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Nic's travel log

Last Build Date: Tue, 06 Mar 2018 11:10:15 +0000



Mon, 13 May 2013 11:49:00 +0000

Lots of people seem unimpressed with Osaka, and some even recommended skipping it. But we had a grreat time, our hotel was perfectly situated on Dotombori which is like the Times Square of Osaka. Lights and billboards as far as the eye can see, and lots of crazy stuff. Our hotel had gian heads out the front and the local dish is Octopus Balls which are literally served everywhere.

We finally achieved the challenge of ordering some noodles from a vending machine (which are then delivered out of a kitchen, not the machine), it was possibly the best $6 lunch I`ve ever had, which we followed up with some deep fried things on sticks for dinner for only $12. Which led me to believe that Osaka was cheap, until I discovered $7 coffee the next day....

The acquarium in Osaka is excellent and has a small whale shark which was pretty exciting to see. There were also apparently sun fish, but they weren`t to be seen by us- which Adam was pretty upset about.

We also stumbled upon a new rockclimbing wall up the side of a high rise building - it seemed to be quite the attraction with the whole street beingblocked off and quite the party going on. No idea if they always climb the building or if it was a special event.


Mon, 13 May 2013 11:41:00 +0000

Hiroshima usually brings up thoughts of one thing, and there is a lot of that thing around hiroshima. Scores of school groups surrounded the peace park and Dome it seemed like it was their version of a year 6 trip to Canberra. Many of them also had a workbook requiring speaking some English to foreigners, needless to say we had a lot of superficial conversations with 8 year olds.

The childrens area of the park was quite moving. People make scores of paper cranes to remember a girl who died of leukaemia who thought that if she could make 1000 cranes then she wouldn`t die - unfotunately she passed away before finishing them. But now school classes make a 1000 cranes and bring them to the memorial and sing a little song to remember all the kids who died in the bomb and the after effects.

But the town is pretty great, very easy to navigate, pretty good food, vibant nightlife. We even tracked down some fantastic Japanese\Spanish tapas which were pretty excting.


Mon, 13 May 2013 11:35:00 +0000

I chose Kurashiki over Okayama as our next stop as there was an enticing article on it in the web somewhere which made it sound like a quiet quaint stop over after Kyoto. So off to another Ryokan experience we went. A Ryokan is a traditional inn with shared baths, full meals included and usually futons on the floor. They often also have pillows made of buckwheat which is like little plastic macaroni shapes - occasionally comfortable, but definitely something to get used to.

The old town was incedibly cute and had some eager tourism operators who seemed excited to have non-domestic travellers around. There was a canal and lots of cute shops and an art gallery with Monet`s and Cezanne`s. But overall a very quiet, but atmospheric place to spend a night.

Relaxing in Kyoto

Mon, 06 May 2013 10:32:00 +0000

Next we took the 'Thunderbird' train to Kyoto. We had organised 5 nights here in an apartment on a hill in Gion. And we planned on taking a very leisurely pace around the town, which was as well as half of Japan seemed to be in Kyoto for the weekend and streets and temples and transport was all ridiculously packed, even the simplest noodle places had lines to get in for lunch.

We saw a few temples, cycled the Philosophers path

and maybe even a few Geisha (or just women dressed up as them). We also stumbled upon a wedding at a shrine with a fairly frightened looking bride.

We also had a few culinary adventures in our neighbourhood, including an excellent all you can eat shabu shabu and a cute Okonomiaki (pancake noodle thing) bar with 3 tables. We've also been eating a lot of convenience store ice cream as it's the first time the temperature has been over 20 degrees. Hope it stays that way.

Takayama -home of hida beef

Fri, 03 May 2013 01:43:00 +0000

Takayama got a big wrap in the guidebook and I'm not surprised. It was a little touristy, but the streets and canals were gorgeous and traditional shops and artisans were a great way to spend a rainy couple of days. There were Japanese tourists everywhere for golden week and even our little Ryokan (guesthouse) seemed filled with tour groups.

Our days spent wandering morning markets and attempting to find a good coffee ( nil for three) were punctuated by evening meals of beef that won the meat Olympics ( so said the sign). It was pretty fantastic. We ventured to a French place that did a great deal to avoid any Japanese weirdness which is just what I needed in my food at that point. The second night we found a rockabilly American Hamburger place which also didn't have a hint of umami or unidentifiable pickles or rice anywhere.

