All posts tagged: night

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The Backwards 88, Day 47: And Then, Suddenly, I Ran Out of Temples

Hey, all! Yes, the circle will be unbroken — thanks for asking. At 4:50 this afternoon I entered the temple gate at number 1, bringing me back to where I started, completing a 1,200- or 1,300km loop of Shikoku and a 47-day tour of 88 freakin’ temples. I guess I’m in pretty good shape for an old bastard as my sum total of aches and pains after all that tarmac-pounding and mountain stomping is: zero. In fact I was seldom tired for more than five minutes on the whole walk. Injuries: three missing toenails (keep your eye out), some degraded toe skin, aching knees when I woke yesterday — but they’re fine today. I think I’m getting good at this stuff! As Matt (a former henro along with his wife Nori) at Sen Guesthouse back in Matsuyama said when I was there, you’re just starting to get good at the whole thing and then you reach the end. A damned shame. I have all my rituals and routines down, and have nights in my tiny tent/bedroom/ office/base camp …

henro trail marker at dawn

The Backwards 88, Day 17: Under the Big Stone Hammer

MATSUYAMA, EHIME PREFECTURE Hey, all. Well, I’m 38 temples into my journey, having visited #51, Ishiteji (“Stone Hand Temple”), the day before yesterday, here in Matsuyama, and numbers 53 and 52 yesterday. Yes, out of order, which is due to some unforeseen good fortune two days ago. What we used to call Trail Magic on the Appalachian Trail. It was about time my luck changed. Let me set the scene. Overall, it’s been a rewarding journey, though one of the hardest I’ve done and I’m only a couple of weeks in. I do remind myself sometimes that I’m not the 42-year-old who finished the A.T. feeling the strongest I’d ever felt years back; I’m also lugging the kind of pack weight that helped me develop stress fractures back on the A.T. But it’s one of them thar lonesome trails you hear about, and even for me, a man used to solitude, this one pushes the boundaries at times. Doing the pilgrimage in reverse order would challenge the social life and sanity of even a Japanese person …

chubetsu-dake wildflowers

Just a Tiny Bit Lost in the Big Snowy Mountains

“I wasn’t lost; I just didn’t know where I was for a few weeks.” ~ Pioneer mountain man Jim Bridger This morning I was able to wash my one set of clothes for the first time since I’ve been in Japan — not counting the odd river-rinse or campground-sink cycle. I feel like a million dollars — or should that be 92,026,068.88 yen? I’m back in Tokyo as of last night, where I bunked down again at the first capsule hotel I stayed in (I’ve since slept in two other pods in Sapporo). Another night there tonight, this time in the mixed dormitory, since the male-only one was full. I don’t know why so many Japanese businessmen stay there, since the atmosphere is very western youth hostel, though pretty quiet, with European longhairs lying about and piles of crap all over the hallway floor. But it’s cheap. Even with all those transient gaijin, 30 bucks for a night in Tokyo is pretty damned good. Today’s a rest day — a zero as we’d say on the trail. …

two pelicans redcliffe

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 …

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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 …

mangroves & sunrise silhouette

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 …

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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 …

ted smout bridge

Beyond the Smout, Where the Pelicans Play

Apologies to subscribers who received this post twice, or weren’t able to access it the first time. After publishing, I realised a random date had been added to the post. I deleted it and am trying again! *          *          *          *          * Can we name bridges here in Brisbane or what? The first bridge linking Greater Brisbane with Redcliffe across the mouth of the Pine River and Hay’s Inlet was the Hornibrook (“horny brook“) Highway, which opened in 1935 and at almost 1.7 miles was the second-longest bridge in the world. After closing to cars in 1979, the structure remained as the world’s longest footbridge till 2010. Meanwhile the Houghton (“whore-tun” — that’s how I say it, anyway) Highway had been constructed and when it proved unable to cope with the increased traffic, a companion, the Ted Smout (that’s it in the featured image above), was opened in 2010 to carry Brisbane-bound traffic. A clever writer of limericks or dirty verse could …

