Sunday, July 12, 2009

Adventures in whistler

Well it's 6pm. I'm sitting waiting for the greyhound bus to take me back to Vancouver. I'm in quite a bit of pain but most of it is muscle pain rather than pain caused by one of my 4 crashes.
Crash 1. Too fast on a twisty gravel track, didn't put enough trust in my bike, ran off into a tree
Crash 2. Got involved in a black diamond run where a lot of it was a 50 cm wide elevated wooden track snaking through the forest. I didn't handle the corners well got wobbly fell off an smashed my helmet against a log and bent one finger back badly, suspect it is broken. With the end of a 10cm thick branch almost going through the front of my full face helmet, I consider myself lucky. 1 cm lower and it would have smashed my sunnies
3. Same track, fell off elevated boardwalk again.
4. Super rough section on black course, at low speed tried to put my feet down and bail but ended up getting out of control and stacking

apart from that my wrist, hands , back and knees are aching. I truly learnt what real mountain biking is all about today
I started with a 12 min chair ride up to the first stop on the mountain. After a couple runs on easy trails I go used to the bike and remembered how to ride. It was a few more before I remembered how to jump properly.

This is the very bottom of the mountain, where it meets the vulliage.

I couldn't take photos on the trails. They go down through the forest and are quite furious. Jumps, berms, obstacles, drop offs, walls you name it. It wasn't safe to stop for photos so all the shots I have are on the main ski runs, which are just used as connector trails to get to the mountain bike trails. Once the track drops down into the forest it was insane. I got pretty confident and was geting some serious air.

I went to the top summit at 1800 metres.
This was where the glacier started and there were people with skis and boards getting the lift up to ski the glacier! Such a strange sight in 27 degree heat.

To get here took over 20minutes. It was so far down

On the way back i got lost and ended up screaming straight down a black ski run(not part of the bike trails). I must have been doing easily over 80ks on the rocky surface. Trying to stop was very hairy.
After that I ducked into some of the faster blue runs that had heaps of good jumps.

It took over 40 minutes flat out to get to the botom. The views were amazing and the trails incredible. I haven't had so much adrenalin fun In a long time. When I realized you can just scream down these slopes and the bike figures out the rest I got pretty fast. Having never ridden a downhill Bike I had no idea what it could do. Couple of times I was doing in excess of 60 and hit a ditch but the bike just absorbed it.
I'm a massive fan of downhill now, I'll be back to do this again.

Look carefully above
Coming out of one of the trails onto connector trail

Sleepy busride home. Despite the views across the fjord, sunsetting behind the mountains, I didnte have the energy to take a photo. Just half asleep, enjoying the serenity. Got back to my hotel just after 9. What a fabulous day.

Journey to whistler

So here I am. Ready to get the skytrain into Vancouver, then get a bus over to north Vancouver where the mountineer train will take me up to whistler. Damn it's early, 7am. This better be worth it

Waiting at the watrrfront for the bus over to nth van. Couple of cruise ships in port including this one, the sapphire princess which is regularly in Sydney.

View of Vancouver as we drive over the bridge to nth van.
And here is my train

I'm in the last carriage which should give me good views of the train on the way up.

For the first 40 miles of the 74 mile journey the train hugs the coastline up into Howe fjord.

Looking out the back of the train.

40 miles in at sqarmish we passed a steam train that runs around locally

From here the train turns inland to climb up through the canyon.

Its About 680 metres vertical climb up to whistler

3 hours after leaving nth Vancouver we pull into whistler! 5 minute bus ride later we are in the vulliage. That spelling mistake reminds me, truck loads of kiwis here. Everywhere, working as well as playing. Anyway
I grab a quick lunch, hire a full spec downhill bike along with gloves, helmet, leg and arm armour - , got my lift ticks and hit the mountain

Saturday, July 11, 2009


Got wifi access in a restaurant. Have updated my last post in japan with some pics


Great first week at my new job. The end of the week brings me to my weekend

Booked a ticket for tomorrow on a scenic looking train journey up to Whistler ski resort. Check it out

When there I will hire a mountain bike and hit the mountain. This bike trail map scares me a little

Apparently Whistler is mountain biking mecca during the summer months and im sure I will enjoy it although I have calculated the risk of injury at 55%
My next post might include pictures of me in hospital

