Tuesday, July 13, 2010

We are going on the road again

Tickets have been bought! We are finally going on our much anticipated South America trip. The Galapagos Islands was on the list for our 15th wedding anniversary, but we were living in China at the time and went to Tibet instead. 2011 will be our 20th. While checking off the Galapagos, we thought we would take a spin around the continent.

There had been much agonizing. At first we were going to fly to San Diego and start at the top of Mexico. Did I think we were on "The Amazing Race?!" Then we were going to make a big loop in South America, but I was so afraid of "City of God" spilling onto us. Cutting out Brazil clarified everything. We are leaving on September 14 to fly into Cartagena, Colombia, making our way along the West Coast: Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, not sure where to start loopback, and eventually flying back from Buenos Aires in the spring.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Kiso Valley - Magome to Tsumago - Japan

This Fall, a friend will be walking the old postal road from Magome to Tsumago; so I thought I'd type up our 29 September 2007 experience.

After finishing our hike at Kamikochi in the Japan Alps, we retrieved our stored bags and hopped on the 16:40 bus to Matsumoto. The early evening ride was very scenic as we rode along the Azusa River passing several dams and going through numerous tunnels.

Arrived 15 minute late at 6:30 PM in Matsumoto due to rush hour traffic. Walked over to the nearby train station and extracted ¥40,000 from the Postal Bank ATM. Hooray! Then 3 blocks to the Matsumato Hotel 1-2-3 where we had a reservation, threw our bags down in our room, and found dinner at a nearby noodle shop: beer, noodles (big size) + extra noodles + rice for ¥2150.

Noodle Shop
Noodle Shop - Matsumoto, Japan

Up at 7:30 on the 29th and downstairs at 7:50 for the included Japanese-style breakfast:
- Western-style green salad
- Cold cooked fish (no thanks)
- Eggs: steamed or cold
- Coffee (terrible taste - Sun-Ling could not drink it)
- Pickled veggies
- Rice
- Miso soup
- Small plastic bags of brown beans

Out the hotel door at 8:10, stopped by Lawson's and picked up ¥2131 worth of provisions (lunch and dinner for today, breakfast for tomorrow), and made the 8:40 JR Shinano 4 to Nakatsugawa Station. We pulled in to Nakatsugawa a few minutes late and barely caught the bus to Magome (540 X 2 = ¥1080).

It began to rain as the bus headed up the hills to Magome, arriving at 11:00 AM. Walked up the steep main street crowded with tourists, umbrellas, souvenir shops, and restaurants to the TI where at 500 x 2 = ¥1000 we dropped off our 2 backpacks for shipment to Tsumago. Done! In addition, the TI "stamped" my journal - cool!

A vintage postman delivers the mail in Magome.
Postman - Magome, Japan

It was till raining pretty hard, so we ducked in a restaurant and each had a cup of coffee and finally got going just before noon. At the end of town - the beginning of the walk - a sign points 7.7 km to Tsumago.

We set off at a brisk pace but after just .1 km walking saw a sheltered bench and small table, so we stopped and polished off 4 of the bento boxes from Lawson washed down with tea made that morning with the complimentary tea bags from our hotel.

Only 7.6 km to go.
Postal Road - Magome, Japan

So, just after 12:15 or so, we really got going and had a very pleasant uphill and downhill walk, along creeks, waterfalls, rest areas, and WC's, on rocks, gravel, sand, cobbles, roots, and stairs, past stands of bamboo, misty mountains, shrines, temples, gardens, grass, tomatoes, soy beans, villages, arrowed markers, sign posts, umbrellas, rooftops, roofs, evergreens, and graveyards, and arrived in Tsumgo just after 4PM. Not many other walkers that day - maybe because of the rain.

Waterfall - On the Postal Road - Magome to Tsumago, Japan

We picked up our bags, canceled our minshuku reservation (that's another story), found a room at another minshuku, then strolled around town as the shops were closing down at 5PM. For a so-called "tourist town" there few tourists. Good for us!

View of Tsumago
Overlooking - Tsumago, Japan

Back to the minshuku, got some hot H2O (free) and a cold beer (¥650) from the proprietor, and enjoyed more Lawson's: 2 x Nissin noodles, cheese + crackers, 2 boiled eggs, 3 big slices of bread, and an apple. Then an evening stroll, photography, and a relaxing bath in thermal waters.

The next morning we were out the door at 7:20. The landlady, as is the custom, waited at the door and bowed deeply as we left. It was still raining, but we took a few more photos of the quiet deserted streets on the walk to the bus stop. The bus pulled in right on time at 7:46 and we arrived at Nagiso Station at 7:55 and hopped on the 8:03 JR Shinano 1 to Nagano.

Tsmago in the early morning.
Early AM - Tsumago, Japan

Playa del Carmen, Mexico

From Aguascalientes, there is a very convenient direct flight to Cancun.  Since the wedding is at a private beach south of Playa del Carmen,...