Christchurch

A rainy day in Christchurch, it seems like it’s rainin’ all over the world. We’ve been so lucky with the weather during the last few months, so we shouldn’t really complain but this rain in Christchurch is just so ///wet/// and penetrative and persistent. We could have stayed in all day and looked miserably through the windows but we had to go out for reasons of health and beauty. I was forced to wear my actual waterproof coat, the weather was that bad! So, if you’re not interested in bodily or medical issues, just scroll down to the first picture.

It’s three months since my last visit to the dental hygienist so it was time to have another session of oral torture. She was very good, realy, a couple of sensitive spots, but mostly OK. She didn’t know my kiwi periodontist back at home.

I also visited the local GP to obtain a prescription for my next three months of medication. The limit of three months at a time seems to be universal.

Liesel was attended to from top to bottom. Eyebrowsn and eye lashes all polished up and then a pedicure which was different to the ones enjoyed in Alaska.

Liesel also wants a massage and/or some physiotherapy. Her ‘slipped disc’ / piriformis muscle issue is still not resolved. We didn’t walk nearly as far in Fiji as we did in Japan so that helped a bit, but those two days in Auckland reminded us of the level of discomfort that can be felt.

On the other hand, I feel pretty good. I’d like a massage but don’t feel I ///need/// one right now, but they usually find something that needs loosening up, in the shoulders or thereabouts.

Occasionally, one of my feet complains. It’s like there’s a length of string between the second toe and the heel that just doesn’t want to stretch for a while, so I have to walk funny, almost limping. Pauline said I always walk funny anyway!

That is the end of the medical news! Spoiler alert: there’s a haircut coming up soon.

Rain on the decking, in case you don’t know what rain on decking looks like

We bought some groceries and then hung around waiting for the rain to stop. And waited. And waited. We had coffee and tea and muffins. And waited.

In the end, we started walking home but just as we left the shopping centre in Barrington, a taxi pulled up in front of us. The driver dragged us in, kicking and screaming, and reluctantly, we took a ride home to Pauline’s house.

When my sister asked me a while ago what food I wanted in New Zealand, I suggested PIES! I have missed pies, with proper pastry, and I’ve missed proper, tasty, crusty bread.

Tonight for supper, we had a pie. It was fabulous. So pastry-y and tasty. There was a filling too, apparently, but the pastry… mmm.

While walking to The Tannery the following day, we were in danger of an attack of homesickness. (No, not really.)

Palatine Tce

Palatine Road is the main shopping street near where we now live in Northenden. And this poor old postman still has use of a bicycle. I think if he tried harder, he could really load it up.

Kiwi postie’s bike

It was a pleasant walk, not sunny, but at least it was dry. There are many areas around here that share their names with parts of London: Sydenham, Beckenham, Waltham, Edgeware, even a St Martins.

We always go for the low-hanging fruit. Well, Liesel does as she’s so short. But I think this is the first time we’ve been scrumping, for plums, in New Zealand. Small but sweet, and if any officers of the law are reading this, it was Liesel’s idea.

Small plum tree. The plums are small, the tree was quite big
Small plum or big fingers

One local sport seems to be fly-tipping. These guys parked across the pavement, forcing us to walk in the road, while they threw hundreds of plastic bottles over the fence. It might have been a legitimate place to dispose of the waste items, but what a bizarre way to go about it. They could have driven into the yard, just along the road a bit.

Let’s park on the pavement while we’re fly-tipping
The owner needs a p

The Tannery is a cute, little Boutique Shopping Centre in Woolston. There are bars and restaurants too. When we arrived, there were two girls performing but they soon disappeared, unfortunately: they were making quite a nice noise.

While we ate lunch, we enjoyed some classical music but as there was so much background noise, Shazam was unable to confirm it was by Mozart.

While Liesel went window shopping, I found a barbershop and had a haircut and a shave. The girl was from Greenwich, has been in NZ for twelve years and hasn’t lost her accent. Yet.

Pauline joined us after work and we had drinks at the chocolate shop.

The Tannery
Trompe l’oeil great tiles

In the evening, while Pauline was doing stuff in the kitchen, Liesel, Andrew and I played a game of Scrabble. Then, Andrew taught us a new card game: 500s. I don’t think I’d heard of it before but it was fun learning a new game. Especially one in which, under certain circumstances, the jack of clubs pretends to be a spade.

Friday was Pauline’s last half-day at work this year and to avoid meeting her just after lunchtime, Andrew drove us into town. He joined us for a short while in the Botanic Gardens and we continued after he left for home.