If I make it through with no breakages, a guy from work is going to take me mountain biking closer to Vancouver on the Sunday
We will head to one of the ski resorts overlooking Vancouver. I think the views will be amazing

Just spoke to Rumi, Neo has been sick most of the week with high temp. The temp has gone today but she has broken out in spots! Nothing seroius, I dunno the name of it but something young kids get according to the doc.
Anyways, thats all for me
Pics of the journey, whistler villiage and mountain tomorrow

Andee in Vancouver

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Last few days for AM in Japan

As I write this I am in Vancouver, having just finished my first day of work.
Sorry I cannot include any photos. I cannot upload photos until my iphone is back on the internet.

But back to Japan;
A few days before leaving Japan the neighbour with the un-secured wifi network lost internet connectivity so I was unable to do any updates.

Friday we went to Mihama, where Tokyo Disney is located. We couldn’t really afford to pay $160 to get in when we would have to take it in turns doing the fun rides. So we hung out in the Disney themed palazzo style shopping area bordering Disney land. We had Disney tunes playing and had lunch in the ridiculous rainforest cafĂ©. Not a wall could be seen through the dense forest with bird noises and animatronic elephants, monkeys, birds, giant butterflies, crocs and a simulated thunderstorm every 30 minutes that scared the crap out of the 3 year olds sitting next to us. There were tears…. Neo wasn’t bothered though, and couldn’t understand why the girls were crying. She really enjoyed the floor to ceeling fish tanks too.

After taking advantage of the sales, we rode the Disney train. It’s a mikey mouse monorail that circles around Tokyo Disney and Disney sea. We were lucky to get the front seat and I put Neo up on the massive dashboard. Its driverless so the front is a big flat dashboard type area under the sloping windscreen.

We did a few laps of Disney and Neo stood against the glass and got lots of waves as we pulled into the various stations around Disney. That night we set off some fireworks. We bought a few kiddie friendly ones (in addition to the fireworks I bought previously) and went to the park in the apartment complex. It hindsight it wasn’t the best place for a discrete fireworks show, situated inbetween two 14 story high apartment blocks. I wasn’t sure what I had bought, id just grabbed fireworks that I recognized from my childhood (thanks Dad). Fotunately id got a packet of these wicked little dynamite sticks with wings attached. Once lit They kind of jumped up 3 metres into the air then with a loud WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSHHHHHHHHHHHHH they left a comet like trail as they took off into the air. With the blessing of a strong westerly I almost shot a few into the balcony’s of the neighbouring apartment block. After a spasm of sparks a burnt thumb and half a dozen ICBM smoke trails into the darkness I realized the kids were scared and had run off with the scared adults. I was standing alone amongst the smoke trails of my little pre-emptive strike against apartment block D in Makurai Family Heights. With the sound of dogs barking and babies screaming I stopped, and the scared adults and kids returned so they could enjoy some handheld colourful smoking sparklers. How childish i thought…

Next day was Saturday. The kids were off school (Chisako san puts them in school every summer holidays for 3 weeks so they are familiar with the Japanese schooling and better prepared for their eventual return to Japan) so we took the baseball kit to the park. We got Chisako san and Rumiko san to come along and woman the bases. They kind of manned the bases but at one stage there were 3 batters, Ryo pitching and me running around like crazy. 5 man baseball doesn’t quite work when one batter gets to first base and then a fielder decides to bat, then repeat. Anyway, it was fun and the kids loved it. It was over 30 degrees, 90% humidity (im guessing) and we were all soaked with sweat and pretty damn stinky. So we went straight to lunch at a sushi train place! Ive been wanting to go back to this place since we arrived in Japan and being my last day I got to choose the meals woohoo.
That night I cooked Mexican tacos again cause the kids love it and this would be my last chance until we see them next time which could be a year or so away.
Rumi and I limited ourselves to two tacos each cause we planned to go out later and eat again. Round 10pm we left to do some Izakaya style. (Food to go with drinking)

Last day – I started off with a dose of oxygen. This time I had 50 minutes worth and was buzzing with energy and a sharp mind when I left. Rode the bike back to a family restaurant called Fujiya to meet the gang for lunch, then went home to watch some pixar short films and finish my packing.
It was sad to leave. Nephew Ryo was a bit sad and couldn’t understand why I had to go start a new job. I think he was especially sad cause I was taking my iphone with me along with the cool games he was getting addicted too ☺

