Author: GOAT 山羊

The Highest Man in Hokkaido

Hey, folks. First of all today, would you like to see my Nikkas? Happy to oblige. First, here’s one of the pair of convenient travel-sized bottles I bought in the gift shop just before boarding the cable car up the side of Asahi-Dake a few days ago. The kind lady even wrapped each one in bubble-wrap without me even asking: And here’s one I took last night as I walked home from dinner to my third (and best) capsule hotel, here in Sapporo, Hokkaido. This is at the other end of the Nikka size spectrum: I do believe in the responsible consumption of ‘alcohol,’ even in the mountains, just like the authorities in Japan. Me, I like to keep the manner, and I do my best swearing in private: That gondola: I don’t really believe in the things. They’re like bridges to islands — they kinda mess with definitions. If you can fly halfway up the side of a mountain in minutes, is it still a mountain? But dang, that pack of mine was heavy. …

Flying by Falcon, Rocking with Rose

Travelling in Japan is all about the trains — well, except for those annoying mountain-hiking parts. The whole country is a train-spotter’s paradise, with prizes including the almost obscenely streamlined Hayabusa, one of the fastest shinkansen (“bullet trains”) in Japan… ..within which I sped yesterday from Tokyo to Aomori in the extreme north of the main island of Honshu, and the Hamanasu… ..at the opposite end of the train-technology spectrum, which rocked and rollicked through the night, beneath the Tsugaru Strait to emerge onto vast Hokkaido, Japan’s second-largest island. Even the names are cool. Hayabusa means peregrine falcon, and Hamanasu is the Japanese rose, Rosa rugosa,a name which captures its rambling, exuberant energy, even if it’s not especially macho name for a train. I’m typing this aboard the final phase of my Daisetsuzan-bound railway odyssey (there’s still a bus to go after that), a Super Kamui Limited Express from Sapporo to Asahikawa. A quick check suggests that kamui translates as “divine or powerful”. This seems like a favourable omen before my upcoming excursion. That ride aboard the falcon …

Good Things Come in Eighty-Eights: My Latest & Greatest Japanese Odyssey

Konnichiwa from Nippon, folks! I’m tapping this on my laptop, via some sweet Japanese wifi technology, from a table in my favourite Starbucks, right next to the park in Kichijoji, Tokyo. I got in to Narita last night on a half-empty flight via Cairns, and crashed in an airport hotel room smaller than my bedroom at home. Dinner was omu rice, some inari zushi, a “steam cake” and a big-ass can of Sapporo beer, in one hit checking four favourite konbini (convenience store) culinary delights on my to-eat list. I’m here for 88 days — nope, not in this Starbucks; that would be excessive. In Japan, I mean. I wanted to make the most of my 90-day tourist visa, and I’m covering a fair bit of ground, old and new, revisiting some favourite old haunts and walking some new paths. Let me backtrack, briefly. My American plans have been put on hold for some personal and legal reasons I won’t go into here. It was a rough year, and I hit rock bottom for several months. …

Leader of the Pack

“Hey, little dudes! How’s it goin’?” My magpie welcoming party always assembles the same way: one sharp-eyed individual — The same one each time? Who can say? — leaves its fellows, takes to the air, and swoops low over the grass to bank and land with breathtaking pizzaz just in front of me: By the time its relatives have spied my approach and joined the party, the first arrival has usually burst into that ecstatic warble that is such a familiar presence in the Australian landscape, rural and urban, beginning before dawn and continuing at irregular intervals till the sun goes down or even later: The tribe takes up position. There are always at least a dozen, usually several more, and several of these will herald my return with an infectious and oft-repeated eruption of glorious song, puffing out their chests till they seem set to explode, tilting back their heads, pointing their formidable beaks at the sky as they sing. It’s the largest group I’ve ever observed — “our” magpies at home form a tight family …

The Truth About Flathead Lies

The tide was low, the air crisp and a winter sunrise was stirring the embers beyond Moreton Island as I approached the mouth to Cabbage Tree Creek. A lone fisherman in waders stood near the jetty, knee deep in salt water and presumably somewhat deeper in concentration: The cruising pelicans I’d hoped to encounter were absent; I walked out onto the jetty and introduced myself to another photographer I’d seen ambling around the headland on several equally sublime mornings, an air-traffic controller called Mike who was getting in some shooting before driving to work and an undoubtedly less tranquil scene. Mike enjoyed a cigarette while we chatted about cameras and lenses and travel. The fisherman had moved a little further downstream when next I noticed him. Mike commented about the gorgeous colours reflected in the creek surface; we fired off a few shots and I went back down the bank to get closer — “zooming with the feet” as we zoom-less users of prime lenses like to put it: Mike and I weren’t the only …

