Month: August 2016

Its fully up to date !.

Celebrating the completed update of the blog I’ve run since 2001.

In 2001, I’d moved to Chester and started working at a firm of accountants called Morris & Co.

While chatting to a new colleague, I commented that although I had a website, I’d love to own

John Lyons. Without his help, would never have started.

What I didn’t realise at the time that he ran a web hosting business as a sideline and set it up for me as a gift.

Me and Mum. Happy times.

I originally used the website to communicate with friends and mostly my mum back in Manchester.

If we went to the park or a new nice restaurant in Chester, I’d post pictures on there and write about it.

It was long before facebook, and allowed people to follow our “story” and see what we were doing.

Forced to sleep on the floor of my empty flat with equipment I’d bought for camping.

A change in circumstances led to me starting over. Determined to turn the situation around I would start a new life in search of adventure.

Sir Chris Bonington. One of Britain’s greatest mountaineers and one of my personal heroes.

But where to start, people like Chris Bonington and Ray Mears are gifted experts and I’m just an ordinary person.

And that’s when I got the idea…

Trekking through the jungle in Borneo. – the adventures of an ordinary person.

It would provide a sort of online diary of my successes and failures. It would also hopefully inspire other people.

Me standing on the Great wall of China.

After all, I’m just an ordinary person and if I can get to the Borneo jungle or stand on the Great Wall of China then anyone can do it can’t they ?.

I’d also write about my goals, motivations and how I did it, to save other people time if they wanted to do the same.

An early development meeting of the team.

One problem I’ve always had though, was in putting all the effort into the actual adventures, it compromised the amount of time I had to update the website (logically, as it should be).

The Belem tower which I saw on a visit to Lisbon.

Sometimes I would be embarking on a trip somewhere and the website would be 3 trips behind.

This reached a hiatus last year, when I realised a trip to Lisbon in 2011 hadn’t been documented and it was reaching the end of 2015!.

I made a commitment that all the adventure pages would be updated by the end of 2016 !.

A random picture I found on the internet.

Problem is, it involved converting 90 pages over to the new system (which would take more than 135 hours).

Plus, I was 34 pages behind.

To choose the photos from a trip, set up the web page, storyboard it, check technical details then write up the text takes 6-11 hours per page.

Worse, since many of the trips were a while ago, I’d forgotten a lot of the details and would have to catch up on my notes adding even more time to the project.

Facing adversity – an absolutely awful day on Anoch Mor.

An imposing task (if I also wanted to lead some sort of normal life, having a girlfriend and having just started a new job !).

But like my mum used to say, difficult and impossible aren’t the same thing.

I’ve woken an hour early every day, worked 2 evenings a week, 4 lunch hours a week and as much free time at weekend as I could without impacting on my social life.

Standing on Table mountain having completed the Bluelist in 2009 – one of the greatest achievements of my life.

And so, at 8pm last night, all the travel pages were finally updated. I consider it a great achievement and I’m delighted.


So now that I’ve done that, how can you find the pages ?

If you look on the right hand side of the page, starting from the top and working down.

twt - Copy

Twitter feed: This shows my most recent activities and photo’s that are taken in situ (you might be looking a hillside scene, 1 minute after it happened). You can scroll down the most recent ones.


Most recent:  The last 5 blog posts that I’ve done with the first picture and the date they were updated.


Country groups: listed according to geographical region, if you click on say Africa, it will open up with all the places in Africa that I’ve written about.

Finally, if you think its any good, feel free to post something on recent comments.

Tokyo 2015


Inspired by my friend Andy’s talk on exploring Japan by bullet train, Nikki and I set out to do the same.

Our first stop would be Tokyo, where I’d been previously.


The Dev team at Moneypenny (on the right, is the excellent Reggie who’s done a lot of work on this site) had a live camera feed on their monitor.

When I saw it I instantly recognised it as the district of Shinjuku.

Known locally as the Shibuya, which means “The Scramble”. A 5 way road crossing and not for the faint hearted, which I’d seen on my previous trip to Tokyo.

We arranged that while in Tokyo, I’d go back there and text them, so they could see me on the tv !.


We decided to fly with KLM. I’m consistently impressed with them as an airline.

Unfortunately, the first leg of our trip to Amsterdam was delayed due to a problem with the plane. The cabin wouldn’t pressurise and would have imploded if we hadn’t stayed on the ground !.

I found it ridiculous that other passengers were arguing with the crew.

As far as I’m concerned, if the captain thinks there’s the vaguest chance of a problem he quite rightly takes the plane back to the hangar (anything else, would be life threateningly negligent).


Unfortunately, it would mean we’d miss our connection.