I wish Neo understood what was happening. She kept wanting to walk and cuddle mum and other antics when we were waiting for the taxi but when I was driving off waving goodbye she had such a confused worried look on her face. I pictured it all the way to Canada and just wanted to give her a hug. Rumi said Neo woke up sobbing the last two nights since ive been away. Its so strange how the sadness of your child can create such happiness. Not happiness due to the sadness, but happiness due to the cause of the sadness. To feel so important and loved, its one of the joys of parenthood that empathy and previous experience has never come close to preparing me for.

So here I am, sitting at the end of day one of my new job in my new suit. I explained to Rumi a new job demanded a new suit but she knew the truth is I couldn’t fit into any of my old suits.
Was it the midnight ramens? The raw chicken and raw heart? The four day buffet bender? The 12 course dinner followed by 9 course breaky? The daily cake ritual demanded by the girls?
Actually I was just a bit chubby when we left Australia and strangely ive lost a kg or so despite consumption figures to embarrass the bumpers off a hummer.

Well I don’t think there will be much to update in the coming weeks. Im basically learning the ropes at my new company, and next week traveling to Toronto and Atlanta to visit some customers.
Drinks at the owners house next Friday night, then I fly out at lunch Saturday and get into Japan via the dateline a day later. 24 hours post we head back home to Sydney after the biggest challenge of our trip, packing for the return journey. Im not sure you can fully appreciate how big a task this will be.
The amount of stuff we have aquired over the last few months is extraordinary. Lucky the return journey home is business class, but I fear we will still be hit with some excess baggage charges. Im picturing suitcases ocky-strapped to the roof of the megane for the ride from airport to home.

Signing off for now. I will send a final update from Japan and with time, updates on any interesting observations or activities in Vancouver over the next fortnight.

Andee in Vancouver, BC

Random pic of neo. Looking like a girl this time

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Kamakura to daiba and home

Wednesda morning we started with room service breaky


Then after a quick Onsen bath we hit the road, or should I say rails.
On the way home we Headed to daiba(obstruction), islands just in front of the entrance to sumida river with daibas built to deter the " big black ships" from entering Tokyo. Today it's a modern mix of shopping, residential, headquarters and company showcases with a flash monorail connecting it to the main stations.

. We went into the panasonic centre and had an interactive demo of the " life wall", a completely dynamic wall in a house. Imagine an entire wall is a tv and you control everything with hand movements inthe air. ( point, make fist etc) It was absolutely amazing. I'd say unbelievable but I'd seen similar things in sci fi movies, so I was familiar with the way this stuff works :) the cofee table also acts as a giant mouse pad with touch triggering certain actions. We moved and re-sized the tv, downloaded photos wirelessly and instantly from a mobile phone, browsed photos, looked througj books and and created windows on the wall.
The best bit was when Rumi left to go into a seperate room but appeared lifesize in front of us. Neo was confused, especially when Rumi was suddenly walking with penguins around her! We dragged animals from a book onto the screen, which were then displayed in actual size on the wall. Oh I give up, it's too hard to describe how cool this was, you just have to do it yourself.
Only photos could show you what this life wall was like but there were gurads everwhere stopping people from taking photos. Everytime I touched my phone to check the time I could see security in the corner of my eye.

We didnt have a lot of time but many other companies have tech showcases and innovative science exhubitions here including toyota! I think I have to come back to check that one out.

Damn, only 3 more days holiday for me before heading to Canada to start my new job!!


Monday we headed off for a few days in Kamakura, about 80 k's south of Tokyo. Kamakura is a very famous touristy area due to the nice beaches and huge number of shrines. In ancient times this was the capital so lots of historical sites.
Having explored kamakura before we decided to skip the main area around the shrines and headed for the beach. We stayed at enoshima, on a little island (0.4 km sq) just off the shore. To get here we had to ride a cute little train that runs along the coast From the main station at kamakura.

You can just see the island in top right.
Last night we ate on the street.

