Best laid plans. And the kindness of strangers.

Wilf found a place for us to visit that would be a day trip out of Tokyo. It wasn’t in any guide books, but he found some descriptions online. So off we set.

We walked to the nearest station and took the JR Yamanote line, which is the circle line that runs around the city. After five stops we transferred to another train line to head south. We spent an hour on the train, passing through Yokohama. We arrived at the town of Kurihama, a few stops before the end of the line. We picked up some boxes of sushi, and then realized that we had forgot to bring Gravol with us. That led to a drugstore. I asked the pharmacist if she spoke English. When she said no I got my phone out to get to work. In the mean time she asked over her shoulder if any of her colleagues spoke English. You know, in case they had magically acquired the ability recently. One of the gals back there practically crawled under the counter to not have to deal with us! Anyhow, the magic wifi device and Google delivered the word for seasickness (in case you need to know it is norimonoyoi). Mr Google delivered the results in kanji and she knew right away what we needed. If we had been there all day we wouldn’t have found this:


Suitably prepared we took a short taxi ride to the ferry port. While waiting for the 12:10 ferry we ate our sushi and soon enough it was time for about a dozen walk on passengers and a few cars to board a big ferry and roll our way across to the Boso peninsula.
This is when the best laid plans thing started to unravel. The next step was supposed to be a short walk to a cable car. Turns out that is was super windy and the cable car was closed. And we’re a pretty long way off the tourist track and there’s not many people who speak English around. We find out that there is no bus, but we get a map in the English that indicates that there is a path. It also shows a tourist information centre not too far away. We walk there, only to discover it is a pizza restaurant. It wasn’t clear to us if it was a pizza restaurant and tourist info centre, but the gal there helped us out by calling us a cab. And finally we were there.
But Sharon – what was worth all this effort?
Carved into the side of the mountain is a Buddha. It is 31 metres tall. As you can see the fog was rolling down the mountain at a good clip – it is about  2:00 in the afternoon at this point.
Of course there is a tour group up there. The guide, in full uniform of skirt, blouse, tie, hose and heeled shoes was waiting by the Buddha in a shelter. Some of her charges were hanging around and they were very curious about us, so we had a lot of conversation that was a merry mix of Japanese and English.
Time to see the rest. Turns out the rest involved climbing a mountain. On the one hand – we climbed up a freaking mountain. On the other hand almost the entire way was on beautiful granite staircases with sturdy stainless steel railings. So there was that. The fog continued to roll in and the atmosphere got more and more spooky. As soon as we started up we met some more of tour group one in their matching green jackets. One guy looks at Wilf and says ‘hey how old are you?’ Wilf told him and the guys says ‘Ha! I’m 83!’  So they shook hands and there was much laughing and we went our separate ways.
All over this side of the mountains are statues of arhats. Arhats are beings who have advanced along the path of enlightenment but have not quite achieved buddhahood. There are some 1500 of these statues tucked into niches and caves. Each one is different and individual.




We climbed up a lot. Down a lot. Through tunnels and arches.


Sometimes I would begin to think – oh, this isn’t going to end well. And then we meet someone coming from the other direction and we’d cheer each other on. Fortunately we had a good map, and just as we were getting to the last series of stairs that would bring us to the top I looked up and there was a guy standing there. In a dark suit. White shirt. Dark tie. Clipboard. WTF? Turns out he was the leader of yet another group. A group of Buddhist priests. I don’t know who was more surprised – me to see them, or them to find this shiny, sweaty redhead coming up the stairs (did I mention that it was about 20 degrees and foggy. Like hiking in a sauna). Of course there had to be formal bows and greetings as passed one by one, along with the where are you from questions. Wilf caught a picture as the end of their group passed into the mist.



Our original plan had been to take a path down the front of the mountain back to town. (Seemed like a good idea before we went up!)

As I heaved myself up the last few stairs I could hear Wilf saying to someone, ‘You have room for two?’ There was a group of three that we had met up with on the way and were trailing behind and they were offering us a ride. And sure enough, when we rounded the (inevitable) vending machines at the top there was a parking lot with a beautiful big SUV. The man, his wife and their friend were day tripping. They spoke almost no English, but we had a laugh filled ride back down the mountain. They delivered us back to the ferry port and went on their way.   By the time we got there is was raining hard. I can’t say how grateful we are for their kindness in offering us a ride.
We still had a ferry ride and an hour and a half on two trains. But we did it. And yes, it was worth it. The mountains and the sculptures – it was all amazing.