Surprising Nagoya

Fri, 03 May 2013 01:36:00 +0000

We flew from freezing Sapporo to the southern and presumably warmer Nagoya. I didn't have any expectations for Nagoya, its meant to be an industrial town and the home of Toyota. But it was surprisingly interesting. We stumbled upon (read= saw in a calendar and then spent 45 minutes looking for ) a Belgian Beer festival and I was curious to see the Japanese interpretation. Pricey with a hint of weird entertainment was the result.

Freezing Sapporo

Tue, 30 Apr 2013 05:04:00 +0000

The guidebook said that Sapporo can get bitterly cold, and they were not wrong, it was about 6 and the comfort level -2. Conveniently, however much of Sapporo is connected by underground walkway. A fact we discovered after dinner, not before.

Sapporo is the place for crab and we sought it out with the crappy assistance of Google maps, which really has no idea what it's doing in Japan. It took us to a commercial building 2 blocks from the crab restaurant we were looking for. But crab we eventually found which was pleasingly served in our own private room.

Fast train to Hokkaido

Sat, 27 Apr 2013 12:48:00 +0000

I put some northern action in our itinerary to hopefully catch the cherry blossoms which we had missed by about 3 weeks in Tokyo. I can now say after 3 days in Hokkaido that we are about a week too early here. Very disappointing. But we have been to some cute little towns; Hakodate, where people said hello to us on the street, and Noriboribetsu where I had a great outdoor bath experience. We also stepped back to the 80's in at the sun palace lake toya. Which  seriously had a Nintendo 64.

Some sightseeng

Sat, 27 Apr 2013 12:35:00 +0000

We did finally focus on something other than food and went for a volunteer run walking tour of Asakusa. We saw a shrine and a temple - apparently different things. And checked out the sumida river.

 We also finally found the place where you order food off a screen and it arrives automatically on a conveyor belt thing....loads of fun.

More Tokyo food

Sat, 27 Apr 2013 12:24:00 +0000

After more culinary adventures we wandered down to Harajuku to try and track down a set menu place I had read about. It was down a side alley And we parked ourselves at the bar for a 9 course intensely Japanese meal. I think I like Japanese food quite a lot, but a lot of this food challenged me. Particularly a custard with bits of fish suspended in it, topped with a green pea jelly. More umami flavour than you could poke a stick at. We couldn't compete with the  the other Japanese customers who really can pout away some food and we bowed out a course early. The attached picture is course 5 which was a meal in itself.

Tokyo- mostly about the food

Wed, 24 Apr 2013 12:32:00 +0000

We arrived in Tokyo at stupid o'clock and spent a few painful hours wandering around in the rain waiting for our room to be ready. We are staying at the Granbell in Shibuya, which according to the guidebooks is teenager Mecca and the home of the famous Shibuya crossing. At 10.30 on a Monday morning it was positively prosaic.

We read about Good izakaya near the hotel. After walking around the block and consulting numerous maps we found it directly across the road and up a few doors. The Japanese quirk of numbering buildings in the order they were built rather than their location to each other provides a significant and ever present challenge. The izakaya, or neighbourhood bar, was loads of fun, lots of shouting and meat on a stick being cooked on a huge grill.

The recovery and relaxation

Wed, 18 Nov 2009 03:48:00 +0000

After getting off the mountain we had a relaxing evening at Poring Hot Springs which had mixed reviews from websites and the Lonely Planet. But it was lovely. Hot, not-stinky water, in a private room mended my aching limbs somewhat.

We were confused with the dress code with some fully dressed muslim women mixing with westerners in bikinis. But it all seemed to work.

This was followed by two nights outside Kota Kinabalu on the beach where I got massaged, reflexologied, ate fries, and generally had the holiday I'd wanted from Day 1.

4000 metres in the sky

Wed, 18 Nov 2009 03:35:00 +0000


The top of the mountain - well 2ks shy of the peak is just over 4000 metres above sea level. Probably the highest place I've ever been outside of an airplane. Altitude sickness can cause nausea, dizziness, sleeplessness, gas, slow circulation, breathlessness etc etc. Seems like a place I’d like to go.

I didn’t experience all of these, although dizziness was certainly there as was the lack of sleep at the hostel (but that may have been the noisy Koreans and Russians and freezing conditions). I politely declined to get up at 2am to see the sunrise at the peak and laid in bed, enjoying the feeling as warmth returned to my thighs and fingers.

The descent was to be slightly shorter, with us taking the main trail and we were hoping to be done by lunch. The first few steps were shaky and unsure as my legs rejected any more walking especially down slippery wooden planks spaced at uncomfortable intervals down a sheer granite slope. But I had a stern talking to myself and braced for the next four hours of knee slaughtering angles and steps.