We were given 10 euros for refreshments. One thing I didn’t realise was as soon as a plane is cancelled, the computer system finds the next quickest root and automatically moves your flights.

Literally dozens of people were queuing for ages, when all we had to do was find a machine, put in our details and we were given new boarding cards to Tokyo.

Its also worth mentioning that the system email and texts you with new details of your flight, so if it happens to you, be sure to switch your phone on.

It meant we had to kill about 8 hours in Amsterdam and it would add an extra leg to our trip as we’d arrive in Incheon, Korea and then fly to Tokyo.


So instead of arriving around 10am in the morning, we actually arrive in the late evening.

Utterly shattered, had a drink and something to eat and then got some sleep.


In the morning I get up early and decide to go for an acclimatising walk.

Were staying in Asakusa and our hotel is quite nice.


Not just that, but its a residential hotel, so with its own freezer, microwave and washing machine its more like a flat than a hotel room.


I wander around Asakusa.

Its 6am in the morning and I love it at that time, when the world is waking up.


One of the things I remember from my previous trip, plastic food.

To get around the language barrier, food is made of plastic and put out on display so you can order by pointing.


A few hundred yards from our hotel and I’m at the Seno-Ji temple, an international symbol of Tokyo.


Further inside the temple.


Across the Sumida river, a place I remember from last time.

The gold building with white top, is the headquarters of the Asahi beer company.

To its right is the Golden flame, which many locals call the Golden turd (and you can see why).

Just to the left of the gold building is the Tokyo Sky tree. The tallest building in Tokyo now, it wasn’t even built the last time I was here.


But enough about previous trips, what can I find that’s new.

On the right of this picture, the symbol basically means no urination. Its quite well known for suited salarymen to go out drinking for the evening and literally urinate wherever they like.


Nikki and everyone are awake now, so our itinerary begins.

First stop is the Tsukiji fish market. I thought it was interesting to see the workings of the largest fish market in the world.

That said, two hours was I thought too long to spend in there, considering we now only had 1 day in Tokyo.


Included with our ticket was a sushi breakfast at Sushizanmai Bekkan popular with locals.


Nikki, Lyn & Vic all tried Sushi.

It’s not really my thing, and since it’s lunchtime somewhere in the world, I had a glass or 2 Asahi lager.


We wander back into the centre through the busy streets and sky scrapers.


Another world in Japan.

The actor who plays Nelson Van Alden in boardwalk empire, is here transformed into a fashion model with his face all over the billboards.


Stopping near the Royal Palace we get some coffee.

Nikki, Lyn and Vic want to see the Royal Palace and since the entrance is on the other side of the building, she heads off.

I’ve already been, so we arrange to meet up later and I pursue a project of my own.


According to my guidebook, curry has taken off massively in Tokyo.

But in some cases in quite an obscure way. Above is a sign showing different kinds of curry including pilchard curry and scrambled egg curry 🙂


Inside the Tokyo International Forum.

Its internal architecture some of the most impressive I’ve ever seen.


Trotting around on foot is pleasant, but I’ve got a deadline and time is running out.

I jump in a taxi and next thing I’m outside the Honda building (and its only £8, so they aren’t as expensive as everyone says).


Outside small children with their regulation luminous backpacks.

I’ve got 30 mins to spare, so head off up the street to a nice tavern.

11 years earlier I was in Tokyo, determined to see the Azimo robot built by Honda.

I never got too, promised myself that one day I’d come back and do it, and now its actually going to happen.


And I am in the Honda technology theatre as Azimo, the most advanced Biped robot in the world comes on stage.


A series of historical video’s show how the system learned to walk.


And finally, a moment I’ve dreamed off, I get to stand on the stage with Azimo (I had to sign a discliamer, but it was worth it).


With all the excitement over, I wander back to meet Nikki.

In a contemplative mood, I sit here and relax.

And then I’m hit with fatigue and jetlag like I’ve never known it.

I literally struggle to stand up, manage to get back to the hotel and then collapse asleep.


The following morning, were off to the railway station to begin our adventure.

Which unfortunately means I never got to the Shibuya which was disappointing.


Just to give an idea of how big the bullet trains actually are.


Everything about the train experience is perfect. On time, big seats, smoth ride. Our system could learn a lot.

Even down to where the train stops.  Next stop Kyoto.

Kiso Valley & Nakasendo trail.


We’ve seen a lot of the big city so far on our trip, now its time to see a bit of the countryside.


As we get on the train, I see another hilarious sign.

More eccentric earlier that day. We stood waiting for our train, as another passed through the station really quickly. I’ll always remember him saying stand back! stand back! in progressively higher pitch, until he was almost screaming.


Using a combination of trains and buses, we arrive at Hakone, in the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park.

No flashy hotel this time, but a comfortable guest house with friendly staff.