Very colourful Botanic Gardens
Southern hemisphere Sun dial
Invisible reindeer
Chaffinch
Diminish and Ascend by David McCracken, 2014
Waxeye

We continued our slow walk into the city centre.

Rubbish selfie of the day, in front of big bubbles

It’s all new to us of course, and I don’t suppose the earthquakes were at the front of other people’s minds. There is a lot of building work going on, but apart from that, Christchurch is a lively, bright, functioning city. It’s not as busy as usual because at this time of the year, many people go away, especially to Nelson at the north of the island. There are plenty of visitors such as ourselves, of course.

This building needs a lot of support and love
Cathedral and cairn

There is a great window display in the big department shop, Ballantyne’s, and plenty of other Christmas decorations, but it doesn’t ///feel/// like Christmas to me. I know it’s the middle of December, but this whole adventure of ours sometimes feels so unreal, it’s hard to add more excitement to it.

Christchurch Christmas tree and bauble
The Merry Mice of Dunstable House, window display

We took the bus home and arrived an hour before the rain. Pauline was in the garden pulling up some big weeds. I was not at all gallant, I didn’t offer to help. I would only pull up the wrong things.

Auckland to Christchurch

Auckland is built on a volcanic bed consisting of about fifty volcanoes. Each is considered extinct though the field as a whole is merely dormant. There have been 90 eruptions in the last 90,000 years.

It is located on an isthmus which is just 2 km wide at its narrowest. There are two harbours: the northern one takes you to the Pacific Ocean and the other takes you to the Tasman Sea.

It is home to one third of New Zealand’s total population and everyone has very strong thighs. It’s a very hilly city and some of the hills are quite steep. We know: it feels like we’ve climbed most of them during the last couple of days.

We had breakfast courtesy of Joanna and Ian, while we all chatted, and so Liesel and I left the house on both days a little later then planned.

Two days, two Museums, fourteen miles walking in Auckland, two decent eating places, many fantastic views, zero bungee jumps and Christmas music seeping out of some shops.

Ghostly apparition

Our wanderings took us along some busy roads, so we were glad of the opportunity to take a ‘short cut’ through Myer’s Park. It’s a cute littel patch of green, with a fab children’s playground, and we were entertained by a man playing his piano-accordion.

Sculpture in Myer’s Park

Our destination was Auckland Domain, one of the bigger parks in the city and we couldn’t beliece how green Auckland is. Yes, there are plenty of high-rise buildings but there are green patches and trees in between, totally different to Tokyo.

We happened to pass by the art gallery and it just happened to have a café and we went in by mistake and had a coffee.

Mojo Coffee, above the art gallery

We sat outside, but under cover. It was warm and the sky was blue except for over there where it looked like a big black storm was brewing.

Ominous

We walked through Albert Park, where the sculpture that I thought might be a sundial turned out not to be. I couldn’t find a plaque so I can’t say what it really is.

We said hello to Queen Victoria and I made a short speech from the podium at Speakers’ Corner.

Queen Victoria
Bollocks to Brexit! And I am unanimous in this!!

Auckland Domain was hilly too, so it was only fair to test-sit many of the park benches.

There’s a word for this kind of tree

The trees were fascinating, multiple trunks in many cases; the paths were very well maintained. And as if that’s not enough, there were some really interesting sculptures too.

Numbers are the Language of Nature

At the top of the hill is located the Auckland War Memorial Museum. The views from the top are wonderful, a fine reward for all the effort. The Museum is very interesting but very moving too. There’s the history of the Maori settlers, the arrival of white Europeans with their Christianity and firearms as often seems to be the case.

There is a butterfly collection which is very pretty, but it feels a bit wrong to collect that many specimens.

Butterflies

As it’s a War Memorial, there are stories of all the conflicts that New Zealanders have been involved with, usually for the sake of the mother country. There are two Halls of Memory listing all Aucklanders lost in battle. And if that’s not enough, there is this:

Let these panels never be filled

We walked home and when we were caught in the rain, we took shelter in the bandstand for a few moments.

The Maritime Museum is down by the harbour so we knew this day’s walk wouldn’t be as long.

Millions of dollars

I couldn’t resist the temptation to have a go on one of the electric scooters operated by a company called Lime.

Mick on the scooter

Liesel wasn’t too keen and I didn’t go too far as I didn’t have a helmet but some other people were going by at very high speed.

In the museum, I chose to join the guided tour at 1.30pm. Liesel sat and read her book while Tony took me and all the others around for two hours. All the others? There were none. I had my own personal guide, and he explained everything, from how the Maoris arrived here in the first place, right up to Sir Peter Blake winning the America’s Cup for NZ in 1995.