These little stalls have fresh seafood, fried stuff, etc. You choose a bunch of things, grab a beer and eat at the outside tables.
After sitting down I asked Rumi to choose a "suprise", and boy it was a suprise

It's the biggest damn oyster even seen. And at $20 for one, the most expensive too.
Shame it tasted average but it was worth it for the novelty factor.
The ocean side of this island is sharp cliffs and there are long caves going in under the island. Boats have brought tourists here since the olden days (I don't know how long but it's a while)
We walked up to the top of the island to go in the observation tower, before descending the other side and into the caves.

Afterwards We were lucky to catch the last boat off the rocks. With the pram and hundreds of stairs to get here, we were not looking forward to reversing the journey back up the hill!

With mt fuji fairly close it's quite a beautiful spot. The camera coulnt pick it up due to the haze but you could see it with the naked eye.

Today, Tuesday was a bit rainy. We decided to go to the local aquarium cause neo loves them fish.

Not as spectacular as the one in Tokyo but still lots of fun, especially the dolphin show where we got drenched!
After that we jumped back on the little train and hopped off at a few places for a poke around.

I'm sure people think she is a little boy

Tonight we decided to stay in and order room service.

And I'm not being funny, two more plates plus rice appeared later in the meal.
Oishii!! Amazing food (Rumi selected this place cause of the food reputation). In Japan the old ryokan style hotels all provide
Meals in your room like this and where you stay is sometimes a decision made after consulting your stomach and taste buds.

I'm just glad I'm not doing the washing up!

--Morans in Kamakura

Monday, June 29, 2009

Shibuya, horse, and walking

Yay convinced Rumi to hit late night ramen!

It was my second time I must confess. Nothing like a thousand calories around midnight!!

I hit the town with joss on Friday night. This time we went to shibuya. This WOULD be the most crazy place on earth except I already said that about Shinjuku. Oh well.
Spent a few hours in the 8 level Tower records, the most famous music store in Tokyo.
With the sad news of MJ death that day the press were all over the place, interviewing people etc. Whilst we love MJ we avoided being on the news but were likely in the backround of several shoots whilst tuning into some funky hop hop.
Anyway great night again, though nothing too shocking to report on the food front.
But joss-what a MENACE to japanese society. I won't say anymore.

Next day we visited rumis grandma. Rumis uncle and aunty also live with grandma, although uncle was out busy with summer festival organisation.
So we met her grandma and aunty at a restaurant near their house, 4 stations away.
Lunch was lovely but I did spot horse sashimi on on the menu. Raw horse??? Surely this was a translation error?
Damn, it was under the "meat" section, so maybe not "horse makarel" as I initially thought.
Sorry for the sake of a cool blog entry I just wasn't that brave.

After lunch we walked to their home.
I thought it was amazing to have 4 generations sitting together.

Rumis GM is 89 years old. But you wouldn't guess it. Spritely and full of beans. Up until
Recently still prepared meals for her son and daughter that have never left home!!
Judging by the veins in her arms she would beat me in and arm wrestle so I didn't put up the chaallemge.

Anyway that beings me to today.
Neh-oh chan decided to walk today. Up until now walking consisted of us holding her hands and tricking her by pulling her support away. She was ok with 2 or 3 steps but soon realized the deception and simply fell on her knees or bottom due to lack of confidence.. In the last few days she would stand herself up and let go for a few seconds. Testing the waters I guess.
Today she got bold, turned and used the legs! I grabbed the vidcam and she happily and consistently walked 5 or so steps between us. The excitrment, clapping and encouragement from us egg'd her on.
Now I fear a period of injuries and crying, but she is so proud of herself, she just stands and tries to walk everywhere!
Awesome, very exciting!!

Stay tuned for the forthcoming accidents and tears

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Neo news

Been a few comments on how Neh-oh chan has grown. The change is so dramatic even we see it, which is strange given the constant contact.

Thought I should list some of her personal development highlights:

Loves dogs. Calls them wah-wahns, the japanese nick name (for kids).
Spots them everywhere even when we don't see them and repeats "wah wahn" to let us know. Really sharp eyes, sometimes we back track to find them an sure enough we have just passed a teddy dog or picture of one.