I did make it down for lunch and ended up almost running the last 2ks – I was ever so happy to get off that f-ing mountain.

The, erm, Mountain

Wed, 18 Nov 2009 03:22:00 +0000


My happiness at driving 5 hours in the opposite direction to sealevel was short lived. We arrived at the town around Mt Kinabalu to a lack of humidity and the first comfortable weather of the trip. We packed day packs for the 400th time for our couple of days on the mountain and chatted endlessly about what was needed for walking for ages and altitude (apparently gas and ladies problems are two things not mentioned in the guidebooks about the affects of altitude.

Our night at the base camp was lullingly comfortable; wide bunks, warm showers, and endless cups of tea. All that was missing was the sauna and fresh Milk (Borneo is a big fan of creamer).

We had a leisurely start to the first day at 9 am and had 8ks to tackle. Piece of cake I thought, I could run that in 40mins. But alas it was not terrain for moving quickly, and my concerns about how my body would react to altitude made me slower than usual. The first 5 ks were pleasant, we chatted and walked and joked with our mountain guides we even stopped each k for a snack and loo break. The trail was exceedingly well marked; even though we had taken the less popular Mesilau trail (and extra 2ks).

At the 5k point it all started to go horribly wrong and I debated going back, crying or just sitting down and waiting to be rescued. First the rain started; we were in the middle of a rather large mountain which turns all paths into waterfalls – my shoes held up for about an hour and then became heavy bathtubs on my feet. A little after that it started getting dark and I sped up, leaving my walking buddies and mountain guides behind in the hope of a warm bed and the end of the trail. But it seemed to go on for forever as it got darker and darker and rained in monsoon like fashion I repeatedly asked myself what the hell was I doing. About 500 metres from the top I started getting dizzy and I realised I couldn’t really see where I was putting my feet. It was the longest 500 metres in the history of 500 metres. And I was only saved by a porter’s Motorola phone light after stacking it in a puddle (don’t worry I was already soaked through).

10 hours after starting the walk I arrived at Laban Rata and proceeded to kiss the ground through tears of joy.

My Peeps

Sun, 15 Nov 2009 02:32:00 +0000

I was a bit excited about seeing the Orangutans in Sepilok and I wasn't disappointed. They had 2 feeding times and there were lots of visitors both times. In the mornings the little ones came out who had recently been released from the centre and seemed pretty happy performing for people - so much so that one of them followed the crowd of people back to the reception centre and hung out on the gutters for a while. In the afternoon I was confronted with the alpha male, who was huge and scary - although only a portion of the size of the ones in the wild and a mum and her two babies - one so tiny you could barely see it on her tummy. They were all pretty cute, especially the two who were chasing each other in what appeared to be a serious manner as the one being chased kept peeing himself.

Other than that, Sepilok is a pretty quiet and bloody hot place, so I was somewhat happy to move up into the mountains.

Borneo- the Jungle

Sun, 15 Nov 2009 01:53:00 +0000


The 'sleeping in a hammock and homestay' part of this trip was one I wasn't really looking forward to. I had pictured rain, leeches, and uncomfortable moments with the locals. But I was pleasantly surprised. We were the lucky recipients of beds in the new eco camp which consisted of little camps on stilts and mosquito nets. Other than my toothpaste and glasses case being gnawed on by some small animal and the prevalence of DEET resistant mosquito’s it was a pleasant stay.

Did I get a leech you ask? Yes, I did. But I caught it just before it reached the skin on my stomach at the top of my trousers....lucky escape.

An early morning river cruise on the Kinabatangan river saw loads of different monkeys and birds and some quite rare ones as well. We also saw some otters in the river.

Borneo - The Jungle

Tue, 10 Nov 2009 01:16:00 +0000

The 'sleeping in a hammock and homestay' part of this trip was one I wasn't really looking forward to. I had pictured rain, leeches, and uncomfotable moments with the locals. But I was pleasantly surprised. We were the lucky recipients of beds in the new eco camp which consisted of little camps on stilts and mosquito nets. Other than my toothpaste and glasses case being gnawed on by some small animal and the prevalence of DEET resistant mosquitos it was a pleasant stay.

Did I get a leech you ask? Yes, I did. But I caught it just before it reached the skin on my stomach at the top of my trousers....lucky escape.