Waka tiwai – river boat made from half a log
Tukutuku panels tell a story

On the way back home, we were very nearly tempted by this pub:

That’s a good deal

But really, this is my new favourite venue, and there is no prizes for telling me why:

Harbourside

This was a surprise too: Tony had mentioned the Rainbow Warrior in the museum earlier, but we didn’t know about this memorial:

Rainbow Warrior memorial

It was a short stay in Auckland, but we’ll be back very soon.

Our flight to Christchurch was short and sweet and again, we had seats a row apart.

It was good to be by the window, not above the wing, and I enjoyed the bird’s-eye view of Hagley Park.

The Oval in Hagley Park

We’re in Christchurch with my sister Pauline and her partner Andrew. We’ll be here for Christmas and until we get kicked out.

It’s our first visit here since the catastrophic earthquakes. Pauline’s house was finally re-built last year, after waiting six years.

Chillin’

We’ve had a relaxing few days. We’ve done nothing. Zilch. Nada. Well, the bare minimum, anyway.

Wednesday was a day at the beach. The overnight rainstorm was loud on the old tin roof of the bure, but it was nice and warm and dry inside.

The Pacific and Liesel

We sat on the beach, went for a dip in a warm Pacific Ocean, greeted the few passers-by and generally soaked up the Sun.

The wind blew an old plastic Coke bottle along the beach, and we thought about chasing it and binning it… nah… But it’s the thought that counts. Taking it easy.

Selfie of the day

The toilets and showers were locked up: it’s not the busy touristy season which is why we had the beach to ourselves. The newly purchased beach blanket and towels were tested to the limit. As was the SPF 30 sunblock.

I went for a nice Fijian massage. I wasn’t expecting two ladies, one at each end, but it was a very nice, relaxing experience. One picked up the tightness in my feet from all the walking. The other found the knots and tightness in my neck and shoulders. (Hey Dawn, you’re still my number one choice for a massage but if there were two of you…)

Thursday again began with a thunderstorm. The rain continued all morning, on and off, the poor little birdie outside looked a bit sorry for himself. He could have taken shelter, yes, but I think he enjoyed me imitating him mimicking the other birds.

We did walk down to the shops for a coffee, I did some things online that required a better signal than we can get at home. Liesel read her book, I wandered round, sent postcards to a couple of people who aren’t online and who don’t have to put up with this drivel. Laid back, yes, but not totally idle. We bought a bag of tortilla chips that turned out to be stale, even though well within the best before date. Such a to-do.

Nudity is frowned upon in Fiji, apparently, and on most south Pacific islands, but don’t worry, I was let off with a caution.

We have to admire people who are working in these conditions. I’m just typing but my fingers are soaking up the humidity like a sponge: anyone would thing I’ve been in the bath too long with wrinkled old fingers like this. It’s certainly confused the phone’s biometric fingerprint scanner.

The young lady that cooked our samosas in a hot kitchen is a hero. Heroine. She’s a star.

Liesel and I both have good books on the go at the moment, we still haven’t felt the need to turn the TV on, and I have a huge backlog of radio programmes to listen to. We’re still waiting for the UK Government to collapse and/or Brexit to be cancelled but that reality is so far away from here. We look at each other across the room, sigh, wipe the back of a hand across a damp, furrowed brow, get up and walk about a bit, have a drink, have a snack, sit back down again.

I went out to talk to the birds and my reward was several mosquito bites. Other wildlife we’ve seen include a Fijian ground frog in our bathroom. Liesel asked Doug to remove it. He said it wasn’t poisonous, but we weren’t planning to eat it, anyway, to be fair. I did tell Liesel that if she’d kissed the frog, it might have turned into a handsome prince. She said the last time she kissed a frog, she got me and she’s not making that mistake again.

Not our frog but a very good likeness

We have a pet gecko in our room too. We’re keeping him because he can hoover up the ants and other bugs.

Something makes a horrible noise during the night, it might be frogs, it might be werewolves screeching at each other, it could be guests in other villas on Hibiscus Drive shouting at the rain. Pretty sure it’s not the gecko.

We were idly wondering what to do next. This was tempting: Fire walking.

Fire Walking sign needs fixing

Unfortunately, we couldn’t work out exactly where to go. Bummer. Next time, maybe.

Drinking coffee at the Skinny Bean Café left us wondering: is the design on my latté hibiscus or, as Liesel first though, plumeria?

Coffee and hibiscus

I think this was as profound a discussion as we had all day. A pair of brains taking a day off. Two pairs of feet putting their feet up too.

Yeeah, maaan

Friday began with another storm. There was also a very loud cricket outside, chirruping away, maybe a couple. As the rain became louder, so did the cricket (or grasshopper, or whatever). Somehow, Liesel slept through the whole thing!