Qack (duck)
Wah wahn (dog)
Ichi (1)
Touch (when touching someone)
Hai(ywhen we do roll call " moran neo San" she puts her arm up and says " hai")

Also knows what the following means and does the action
Odei(come here)
Bath(crawls to bath)
Itadakimas/gotsosama (before/after meal - clambs her hands together)
Run fast ( when helping her walk the legs start going overdrive)
Arigato ( and bows her head )

Can easily walk 2/3 steps between people
Climbs up onto coffee table and sofa
Turns and slides off sofa
Puts any phone like object (remote control, calculator etc) to her ear and pretends to be on phone
Points at anything of interest and goes "aahhhh"
In bed crawls up and rolls into one of us so she ends up lying against us.
Knows basic hand movements of some Japanese kids songs which get sung everyday
(so much so that even I find myself humming some of them)
Nods head side to side when she really likes some food (oi-Shi-neh)
Sleeping right through the night without boobs
Loves chasing cousin ryo around going "rah"
Waves to anyone in public then engages them with her intense blinking (kind of like morse code using blinking). train rides are a lot of fun, she ends up communicating to several people in one way or another and they all wave bye bye when we get off

Talks her own language. Mostly it sounds like "gug gug heeba jeeba jabba jabba lawa oh wahhh"

I'm sure there is more I have forgotten but it is all very entertaining

Here she is right now

Mushi mushi

Monday, June 22, 2009

Tokyo sea life park

We just got back from an exciting day at the sea life park, located next door to Disney land.
We met with Rumi's school friend Aiya, her husband and 2 year old son
This place is definstely worth a visit if you come to Tokyo. Only 10 bucks entry but an amazing display of marine life from across the globe

This Was one of by favourites-bluefin tuna. The only place in the world they can be seen as they need a constant flow of fresh seawater and they never stop moving, they just fly around in the current.

After this we saw dozens of tanks with marine life from specific locations.
Neo loved this place and would stand at the glass watching the fish and cackling to herself.

Watching the penguins

The deep sea exhibitions were really dark and we had an enourmius sunfish saunter out of the darkness straight at where neo was standing against the glass. This thing was like a cow and when it was a few inches away looking like it wanted to bite off Neo's head, it's amazing uglyness was exposed and it gave Neo quite a fright.
The 2m hammerhead sharks didn't bother her though, which brings me to my other favourite display- A massive school Of fish being circled by a dozen sharks.

I've never seen anything like it. The way the school dynamically moulded itself around the path of incoming sharks was extraordinary. I could have watched this dance for hours
Certainly the Highlight of the day for me....

--Morans at marine world
Thanks everyone for the comments, we do check back every day to read them!

Late night adventures

THe whole house goes to bed at 10pm ish. Most nights at least. Being nocturnal this causes me some unrest. Going to bed at 10:30 to play poker on my iPhone has become a little tired.

And Id been wondering... When we are out and about we find that many restaurants are closed at lunch. Instead most open at 6pm and stay open until between 1 and 5am.
Whilst we are in the suburbs, I realized the lack of pubs in japan and closure of train services at 12 would result in lots of happy people back in their neighbourhood but unwilling to return to their cramped apartment.
Thus! Retire to a beautiful restaurant where you can get quality food and drink until 5 am!
Strangely they seem to open similar hours every day of the week, so it's not just catering for your standard office worker.

So here I am. 1 am Monday morning yours restless truly went for a wander

Ok so I only wandered across theroad.
But who would have thought I'd find a shochu speciality bar/restaurant just across the road open until 2 am! And they are playing jazz through a sweet hifi setup!

I started by ordering the most expensive rare shochu they have. Apparently even the empty bottle of this shochu goes at auctions. Only registered places can even sell it!

Started on the left with the most expensive

Then moved across to the right.
I'm no shochu expert, but I wouldn't mind being one so where better to start than the best?

Grabbed some late night food to match. Not raw this time!

This city certainly caters for night owls like myself.
And I cant think of any other city in the world where it would be normal for supermodel proportioned women to cycle past every few minutes in over the knee socks, mini skirts and heels - around midnight! Very strange, but you soon get used to it.

Anyway The shochu was fantastic. I prefer the taste of those made from sweet potato, rather than the buckwheat or rice varieties.
And shochu is the most popupar drink in Japan, not Sake as commonly percieved.

-- Andrew drinking shochu