But were not here to sit in living rooms, we head straight out in search of adventure…

And what do you know, it’s a main road.


Not exactly what I’d expected, but we wandered around a bit and found this nice spot to have some lunch.


Exploring further, we find a botanical garden.

On the way, we see this truly horrible looking car.

A sort of “wardrobe car” if you will. Worse, they were everywhere we went in Japan!


Back to our bedroom to get changed for the evening.

The bed was made up in a funny sort of way but very comfortable.

Another thing worth mentioning. We were in the high mountains. The window was open and it was freezing!


They had a hot tub at the guest house.

It was possible to book it, they seemed surprised that we didn’t want to do shared bathing.

But that just meant everyone else got to enjoy it for longer.


Earlier in the day, we’d found somewhere nice for dinner.


The table had a barbecue built in, and we were able to cook our own meat.


Nikki and I stop to have this fun photo at the boat station on lake Ashi.

The valley “circuit” can be done using various forms of integrated transport.

First stop a “Pirate Ship” across lake Ashi.

As you can see the weather was appalling. We were meant to have views of Mount Fuji. We didn’t which was a real shame.


Arriving on the other side of the lake at Hakone Machi, we find that most of the coffee houses haven’t opened !.

We do the walking part of the journey along the old Tokaido highway, which used to connect Edo (Tokyo) with Kyoto.

It has 400 year old Cedar tree’s on each side.


The weather improves temporarily and we visit the Hakone checkpoint on the Tokaido highway.

The Emperor made each of the warlords leave children and wives in Edo (old Tokyo) as hostages.

The checkpoint was there to stop them sneaking out, or “farmers” smuggling weapons in.

A small museum nearby has old artefacts including the first passports and reconstructions showing women and children’s hair being examined.

A fantastic sign there said translated English “The exit is narrow. Please say ‘After you’ to each other”.


A bus ride is our 3rd means of transport, then we get onto a funicular.

The crazy thing in Japan is that a funicular is called a “cable car”.


A cable car, which we travelled on next to complete our circuit, is actually called a “ropeway”.

Back to our starting point at lake Ashi for some refreshments and then the bus back to our guest house.


In the evening we wander out in Hakone again and find this fab pizza restaurant, with a wood burning stove and an extensive wine list.


The next morning, we break up our gear pack our daysacks with stuff for a short trip, and have our bags sent on to Kyoto.

Were going to be walking a section of the Nakasendo trail.

Our walk will begin in a place called Magome, where we will be staying over for the night.

The village has gone to great lengths to maintain its authenticity. As you can see form the photo above, all cables are hidden, and cars only allowed to be driven at night.


Even to the point that in its day, Japanese would have been the only language spoken.

There are no printed signs in English, each guest house has a symbol.

We were told to wander up the street and look out for a Racoon (which we found).

In the main room, an open fire and hot tea.

Superb food and accommodation, although communal showers weren’t popular in our group.


The next day, we eat a hearty breakfast and head off.


The route quickly opens up in the countryside and bamboo forests open up on each side.


A sign warning of bears (we didn’t see any, which was good).

A bell to ring at the start of each leg of the trail to “ward off” bears.


We head higher into the mountains, and bamboo is replaced with pine and cedar.


The kind of thing I love about Japan.

In the middle of a long distance footpath, a small shelter where you can stop for lunch or drinks.

No facilities as such, but amazingly has Wi-Fi !.


But we continue on and found a family run tea house where we stop for refreshments.

A working farm, they even had an old rope making machine that I thought was cool.


As we sit down inside to drink our tea, the old man there is singing.

Shortly afterwards a number of Japanese men come in (they look like executives on a weekend walking break).

They join him in song (I’ve no idea what it was) but all the excitement in the middle of the day is one of my happiest memories of the trip.


We continue our journey. The route isn’t long at about 13k, but it’s the experience and the things you get to see that mark a good walk from a bad one.


Speaking of which, this nice waterfall that we saw.


The trail passes through another village called Tsumago.

So far from civilization, they’ve adopted some strange habits (a bit like the people in deliverance).

Can this really be what passes for fashion!

A nearby sign seems to indicate that extra terrestrial families are welcome in the village.


Most of the homes, businesses and restaurants are in buildings like this one, with sliding panel doors.


We stop to eat some traditional food (it’s so nice, that I have 2nds and 3rds!)

And obviously some Asahi beer to wash it down, then we continue.


An hour or so later, our adventure sadly comes to a close.

We arrive at Nagiso, which has this superb wooden bridge.


We wander across the Momosuke bridge where a nice park gives us somewhere to relax.


Back to the railway station and we’re meant to get a taxi to our hotel.

