields and terraces are constant features Wooded hillside with path wandering up between terraces. Visitors like myself may tour on wheels, but farmers must use tracks such as these to reach their fields Orange winged butterfly on grass. Butterflies are often as big as bats, but too fast moving to photograph - a humbler relative Looking down on wide flat plain with meandering river. Rivers meander in the... Valley opening up for great distance. ...wide flat valleys Butterfly on pink flower. Another co-operative butterfly Valley with mountains beyond and single conical karst. A lone karst - forgotten and left out by its friends in the north Village with bamboos in relatively flat landscape of terraced fields. Terracing by a village is here more evident Mountains and hills rising above small wooded valley with houses leading down to river side fields. Houses, fields, paths and woods showing delightfully integrated habitation Black bug, with distinctly separate red head. This splendid, sadly unidentifiable, bug was maybe two inches long Mountain with valley and wooded community between. A rather cobbled together, as it was not intended, panorama. This wide view takes us towards the subsequent pages in this series. Here we move from countryside showing little evidence of human habitation, to those familiar terraced landscapes - so loved by photographers - not least this one! Spur of hill with curved green terracing, mountainside in background. This view with its winding paths, steep terraces and small houses and huts encapsulates well the charm of the Vietnamese landscape Vertical wall of wooded karst above village, paddy fields in valley bottom. Paddy fields on the valley floor, and overhanging karsts, hem in this village Wild pig with seven piglets. The snake higher up the page may well be harmless, but this mother should not be approached carelessly An immaculate terraced hill running down to a river. A similar bend in the river to that shown above but here every inch has been terraced Fields in a river valley with just distinguishable person walking. And now the first people - a woman walks out between the fields Much pitted rock standing in river with reflection. Passing on from natural features... Houses clustered by river with bamboos and mountains beyond. Plentiful supplies of water are vital to Vietnam's food systems, and its shortage is the main problem posed for those who live in the mountains. The river valleys provide an ease of life seen here in the setting sun among the
gently creaking of the bamboos

Trailers... House perched on steep hillside. The next Picture Posting page indulges the photographer's taste for terraces - and the houses that sit on them. Two girls in pink clothes, looking at two pink phones. The next page of the Mosaic Section is headed 'Doing it Alone'.
Or go to the contents Go to the contents of the Mosaic Section. of the Mosaic Section.
Saturday 13th January 2024 Murphy on duty ...guide to this site

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