All posts tagged: pain & suffering

Handsome Little Devils: The Water Dragons Revisited

Hey, all. I’ve bitched about Summer on here more than once: the energy-sucking heat, of course; the harsh, high-contrast, drama-killing, colour-draining light (photographically speaking); the insanely early start required to reach the waterfront or creek bank in time for sunrise (just made it this morning by heading out the door at 4:10am); cricket; bad TV (I mean badder than usual, and not in a good way); Christmas… So why bludgeon you with more of the same? Let’s focus on the good side of the Sweltering South-East Queensland Summer: the basking. Not mine — I don’t bask well, except in my own glory. I’m talking about the lizards: I’m still slogging through the pictures from Japan and have completed the editing of half a dozen days’ worth from that 47-day epic, plus several shots, at least, from each of the others. When Day 28, for example, starts to drive me crazy, I jump over to Day 13 for some variety. At least six hours a day goes by like that. When my eyes start to hurt, …

The Welcome Committee

There were some things about getting home that were a definite improvement on Japan… ..but overall, this was the toughest time I’ve ever had leaving a country. Hey, all. Yup, back in Brisbane, as of Friday, and I’m just about recovered from the jetlag, lack of sleep on the plane (aisle seat + apparently weak-bladdered co-passengers = much annoyance) and I suppose the accumulated effects of all that walking. I’m still a little rundown, my walking speed has plummeted, and I’m pretty damned down over the end of another adventure. But all of those negatives are tempered by being home with my folks in a good place, and the satisfaction of getting so much done in those 88 days, including: My Daisetsuzan traverse in Hokkaido Climbs of Iwaki-San and Hakkoda-San, beautiful old volcanoes in northern Tohoku My first ascent of Yatsu-ga-Take, despite the cruddy weather A three-day return to the South Alps starting with Kita-Dake, Japan’s second-highest peak Lots of walking in and around the old capitals & temple heartlands of Kyoto & Nara Temple-rich …

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 …

The Backwards 88, Day 37: Peace, Hope & Pilgrim Smokes

Hey, all. Well, this one’s coming to you from a dark bench at a michi-no-eki (“road station”) called Tano-eki-ya that — so far (the night is young) — is my favourite of the trip. It’s right on the main street of the coastal Kochi town of Nahari/Tano, but it’s a sleepy town and no trucks are rattling past. There is an elevated railway line not many metres above my head, but this is the boonies and the trains are rare. The good points: dark, my tent is set up under cover right on the “porch”, there’s a Lawson’s Station konbini 50m away, toilets are close and clean (already washed today’s shirt, socks and unmentionables), and there’s this bench, with a power outlet right next to it. I can’t tell you how rare and delightful a discovery that is. All this beauty, insight and art from the oriental road requires a certain amount of elec-trickery to make it to your device of choice. Oh, and get this: A couple of hours ago, just after I arrived, a …

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 …

The Backwards 88, Day 8: Sandal Power in North-Eastern Shikoku

Greetings, folks, from rainy Kan’onji City on the western fringes of Kagawa Prefecture, Shikoku. If you’re the kind of weirdo who prefers kanji (Chinese characters), I’m here to help: 観音寺市. It’s the name of both the city and one of its two principle temples (the suffix -ji means temple). Kan’on or Kannon is a Buddhist goddess of mercy (and pets, apparently), much venerated along the Shikoku pilgrimage route: 29 of the 88 temples are dedicated to her. One unusual thing about this temple, #69, though, is that it adjoins #68, Jinnein, which meant a delightfully easy double whammy with which to start Day 8 today. I’m presently squandering that advantage by sitting here on my Z-Rest outside a 7-11, typing this long-overdue post and stealth-charging laptop, wifi hotspot and one of my arsenal of camera batteries. I haven’t tapped into a convenience store’s power outlet since I last wandered through Shikoku in 2008… (I don’t like supporting the evil 7-11 Corporation, currently in the news in Australia for ripping off their student workforce, but their stores are …

Escape from Tomuraushi/Insect Meditations

From a picnic table in the shade in Yoyogi Park, Tokyo, the conclusion of my Daisetsuzan saga… I went to sleep, or what passes for sleep at Club Mountaingoat, with the peace of mind that follows a few nips of Nikka whisky and a rare attack of good sense. Ahead lurked two more days of deeper penetration into the back-est of the Daisetsuzan backcountry; again I’d scanned the guidebook, looking for some hint of reward — terrific views, for example — to justify all those “hard”s, “long”s and “tough”s. I found nothing. Again. Outside, the mountain gods hurled volleys of horizontal rain against our pitiful shelters on crazed bursts of wind. I praised the stolid German craftsmen and women who’d manufactured such a sturdy little tent, and not for the first time saluted my own genius in leaving the syl-nylon tarp back in Australia. That merits another nip, my good man. Anyway, the decision was made, and I followed the final nip with the final Snickers in my food bag. The two Sapporo-ites (Sapporoids?) were exiting in the morning, …