The highlight was a river boat ride where we saw loads of monkeys, even the probiscus ones, as well

Air Asia - not so bad

Tue, 10 Nov 2009 01:14:00 +0000

After some concerns Air Asia turned out to be pretty comfotable. They were on time for both flights and I had loads of space. For Melbourne to Malaysia I had three seats to stretch out on and a individual screen. However, the food was horrendous. Lets hope they keep up the good work on the way home.

Borneo via Melbourne and Kuala Lumpur

Fri, 30 Oct 2009 00:59:00 +0000

Heading off again on some exciting adventure. Follow me at:

Great Ocean Walk - finale

Tue, 14 Apr 2009 11:53:00 +0000


Day 4 Cape Otway to Aire River 9.7
Tired, grumpy and dirty I resentfully packed up the tent for the last time and taped up my feet to ensure they would survive another day. I trudged most of the final walk cursing Cheryl for bringing so much stuff she couldn’t share the carrying of the tent. My feet were hurting, my hips were hurting, I was bitten by mosquito’s and feeling a little sunburnt.
Somehow no one else was feeling my pain, or crankiness as they powered on up ahead in soft sand. I spent most of the day miles behind the rest of the group – catching up only when they stopped for a photo op or scroggin break. Jay’s unnerving cheeriness was even getting on my nerves, and I’m sure, had I complained out loud Natasha would have carried my bag as well as hers.
So I sucked it up, ate my final chocolate, took some more asthma medication, had a go at Cheryl for not carrying the tent and trudged on.
We had started insanely early this morning, due to me having to catch an evening plane. We had left our campsite at around 8. Before we knew it we could spot the bridge where we’d left the car, and arrived in record time at 1030 – the last 200 metres was ridiculous – I didn’t think I could lift my boots for one more step.
Sitting down and taking off my boots for the last time – towelling off the repellent and sunscreen we all fantasised about what meal we’d have back in Apollo Bay for lunch. The streak, chips and beer I had was the best thing I’d ever tasted. Glancing around the bistro at the groomed tourists we sat in a corner in our sweaty, unwashed group and realised we didn’t really belong there.

Great Ocean Walk Day 3

Tue, 14 Apr 2009 11:44:00 +0000

Day 3 Blanket Bay to Cape Otway 10.5 (aka the low point)
The beginning of day three came with a decision point – these yellow flags indicated where you could walk a bit inland or along the beach and rocks – this usually required some knowledge of the tides. We opted for the rocks as they were far more interesting than sandy hills. After an hour we decided that these were getting increasingly dangerous and sent the alpha males out to scout ahead – it appeared that there was only more than the same so we backtracked (which is my favourite thing to do). So an hour later, we were on the right track to begin our 10ks walk.
Today was the day we headed for the lighthouse, I was looking forward to having something to aim for. This was probably the least scenic day, and hill after hill followed by 4WD track felt a little unrewarding. It was also the day I joined the blister club. The lighthouse was also unrewarding as it was $14 to go have a look. We had to satisfy ourselves with soft drink and ice cream instead of the beer steak and chips we had been fantasising about.
Cape Otway was a leafy campsite with what looked like a fire pit which we were more than happy to put to use (uber carefully). The guest book in this campsite contained multiple references to Koalas and their nightly goings-ons. At one point in the night I thought Cheryl’s snoring was calling them over.

Great Ocean Walk Day 2

Tue, 14 Apr 2009 11:41:00 +0000

Day 2 Elliott Ridge to Blanket Bay 11.6
We had braced ourselves for day 2, as it was to be our longest day, 15ks according to our fearless leader, although the website seems to think it’s 11.6. I guess we’ll never know. We creaked our way off our self-inflating mattresses (those who had brought them – alpha male thought he didn’t need one), and found all our sore bits from the day before. Three hours later we were ready to go.
Day two was so much easier than anticipated. No soul-destroying hills were to be had, and we praised ourselves on our excellent time, regularly stopping for photo ops and scroggin (trail mix for Victorians) breaks. Lots of sandy paths and mosquito’s, and imagine our surprise when we landed at Blanket bay around midday.
By far my favourite campsite, the walk in site was right on the beach and not nearly as damp or surrounded by trees. We collapsed in our own way – boys sorting out their stomaches and girls sorting out their feet (mostly into thongs). After some tent pitching, toilet discovering, Yoga and swimming (for some) we wandered around the bay and discovered more rock platforms and Koalas.
Some night cold tablets, sleep deprivation and freeze dried apple pie helped me to have the best sleep of the trip and we all slept in late (to 7) before hobbling out to see if the seals had made a pilgrimage to our beach (they hadn’t).