Other loud noises included fireworks and a really loud thunderclap right overhead. The lights dimmed for a moment: but we have candles to hand, just in case.

We have another gecko in our room. The first one was a surprise, so a little bit scary. This new one is a baby. We’re now looking out for a ginger one, a sporty one and a posh one so we have the whole set.

Baby gecko

During the night, I felt a couple of rainspots on my arm. I couldn’t believe there was a hole in the roof, but in the morning, I did notice a very slight gap between two of the tiles. Taking into consideration factors such as ferocity of the rainstorm, its duration, the size of the gap in the roof, wind conditions, angle of slope of the roof, the area of my exposed skin, height of room, height of my bed off the floor, I calculated that the chances were that 2.14 drops of rain would land on me. Isn’t mathematics brilliant?

We took the bus into Suva. Our third bus ride, and the third method of payment. The man I sat next to said ‘Bula’, and shook my hand, and we had a chat. We’re not in London any more, I realised.

We decided to take a taxi rather than another bus to Colo-i-Suva Forest Park. The driver told us that Prince Harry was here a couple of months ago and that he planted a tree using the same shovel that his grandmother used when she visited in the 1950s.

Brand new Welcome sign

Summertime and the living is easy. We had a nice walk in the forest, but it too was loud. The odd bird but mainly, cicadas. They have an eight-year cycle in Fiji and although we didn’t see any, we certainly heard them. It was like walking through a tunnel of tinnitus, albeit a slightly lower frequency than what I usually experience.

Nice new path

There is supposed to be a lot of wildlife here, but all we saw was a mongoose run across the road. One dragonfly and a couple of butterflies.

We stopped by the car park for a natural break, wishing that we, like others, had had our taxi drop us off here in the first place! Oh well.

The park ranger told us that Prince Harry was here a couple of months ago and that he planted a tree using the same shovel that his grandmother used when she visited in the 1950s.

The trail now was narrower and definitely made for walking on. Newly improved too, for some reason, at grest expense. There were bures on the way, picnic tables, even rubbish bins. We heard the waterfall before we saw it, and we climbed down to the Upper Pool. There were a few locals enjoying the water, and I thought it would be nice to cool off too. The thing I was most worried about in the water was leeches and I’m so glad I never encountered any. No frogs either.

I heard: “There are frogs in there.”

What Liesel actually said: “My glasses are fogging up.” (We’ve both agreed to have hearing tests later on.)

Don’t go jumping waterfalls
Please keep to the lake
People who jump waterfalls sometimes can make mistakes

The water was cool, but very refreshing, and the water falling on my head was quite forceful: so glad I wasn’t wearing the toupée.

On the way back to the entrance, a charming man offered us a lift in his car We had a nice chat. He told us that Prince Harry was here a couple of months ago and that he planted a tree using the same shovel that his grandmother used when she visited in the 1950s.

Nice plaque for Prince Harry’s recent visit

We waited just a few minutes at the entrance to the park for our taxi to arrive.

Suva City Library was helped in its early days by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, whose name it now bears. We spent a few minutes here looking at the children’s books. Was it air conditioned? Nope. But the windows were open! We were here to video us reading a couple of books to Martha and William. We send them a new one every few weeks.

Then, over the road to Hare Krishna Vegetarian Restaurant. Here, I ate my breakfast: a plate of six curries, a thali, most of which was delicious but number 6 was far too salty.

Don’t see ads like this any more at home

It started raining when we were on the bus back to Pacific Harbour, and it was still precipitating slightly when we walked home.

Doug and Loata passed by and we later realised, judging by Doug’s beery breath, they’d been to the pub.

Advert outside a shop that did have avocados in stock
Papaya don’t preach

Our hosts, Doug and Loata, left us a bowl of fruit. Unfortunately, the mangoes hadn’t ripened by the time we left.

In other news, our Alaskan friends and family are still experiencing strong aftershocks in Anchorage. Young William has taken his first few steps. Santa has written to him and Martha, following our request at North Pole, Alaska.

We’ve now moved on to Nadi, another three-hour bus ride, and another method of payment! All the buses have a sign “No eating, no drinking, no smoking”. Well, we’ve seen nobody sparking up so I suppose one out of three ain’t bad! A lot of people carry a lot of stuff on buses: big boxes, sacks, bin bags all full, presumably, of food. I asked Liesel if that was a chicken I could hear at the back of the bus and she said no, it was the soundtrack from the TV show.

Some of the cattle (outside, not on the bus) looked really healthy but there were some that looked like a blanket had been thrown over a clothes horse. All in the same field, so you’d think, with the same access to good feed.