Boulder-Hopping in Wildflower Heaven

Well, folks, here I am again in my de facto Tokyo office with the soft-jazz soundtrack and the students frowning over their papers and textbooks with the single caramel frappuccino they’ll ride till the ice melts and beyond, and the convenient power outlets spaced along the window bench — my main reason for hanging here (apart from the tobacco-free policy). Su-tā-bakku-su.  I’ve been busy, and it doesn’t seem like my posts on this trip will ever be less than a week older than the events they describe. Here I am about to talk about Day 3 of my Daisetsuzan adventure and since then I’ve already done two Tohoku hikes and returned yesterday from a magnificent (but very hard) three-day trek through the Minami (South) Alps, highest range in Japan. It nearly killed me, but it was worth it! You’ll remember the busted tent pole from last post. Well, at a little ma-and-pa outdoor store just around the corner here in Kichijoji, an energetic youngster in jeans tight enough to break bones was able to decipher my problem …

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. …

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 …

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 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 …

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 #1

Hey, y’all. For — what? — a couple of months now I haven’t been able to write. Hell, for much of that time I was barely even walking, by my standards, and no walking obviously means not much to observe and record, or whatever it is I do here with the camera and the keyboard. Admittedly my ambulatory standards are pretty tough. Since I haven’t had much else to fill my days, little money and no work, with a torrent of confusion and doubt raining down, I set myself the target in July or August of a seven-mile minimum each day. That number had a nice powerful feel to it, and usually I was able to achieve most of my Magic Seven before breakfast. Those miles were often the highlight of the day. I was rising early and alternating between two main local routes. One lead directly to the waterfront and either out onto the mudflats if tides permitted or along the beachfront walking path if the brine was lapping at the seawall. Low tide was my favourite, and I …

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 …

Seasonally Flamboyant Sandgate

flam·boy·ant1  adjective (of a person or their behaviour) tending to attract attention because of their exuberance, confidence, and stylishness. (especially of clothing) noticeable because brightly coloured, highly patterned, or unusual in style. flam·boy·ant2 noun another term for royal poinciana I’m closing in on my second documented multi-month thousand-mile ramble to take place largely in the Sandgate area. It’s cool, and I’m grateful I get to do it in such pleasant environs, but I do get tired at times of stomping the same footpaths (“sidewalks” in American), walking paths and tidal sand flats, month in, month out. But one thing about walking your own patch of turf for years is that you are keenly aware of how it changes throughout the year. You watch out for and relish the seasonal changes, the subtle tweaks and the stark transformations. Here’s a sample of the refreshing colour that’s enlivened my urban trails over late Spring and early Summer. If you happened to peer through the curtains to see the weirdo with the backpack leaning over your fence with …

Cloud Avalanche: Green Mountain Haiku #2

Hi, folks. Some cool news: yesterday my recent post about Korean kitty-kats was featured on WordPress’s Freshly Pressed page, where posts from a handful of W.P. blogs are hand-chosen each week by the editors for a bit of extra exposure. It’s really gratifying knowing that my words and pictures were deemed Pressed-worthy. This is the third time a post of mine has been selected in the three years or so I’ve been grinding out T.G.T.W. — roughly one feature every hundred posts! Each time it’s reinvigorating — with the walking, the picture-making, the uploading, layout fine-tuning and editing, one post can sometimes take 6-8 hours, and inevitably you find yourself asking if it’s all worth it. Guess it’s worth it! Best of all, it introduces the blog to a vast and diverse group of new reader-bloggers. It’s a real blast watching the wave of commenters and followers rolling in! So, welcome, new readers! Now, it’s back to the jungle with its strangler figs, vines, waterfalls, whip birds and pesky rainforest haiku poets, and the final part …

Container Mania: Korea to…Kyogle?

Hey all, Before this post kicks off, I just wanted to proudly point out that it’s number… ..for me on TGTW! Thanks to all my readers for sticking with me on this highly erratic journey, and especially to Kate, my original and greatest fan, who’s kept me hitting “PUBLISH” even when I’ve been perilously close to throwing in the towel and doing something useful with my time. Cheers, and here’s to the next 300… *          *          *          *          * I flopped out of the car onto the grass and lay there with my head cradled in my arm and my eyes closed, opening them only to raise my head a few inches and greet Graham, part-owner of the property and its magnificently soothing grass. I listened as Alex embraced his brother and filled him in on my ailment — “A touch of car sickness, I’m afraid” — while I lay there luxuriating in the shady coolness and the levelness and especially the motionlessness. It seemed …