Sunday, January 14, 2018

Snapshots: Whanganui National Park

Today, a jet boat brought us back to a world with Internet and roads.

Three days earlier I maneuvered our rental car along a narrow, winding road, avoiding recent rockfalls. At Pipiriki, New Zealand, a jet boat came to take us up the Whanganui River, through a vertiginous gorge, to the Bridge to Nowhere Lodge.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Snapshots: Egmont National Park

New Zealand's North Island has three national parks: Egmont, Whanganui, and Tongariro. On this trip we selected Egmont and Whanganui, two of New Zealand's less-visited parks.

We've spent two days hiking Egmont's lovely trails, with two more days to go.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Snapshots: Queen Charlotte Track

Our descent into Marlborough, BHE, New Zealand, gave us a preview of our upcoming visit to the region. First we flew over the crenellated, sunken valleys of Queen Charlotte Sound, then we came in low over the vineyards of Marlborough wine country.

Our first priority was to hike the Queen Charlotte Track, a path people usually walk over four days.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Boots over New Zealand

Next week we'll be hiking the Queen Charlotte Track a glorious ridge trail above sea-drowned valleys at the top of New Zealand's South Island. It's a comfortable tramp, just 43 miles over four days.

Maybe that explains why Rudyard Kipling's "Boots" was my earworm the other day:
We’re foot—slog—slog—slog—sloggin’ over Africa!
Foot—foot—foot—foot—sloggin’ over Africa—
(Boots—boots—boots—boots—movin’ up and down again!)         
There’s no discharge in the war!
Kipling took the viewpoint of a British Tommy soldier in southern Africa in the Second Boer War (1899-1902). His racism is relatively subdued in this poem, but he does what he does best, depicting the "white man's burden."

That got me wondering if New Zealand played any part in the conflict. I learned that New Zealand sent troops to support the British Empire. Some Māori men (the first New Zealanders) wanted to enlist, but were turned down because this was a "white man's war."

Monday, December 11, 2017

A Very Japanese Christmas

Christmas was coming to life when I visited Japan in early November. Colonel Sanders, an integral part of Japan's Christmas traditions, was in his Santa garb. Ticket counters in some train stations were decorated with tinsel and little ornaments. Christmas trees were starting to sprout.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Monday Morning Coffees

From under the duvet, I hear the daily grind. Dwight is edging towards his workday.

It's time for my daily incantation:
"OK Google, what time is it?"
"OK Google, turn on National Public Radio"
"OK Google, turn on bedroom lights"
"OK Google, bring coffee"
OK, I don't ask Google to bring coffee. I stick my head out the door and make my wakeful state known. I make a mental note to program Google to flash a light in the kitchen when I'm ready for my first coffee of the day

A few minutes later, the coffee arrives.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

A Sporting House

November 2017. I look out from our Minneapolis Mill District apartment.

Ahead, I see St. Anthony Falls, the only significant waterfall on the Mississippi. A hydroelectric plant, established in 1882, still generates enough power for thousands of homes.

Minneapolis grew up around these falls.

Across the river I pick out the Pillsbury "A" Mill. Completed in 1881, it was the most productive flour mill in the world for 40 years.

My eyes follow the gorgeous curved lines of the 1883 Stone Arch Bridge back to my side of the river to the Washburn "A" Mill, part of a complex dating back to the 1870's.

I look down to 11th Avenue South which runs in front of our home. It draws my eyes away from the Mississippi and up the road to a Romanesque brick building (pictured at the top of this post) at 212 11th Avenue South. It seems strangely out of place.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Four Kyushu Olle Hikes

It can be a challenge getting to a hiking trailhead. Public transport may be spotty or non-existent, and once you're in the locale, trailheads have a bad habit of hiding in plain sight.

Once I've found the trailhead, I can usually muddle my way along the trail with the assistance of GPS, map, signage, and dumb luck. The odd involuntary reroute, in airline parlance, is all part of the experience. Travel without wabi-sabi is bland.

Sometimes, though, I just want to get to a trailhead then walk with my mind relieved of the logistics of the walk. Originally developed in South Korea, Olle hikes meet this challenge in Kyushu, Japan's southernmost main island. An Olle hike might include villages, farms, mountainous countryside, and the seaside. The trail may be arduous, or relaxed, depending on the classification.

I don't have to overthink: an Olle hike is a nice day out; I just have to follow the symbols shown at the top of this post.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Snapshots: A Night in a Bicycle Hotel

This week I spent a night in Hotel Cycle, in a converted warehouse in the port city of Onomichi, Japan. I used it as a base to cycle part of the Shimanami Kaido trail across the Seto Inland Sea.