In Japan we had MaxValu. In Fiji, it’s MaxVal-u Supermart. Here in Fiji, as in Tonga, some men wear skirts. It’s rude to stare but you can’t help but do a double-take sometimes.

Our new Airbnb here in Nadi has air conditioning which is welcome. I went to the local shops, missing out on the rain, while Liesel did the first of two loads of laundry.

The 4G signal here is much stronger too, so I have been able to listen to a couple of my radio programmes with . . . out the . . . . . . . . contin . . ual b . . . . . . . uffering.

At the airport, where the bus dropped us off, I was delighted to see this advert for The Bangles’ new single.

Walk Like an Egyptian

The bad news is that Liesel’s voice is a bit croaky right now. Thank goodness you can get Strepsils even in Fiji!

We’re having a very quiet, relaxed Saturday evening and we are surprised by how warm it really is, every time we visit the bathroom.

A Day in Naha

We woke up this morning to news of a big earthquake in Anchorage. All our friends and family are OK, with minor damage to property. As far as we know right now, there are no reports of fatalities nor serious injuries. It’s a world away to us right now, but we’ve seen pictures of huge damage to roads and bridges, shops and houses. Sending love and good wishes to all in Alaska.

Liquor store in Anchorage

We took a gentle stroll to nearby Fukushuen Garden. Naha and Fouzhou in China, are two close and similar cities bonded by friendship that share ties of amicability. BFFs, in modern parlance. The garden has many interesting Chinese features, including a pair of pagodas that are modelled on Fouzhou’s twin pagodas.

Mount Ye and the Pavilion of Ye

Pavilion of Ye, waterfall and rainbow bridge
I thought this was a negative too, at first
Cheers!
Hobbitses live here

The entrance fee was ridiculously cheap: the equivalent of about £1.40. You have to wonder, how can they maintain the gardens with such a small income? Or, conversely, what do gardens in England do with all the money from their (relatively) extortionate entrance fees?

One of two enormous Chinese vases, behind glass

We fed the turtles. Well, we tried, but they’re just not as fast as the fish. If a turtle doesn’t grab a pellet of food within a microsecond, a big, greedy carp comes right up and devours it. We watched the heron too, wondering if it has its eyes on a fish supper. It walked silently from rock to rock, a ballerina en pointe, its eyes gazing a gazely stare into the water, but there was no bird on fish action. Liesel was just grateful there were no baby ducks on the menu, like that day in St James’s Park!

Turtles v carp: ¥100 for a box of carpfood

We wandered home, ate, read and wondered what to do on our final day here in Naha. As I write, it’s just gone midday and mainly we’re just sorting stuff out, a prelude to packing tomorrow morning. Not very exciting, I know.

This is more interesting

This is very pretty… we need Shazam for flowers. Or, alternatively, we could just take notes from the captions by the plants in the garden.

Okinawa OK

We came to Okinawa to spend some time on the beach. After a late start on Sunday, we walked down to the nearest one, a couple of miles away.

Pavements eat broken pots

Naminoue Beach is now my favourite beach. Not because you can gaze upon not one but two motorways over the water while sunbathing, but because the word itself contains all five vowels. (Cf Carnoustie and Cointreau.)

Nice beach, shame about the view

There were just a couple of people actually swimming in the sea, but most people, me included, just went in up to our ankles. I thought it was probably safe enough to swim there, but if the locals weren’t going in, then neither was I.

The sand was very coarse: you should have heard some of the language it came out with! Very good though for exfoliating ones feet.

On the walk back, we encountered another Shinto ceremony.

Another beautiful family, another blessing

This chap looks quite intimidating. His job might be to frighten away evil spirits, but he didn’t deter us visitors.

Alligator? Dragon? Scary either way
Artistic photo of the day

Kokusai Dori, one of the main shopping streets, is closed to traffic each Sunday afternoon. This provides space for local bands and musicians to perform, and allows children to play in the road, legitimately.

Banging drums and dancing
Playing in the road

We walked back via a supermarket that we’d found last night. This one is called Max Valu. It sells Top Valu items. Still, it’s a pleasant change from the ubiquitous 7-Elevens, Family Marts and Lawson Stations. I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be funny if we saw some belly dancers here in Naha? Well, we turned the corner, into Makishi Park, and guess what we saw?

I’ll be your belly dancer

Emerald Beach might be more visually attractive than Naminoue, we thought. This was a bus ride away: nearly two and a half hours in each direction. Five hours sitting on a bus is not something we want to do on a regular basis. On a train or a plane, you can get up and walk around a bit: for some reason, people don’t seem to do that on buses.

