Summers coming to an end and I'm currently sitting in Auckland waiting for my US work visa before heading to a warmer climate. The last mission before leaving the country was a tramp on the new Tuatapere Hump Ridge Track. Although it doesn't exactly have the "Xtreme adventure" aspect of tramping it does have wine glasses at the huts, gas fires, amazing views and good honest days tramping which is just what was required for a family affair aimed at reuniting cousins. Don't have much stime to tell the story but suffice to say the tramp is SAWEEET and well worth the effort (plus you get to go to Tuatapere!!!).
Below are also some photos from a cheeky roadtrip to Karamea over easter where we cooked pancakes at pancake rocks, checked out the caves and arches at the top of the Oparara River and Nicole fired up Maruia Falls which was great to see.
The land of Karaoke seems small from above. Squeezed into the tiny frame of a 747 window. But even from here it looks entirely unfamiliar and I revel in the feeling of the unknown....
The more of life I experience the more I am lead to believe that the best adventures spring from unplanned plans, "poorly planned, badly executed" (direct quote from MCP) springs to mind. After mentioning to a good mate Tofa that I might head over to Aussie in February to visit, I was told to meet him in Japan for some snowboarding misadventures. And that's exactly what I did!
My flight into Tokyo was on time so I figured I had just over two hours to entertain myself in the airport before I would be seeing Tofa's big cheeky grin. From there surely we could just figure out what we were up to and if not at least I'd be in good company. The plane hit the tarmac and we were invited to turn our cell phones back on. The txt comes through almost immediately "My flights been cancelled"
Here I go again!!
(coz true to all past performances I have organised exactly nothing of what happens once I get through customs and into an unfamiliar non English speaking country)
Memories of nights spent alone in random bus stations in Argentina come flooding back to me and I contemplate how little effort it would have been to sort out accomodation for the night before I left the comfort of my own home. But on second thoughts where is the fun and adventure in that and what difference does it make now....
Bring on Tokyo on Friday night! Solo!
(snowboard in tow)
.....credit to Tofa, he sends me the number of a mate of his who arrived in Tokyo the previous night. So all was not lost... I just had to negotiate the Tokyo underground at 6pm Friday night with all my luggage and find some guy named Chiz.
Okay... so there is just too much I could write about my Japan adventures. So here's just a bit of a run down of all the good times (all of it was good times) and some of the pics to go with.
Chiz starting to enjoy an early start after missing our bus - twice!
Filling in time between buses
We eventually got the whole crew (8 of us) together in Hakuba (little thanks to JetStar who eventually dropped Tofa and Sam off in Osaka instead of Tokyo....same country I suppose). Hakuba is about an hour away from Nagano (still on the main island of Honshuu). We spent our first week here nestled in the mountains surrounded by ski resorts. With fresh snow blanketing the town and providing days and days of spectacular riding and the craziest face shots of my life.
The crew..... finally all together!
Some sweet views after a wee hike
Cortina was by far the pick of the bunch and our days here we characterized by ridiculously early mornings running / boarding through the streets scoffing down dry peanut butter toast trying to make the train at 6:30am (the Japanese run an efficient ship and the trains run on time pretty much down to the second.... even given our best efforts to try and hold them up to get the whole crew on). We would spend the morning hitting up the fresh lines on the field then hit the back trees (note: trees are out of bounds in Japan, roped off with signs to keep out, along with regular reminders over the loud speakers... something about being removed from the field without mercy. however this works in our favour, as this provides sweet fresh tree lines all day for those who are willing to keep a keen eye out for the patrollers and duck the ropes at the appropriate time). At lunchtime we followed the Japanese custom of eating then sleeping, but we showed them how it's really done. they just put their head down on the table, we spread ourselves out on the floor under and around the tables (to the giggling of the surround Japanese). After a quick power nap it's time to hit the trees again and as the day wears on we get more and more cheeky progressively hitting the tree lines directly under the chairlift.
Early morning run.... and feeling it!
....but well worth it to play in the magical land of Cortina!
Amongst the snow at the top of Cortina
Oscar and Rory stoked after hitting the back trees
Mandatory river crossing to get out again
Me and Rory loving life
Sam almost waist deep in the good stuff
Sam getting amongst some cheeky tree lines
Typical evening... the crew chilling at the backpackers after a sweet day on the hill (Photo: Tofa)
On my birthday we decided to take a day off riding and went missioning around Nagano taking in the sites and sounds.
Our first taste of Nagano and the Japanese enthusiasm for bikes (unfortunately you can't rent these guys) (Photo: Tofa) Cruising the streets
Tofa working on his accounting skills (sorry buddy no matter what way you look at it this country is expensive!)
Temple.... (hidden Buddha included.... but very illusive) Birthday lunch (Photo: Tofa) ...followed by birthday ice cream
More good times hitting up the local cuisine before the crew goes it's separate ways (even I started to get amongst the food ... raw fish and all) (Photo: Tofa)
So after a sweet solid week of snowboarding Tofa, Sam and I headed out on our own. Missioning round between ski towns and taking in some of the sights along the way. Nozawa Onsen was a sweet little town... and here we developed our taste for the Japanese style accommodation and the infamous Japanese karaoke. We eventually made it to see the snow monkeys (after missing only a couple of buses). We had some sweet chill times in Myoko Kogen, wandering the streets, eating hard boiled eggs, trying out the various Japanese chocolates and of course hitting the slopes.
Enjoying the Japanese accommodation. Me and Sam getting amongst some Japanese tea. (Photo: Tofa)
Missioning round Nozawa Onsen (Photo: Tofa)
The team taking on some Japanese style karaoke (don't know if i've ever laughed so much in my life, if you ever get the chance, try it - but know that it will cost you, and just so as you don't complain about the bill at the end of the night expect to have video recordings of yourself played back to you (which is rather sobering) and achieves the desired effect of getting you to just pay and leave)
Tofa and me starting to get the hang of it!
On our way to see snow monkeys....
Booyah! found them. These little guys rocked (even after all my pestering to go see them and having to mission out of our way with all our bags missing two buses and having to walk into the mountains) (Photo: Tofa)
These guys just hang out in the natural hot springs (while the crazy humans take photos) General shinanigans in Myoko Kogen while trying to figure out what the hell we are up to.
another misty day in Myoko Kogen
Wandering the streets... ...and eating hard boiled eggs (this clever Japanese man set up a little basin outside his shop which he pumps the natural hot spring water (which seems to be rather abundant in the mountains of Japan) into to boil eggs in. Goes down a treat with the passers by. Just pay the man 70 yen, peel, cover in kymchi and sea salt - delicious!!
The man himself!
Hanging out and eating to much (Photo: Tofa)
Waiting for the train to Tokyo The bullet train (shinkansen)
We finished up the trip with the bright lights and endless nights of Tokyo.
Oohhh.... fish markets (a pretty crazy place early Saturday morning after being out all night, but we hooked ourselves up with some sweet fresh tuna, picked up some soy sauce and headed back to the hotel room for a feed)
....more fish (photo: Tofa)
A night out with those in the know (photo: Tofa)
Our last bright lights of Japan.... time to go home and sleep! (photo: Tofa)