But, it’s still early so we jump on the train and explore the village of Kiso Hirasawa.


Early evening and we arrive our new hotel.

Having spent the day on the trail, a bit of luxury is welcome (I’ve been asked to point out that the buffet was nice, but they didnt have a “propper” bar).



We arrive at Kyoto.

The first thing I noticed was the station, which was incredible.


Simple thing like a railway station is transformed into a living sculpture with amazing atmosphere and presence.


Through the windows we can see the Kyoto tower.


Just to give an idea of the size of the station.

You can tell how much we liked it, we were still hanging around in the station 90 mins after we’d arrived.

Arriving at our hotel, were delighted to find that our bags have arrived from Hakone.


Kyoto is well know for its Temples and Shrines.

We don’t have time to see all of them, but we’ve selected a few.

The courtyard at Tofukuji.


And nearby, this bridge.


Fushimi Inari known for its hundreds of red gates.


Wandering around through the shopping street we head back to our hotel.


In Maruyama park, this statue of Sakomoto Ryoma with his close associate Nakaoka Shintaro.

Two Samurai activists from Kochi who were both assassinated in Kyoto in during efforts to overthrown the Tokugawa shogunate in 1867.


There are 41 remaining Geisha’s in Kyoto (not to be confused with people dressed with traditional clothes and prostitutes).

We were lucky enough to see one of them, but it seemed extremely poor form to photograph her.

So instead, here’s a stock photo I found on the internet.


The To Ji temple.


But were on holiday, so we find this “British pub”.

My one memory of it, was a woman sat with some friends, got up to have a smoke.

So she moved away from her friends to spare them and came and sat next to us. Thanks.


The following day, we’ve actually hired a guide to make the most of our time.

We head straight for Nijo castle.


The place was enormous and contained many different gardens and buildings.


Inside the main building, and you have to take your shoes off.


And once inside, I remember why.

The Nightingale floors are designed to creek and make noise, so if the castle is entered at night by Ninja’s the people inside would know.

Some of the carving in here was incredible, including something with one peace of wood being carved with hole’s so it made 2 different images, 1 on each side.


Some of the gardens and rockery.


The moat and outer walls.


Loads of goldfish congregate by the walkway (it obviously because they are used to getting “free” food from passing tourists).


One of my favourite pictures from our trip.

Japan, ancient and modern captures in one picture.


Our guide recommends a stop off at Kitanu Tenmangu shrine.

She makes a simple prayer and asks if we’d like to do the same.

Praying for the Smiths to reform seems a shallow use of such religious power, so I decline.


Kinkaku Ji temple one of the most popular tourist sites in the whole of Japan (and beautifully landscaped).


Kinkaku Ji is grandiose one moment, then simple and penitent the next.


Beautiful surroundings.


The lake without a ripple on it.


Our guide gives us a gift then takes her leave.

We wander over to the botanical garden.


I feel like Kyoto isn’t so much a city where you go to see things as go to experience things.

I’m certainly feeling it, as at this point in the trip, I’m the most relaxed I’ve been in some months.


We finish off the day with an explanation of the Japanese tea ceremony.

Each of the objects has special significance and is placed appropriately.

It’s explained that the ceremony was founded by the Samurai.

Something along the lines of, the pace of life is so quick, let’s invent something that deliberately can’t be rushed.



On a day trip from Kyoto, we decide to visit Himeji castle (if its good enough for James Bond, its good enough for me).


Travelling once again by the ultra reliable train, we arrive at the station to this.

An ultra modern city.

A mile away in the distance, is the castle.


The castle is built in a complex of gardens and other buildings.


And what kind of castle doesnt have a moat ?.


Having paid our entrance fee and bought a “throwing star” from the souvenir shop we head up hill to see the castle.


A forecourt at the foot of the castle provides this view back into the city.

You can see that the castle was supremely sited strategically.


I loved this angle, as it shows how imposing the castle is.

The walls were specially angled to make it extra difficult to climb them.

Himeji is said to be the finest authentic example of a traditional Japanese castle.


Inside, it traditional pine.

Although from the outside it appears to have 5 levels, it actually has 6.


Usual wide walkways and anti rooms off to the side that I’d seen on previous castles.


The stairways.


A lot of the time, there were big queues in the castle, as there was a standard walkway you had to follow.

I hung back a lot of the time, so I could get these shots without people in them.


From a balcony overlooking the main hall.

Lower down, the castle had stables and an armoury.


I was impressed at how well everything was taken care off.

An army of gardeners like the ones above tended to the gardens and fixtures.


Other buildings like this one on the grounds but outside the castle had originally been used to house servants and cooks.


A fantastic park next door to Himeji.

Annoyingly, you had to leave and re-enter when they were both next to each other.