On the way to the bus stop, via the Visitor Information Office, we came upon a load of old rope. Literally. Every year in Naha, there is a Giant Tug of War involving up to 15,000 people. Liesel and I would have had a go, but the sign said not to.

The biggest rope in the world
The legend

One thing we’ve noticed is that, if you ask for bus related information, people are very helpful in telling you which bus stop to use, and what time to expect the bus, but they seem strangely reluctant to divulge the bus number. If the bus is due at 12:10, you get on the one that turns up at 12:10 and hope you’ll be OK.

We walked through the Ocean Expo Park, past the Aquarium, said hello to the captive manatees and turtles, and made our way to Emerald Beach.

We walked down these nnn steps (forgot to count)
American manatee sent as a gift from Mexico

And it didn’t disappoint. It is very pretty, no motorway to spoil the view. We were surprised to see that you’re only allowed to swim in the sea between April and October. Well, it looked pretty calm today but again, nobody was in the water. Indeed, there were signs all over the place telling people that it was forbidden to go into the water.

Health and safety gone mad, was the tabloid phrase that came to mind. Then I saw the poster depicting the reasons. Box jellyfish have a nasty sting, cone shells are venomous, sea snakes are venomous, you can be impailed by long-spined sea urchins, stone fish (which look like algae-covered rocks) can sting, blue-ringed octopus are venomous, lionfish have poisonous pectoral fins and striped eel catfish can sting. We stayed well away from the water just in case an octopus with a particularly long tentacle tried to grab us.

Emerald Beach
Holy mackerel, stay out of the water

Instead of swimming, or even paddling, we sat on the beach and read for a while, wondering if it would rain. The clouds began to look menacing and the temperature did fluctuate, but it never really felt like a storm was on the way. I went for a quick solo walk and marvelled at the beach and the small number of people here. Again, the sand was very coarse, and there was a lot of broken coral. Some of it was quite soft. I assume that this too was damaged by the typhoons a couple of months ago, and it’s still being washed up onto the beaches.

The time came when we had to go home. From 4pm, there were only three more buses back to Naha. By now, we were too late for the 4pm one, so we walked slowly up the hill and the steps and even used the outdoor escalators to find ourselves at the bus stop in good time for the 4.39. We did see an octopus in the end, but he’s quite a harmless fellow.

Octopus? More like a quadropus

We boarded the bus, paid the fare (usually, you pay when you get off) and sat down.

When the bus was 50 metres down the road, we realised we’d left the green shopping bag on the seat by the bus stop. Usually the green bag has snacks in it, or shopping, or rubbish. Today, it also contained the internet. I’d left the pocket wifi with Liesel while wandering around the beach area and so it was transferred to the green bag away from its usual home, in my famous manbag. By the time the bus had travelled another 50 metres, Liesel had told the driver to stop and he did so. I’m waiting for Guinness to ratify this claim, but I ran all the way back to the bus stop, picked up the bag and ran all the way back, 200 metres, in 17.8 seconds. Admittedly, it was a humid day and I broke sweat slightly, but that’s not a bad achievement for an old fart like me.

We found a restaurant, Ethnic Vegan LaLa Zorba where we enjoyed a good curry. The musical accompaniment was mainly Anandmurti Gurumaa (Hare Krishna) and Bob Dylan, although we did hear John and Yoko’s Happy Xmas (War is Over). Did Yoko ever find her daughter Kyoko, do we know?

Did I mention it? Yes, the curry was very nice, very tasty.

Taking it easier the following day, our first Japanese dance lesson went very well, thanks for asking.

Dance steps 101

We took the monorail to Onoyama Park where we spent an enjoyable couple of hours. We walked slowly, observed a group of old men (even older than me, according to Liesel) playing baseball.

Old fogeys’ baseball

We sat for a while and watched the children playing in the playground. It would be lovely to bring Martha and William here, if only so I’d have an excuse to climb to the top of the very long slide.

Young kiddies’ slide

There’s a running track through the park that is marked with distances and is very slightly cushioned. It was a warm day, but even some of the runners were wearing leggings and two or three layers on top. I was dressed sensibly, shorts and shirt, but I resisted the temptation to try and beat my 200 metres PB from yesterday.

Ms. They’re like M&Ms but half the size

We perambulated in an orderly manner alongside the river and crossed the bridge.

You shall not pass (we did)

We eventually found ourselves back on Kokusai Dori, so went into Edelweiss for coffee and cake. Edelweiss, Edelweiss, every morning you eat me.

There were some strange things on show in the shops and we are so glad that we’d already decided not to buy any of it.