Down under no longer

On Wednesday we got up and went to the cafe beside our hotel for breakfast. It was just after 8:00 and we enjoyed our coffee and watched people making their way to work. My flat white had the prettiest design ever:
After breakfast we headed to airport, flew for 14+ hours, watched three movies (Whiplash, The Theory of Everything, St. Vincent), ate, slept, etc. Landed in Vancouver at 7:30 am on Wednesday. 
I know, crossing the dateline. Still has a real Groundhog Day feel to it. 
We’ve returned to spring in all its frilly pink glory here on the  coast. Flowering trees, daffodils, rhodos, heathers. 
Australia was wonderful – exceeded our expectations. I’m looking forward to reviewing our pictures and enjoying the trip all over again. 

It’s always something.

Living in the modern world, there are always things to be aware of. And just when I think I’m getting a handle on things, off to Australia where there are just so many more things trying to kill you!

On the beach:

And of course by the rivers:
And even on the streets..

But sometimes the advice is a little nicer:

I can do that… 

ps – the year of pie project will be restarting soon and let’s just say ‘Aussie meat pies’ yum!

Holy Cow!!!

We took a train ride to the city of Geelong today, which was really nice. Peaceful little place along the bay. We had a very good pizza, walked along the esplanade, saw some of a very big air show from the train. One of Geelong’s things is that all along the esplanade there are tall bollards that have been painted up. Walked by one that was a meter maid, with her bag slung over her shoulder, a ciggie hanging from her lip, and she’s knitting a sock. So I whipped out my sock project:

After our visit there we decided to go to a Thai restaurant in downtown Melbourne that we had read about. In the Asian area, second floor. We figured cheap and cheerful, Pad Thai and beer. 
We fell through the looking glass to hipster heaven. With Thai food. There must be 500 people up here, all talking at the top of their lungs. The music pounds away. We’re the oldest people in here by a long shot. And the waiters have the most hilarious hipster facial hair. 

I feel kind of sad because the record album covers that are clipped to the walls – obviously meant as ironic statements about something? Yeah. I’m sure I have owed most of them at some time. 

Vive le difference

Woke up in Port Douglas – 30 degrees and humid. 

Stepped off the plane in Melbourne- 23 degrees fresh and cool. That’s better!
We’re looking forward to exploring the city. Found this alley last night:
Completely covered in all manner of street art. There was also a photo shoot of wedding dresses going on – Korean group. Not the first time in this trip that we’ve seen bridal wear being photographed in ‘interesting’ locations. 
Anyhoo – there’s a city to explore. 

As promised, so delivered

We’ve been snorkelling before, and enjoyed it very much. We figured – snorkelling in Australia, more of the same. 

Boy were we wrong!
It was fantastic!!!!!
We knew we were going to take a trip to the reef – who would come all this way and not? The question was – how would we do it? There are many choices. We decided we wanted a smaller boat experience, rather than taking a big boat out to a platform with hundreds of people. We also wanted to deal with snorkelling – no scuba. We settled on a company called Wavelength, and they were super. They picked us up and we joined the group at the marina – 30 passengers, three crew. From Port Douglas it is about an hour and a bit to the reef. 
We were very lucky with the weather. It has been blazingly hot, humid and sunny – the cyclone to the south had swept away all the cloud cover. Yesterday was still hot and humid, but high cloud cover had returned, reducing the chances for spontaneous human combustion. 
Because it is summer here the ocean is warm – about 30 degrees. Makes for easy swimming. Also means dangerous stinging jellyfish are hanging about. Not so much, maybe, on the outer reef. Maybe. But the beaches have nets up to provide safe swimming and we were told not to wade on the beach outside the netted area. And there are also stinger suits. On our snorkel trip we were all issued a suit. Black Lycra onesie with built in mittens and a hood. Very fetching. We were assured that there really weren’t stingers as far out as were headed. Probably not. Hardly ever. The real purpose of the suit was sun protection. Which was a good enough reason for me. Quite a sight to see 30 people in their swimsuits, already hot and sweaty, trying to fight their way into slightly damp stinger suits. No one got hurt in the process!
We made three stops to snorkel and each one was magical. 

I know – isn’t he cute? Well, we really did see anenome fish, among many other things. We don’t have a waterproof camera, and we could have rented one, but I wanted us to concentrate on the experience. I wanted us to be comfortable and relaxed in the water, and we were. The little guy above is actually a flash drive, loaded with pictures from the day. When we get home we can relive it all again. 
We did see many wonderful things, including a white tipped reef shark and more colourful fish and fascinating coral than you could shake a stick at. An amazing variety. Huge underwater structures. But the most amazing thing to me, and something I never expected to actually see where the giant clams. Truly huge! And they would close up if something passed over their light sensing spots, which was  really cool. 
Truly, the reef delivered,and then some.  And because I love you all and am dedicated to your entertainment – here we are I our stinger suits:

From Cairns to Kuranda

From subtropical Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast we headed north to Cairns. Just in time, too. A huge cyclone made landfall on Friday in the area. When we woke in Noosaville on Thursday the rain had begun and when we got back to Brisbane things were starting to get pretty wet. 