Casuarina Abstraction #1

Casuarina Abstractions

Something a little lighter this time, folks, in both mood and word count, than the tale of The Shadow* — also a rather more pleasant view of the Boondall Wetlands than I presented last time. This little group of shots was taken on the return leg of a photo-run to the Wetlands a few days before Christmas. I’d had some muddy fun wading off-trail (well, there really isn’t much trail where I go apart from this) and finally made it back to the bike/walking path for the hour’s walk home. Yes, this is the same lonesome path I had to walk in the dark a few nights ago — in some ways it was a safer walk last time as there was no danger of becoming roadkill under the wheels of a speeding cyclist! All of these effects were done “in camera”, just playing with camera movement and shutter speed — well, except for the last one, in which the camera was stationary and so was I: I had to hold that pose for 20 seconds! Oh: the casuarina (cass-uh-REE-nuh). I’ve …

photographer on creek bank at night

An Eerie Encounter in the Mangroves

What’s the weirdest place you’ve ever bedded down in the outdoors? (Don’t answer if you’d be incriminating yourself.) I’ve laid down my bedroll in some pretty cool spots, not even counting the multitude of stealth-camps on or along the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails. Here’s a few that come to mind: Under bridges, foot-, local and highway, in Japan and Korea Numerous beaches and river banks Atop a rickety New Hampshire fire-tower Two Korean roadside bus shelters In the bushes in a Tokyo park A complete stranger’s front driveway (oops) in southern California A roadside shrine in Shikoku, Japan Second-highest summit in mainland Korea A hammock hung over a gushing stream near a Queensland mountain top A derelict bikers’ guesthouse in central Hokkaido, Japan A WWII bunker on Moreton Island A closed-for-Winter tourist park next to a frozen Hokkaido lake, underneath a giant fibreglass tyrannosaurus A building site on the steep side of a gorge in central Shikoku So when the chance came to add another interesting locale to the list, I was pretty excited. If …

gothic house & christmas lights, night

Steamy Nights, Christmas Lights

Hey, folks. Hope you all had an enjoyable Christmas. Perhaps you noticed the longer-than-usual break between posts — let’s blame the season. I’m not the biggest fan of December. I’ve traditionally associated it with searing temperatures too hot to walk in, lethargy, crass commercialism (I swear there was Christmas product in the stores this year not long after the Easter stuff had been taken down), over-eating, over-drinking, over-sleeping, bad TV, awful music (actually, there was far less of it this time after two Korean Christmases), endless, endless, endless sport and a weird feeling that I just don’t fit in. I always have that feeling, but it’s especially marked when I’m sailing solo through the Sea of Festivity. But it hasn’t been too bad, considering that this isn’t where I really wanted to be at this time. I recently changed my routine from an (insanely) early-morning stroll to a later start and more rambling around sundown. In part this was because I have more photographs of the planet coming to life than I know what to …

old o'reilly's hiking sign

Stranglers in the Forest: Green Mountain Haiku #1

A couple of months back, before it got too hot for all but deranged masochists to hike anywhere, my friend Chris Lynch borrowed his mother’s car, I downed a couple of Kwells to head off the inevitable car sickness, and we drove south a few hours to O’Reilly’s, the famous “rainforest retreat” set in the midst of mountainous Lamington National Park. It was a last-minute escape plan, and we only came up with a rudimentary course while poring over a tourist map minutes before leaving my place: two nights in the Green Mountains section, at unimproved bush campsites (read: no running water or toilets), with lots of rainforest walking and waterfalls in between. The pills worked, I arrived mildly stoned but nausea-free, and we left the car at the resort to set off down one of the numerous tracks that intersect, start or finish there. It was a fantastic trip — sometimes the hastily prepared ones are the best ones. Early on, as I apologised for stopping for yet another shot, Chris remarked, “Take your time. This …