ET and Jaws together at last
Not for us, thanks
Ho ho ho, Merry Christmas, everybody

Yes, Christmas is all over the place, no getting away from it, here. It feels strange: it’s November, but very warm, 23°C, 72°F, so it doesn’t feel at all Christmassy. Hearing Silent Night performed that fast doesn’t help with the Christmas mood, either!

Too Shy

I felt the need to go for a long walk. Fukuoka is a big old town and I thought I’d wander over to the docks, stop by at the onsen for a hot bath before going back to the hotel.

Yes, it’s a big city but the most interesting, picturesque places are by the rivers.

Fukuoka
Confluence
One of the more interesting buildings

I wandered through a park where I came across a disused open-air theatre.

Open-air theatre

The most disappointing thing I saw though was a couple of homeless people. We were just talking about this a couple of days ago: where do all the homeless people in Japan go? We hadn’t seen any in Tokyo, or Kyoto, anywhere. Maybe there are none. Maybe everyone is looked after? But I saw a man and a lady today, each pushing a supermarket trolley full of plastic bags of stuff. These people looked a bit shabby too, which is most unusual.

Liesel missed out when I visited the art gallery. A collection of impressionist paintings on loan from the Burrell collection usually based in Glasgow.

The sign on the wall said it was OK to take pctures, but no flash, no tripod, no selfie stick. But I was told off when I tried to take a picture of the van Gogh painting.

A voyage to impressionism

I walked towards the docks but it was heavily industrialised, not a place to go for a walk, so I never did see the sea. Instead, I went to the onsen. Such a disappointment. I only have myself to blame, of course, for not even trying to learn some basic Japanese. But surely, if I go into a public bath, it’s pretty obvious what I’m there for? The receptionist pointed me in the direction of the café area. But I couldn’t even see how to order a cup of tea, if I wanted one. A few guys were sitting there with towels around their necks. But I couldn’t see where to go, for lockers, to pay, to take my clothes off, nothing. Too shy, shy, hush, hush, eye to eye. Very disappointed with myself but there are plenty of other public baths.

The docks are way, way over there somewhere

So, I thought to myself, I’ll go for a massage instead. I looked one up, followed directions and oh my goodness, I know I was still close to the dock area at this point, but this wasn’t the kind of massage I was looking for.

Another bridge

I walked back to the hotel where I had a bit of a lie down!

William looking good, happy birthday xx

Meanwhile, back in the UK, lovely William was celebrating his first birthday. We won’t miss his second, it’s too hard!

And so, on to our next port of call. The name of it has proved to be a bit of a mental block for me. Kajagoogoo. No. Kamikazi. Kama sutra. It’s on the tip of my tongue but I just can’t remember what it’s called.

To be fair, it’s not just Japanese place names I have such problems with. There was that night a couple of years ago when I was awake for hours trying to remember the name of Sherlock Holmes’s nemesis. Yes, I know it’s Moriarty. But I couldn’t recall it that night. Montgomery, Montmorency, Mycroft (close but…), Moorcroft, Moorcraft, on and on.

And while out walking the streets of Fukuoka yesterday, I kept thinking of Cosa Nostra, Kate O’Mara, cash ‘n’ carry.

Every time we pack, we think we have too much stuff. We walked to the station having a late breakfast slash early lunch on the way. Hard Rock Café, as it happens, salad and chips, always a good combination.

Today’s journey on the Shinkansen would be our final train ride in Japan, on this occasion. Such a shame it only took an hour and a half to get to kalamati, no, Kalahari, grrr…

Kagoshima. It’s Kagoshima, of course.

Our Airbnb host, Jin, picked us up from the station, took us to our apartment, way up on the fifth floor and there’s no lift. He introduced us to the local greengrocer, told us how good the chicken was, told us where we could get chicken sushimi for only 100, very cheap.

I went for a walk to confirm that I would be able to find the local hot bath tomorrow Yes, there’s one here too, just a two minute walk away, and I will persevere this time.

Sun sets, shrine appears on the hill

We should be used to it by now, but when the Sun sets here, it sets good and proper. No messing about with twilight and all that nonsense.

We look forward to exploring this place, Kagoshima, Kagoshima, more fully tomorrow!

Nachi Falls

The rain overnight was torrential, really loud and every now and then, it became louder. There was a steady drip drip drip somewhere that could have been someone playing a bongo extremely rhythmically and loudly. It was still raining when it was time to get out of bed. When I say, get out of bed, I mean, get up off the tatami mats that we were sleeping on.

Tatami mats OK. Being on the floor, not so much!

I don’t know why it should be so much harder to get up off the floor, but it is. My theory is that Japanese people do this every day from a very young age, build up very strong thigh muscles and then become sumo wrestlers.