After all the austerity and military feel of the castle, it was nice to wander around in nature.


A lovely garden rockery with goldfish swimming.


My final memory of the place, a lovely couple getting married here.

And from here, its back to Kyoto.



No trip to Japan would be complete without visiting Hiroshima.

Which, for all the wrong reasons is internationally famous.

I’ve always said there are some places you visit for pleasure and others (like the killing fields) you get little pleasure from, but your learn a lot and are broader as a person.


We check into our hotel and visit the Hiroshima peace memorial museum.

It’s undergoing extensive modernisation and rebuilding.


The entrance uses rubble leftover from the bombing, to re-create the effect immediately after the blast.


A demonstration shows the explosion.

The ball of fire would have been like a small sun, destroyed 5 square miles of the city with temperatures of 8000 degrees.


A replica of Little Boy, I was surprised at the small size of the device.

It was said that within 3 years of the Hiroshima bomb, bombs were available with 3300 times the payload.


Steps from the Sumitomo bank.

You can just make out the dark stain on the stops, all that remains of the person who’d been sitting there when the bomb went off.


I’ve not written too much about the technical nature of the bomb, as that can be easily found online.

For me, it was more about the experience.

Of the two occasions where I had to wipe my eyes were the story of a little boy who had gone missing.

His mother found him after 3 days of searching. She could only identify him by his steel lunch-box.


The other was this series of video where people told there story.

One involved a woman who’s son and daughter had both been killed (she had been in the basement) the buttons on her sons shirt had melted onto him.

Her husband survived the initial blast but died 10 days later.

The most upsetting was the simple statement she said next “It was a shame, we were such a happy family”.


Along with your ticket to the museum, your given a copy of the peace declaration.

The major of Hiroshima leads of consortium of 500 + leaders around the world who refuse to have nuclear weapons in their city.

Specifically, the declaration says that nuclear weapons are simply not compatible with humanity’s continued inhabitation of earth.


Outside the museum I went to the peace park outside contemplating war and peace.

I’m neither cynic nor idealist and it was hard to make any sense of the things I’d seen in the museum.

Only 150 metres from the blast, the A Bomb dome still stands as a symbol of the events of 8:16 am, August 6th 1945.


The cenotaph nearby has the names of all the people who died (above 111,000) in several volumes.

It’s shape is designed to protect the soul’s of the dead.


The inscription nearby says simply “Rest in peace for we shall not repeat the evil”.


Looking back towards the museum, the none eternal flame, that shall burn only to be ignited when all nuclear weapons have been destroyed.


The Peace Bell.


A clock financed and built by local businessmen.

It chimes each morning at 8:16am.


The Children’s Peace monument.

Sadako Sasaki who contracted Leukaemia as a result of the bomb, was convinced if she could fold 1000 paper cranes she would get better.

She only managed to make 644 before her death, the other children at School made the rest and they were buried with her.

Today, thousands of paper Cranes are sent by school children from all over the world and are put on display by the monument.


The memorial mound.

It contains the ashes of 70,000 people who’s bodies were unclaimed either because they were unidentifiable or because the entire family had died and there was none to claim them.


A memorial to Koreans killed in the bombing.


With a heavy hart I left the peace park.

I wandered over to this reconstructed castle, most people seemed quite upbeat.


The first time I laughed that day, was this ridiculous sign, which meant ride your bicycle carefully, but its motive could be misconstrued.


We wondered around by the shops and restaurants and I found something that quite amazed me.

Away from the park, Hiroshima is a thriving international city.

The local people didn’t seem sombre, they had rebuilt their city and rebuilt their lives.

Whilst they would not easily forget, they had chosen not to carry it with them (well, thats how it felt to me).


In the evening we try Okonomiyaki pancakes with chicken and noodles.

I’m not a great lover of Japanese food, but these were delicious.


After a few drinks around the town, I wander back to the A Bomb dome which is lit up at night.

In a contemplative mood, I go back to my hotel and drift off to sleep.


In the morning I’m awake for breakfast.

The view out of the window is the peace park.

It’s a new day. Whilst I wont forget the things I’ve seen here I wont be weighed down by them either.

Just like the residents of this amazing city, I know how valuable the gift of life really is.



After a sobering day in Hiroshima, we head out for the day as many Japanese do to experience the Island of Miyajima.


We travel by tram for nearly an hour.

This was the same tram network that was fully working within 3 days of the Hiroshima bomb.


Arriving at the port, we buy our boat tickets.


Halfway across the bay, we get a close look at the Isukushima shrine and the famous Tori gate.

One of the must see sights of Japan that everyone talks about. To be honest, I wasn’t really blown away.


It’s a Saturday, and as our boat arrives there are hundreds of people joining us.


