Sunday, March 27, 2016

Cycling Across the Seto Inland Sea

When I look across Japan's Seto Inland Sea I see small islands, distant volcanic hills, ocean-going ships, sleek bridges, all sitting on a bright palette of blues and greens.

The Inland Sea has energy: it connects three of Japan's main islands (Honshu, Kyushu, and Shikoku), and the Pacific Ocean with the Sea of Japan. I've crossed this sea on fast trains and slow ferries, always an observer.

This week a rented bicycle turned me from observer to participant in this scene. I pedaled across the sea from Shikoku to Honshu on six bridges, quiet island trails, and rural roads.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Travel Gear: Hiking Pants

As I was stretching, clambering, grappling over rocks in Kirishima National Park, I replayed in my head the most recent encounter with a fellow hiker.

The woman had made the usual greeting, then a look of dissonance flashed across her face.

I'd seen that look before when I've thoughtlessly put a shoe on tatami, or walked into the Ladies. I had done something egregious.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Hiking Above Clouds

When I pulled open the drapes this morning, I decided to drop my plan to go directly to Kagoshima City. Instead of yesterday's unrelenting rain, sunshine was trying to penetrate mist. It was time for a bonus hike.

I had less than 60 minutes to dress, pack, slow down enough to enjoy breakfast, then check out of the hotel. With minutes to spare, I caught the hikers' bus to the trailhead.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Finding Japan

The flight attendant showed me a handwritten note: "we will be landing [in Kagoshima] at 9:30 [a.m.]."

I'm the only non-Japanese customer, and, by the look of it, just about everybody else on this 737 is flying for work.

I like traveling with Japanese people because they are generally quiet, calm, and are considerate in crowded places. Besides, I wouldn't understand a disagreeable conversation.

As the plane climbs above Tokyo Bay, I'm treated to my best-ever view of Fujisan. (See my cell phone picture at the top of this post.) I've never hiked it, and probably never will. For me, over-loved places can be unsatisfying and are best avoided.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Insufficient Reality

Every hotel room in Hawaii has a book or brochure pushing Hawaii as something to consume. Many first-time visitors are doomed to be unfulfilled by the activities they are seduced into buying.

The experience depicted at the top of this post is dangerous and illegal: volcanic gases and Federal law get in the way. The real thing cannot possibly meet expectations.

Whales leap over boats while people stare at their cameras. Apparently ambulatory families rip along on ATV's oblivious to the natural sounds and vignettes around them. Helicopters break backcountry hikers' solitude as the occupants listen to New Age music on noise-canceling headsets.

We work long hours to pay for not being in the moment.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Lava: It's Scientific Fun!

We walked on lava through fern forests down to two calderas. We rested on chunks of lava with steam rising around us.

Our nephews (7 and 8) were in good spirits but they got a little bored towards the end. To distract I demonstrated how to make a whistle by clamping a grass leaf between the thumbs and blowing. That amused for a mile, or so.

We'd walked past Halemaumau Crater with its high plume of volcanic gases. At night we would see that plume glowing red from our lodge, the Volcano House, in Hawaii's Volcanoes National Park.