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A Packable, Portable Halloween

Yesterday started weirdly even for me: awake around 2:30am and stepping out into blackness and perfect silence at exactly 3:30, since one of the features of my variety of insomnia is that I fall sleep easily but wake for no reason anywhere from a few to five or six (if I’m lucky) hours later. Wide awake, painfully awake. And it’s usually futile to lie there waiting for sleep to seep back in; might as well do something useful. For the last few weeks it’s been particularly bad. I do have a lot on my mind, and for part of every day there’s a knot of mild anxiety in my gut that vanishes completely when I’m lining up a shot, or enjoying a particularly sublime dawn, or thinking about long-term plans — even ideas for blog posts, believe it or not. Another annoying feature of my psychology is that my mind likes devising and settling into its own idiosyncratic rhythms. One day it figures, “This waking up hours before dawn caper is working out pretty damned …

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Synchronised Fireflies

Sometimes your mistakes are the best things you take home. Last week I was scurrying about on the rocks below Shorncliffe Pier in the last useable twilight, trying to take long exposures with my camera mounted on a tiny Gorillapod (a flexible plastic tripod). The tide was lapping at my ankles; the rocks were mossy, encrusted with sharp-edged shells, and very unfairly irregular when I really needed a flat surface.  The things I do to keep you folks entertained.

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The Dragonfly Boneyard

Do I have to apologise for hitting you with another dragonfly post? Has it come to that? Well, I hope not, because — “sorry” — there’s one more coming after this, and I can guarantee there’ll be more post-Korea. I took many hundreds of D.F. shots here that I’ll probably work on some more, and without giving anything away, I’ve been assured by a certain someone that there are going to be a lot more of these enigmatic critters in my future…

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A Sucker for a Sunset

Funny how I always seem to be walking north. Well, until I reach the end and turn around… Exams from Thursday till yesterday meant a nice, relaxing few days at work — for me. Exams over, student motivation plummets even lower than usual — and mine with it. My goal is to do nothing in class but play movies for the next month, and little between lessons but read, write, edit and post. Prepare for a Goat that Wrote tsunami!  Meanwhile, in the real world, I am beginning to wind up my affairs here in the Orient. Part of that is saying goodbye to my favourite local landmarks and paths. On Sunday I did a nice farewell hike up Big Ass Mountain. The golden autumnal weather just goes on and on, unbeatable rambling conditions. Let’s hope it hangs in there. Another part is dusting out the archives of unpublished Korean material while there’s still time, starting with the weekend before last, one of the top three or four in Korea for me. Really delightful weather, walking …

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Tokyo from Under the Bushes

PEAKS & PILGRIMAGE TOKYO, AUGUST 2013 It’s been a long haul but this post concludes my little Tokyo series. It’s time I embraced the here and now, or at least the here and not-too-many-months-ago. I can at last start on my daunting backlog of Korea posts, like all the lovely Autumn ones — now that Winter is moving in to shake the last of the colour from the maples and the town itself…

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A Phantom in the Forest

PEAKS & PILGRIMAGE TOKYO, AUGUST 2013 Somewhere back home I’ve got two paper journals, handsome volumes in which I used to write my Japanese hike reports. There are an even 50 — this was when my mountain mania was raging, with no cure in sight short of an unplanned plummet over a precipice. On the first page of one there’s a pencil rubbing (I believe that’s the word, unsavory as it sounds) of a kanji (Chinese character) from a well-weathered summit sign. The character is…

yellow illuminated lantern

Swinging Buddhas (Scene from a Stroll #11)

Hey, all. Just to show that there’s more to the mean streets of Jangyu than the trash and decay I highlighted in the last post, I thought I’d balance things out today with a bit of urban beauty. This is the first of my Scenes from a Stroll to feature more than one picture, but I think this lot work together as a series. And to tell the truth, I couldn’t bear to break up the set!