I was very glad that I spent much of my youth practicing the fine art of origami. A passing knowledge is required if you want to make filter coffee. The thin cardboard handles unfold so the filter bag hangs into the cup.

Making coffee in a Moomin mug

Our plans to visit Nachi Falls looked like they biting the dust. The rain finally petered out after 11.00. By this time, Liesel was engrossed in a TV show on her phone, and I was messing up Soduko puzzles again. I really seem to have lost the Soduko mojo lately.

In the end, I visited the waterfall on my own. Nachi Falls is 133 metres high, the tallest in Japan. It’s a train and a bus ride away.

At Nachi Station, I passed time waiting for the bus by going for a quick walk on the beach. The clouds looked adorable, so nice and cute: just fluffy children’s drawings of clouds, nothing like the big, black angry ones that had been precipitating all night.

Nice beach at Nachi plus clouds
More clouds

There’s a fine memorial at the station for the man who brought Association Bootball to Japan. Again, I think my translating app needs some tweaking.

Let’s remember Nakamura Yoshiyuki
You get the gist…

The bus ride to the falls was quite long, so it’s a good job we’d already decided not to walk it. The site, and sight, is stunning and greatly revered by the local people by the looks of it.

Nachi Falls
Not a bad time exposure with the phone

A lot of water comes down but only a small stream trickled by where the people gathered.

I started walking up the stone steps towards the Kumano Nachi Taisha Grand Shrine but I could see the clouds were coming down fast and it was getting dark, plus I really didn’t want to miss the bus back.

Shoe car? Bike? Skateboard? Segway? Rollerskates?
The clouds are coming down as I’m going up

The bus system is totally different from any other one I’ve been on. While people are paying the driver and getting off at the front, you get on at the back and take a ticket from the machine. If you don’t know what the fare is, it doesn’t matter, because it’s shown on the laser display unit at the front of the bus.

What’s the story….?

Your ticket has a number on it, such as 3 or maybe 6, and this number corresponds with the numbers on the displayed grid. Each number has an amount underneath which represents the fare you would pay if you were to get off at the next stop. But if you stay on the bus, you’ll see the amount increase underneath your number and thus, if you were counting out the money so that you could tender the exact fare, you would have to recalculate. It’s like watching the fare in a taxi go up and up at a ridiculous rate, only there are six such numbers. Well, six for a while, then, as the journey progresses, it turns into a 3×4 grid, that is to say, there are now 12 possible different fares for people to pay, if they each joined the bus at a different location and thus received a ticket with a different number from each other. And the fares don’t go up by fixed amounts, either, oh no, sometimes the increase is 30, sometimes 50 yen and occasionally there are other odd increments. Sometimes two adjacent numbers might incur the same fare for a short while. But there is plenty of time in which to count out the coins so that you can get rid of as many as possible, thus reducing the weight of money in your pocket. You want it to be correct. So when the time comes and you’ve arrived at your destination, you stand up, walk to the front, try to hand the driver the correct fare. But no. There’s a plastic box there into which you drop the coins along with the ticket. Inside this box, there is a slow-moving conveyor belt taking the takings to, presumably, some sort of counting and checking device. But that doesn’t matter because, as I said, the conveyor belt moves quite slowly, so by the time it’s sucked in your final coin and your ticket, you are well away from the bus.

Also, I don’t know if it’s because many of the roads here are quite narrow and so the buses have to be narrow too, but there are only three seats across rather than the expected four plus the aisle.

Ooh, I didn’t realise Martha was driving the bus
Three seats across

Liesel did some laundry, thank you, and then she washed some fish. Obviously, we couldn’t put fish in the tumble dryer, that’s a ridiculous thing to do, so where’s the best place to hang them up to dry? Oh I know: the railway station.

Fish hanging in Shingu Railway Station

The following day, we packed and moved on to Kyoto. And not just to get away from the fish at Shingu station.

I realised that the Sudoku puzzles I’d got wrong were designated ٭٭٭٭٭٭ which is very, incredibly, almost impossibly difficult. I completed a few ٭٭٭ ones to prove to myself that I still had some basic skills and then, finally in the evening, I conquered a ٭٭٭٭٭٭ puzzle and celebrated with a minor fist pump.

But one thing I never did conquer in Shingu was this:

More functions than a party planner

You think Google Translate is funny? What about Google Maps when it hasn’t a clue:

It’s a mystery

After dumping our stuff in the hotel room, we went for a quick walk. Yes: hotel. Something big must be going on here, all the Airbnbs are booked up and at Shin-Osaka Station, there were hundreds of students gathered, going somewhere. Another mystery, eh, Google?

Cycling by the Kamo River at sunset