Franz Josef

New Zealand really is the best country for geography nerds. Many countries may have the same interesting topographical elements, but I can’t imagine that any country has them all so close. In one day we drove through a rainforest, from the beauty of the Fjordland national park to the base of a glacier. Amazing.

After a quick stop at the excellent visitors centre, we drove as close as we could to the glacier, ate some peanut butter sandwiches and went for a hike. First stop, Peter’s pond, which was created when the glacier retreated and left behind a large chunk of ice. It used to be much larger, but has shrunk over the years, and will soon disappear.

After stopping to check out all the striations, erratics, and moraines, we reached the foot of the glacier.

We couldn’t, as the signs made sure to remind us, go any closer, without taking a guided tour, but it was surreal just to see an actual glacier up close.

As we left, I couldn’t help but think that this would be a much better grade nine geography field trip than the dump… Too bad we don’t have one in Waterloo.

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A Weekend in Miyazaki Prefecture

It’s a busy week here at school and at home. I got back from a whirlwind weekend in Miyazaki and am heading to Shikoku on Thursday.  Miyazaki was amazing. Here are the highlights!

Udo Shrine – a beautiful shrine built into a cliff. The shrine is dedicated to fertility and has rabbits everywhere. There is a rock a little out to sea with a dimple in the top. The shrine sells clay balls for you to throw into the dip, and if you get it in, you’ll have good luck!

Fake Easter Island. Sometimes its better not to question why.

Pizza Hut – After nine months of Japanese Pizza, all of us were looking forward to the Hut. It was a decision I later came to regret – too much Cheese! We couldn’t find the actually restaurant, but the GPS brought us to a delivery center, so we ordered some to the parking lot.

Takachiho Gorge - an unbelievably beautiful place. We went boating and on a hike that turned out too be much l0nger than we expected. Ugh.

Chicken Nanban – the famous dish from Miyazaki prefecture. Chicken with a vinegar sauce. Delicious!

I am so glad I got the chance to camp in Japan, even if it was on the most beautifully manicured lawn. Miyazaki was wonderful, and given the chance I would go back!

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Hiking in Yakushima – Japanese Paradise

On our second day in Yakushima we woke up early to begin our hiking adventure. And by early I mean 9:30. By which time most of the serious hikers have been on the trail for 3 hours. We were headed to the slightly easier and shorter  Shiratani Unsuikyo trail, also known as the Princess Mononoke forest hike. We did two different hikes here, the first a 5 km trek through yakusugi trees, or yakushima cedar trees. These trees are thousands of years old. Some Japanese people believe them to have magical properties. They were amazing, the largest trees I have ever seen!

Then we took a 4km hike through the moss covered forest said to be the inspiration for the settings of Princess Mononoke, a famous Japanese animation film. Everything was covered in moss and astonishingly beautiful. It was like stepping into another world. I’ve never seen anything so green. At the end of the hike there is a look out point which involves a 1/4 km practically vertical climb to the top. As I struggled up, I saw a blind man with a seeing eye dog on his way down, so there was no backing out. At the top is a rock that looks over the mountains and valleys, it was extremely windy!

After our hiking adventure, which took over 7 hours due to our slow pace and copious photo breaks, we headed to our favourite diner, stax cafe for a pick me up of french toast and taco wraps.

You can’t hike in Japan without visiting hot springs afterward, so we went to a spectacular seaside onsen to relax.

Things were going too well, so on our way out we dropped the key to the hostel down the sewer. Luckily, we were able to mcguiver it up using branches and grass and got out of there seconds before the rain came. Perfection.

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Yakushima

We had a long weekend here this week, Monday being the official start of spring! To celebrate the season and the day off work, we headed to Yakushima, an island off the south coast of Kyushu known for it’s natural beauty. As we have been distracted the last few weeks, I did relatively little research before arriving, and Yakushima took my breath away.

 

The entire island is mountains and forests, with just one small road running around the perimeter. Monkeys and Deer can be found sitting on the side of the road, mangrove forests surround the road, and there are hundreds of waterfalls. It was absolutely gorgeous.

We lucked out and got a car rental tip from someone at our hostel in Kagoshima and scored a car for two days for about $100. The people in Japan are so incredibly nice and trusting. Insurance was included and they didn’t take any credit card information. That afternoon we drove around the island, making stops to see the Pillow shaped lava fields,

wade in a mangrove forest river

see an epic waterfall

hang out with the monkeys

and enjoy Kagoshima BBQ!

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