“Half the fun of travel is the esthetic of lostness.” ~ Ray Bradbury
Back on the road this considerably cooler Saturday. Celebrating all that is J today… the journey, the jokes, the jumps, the joyrides. We realize today that our love of wandering the more off-the-beaten-track, is perhaps evident in the DNA gene pool. An email from Trace’s Mum last night paints a vivid picture of where her parents currently are…
Hi! Arrived in downtown Walgett. Left at 8.30am and arrived at 5.10pm. Same drive tomorrow and will stop in Bourke for lunch and into Wilcannia around 5.00pm. Now for the description of our accommodation. High fence with barbed-wire on top, Alsatian patroling grounds, big padlock on the front gate. The pool area is VERY small and has a 10ft fence around it and the biggest chain and padlock I’ve ever seen. This motel is very run down but as there are only 2 places in this town and the other motel was full, Dad had to book this one. I hope I can get to sleep tonight. Wish you were here!!!!! Just kidding.
So do we! Just kidding. They are on their way to Wilcannia, population 596, which is a place we want to visit, even if it’s just for the name… which is actually an Aboriginal word meaning ‘wild dog’. We are sure Tracey’s mum is thrilled. This is not the way they usually travel having only last week been in a luxury 5 star resort at the Gold Coast – but a sense of fun and adventure, and with Trace’s dad planning the itinerary, you never know where you are going to end up. Bringing all the excitement and joy into roadtripping. And to be honest, we really do wish we were on the road to the outback with them both. Just our type of trip. We’ll be thinking of the pair of you visiting those cattle stations, some of them 20 kms from the front gate to the homestead, and the neighbours who visit by flying their helicopter over. Kind of a hassle if you just want to borrow a little sugar. Love. It.
But back to our J places today, some out of the way, some well-trodden. And certainly a celebration of the J country we call home. If you’ve missed the first bit you can backtrack to A, B, C, D E, F, G, H & I. Today we travel to heaven and hell, through rice fields and ice, experiencing nature, revelling in it’s surprises and eye-opening landscapes. Buckle-up for J.
Alberta, Canada. Jasper is the largest and most northerly Canadian rocky mountain national park, part of a spectacular World Heritage Site. In this special corner of Canada we enjoyed the serene beauty of Mount Edith Cavell, experienced Athabasca Glacier and will never forget the view of the Valley of the Gods and Spirit Island. It’s 10,878 square kilometres of broad valleys, rugged mountains, glaciers, forests, alpine meadows and wild rivers along the eastern slopes of the Rockies in western Alberta. Memories: Pyramid Mountain reflections, wondering why a Matron of the Belgium Red Cross got a big peak in Canada as a moniker, Angel Glacier and iceberg lake, Whistler’s Mountain, Medicine Lake, one of the best roadtrips of our lives.
Nagano, Japan. Jigokudani literally means Hell Valley, however it is the closest thing to heaven on earth for a spoiled group of monkeys who live there. Jigokudani Yaen-Koen may be the only place in the world where wild monkeys can be observed bathing in their own natural hot spring. It’s situated in the Joshinetsu Plateau National park in northeastern Nagano Prefecture. As the home of this lucky group of Japanese Macaques, the park provides a unique opportunity to witness the wild monkeys in their natural habitat. The Japanese Macaque lives the farthest north of any primates excluding human beings. We hiked up the trial in knee-deep snow to see this unique sight, sat amongst them to make us trust them (tried to be the macaque Dian Fossey), and froze for hours while they relaxed in thawing hot-springs. So who are the clever ones again? Memories: don’t make eye contact, don’t feed them, babies having far too much enthusiasm for checking out our camera equipment, the one who stole Trace’s camera bag and wouldn’t give it back, the peaceful looks as they relaxed in the hot springs. These photos taken way before digital made an appearance. FILM DAYS … so there are loads more photos needing to be scanned from the old slides. One day…
Hokkaido, Japan. Another valley of hell. Some 18km east of Toya-ko and nestling amid lush, green mountain slopes, ripped through by a bubbling wasteland of volcanic activity, lies Noboribetsu. This small resort is Hokkaido’s top hot-spring destination (and has huge, unsightly hotels to prove it). We came to a roadside shrine guarded by two brightly painted statues of demons. This is the entrance to Jigokudani (Hell Valley) a steaming, lunar-like valley that is the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. We explored the area, wandering along wooden pathways through a landscape of rusty red rocks, streaked green and white by mineral deposits. Decided to hike up the mountain pathway to Oyu-numa , a malevolent-looking hot-water lake which looks exactly what you’d expect to find in somewhere called “hell”, only to find a parking lot right next to it. We stayed at the Dai-ichi Takamoto-kan (29 different kinds of hot springs). But our favourite was the main onsen bath hall, supported by Roman pillars, which had a sweeping view across Jigokudani. Memories: way too much nudity, steam, very bad sulphur smells, a slightly insane dinner buffet, mooning fellow guests, an amazing landscape.
Indonesia. UNESCO World Heritage rice terraces of Indonedia. There is no doubt that Jatiluwih is among one of the most beautiful places and can offer some of the best scenery on the entire island of Bali. The place has a particular charm even if the weather, which can change dramatically within minutes, is rainy and cloudy. Everywhere you look you see green rice fields and rice terraces, combined with high mountains and forests. On clear days you may see large parts of southern Bali. Or you could if you actually arrive during daylight hours and not the pitch black of night, needing the toilet dramatically. Temple toilets closed. Restaurant closed. Toilet adventures behind a shed. Pointing the camera in the general direction of the terraces and leaving the sutter open for as long as possible to get these shots that we couldn’t see see with the naked eye. Luckily the camera could show us what the eye couldn’t. It was nice to know what we were standing in front of…
We’ve been here 14 years. How can you put that into a paragraph? We’ve learnt the complex art of bowing (15 degrees) and how to use a Japanese bath. How to live here as a ‘gaijin’ and how to understand mi’e culture (image is everything). We now always ‘apologize’ first before we do anything, and fight the urge daily of becoming ‘futsuu’ (average – nobody wants to be an individual…). We are now full of ‘consideration’ (kikubari), especially in jam-packed trains, and try not to make eye-contact with too many people. We have lots of ‘gaman’ and play rock paper scissors like professionals. We’ve experienced traditional culture – tea ceremonies, festivals, onsens – and had kitsch adventures in karaoke boxes, love hotels and Hello Kitty shops. Tokyo Disneyland is an annual pilgrimage. We rush to see the cherry blossoms or the autumn leaves with the other thousands of tourists at the first hint of the change of seasons. We’ve visited temples and shrines, been to weddings and funerals, traveled the coastlines and mountains and can still hardly speak a word of the language. Everyone finds their own vision of Japan. We’ve certainly found ours. Memories: Our memoirs are on their way….