Waiting for the Sun

It took more than the usual fortitude to head out the door into the pre-dawn blackness yesterday. For days the weather reports had forecast our first dose of indubitably “wintry” weather: a “polar [or Antarctic] vortex” was bulldozing its way north, with rumours of rare snow in far-southeastern Queensland and (for Queenslanders) a daunting maximum temperature of 15C (59F). It wasn’t the cold that I dreaded, but the accompanying severe winds. Although I hoped they’d whip up some photogenically frothy waves on the high tide coinciding with sunrise, their immediate effect was to dust my eyeballs with swirling grit, and I had to wear sunglasses in the dark till I left my street and cut across the park towards Cabbage Tree Creek. The creek mouth was a disappointment. Although the conditions had left the area agreeably deserted, there was no more froth on the waves than atop your standard morning latte, and I decided to climb the road to the crest of Shorncliffe. I’d been meaning to photograph the pier reconstruction project from above with the …

Like a Duck to Water

I sometimes tell people I “grew up on and around boats,” and it’s true — but I always hasten to add that they should not infer from that any competence or affinity with things nautical. Nope, sadly, though I like the idea of boats, enjoy looking at them, photographing them and (in ideal conditions) travelling on them, I’m a dyed-in-the-nylon landlubber at heart and could no more sail a boat with any competence than I could pilot an aircraft. This despite a childhood in which at least five increasingly impressive vessels took shape under our house or in the backyard and were launched a few paces away into Moreton Bay, or down the road a few minutes into the local creek. I don’t know what sparked my father’s interest in boats — he grew up in rural Victoria and northern Queensland — but he always had a talent for constructing things (our house, for example — even our caravan!) and he worked as a boilermaker constructing big steel ferries, trawlers and working boats. At home, as …

Psychedelic Sandgate

Hey, folks. Just a warning before we get started: Better don your best protective goggles before proceeding. Wouldn’t want to be responsible for any burnt retinas or other eye damage. Please keep in mind I actually de-saturated many of these pictures as I dislike overly intense sunrise/sunset shots. But Mother Nature doesn’t always obey the laws of good taste and moderation. Sometimes she just likes to let loose with her full special-effects arsenal… Things have been going well lately and my recently restored enthusiasm for walking and picture-making continues, boosted with my latest camera gear (not used for these shots, which were taken pre-purchase with my reliable old Sony NEX 5N and its beautiful 24mm 1.8 lens, plus a few using an older, way more beat-up 5N and a cheap 16mm wide-angle). I’ve been having sleep problems again that I’m learning to live with. Vivid, entertaining dreams (nightmares are actually welcome as for years I never dreamed at all) from which I’ll suddenly bust free, startled, into wide-awakeness at, say, 1:30, 2:00 or 3:00. If I’m feeling sensible …

Scene from a Stroll #12: Don Quixote at the Seaside

The present was hard enough to deal with so that you couldn’t very well handle the notion of the future. He had noticed that it arrived in daily increments without any effort ~ Jim Harrison, Brown Dog Hi, all. It’s been a while since my last Scene from a Stroll — three years, in fact, way back in deepest, darkest South Korea! This shot, taken yesterday morning… ..is a way of buying me a little more time while I finish my almost-ready “real” post — and of introducing you to my new camera, which I’d only received two days before. I’ll tell you more about it soon — at the moment I’ve still got a long way to go till I know what it can do. The Sony, er, “manual” was typically woeful, and what I have learned has come from a lot of internet trawling, plus a fair bit of walking around with it, pressing buttons, twisting dials, and pointing it anything that moves or, more helpfully, doesn’t. But I can already feel the …

A Sunset Swim in Pelican Country

I just had a helluva week of walking and photography, one of my best ever. Just about every morning and evening last week I managed a beautiful, productive and fulfilling excursion to one of three or four favourite local rambling spots. Each day I did 6-10 miles, sometimes more. Some was familiar territory: the Boondall Wetlands, Cabbage Tree Creek, the Pine Rivers mouth. Some was new, like my first real chance to take pictures in thick pre-dawn fog over the waterfront, and my first proper (though short) missions down the mangrovey south bank of the Pine. But even the old places shone. I managed several really nice images, tried lots of variations, saw them in new conditions, or enjoyed those happy collisions with chance that make photography so unpredictable and fun. Unfortunately I got home each night pretty beat (often my day had started at 3:30 or so, and I’m trying to resist the urge to nap), and other than uploading the pictures, got little else done — certainly no danged blog posts. So tonight I’m employing a strategy …