I wander along with the throng.

There are literally hundreds of places to eat and souvenirs to buy.


Farther along and the crowds thin out to reveal this amazing view of the bay.

We stop at one of the cafes for coffee and a bite to eat.

There is an option to do half a days Sea kayaking, but since we only had a day, we opted not to.


With coffee in hand, we consult our map and plan the rest of the day.

A mountain at the top of the Island is somewhere we really want to see.


We head off.

There is a cable car that goes near to the top, but the wait is at least 90 mins (and anyway, I really wanted to walk it).


It’s hard work, so an hour into our journey we stop and relax at this nice spot that we’d found.


The path was in pretty good order throughout the journey.


This solar powered machine, counts the number of people that pass (so they can calculate how often to repair the path).


Close to the top, the canopy opens and we get this amazing view of the ocean.


We reach the top.

This amazing building has 3 floors with shade and cover from rain.


I wander inside, climb the stairs and this is the view from the top of the building


Good humoured people congregating at the top of the mountain.

Many of them had camping stoves and were cooking noodles and making tea.


But no tea for me.

Nikki and I had seen a guy out walking in the Lakes the previous New Year.

Instead of producing a flask at the top of Scafell, he had a can of beer.

I’d been inspired. I found a quiet spot and opened my can of Asahi.


Instead of returning the way we’ve come, there’s an alternate route back down.

Much quieter than the walking we’d done most of the day.


We stop by these rocks and get a view of the forest.


Were joined by one of the Royal Deer.

They are completely tame and very friendly.


After 90 minutes walking, we stop by this nice waterfall for a rest.


Later we reach ground level and are rewarded with this quiet view of the bay.


And what else to do after such a rewarding day.

A few beers before we head back for the boat.



We arrive at the last destination on our Japanese trip, Osaka.

Our hotel was really rather swanky, and you can see me packing my pull along bought just for the trip (I’d sustained a shoulder injury so was unable to take my rucksack) .


Our first stop is Osaka history museum.


Over several floors it told the history of Osaka from its earliest times.

A very clever display that showed a video, and when it finished, the screen withdrew to the ceiling, and the view through the window showed the site on the ground bellow that the video had been about.


In another part, its showed how the streets of Osaka would have looked in the 1930’s.


The Umeda Sky building is one of the most recognised landmarks in Osaka.

A unique design had to “flat parts” on each side constructed, and then the “roof” raised up by pulleys.


Inside they had this replica showing how it was constructed.

An interesting video showed its construction and a speeded up part showing the roof being moved into position.

Interestingly, the music to land of hope and glory was playing in the background, which made for a surreal experience.


The top part of the building has a round hole in the middle, with this walkways leading to it with escalators.


And on the viewing platform, you can see the entire city (it’s just a shame that the sun isn’t shining).


A nearby restaurant provides us with sustenance and beer for the rest of our adventure.


I saw this on the toilet wall, quite literally explaining how to use a lavatory.


We decide to tour Kyu Yodo river by boat (at least it will get us out of the rain).


It was really low in the water, and at one point, to get under a low bridge, the roof contracts by about 18 inches.


Back to our swanky hotel.

Outside, its Friday night and everything is hotting up.


We wander around the town and it really was incredible (I guiltily have to admit, that I preferred it to Tokyo).


Nearby, the longest shopping street I’d ever seen, and it was indoor.

I saw various interesting shops, including a sort of army surplus shop. Upstairs, they had Nazi SS uniforms !.


And finally we find this nice spot to have a drink called bar missile.

One thing I loved about Osaka was how everyone was down to earth.


The following day, Nikki and I head out early.

We wander past the Temposan Ferris wheel.


Until we reach our ultimate destination, the Kaiyukan aquarium, one of the largest aquariums in the world.

I’d seen a promotional video earlier in the trip with amazing things from all over Japan.

A section showing an incredible aquarium, turned out to be in Osaka, and I decided I was definitely going to see it.


You go up in a lift to the top.

The idea is that as you follow the route down, you go deeper into the “ocean” and see fish and sea creatures at their relative depths.

At the top level, were otters and things like that, in this amazingly designed rockery environment.


The ubiquitous shark tunnel.

The aquarium has 27 tanks used in 16 main aquariums.


The highlight was the enormous tank in the centre, the biggest I’d ever seen.

They have divers working to clean and maintain the tank 24hrs a day.


The aquariums main attraction are its whale sharks.

The illustration above shows the whale shark next to its nearest neighbour, the great white.


A whale shark swims by.

One problem I had was lighting. It was practically impossible to take a good photos, the handful you can see that worked are what’s left of nearly 100 that I took there.


You might wonder what a tank like that holds 11,000 tons of water would be made off ?