Great Ocean Walk

Tue, 14 Apr 2009 11:23:00 +0000

Day 1 Apollo Bay to Elliott Ridge 9.9kmsNot entirely sure what prompted me to think that a multi-day hike carrying my worldly possessions was a good idea. But somehow a few enthusiastic people and a lack of excuses had me researching an ultra light tent and packing things into glad bags for the 4 day hike.We started at Apollo Bay, the plethora of cosy looking B&B’s had me thinking twice as we positioned a car 50ks down the track and had our final hot meal and beer before the pain.The first bit of the walk was along the road and seeing civilisation whilst we all adjusted our turtle-like packs and got into a rhythm was oddly discomforting. The scenery was beautiful and in surprising fashion the weather in Victoria was stellar. We walked along beaches and we walked along rock platforms and we adjusted our packs and we compared weights (lightest Jay at about 9kilos, heaviest probably Ryan at around 28 as he decided to bring beer and bottles). I came in around the 14 kilo mark with water and the tent.Some of the signposts were a little unclear, so when the group stopped for a break and one of the alpha males headed off ahead I followed. Mostly in fear of him getting lost and dying of exposure and also fear that if I stopped I wouldn’t be able to start again. As we walked up and down hills and up and down hills all the while looking at the beach we may have continued across I became less and less sure we were going the right way. By this time we had gone too far to turn back. The day was getting longer and the mosquito’s were setting in, and I was getting slower and slower on the uphill bits. At a few forks we made ill-informed decisions (that oddly-enough turned out to be right) and kept plodding our way towards camp. Hills and more hills awaited our every turn and I’m pretty sure I started abusing the alpha male who had put us in this position. I had images of the rest of our group waiting at the camp site for hours having taken the easier beach-side route. The last and never ending hill was torturous – I didn’t know it was the last hill, so it was seriously soul-destroying. That is, until we saw a Koala – he was on a tree about 2 off the path and seemed to be awkwardly looking for a comfy position. He surveyed us disinterestedly as I attempted to take a pic without a flash and alpha male tried to take a pic with his mobile. At this point I heard children laughing – it wasn’t the delirium that alpha male thought was setting in but the evidence of a campsite not too far away.Triumphantly we arrived in the campsite and attempted to find our walking buddies. But they were not to be found. It would appear that we did indeed take the only path up to the campsite and we had (slightly) beat everyone else up there, and they looked as beaten as we did (except Jay who had run up dumped his pack and returned to advise the other girls how long was left to boost their morale). Cheryl had even swapped her (20-something) pack with Natasha (15 kilo) to get to the top.It was a leafy, damp campsite and we were happy to arrive before dark – particularly for those of us who hadn’t put up their tents before. There were loos, clean water...and as we discovered late at night mating wombats and crazy ducks (some weird noise of things moving in the trees that sounded like a toy being wound up).[...]

Final Stop

Wed, 01 Apr 2009 00:38:00 +0000

Our final stop and last long drive was up to Christchurch. The grey skies and drizzly rain cleared as we headed north and tried to gauge how long it would take to get there. It seemed that this was a little longer than expected as we arrived in Christchurch at 4.58 to drop off the car by 5.

Our accommodation in Christchurch was relatively fancy as well with a Rydges special helping out and our first foray into our own queen size beds! Heaven.

Christchurch was pretty cool, very ye olde English with punting (kinda like a gondola) along the Avon river and lots of arty stuff. The arts markets on the weekend were a bit of a highlight as was the sitting in the sun (in a t-shirt) having a long lunch. We also shopped up a bit at my new favourite store which I saw in Napier but was having a sale here.

Home of Chocolate

Tue, 31 Mar 2009 22:51:00 +0000

Another long drive had us off to Dunedin, where I was only interested in doing the Cadbury tour. Dunedin is probably the most grey and dreary place I visited in NZ. It’s a uni town, so lots of cheap pubs, but not a whole lot for a tourist to do. The Lonely Planet says that the best things about Dunedin are out of Dunedin.

We went for the short drive out to the Otago Peninsula to see some seals and Penguins. Which was a pretty drive, but a little disappointing. We were too early for one type of penguin and lots of tourists were scaring the other one off, and there were only 2 seals to see. Much less than we saw on the road out of Kaikoura.

The chocolate was worth it, although the tour was a bit crap the samples were generously distributed and the shop supercheap. They had lots of different types of chocolate that I hadn’t seen before. And people were there buying up the whole shop – they couldn’t stack the shelves quickly enough.

Another location and another below par hostel, the manor house hostel had a policy of no keys which makes one feel a little uneasy, and wasn’t really close to anything.