Then we got to Cairns. No cyclone here – in fact Cyclone Maria was tearing things up to the south and Cyclone Lam was swinging North, leaving things hotter, sunnier and more humid than normal in Cairns.  And you know how I love hot and humid, right?
In the hills above Cairns is the town of Kuranda. Once upon a time it was important to the logging and mining industry.  At some point in time the hippies discovered it, and now it is a tourist day trip town. Back in the day a narrow gauge railway was built up to the town, and it still operates. There are several ways to get to Kuranda – bus, private car, rail line and cable car. We took the cable car up. 

It was quite wonderful skimming above the rainforest, seeing how it changed as we moved from one side of the hills to another. There were two stops along the way, where there were boardwalks that took us out through the forest. And Mike from Austria was the friendly and informative naturalist

He made sure we knew what we were looking at. Things like this…

Female golden orb spider – I was waiting for Wilf at the interpretive centre, looked up and saw her above me. I moved. 
Way on the other side of the gorge we could see the train making its morning run up the valley. 

Being that it was a summer Saturday and Chinese New Year and there was a cruise ship in Cairns – well Kuranda was hopping. We decided to head for the attractions and try and beat the crowds – and the heat. 
First up – Koala Bears!!! 

A little sleepy bear!
At Birdworld they told us to take off all jewelry and hearing aides and shiny things before going in. So, were standing there and I fell something land on my head. ‘Wilf, what’s on my head?’  Nothing. Again –  ‘Wilf! What is on my head?’ I finally got his attention and this is what was going on. 

Actually Wilf was of much more interest, what with the buttons on his shirt and his sunglasses. 

And while we were there – another cassowary!

And a black swan…

And then, after bears, birds and butterflies a ride back down in a heritage train car. The rail line was a real engineering marvel, full of twists and turns and tunnels and bridges. It was built in the late 1880’s –  34 very challenging kilometres. 
Great ride!

And a cool one to refresh on the way back 

Just when we think we’ve got it figured out

Eh, not so much. 

So, the world cup of cricket is underway. But you all knew that, right? Riveted to the tellie? 
On Saturday evening we took a look – Australia had just finished it’s innings and they were on a break. We went out for a walk and then dinner and upon our return  England was into it’s innings. We settled in with the iPad at our side, knowing our friend Mr Google would explain things to us. We know the broad strokes of the game, but there are many details to get sorted. And statistics – yikes! Puts the baseball boys to shame. 
I thought we were doing well, figuring out what was going on until the very end. There was a penalty – or there wasn’t. The batter was out – or he wasn’t. The other batter was out? Eventually a call was made and the game was over. Australia over England by 111 runs. We looked at each other ‘What the what?’ I turned to Twitter for clarification, only to discover that all of Twitter was biting its paws in a rage over the call. It wasn’t just us not understanding, apparently. 
Turns out we missed one item of interest in the Australian innings:

A golden duck is when the batter is put out on the first ball bowled to him. No score, thanks for coming out. 
So, we’ve either been watching a game or a recap in the evenings. We’re starting to be able to tell which teams are better and see some strategy. Yep – another decade or two of watching and we might know enough to have an opinion. 

Um…. oops?

We’ve moved up the coast from Brisbane to the resort community of Noosaville. The main resort area is on the ocean at Noosa Head – big beaches, high street full of shops, lots of people. Not, thankfully, overdeveloped like, say, Waikiki or even the Gold Coast south of Brisbane. Noosaville is a few kilometres up the Noosa a River – it is quiet, low key. And full of restaurants!

The day after we arrived we met up with a fishing guide – Wilf wanted to see if he could catch something on his fly rod. So, there we were, standing on the dock at 5:00 am. Too hot to fish later in the day! 

 The sun is barely up, Wilf is casting and it is raining a bit. 

He kept at it. 

And at it even though it got very windy. 

Wilf and Phippsy, our guide consulted about various courses of action. Phippsy decided to toss out an artificial lure with a spinning rod to see what was out there. You know what happened next, right?

I had my hands free, so he handed me the rod to land what turned out to be a big mangrove jack. With teeth!

So – I landed the only fish of the day – sorry honey…..

We also saw a Jabiru, which is an Australian stork. This one is a chick!