A display showing a 30cm square piece of acrylic glass, used through the aquarium.


Another of its many attractions are its Manta Rays.


At the very bottom of the display, these beautiful Jelly Fish.


Completely enthralled by the aquarium, it now hits me that were going home the next day.

We get tickets to the nearby Temposan Ferris wheel and as you can see from this picture, I’m in a contemplative mood.


The view from the wheel showing the harbour at night.


And the following day, we bid farewell to Japan and head for home.

After so much travel on trains, this will be our last one in the country.


At Osaka airport and something feels strange.

Then it hits me where I’ve heard of it before.

One of my favourite episodes of Megastructures was about this airport, built completely from reclaimed land.

I’ve been to many of the places featured in Megastructures, but this is the first time I stumbled onto 1 by accident.


We fly home and arrive at Manchester airport.

After 2 weeks of constant Japanese train travel without a single train being 1 minute late…

Were back in the UK. The train to crew is delayed by 50 mins. When we get to crew we wait another hour, then the train to Chester is cancelled and we are transport home on a coach similar to the ones used for school trips in my youth 🙂

At least were home safe and sound.

Cyprus 1.


It was Christmas time again, and I’d decided that Cyprus looked like an ace destination.


I’d been to Cyprus earlier that year with Dan and Glenn.

With the pressure on at work, I hadn’t properly planned the trip properly.

We’d gone for 2 and a half days, it takes 4 hours to fly there. I worked out the UK/Cyprus time wrong so got everyone off too the beach at 5am, the list goes on.

Despite this, we still had a pretty good time and I saw enough on that trip to know I’d return to Cyprus.


This time I was a bit more organised.

We arrived at Larnaca airport and collected our rental car (we had accommodation booked at the 5 places we’d be visiting through the 8 days that we were there).

The flight was fairly late so we went straight to our hotel, got cleaned up and head straight out for the evening.


It was a Saturday night and there was a really good vibe.

We had dinner outside listening to a live band and had an amazing evening.

larnaca beach

In the morning we wake up full of life, and as the sun is shining, we go for a walk on the beach.


We briefly visit St Lazarus church.


We return to the car park to collect our rental car and head for our next destination, the capital Nicosia.

Money can be hard to come by in Cyprus, so they have even resorted to using cats as a replacement for security guards.


We arrive in Nicosia.

The capital is packed. We end up driving around in circles for ages to find somewhere to park.

We reach an area with loads of empty bays. I take this picture of the sign and we walk a mile back to our hotel.

I show it to the girl in reception and ask her what it says ?.

She smiles and explains that the sign says “coaches only”. We leave our bags, go back to the car and spend another half hour finding a parking spot.


In the middle of the day, the city was pretty quiet, but after lunch it was heaving (but then it would be, it was the last Saturday before Christmas !).

With no clear itinerary for the afternoon/evening we just wander around, relax and have something nice to eat and drink.


The next day we have breakfast at a streetside cafe and then go out exploring.

Its the day before Christmas eve. As we enter The national struggle museum, the staff there seem startled and delighted that someone has come to see it.

Moreover, since most of artefacts and information are about horrible acts committed by the British and how they were killed by the Cypriots, they seem surprised we’re so interested.

Although we were the only people there, the stuff inside was fascinating and we spent a full 2 hours looking around and reading the articles.


Wandering into town, we pass the Liberty monument.


One of the Venetian walls around Nicosia town centre.


In 1974 the Turkish invaded Cyprus and annexed 8% of the country. The border  runs for 180 kilometres right across Cyprus.

The Green line (as the border is known) runs right through Nicosia and splits it into North and South.

A visit to the North was one of the things I really wanted to do. Nikki cautioned that it was occupied territory and there were ethical issues to be considered.

After a brief discussion, we decide that an hour spent there and a cup of coffee is ok considering its Europe’s last divided city.

We present our passports and are invited in with a smile.


Once in the northern part of Nicosia, everything is much cheaper.

The main problem the authorities have, is nock off sportswear (which was everywhere).

We had a look around, but as so often happens in situations like this, there wasn’t that much to see.

This compound was the most interesting thing we could find, we had coffee and returned to the Green line.


Following day, its Christmas eve and were back in our rented car heading for the Troodos mountains.

It was fantastic to be really warm, yet there was loads of snow on the ground.


When Nikki and I arrived, they were very welcoming, but they looked at us a bit strange.

Later I realised why. Everyone else staying at the hotel was there with children, parents and grandparents.

They had very friendly staff and a nice bar. My kind of Christmas eve.


In the morning, all the staff were dressed as Father Christmas and children were opening presents and stuff like that.

We had our walking boots on and we were off to spend Christmas day on the hill doing the Artemis trail.


