At the end of February I was lucky enough to shown one of my colleagues favorite places in Lesotho, Qulalane Falls. The only condition was that I take her on the back of the bike over the two mountain passes that had to be crossed to get to the hike starting point . We set out early from Maseru on a sunny Saturday, with two other friends joining in a car to make a convoy of it.
The pictures below show the hike in, and the falls. What they do not show is the thunderstorm that rolled in while we hiked back after lunch. They don’t show the hail, flash flooded roads, lightning and thunder. Most spectacular and scary of all was the fountains created as rain water poured down the gutters and hit piles of rocks in its path, spraying water 2 meters in the air and all over the road.
The bad weather created an interesting moral dilemma. It placed me in a position where I felt that it was an unnecessarily high risk for my colleague to ride on the back of the bike. Especially given there was room in the dry, warm, comparatively safer car, and my colleague did not have a proper jacket. My colleague disagreed, passionately, so I drove off without her, removing her freedom of choice. Was this right or wrong?
Thanks also to Max for the group shot and a few of these photos
The Drakensburg mountain range is known as the wall of spears that peacefully separated the Basotho (People of Lesotho) from the Zulu (Of North East RSA). Here are some clips from a sneaky long weekend I managed for a friends birthday thanks to a public holiday in RSA way back in the start of spring.
We stayed at the beautiful Inkosana Lodge, which is on the road to the Monks Cowl National Park, with a great view of Cathkin peak at sunset over the pool. After doing one of the day hikes to the waterfall under Monks Cowl, we headed further South West to the Amphitheatre Park, and hiked into the base of the Amphitheatre. Topped the long week of driving around a small game park which is situated at the site where the British armed forced incurred a significant loss to the Zulu.
Bar Lupin is a stellar little hide-away with a mysterious ambiance and marvelously mixed cocktails. Don’t bother ordering from the menu, just tell the head cocktail chef your preferred base and ask for his recommendation.
This dark, alley-way basement bar is simple and old. Its history dates back to about 1915 and has been kept in-tact with some pain-staking renovation work and true Japanese dedication. The full story of the bar is available in english and Japanese on arrival.
So where is it? You know what, its that good I’m not telling. But these guys are. If you go, go early – they stop serving about 11:30 pm.
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.
For more information of the places recently visited please refer to the Nomad-odyssey map
March was an action packed month. Highlight being a 10 day return trip down to Osaka, incorporating Hakone, Koya-san, lloyd-san, Wakayama, lake Biwa, Yoro, Route 19, camping, onsens, world heritage sites, temple ryokans, monks, meditation, mountain passes, snow, storms frozen lakes, raging rivers, swing bridges, Kobe beef, sesame tofu, deer and monkeys.
To give you an idea of some of the beautiful riding, I’ve compiled these little gif teasers. Detailed posts and photo gallery to come soon plus other catch up posts covering at least Nozawa Onsen and snowboarding, Chiba and Ibaraki and the Tokyo bay ocean pass.
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.
Hanami Festival was on the weekend and is celebrated by picnicking with friends under the cherry blossoms. I was lucky enough to be invited by Yamazaki-San from work to spend Sunday afternoon with a large and diverse group of his friends and friends-of-friends at Meijijingu Park. It seemed that there were about another 50,000 + people there picnicking with us
It was a great day out and I met some wonderful people. In particular they helped break the stereotype of Japanese I have been told about repetitively and have witnessed a lot so far. They were very talkative, reasonably opinionated, mostly spoke pretty good english and many had travelled. Especially to QLD it seemed for either uni or high-school.
The biggest upside to the day was the atmosphere of fun and excitement that pervaded the park. It was a very joyous occasion with lots of singing, dancing and music. The usually reserved facade gave way to a joyous jollyness and amusement. I’m sure the copious amounts of beer, shoyu and Sake may have had something to do with it. None of the public unrest that comes with such public drinking in Australia, UK and the US though.
The Hamarikyu gardens used to be the emperors peaceful seaside hang-out. Then his nephew or some other spoilt sod turned them into his summer party place. Then they all got booted out and the place got destroyed in WWII.
This time, its refreshing to be in Bali. For my wallet anyway!
Price point comparison of Bali to Tokyo:
Cheap accommodation (per night) including pool / onsen
Feed (Entrée + Local staple + Beer)
Back & neck massage
All prices in AUD and estimated/averaged.
Food in Bali: Satay sticks, Nasi Goreng & Bintang (375ml)
Food in Tokyo: Salmon Sashimi, Ramen with Miso sauce,Sapo (330ml)
There is no doubting though that the quality in Japan is much, much higher, although I never bothered to pay the $60 for the massage there. As a travel destination it boils down to what you want, either:
A decent, relaxing but not superb back & neck massage 12 days in a row from a girl who probably learnt from her mum and knows nothing of biology, in a sightly seedy place where you probably never feel comfortable taking your eyes off your wallet or taking your boxer shorts off for fear of sending the wrong message;
One massage, including complimentary foot scrub, hot face towel and where the massues has a degree in physiology and forces you to take a shower because they don’t want to touch your sweaty body. Kimono’s are provided after the shower to prevent you trying to send the wrong message.
Apply the same concepts to food, accommodation and public transport and then decide which travel destination is best for you.