17.04.11 - Wellington, New Zealand
One more time did we marvel at Mount Cook, highest mountain in New Zealand, before we hiked to the glacier lake in which we found some remarkably huge icebergs floating. We then left the wind-swept centre of the island to plunge ourselves into the floods of the Westcoast. The torrential rain was so fierce that the waters sufficed only for two days of soaking. For the rest of the time we were blessed with sunshine and roses.
The views from the rainforest to the splendid snowy mountain panorama of the southern Alps was absolutely glorious. In only a few minutes cycling the scenery changed from deep green fern forests to massive ice and rubble â€“ terrific! We completed our tour on the splendid south island with some more hiking at the Abel Tasman Nationalpark followed by a nice little cycling loop around the great windy tracks of the Marlborough Sounds.
After so much perspiration we treated ourselves with a relaxed Sunday excursion along the wonderful wineries around Blenheim. The vines glowed in multicolours and the harvest was in full swing. The tasting through the whole collection of delicious local wines was a great bliss and for once we got to drink the precious drop out of proper wine glasses instead of the stainless steel mugs we usually use. The annual wine intake has already been exceeded...
The big ferry shipped us safe and sound to the lively and multicultural (especially in terms of cuisine :-) capital of the country. While we ponder on how and where to proceed with our travels weâ€™ve got almost one more month left to mow the whole North Island. Stay tuned!
12.03.11 - Dunedin, New Zealand
We barely cycled a few klicks before we fell in love with this new country and its lovely residents. At first glimpse it appears to be a world of good. Friendly, peaceful, sunny. And yes, we are back to â€śweather for sandalsâ€ť - yay!
We were warmly welcomed by friends in Dunedin where we soon got ready to hit the road, respectively the Central Otago Rail Trail (now a cycling path), heading west. The scenery was amazing and with all those sheep, cows and deer grazing along the endless plains it was no wonder that we were soon mentally preparing our BBQ for the next campground and drooled our way away :-P
We are now zigzagging through the South Island and are already getting a serious headache about our three month visa. Will it be sufficient for all the wonderful spots there are still to explore in this country? So far it has been absolutely amazing and even the infamous weather was generally withholding its downpours. Though, we still have to face the west coast :-S
Meanwhile, we are doing a little loop along the southern coast and soon heading back towards Wanaka through the Canterbury plains. See lions loll on the beach, penguins waddle over rocks, rabbits lollop through the bushes and birds tweet from the branches. Wonderful â€“ pure nature! Each and every day we invent new superlatives to put the surroundings and what is happening into words. We enjoy it very much!
PS: Only flaw so far: The kiwi fruits in the supermarkets are actually from the USA! What an insolence!
12.02.11 - Seoul, Korea
Yep, it was freezing and very much at that. We have spent our first Korean week in Busan where we literally fell into a so called â€śrecovery hibernationâ€ť. There was heaps to process from our past three months spent in Japan â€“ clearly positive experiences.
One lovely morning we finally managed to swing our butts back on the saddles and cycled along the southern coast. Except for a few stretches on the highway it was quite pleasant â€“ apart from the icy temperatures of course ;-) Having reached the most southern point of the country we hopped onto the ferry which brought us to Koreas holiday destination no. 1: Jeju-do. It took us a couple of days to circle around the island and those winter days were filled with lots of freezing winter breezes. We resisted the temptation of jumping into the clear waters â€“ we left that boldness to the old ladies who were free diving to hunt for sea creatures. Meanwhile, we went strolling through the worldâ€™s longest lava tunnel. Not much warmer, but dry :-)
Thanks to the lousy weather forecast we gave up on the idea of cycling up to Seoul and boarded reluctantly the ferry which brought us directly to the capital instead. As a result, we were given more time to do some other sightseeing in Korea, but above all, it gave us loads of opportunities to indulge ourselves in the fabulous national cuisine!
Even though it was only a short trip in this country it was still well worth the effort of visiting. On another occasion though, we would surely not choose to come again during the coldest winter in four decades... Tomorrow we will be heading a few latitudes southwards: New Zealand is calling! Summertime â€“ gâ€™day Kiwis!
08.01.11 - Fukuoka, Kyushu/Japan
Sayonara Japan â€“ Anneyeong haseyo Korea! Time just flew by during the last few weeks in Japan. Almost without noticing it, we all of a sudden found ourselves on the ferry from Fukuoka in Kyushu to South Korea.
Temples and shrines have been dominating our stay in and around Kyoto and we have surely left a good part of our rubber soles behind. After that we did a quick detour and returned to Shikoku only to get back to Honshu via the seven massive bridges. We cycled down to Hiroshima and back again to Shikoku; by ferry. Being the southernmost island of Japan, we felt the urge of getting to Kyushu as fast as possible â€“ winter has quickly caught up on us.
No sooner said than done; after a few shortcuts we reached Beppu, the prime spa town of this volcanic active island. It was whizzing and steaming out of the soil and any other imaginable whole in the ground and we enjoyed a few pleasant wellness and spa days. Meanwhile â€śFrau Holleâ€ť was really busy covering the whole island in snow and essentially blocking our way out. What a huge disappointment â€“ we were so looking forward to our loop around Kyushu with its â€śmoderate climateâ€ť! No matter how we tried to twist and bent our route â€“ any snow flurry and sleet, even if coming down â€śmoderatelyâ€ť felt like an overdose to us. Especially without snow chainsâ€¦
No improvement to be seen on the horizon, we willy-nilly had to make a premature disappearance from Japan. Not that the perspective in Korea would have been any better â€“ quite in the contrary in fact. But as we are so close to it we donâ€™t want to miss out on Kimichi-land, do we? See you there!
P.S. An enormous thank you to all our generous friends who have unconditionally opened their homes to us during our stay in Japan! You have made our visit most memorable â€“ it has been a precious and truly unforgettable experience! Sincere thanks to all of you!
13.12.10 - Osaka, Japan
Konnichiwa! We skipped the northern part of Honshu reluctantly because of the weather conditions and jumped on the ferry to get directly to Sendai. From there we started off towards the mountains, but once again we were â€śforcedâ€ť to keep our loop around the Japanese Alps short â€“ thanks again to the lousy weather. We did not fancy more of that snow flurry and those freezing temperatures...
Up and down the small mountain passes, through colourful foliage, autumnal forests, through small and big towns, along crystal clear mountain streams and over wide rivers. Shy deer hopped off the roadside, hungry foxes crept around our tent at night and once we even spotted a â€śsmallâ€ť brown bear at dusk. You see â€“ cycling here is like straight out of a picture book.
Sadly, there was no picture-book weather around Mt. Fuji and the volcano welcomed us with another day of downpour. After a couple of days though, the weather gods finally granted us a glimpse at the almighty Fuji-san - simply magnificent! Tokyo was just a stone's throw away and as it always happens when we are visiting a bustling big city, we got stuck for a little while. The biggest metropolis of the world is an absolutely mind-blowing place. A fascinating multifaceted city with an exotic mix of tradition and modernity â€“ just like the rest of Japan actually.
On the way to Kyoto now â€“ exploring a bit of the southern islands (Shikoku and Kyushu). Wishing you all a lovely Advent â€“ have lots of Xmas cookies on us!