Starpower: The Mudflat Tumbleweeds

See them tumbling down Pledging their love to the ground Lonely but free I’ll be found Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds. Cares of the past are behind Nowhere to go but I’ll find Just where the trail will wind Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds ~ ‘Tumbling Tumbleweeds’ by Bob Nolan There was a period there where I was drifting along the Sandgate mudflats, with or without the tumbling tumbleweeds, just about every day. Sometimes when the tides cooperated I’d find myself out there in both periods of twilight bookending my drifter’s day. I had a long break from the flats — it was hot, and how many hundreds of mudflat photos does a man need? — but now as the most delightful period of walking weather in these parts is here again, I’ve found myself drifting back. Surely a few hundred more shots of frothy incoming tides, rippled sand and the cosmic fireworks of an incipient or dying sun can’t hurt… For a little while I had some unusual company on the sand, or …

A Korean Flashback #4: A Dog-Forsaken Land

So here we are, flashbacking/flashing back to a generally unhappy period of my life again. Why? Perspective is a funny thing. I’m way more miserable lately, but at least my Korean prediament was alleviated by the promise of something exciting to live for at the end of it. It’s weird, but putting together these little collections, even when they’re not exactly uplifting, is distracting from the occasionally bleak present I occupy right now. Enough of that — there’s enough misery in this post, but it’s not mine, and just maybe it’s leavened here and there by glimpses of something else in the eyes of my charismatic assemblage of subjects. I did a Korean Flashback — which is my way of breaking from the regular seaside-wandering stuff I’m sharing of late, while mining some of the thousands of un-shared shots and stories from my two years in that country — a little while back about cats, and it’s easily the most-viewed, most commented-upon post I’ve ever done. That post, Where the Kitties Get No Pity, was featured on Freshly …

Meet Stumpy the Mangrove & Friends

Hey, folks. Well, my little dwelling is looking a lot better — arguably better than it did pre-maelstrom. My parents and I moved most of the mud and water out over a couple of draining days in which despair always lurked close by, ready to pounce, and it was a good excuse for some more downsizing. In fact I’ve downsized to the point where my place looks almost Japanese in its simplicity. I sit on the floor now, which sounds worse than it is, as I sat on the floor at mealtimes for three and a half years in Japan and two more in Korea. It’s very…grounding. My blue couch, an unlovely but very comfortable thing I scored for a hundred bucks or so at a local op shop (thrift store) years ago — and whose cushions I saved to soften the zone between butt and tiled floor — has now joined the piles of flood-damaged stuff lining the road on our end of the street, where there’s still a car or two standing open-doored and …

A Lake in the Living Room

Let’s live where the indoors and the outdoors meet ~ Silver Jews, Like Like the the the Death This is the part where my love affair with Mud is put to the test… A post was meant to surface here on TGTW four days ago, one I’d written before bailing for Moreton Island on Monday and arranging to publish in my absence via the magic of Schedule. Let me explain with an extract from “The Post That Never Was”: Hey, folks. Thanks to the miracle of the Schedule button on my blog dashboard, you should be reading this on Wednesday my time while I am trudging in a very sensible clockwise direction, far from any wifi signal or power outlet, round the world’s third-largest sand island: Well, the Schedule function at WordPress has one potentially negative characteristic: It doesn’t always work. (Just Google and see). As I now know. There I was over there in my sandy paradise, two days after setting out — clockwise, exactly according to plan — thinking with no little satisfaction, “Yup, she oughtta be …

A Very Mangrovey Retreat

One of the pleasures of blogging for someone who loves English is that, since you play largely by your own rules (and those of one’s WordPress overlords, of course), you can take certain liberties with the language. I’m pretty old-school about vocabulary and the Immutable Laws of Grammar & Punctuation, but it’s a blog, not The Times. So when I employ a sweet new adjective (seemingly) of my own design, and use it not once but seven times (counting this post) — I just checked — I feel that in my own modest way I have enriched both the language and the culture, hopefully till the end of time. Mangrovey was my gift to the world. Or so I thought, till out of curiosity, after coming up with this post heading, I did a quick Google. What a come-down. My own use of the word did not turn up till the fourth page of the search results! People have been having mangrovey experiences all over the globe (or at least those parts of it that …

