Tanzania!

Well, I finally made it to Africa, although not how I originally expected! I have started a new job which will involve a lot of travel around Africa and one which will hopefully have a significant impact on the TB death rate. Although it is not my preferred mode of travel I’m happy that one of my travel goals has been achieved and that I’m here in Africa.

So what to do on my first weekend in Africa? Go on Safari of course! We visited the Ngorogoro crater and nearby lake Manyara. Both are closely situated to the Serengeti National park, which was just a little out of reach this weekend.

The checklist of animals we spotted was impressive, and the Ngorogor crater itself very impressive. I’m struggle to reconcile how green Tanzania is with my expectations. Then again, it is situated just below the equator and has both Mt Kilimanjaro and Mt Meru, towering on the border with Kenya to the north, that drag down the clouds and the rain.

Mind you I still managed to get sunburnt even though I was wearing a rain-coat! Enjoy the pictures, it was a pleasure taking them! Lake Manyana photos will come in a post soon.

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Chiang Mai and the International cricket 6’s

Chiang Mai and the International cricket 6’s

After leaving Japan I was lucky enough to have some time in Northern Thailand and Laos before starting my new job here in Tanzania. Part of the time in Northern Thailand was taking part in the Chiang Mai international cricket 6’s tournament.

About 26 teams competed this year, represented by over 120 players plus about another ~100 social participants. The competition was held at the Gymkhana ground in Chiang Mai, which was beautifully prepared, and an immense amount of fun was had by all, on and off the ground. Some pics from competition are included for your enjoyment – for t

he record the Tokyo Wombats did pretty well, especially since they were carrying yours truly who seems to have forgotten how to bowl!

In addition to playing cricket, drinking beer and vodka slammer ‘fines’ and gathering collective wisdom about Northern Thailand and Africa, I did manage to have a look around Chiang Mai and the nearby Doi Suthep national Park.

Bigger adventures were to follow and you can look forward to more on that in the future. Following that, yet bigger adventures in Tanzania and Africa! Enjoy for now.

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Asakusa Samba festival

I do not know how the ties between Brazil and Japan were originally made, and even Wikipedia is a bit slim on information. However,  Brazil holds the second largest population of Japanese outside of Japan. I cannot really imagine too dissimilar cultures but it seems to work. And it works a little bit both ways. Whilst Japan does not have the second largest population of Brazilians outside of Brazil , they do seem to really appreciate Brazilian culture. One of the ways they do that is with the Asakusa samba festival – a little version of carnival in Tokyo.

Unfortunately, it seems they have not quite got the hang of the after party yet. Still, the costumes, the energy and enthusiasm were all very impressive. Also, going on the crowd that showed up, I’m sure it was also an economic success for Asakusa.

These photos are from the festival held in August 2012. I’m sure it will be on again in 2013. Keep your eyes out in Metro magazine event listings or for posters in the sub-way.

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Chiba and Ibaraki prefecture re-cap

Chiba prefecture and Ibaraki prefecture have been two of my favourite spots for a quick weekend ride. They are easy to get too, offer quiet twisty roads, cute seaside towns, beachs and sunshine. Great relief from Tokyo. Stories and pictures from my three trips to this are are below.

One rainy day I did a day tour of the Boso peninsular by train, never bothering to leave the station. The whole round trip from Tokyo cost me and my friend only a local fare and provided great views of thundering surf, and wind swept waves – all from the comfort of a warmed train carriage. Thats how I like to ride in the wet! You can see some of the photos from that trip in Golden week on this post.

One quick weekend trip to Ibaraki did not go so well. It was October and damn cold despite being sunny. My gloves at the time did not cope well. I was heading to Oarai but before arriving stopped to warm my hands and belly at this family restaurant‎. Once I got talking to them and they found out I did not have a reservation for the night they promptly freaked out and started calling all the hotels in Oarai to see if there were free rooms. Little did I know or understand at the time that the Oarai marathon was on the next day! Every sold out hotel was met with shrieks and tut-tuts worthy of any mother. Eventually a room was found for me in hotel sawaya in Hokota and I was led their by some departing customers!

 The next day I did get to sit on the beach in beautiful sunshine around Konaji. Eventually though I made it to Oarai and spend some time at the Oaraiisosaki Shrine (oarai-isosakijinja.or.jp‎) before going a little further up the coast to have lunch by the beach in Ajigaura (阿字ケ浦海水浴場 more info‎) and head back to Tokyo on the Higashi-Mito Express-way. All was fine and wonderful for the whole weekend until I stopped about at a road-side stop on the expressway and when returning to the bike, it would not start. The neutral light, oil light and temperature light did not even come on when the ignition was on. How could I have a flat battery after 2 days of riding? Eventually I found the answer was that my regulator had blown and was pumping 18v in the battery, which killed it too! That night I had to catch a train home and come back with a mini truck a few days later to pick-up the bike! Ah, adventures!

My most recent trip was in March and I shot down to the Boso peninsular using the Tokyo Aqua line and stopping off in the middle of the bay‎ for some nice photos and a Mt Fuji bread roll.

That weekend we managed to get down to Tateyama and visit the Sunosaki lighthouse, the Boso flower line in Konuma and enjoy some local hospitality, especially on our way back at CLs Cafe in Katsuyama (スナックブルーマリン). We stopped in this little seaside cafe for an hour or two for breakfast on the Sunday. The collection of books and photagraphy magazines and the general homeliness of a place that seems in the middle of nowhere was brilliant. You can read the owners blog, mostly in Japanese, here. The place is well worth a visit as you can hopefully see from the pics.
On the ride home that Sunday morning we were joined by a Harley motorbike club for a few kilometers, along the cliffs of Route 127, the Uchibo-Nagisa Line prior to rejoing the Tateyama Expressway via route 237 in Kanaya. The ride back over the Tokyo Aqua line bridge in strong winds was one of the scariest I have done, with the gusts pushing the bike side-ways, making it hard to maintain balance and line.

 

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For more information of the places recently visited please refer to the Nomad-odyssey map

Golden Week Photos

The Japanese are smart. They stick almost all their public holidays into just two separate weeks of the year so you get a decent break. They call it Golden week and silver week. Unfortunately, some 100 million (no joke) other people are on holiday too and not much is open because the shop keepers are, yep – you guessed it, on holiday.

Still, despite a nasty deadline and some even nastier weather I managed to get away for a train ride around the Boso peninsular (Chiba), take a burn on the bike through the traditional buildings of Kawagoe and on to the mountains to Chichibu where I checked out the flower festival, dressed up in traditional kit and took a very nice onsen (hot spring bath). On the way home I dodged a tornado (apparently), rode through a mountain (seriously) and avoided a few thunderstorms by sitting them out in ramen shops.

Enjoy the pics.