Trekking through a snow covered forest.


We could see from the snow drifts, we were the first people to walk here since the last snow.


This incredible view from the top of one of the hills.

We got back in time for Christmas dinner and a few drinks.


The following day we tried to walk up Mount Olympus.

Unfortunately, the very top is a Radar station, so we couldn’t “bag” the peak (the golfball thing you can see at the top of this picture is the Radar dome).


As we leave the Troodos mountains, we stop at Kykkos monastery for lunch.

It looked like some UN staff had taken a day off to visit the monastery as well.


From the outside, the Monastery is in a familiar format.


Inside, the monastery has amazing paintings.


We continue along, flanked by cedar trees.


Some other people have the same idea as us, as we park up the car and go for a walk in the Paphos forest.

Cyprus 2.


Our next destination is Polis and I stayed at the Mariela hotel as I had previously with Dan and Glenn.


As we check in, the owner recognises me as a previous guest. Put our bags in our room and head for the beach.

It was quite melancholy to see the beach which had been in blazing sunshine the last time I’d seen it be overcast.


Worse the friendly bar where we all had beers at 9am in the morning was closed.


We spend another afternoon and evening relaxing around Polis (and its important to do that, or you can come back from a holiday more tired then when you went away 🙂

Polis is right near the Akamas peninsula which has some spectacular walking that I’m really looking forward to.

The next day, we drive out and at the car park, I see this donkey. I remember that during the war for independence, the Donkey was the symbol of the resistance (and now the symbol of Cyprus itself).


We set off on the Aphrodite trail.


Rocky shrubland underfoot, but the weather is nice and bright, yet cool enough for a hard day of walking.


We cover about 12 miles, passing through thorny forests like this one and we later meet up with a Russian walker out with his family who we help with directions.


As the route goes higher, we get this view back to Polis. The route is said to follow the path taken by Aphrodite and and Adonis.


The route is circular, but this iconic shot is taken at the “top” of the route.

The view there was one of the very best I think I’ve seen on a coastal walk.


As we head back down, we see this mountain goat.

I know how well they can climb, but I’ve honestly no idea how it got up there.


The walk begins/ends at the Baths of Aphrodite.


The place where the epitome of beauty would bath, wasn’t very inspiring to my eyes.


After a good nights sleep, we head for our final destination Paphos.

The harbour was pretty quiet and we had a cup of tea and a look around.


We had a walk around inside Paphos castle on the waterfront.

It was rebuilt in the 1300’s.


Inspired by the castle and with not much going on in the town (turns out the beach is actually a bus ride up the coast) we decide to explore some of the older sites in Paphos.

Paphos archaeological park covered a massive area and had loads of interesting things to see.


Paphos Mosaics was located on the site and showed how they had recovered and restored many of the Mosaics there.


Obviously, the Mosaics were stored indoors.


Further around, and amphitheatre (which I’ve always loved) and a lighthouse in the background.


In the evening, town is pretty dead.

We walk around for an hour, until we find a really nice Italian, that’s full of locals.


Next day we decide to drive out to the beach.

On the way we stop off at the Tomb of the Kings.


I always like exploring under ground and I was in my element (although annoyingly, I’d forgotten my headtorch).


A peaceful spot where I sit down and contemplate life (and disappointingly realise that I’m going home very shortly).


We arrive at the beach.

It’s interesting, as there seems to be a series of large resorts, which are all closed.

So much so after walking along the beach for 2 hours, there was literally now where to get a drink.

We headed inland and found a sort of Cowboy themed bar, where I had a steak and a couple of beers.


Another quiet night, and then were off back to Larnaca for the final evening of our trip.


On the way, we stop off at an enormous ancient site, called Kourion.

Much of the area was covered, which worked out well, as shortly after we arrived, the heavens opened.


We’d seen a lot of archaelogical stuff in the previous days, so were feeling a bit “party’d” out.

Just at the right moment, another amphitheatre.


Its lunchtime by now, and I actually convince Nikki to have lunch at Macdonalds.


Our next stop is Aphrodite’s rock, where she is said to have been born.

A strange sort of arrangement, as you turn off the main coastal road see to drive in the wrong direction towards a car park.

There are cafes and souvenir shops here. I wander around, I find there is a tunnel that leads down and underneath the road.


The view above, on the left, showing the “doorway” that lead from the car park to the beach.

Apparently, this was created as lots of unnecessary accidents had occurred with people crossing the road on foot.


Aphrodite’s rock on the right.


And with that, the trip ends as it began.

Back in Larnaca, we check back into our hotel and head out for the evening.

An early flight will be taking us back to the UK in the morning.

But for now I’m enjoying life’s simple pleasures, good company, cold beer and an amazing travel destination.