A Korean Flashback #3: At Peace Among the Korean War Dead

The Korean War of 1950-1953 is probably more obscure for most non-Koreans — especially younger ones — than the older but far crazier, bigger, badder war of 1939-1945, and definitely than the more recent and oft-Hollywoodised Vietnam conflict. And what many westerners do “know” about Korea, they probably gleaned from eternal repeats of the M.A.S.H. sitcom. I never liked M.A.S.H. and anyway, it always seemed to me to be more about the Vietnam War than the Korean — I would even guess that many viewers thought they were watching yet another Vietnam show. The only time during my stint in Korea (as a teacher, not a soldier, although there were similarities) I was reminded of the sitcom war was one hot afternoon midway through my 13-day “Goat Killer Trail” death march up the roads of the Korean east coast. Passing this beautiful little ridge beyond some paddies as the sun-baked road hooked mercifully back towards the sea… ..I was reminded of those scrubby, arid hills stretching away beneath the dusty bubbles of those M.A.S.H. helicopters. In other words, it looked like a …

This Year’s Model

Another nostalgia hit, folks, mingled with a bit of  the usual seaside stomping. Been doing a lot of wandering, mentally speaking, through landscapes of the past and future, steering well clear of the here-and-now when possible. Never been much good at the zen thing, ‘cept when digging in a garden bed, hauling myself up a trail or maybe squinting through a viewfinder… I got my Christmas package from Kate a few days ago. You might call that weird — we prefer to call it “express delivery”. It’s been our long-running joke that hopefully my Christmas present would get here in time for my birthday (in June), but really, I was just glad to have something to look forward to. Life’s been pretty dull for a long while, and it was great to have the break from my daily routine. I took the box, with its U.S. $54 in stamps (no wonder Kate had to wait — that’s a tank-full of gas) down to the waterfront to open. The tide was out and it’d been a while since …

Unexpectedly Spring: Some Snowmelt Reflections

Well, the snow is starting to melt and the air smells like spring…  That’s how Kate’s email began this morning (yesterday afternoon New York time). I was at once overcome with envy and nostalgia for that revivifying time when you feel the change in the air like the scent of hope and you know you’ve made it through the harshest of seasons. Pretty soon the first bulbs will be pushing through the melt-sodden earth. Here in Brisbane the harshest season is Summer, and we’re not through it yet; it seems to have saved its heaviest artillery for one bloody last stand. I don’t know if it’s age, my general malaise, or if all those southern summers I missed while living overseas made me soft, but I’ve really struggled with this latest one. Over in Upstate New York, of course, it’s been, by all accounts, an even harsher Winter than the one I lived through in 2014. That was the most consistently cold I’ve ever been, but it wasn’t just the temperatures, it was the grey, the gloom, the oppressive monotony of the …

What I Did at the Seaside: An Aimless Thousand Miles #3

The final instalment of Sandgate pictures taken over five months and a thousand miles of coastal rambling. There are a few stormy pictures here — appropriately, as this morning a late-season cyclone named Marcia shifted rapidly in severity from Category 1 to 5 (the worst) and crossed the Queensland coast near Yeppoon about 680km (422m) north of Brisbane. I broke my arm and ruptured an eardrum in Yeppoon when I was a kid. That put a damper on the family holiday and my lower left arm still doesn’t look right to me. Reports suggest quite a nasty streak of destruction up there. We’re getting a bit of rain down here and as the storm moves south (weakening as it goes) we should be in for some serious downpours tomorrow and beyond, coinciding nicely with some king tides, so local creeks and waterways will be ripe to bursting. Another cyclone just did its thing up in the Northern Territory at virtually the same time. This pair has arrived late in the season and apparently the late ones are …

What I Did at the Seaside: An Aimless Thousand Miles #2

Here we are, folks, second instalment of my three-parter about my five-month, 1,000-mile-plus multi-day-walk Sandgate (mostly) perambulation, or 5M1K+MDWS(M)P#2. No dreary saga of psychological turmoil this time, and the extra space (I try — and often fail — to keep my posts under 1,000 words, for my comfort as well as yours) means I can provide a little background info in the picture captions. Once again, the pictures are presented chronologically. 5M1K+MDWS(M)P#3 coming in three days’ time… ~ And that’s all the Goat wrote