Friday 19 March 2021

Japan 2.0... 2.0

 Almost like a blind obsession, I was focused and determined to return to Japan in 2020. And 1 year after our first visit we took the new ANA direct 10 hour flight Perth to Tokyo. January 2020 seemed fine. I mean we weren't to know the travel restrictions to come just a couple months later, but I'm forever grateful we took this trip and managed to get home just days before the first of many COVID lock downs began. 

The trip, like the first a year earlier did not disappoint, although I'd be lying if I didn't say we could have done with more snow. Myoko region is known for its high snow fall, however 2020 was not the best season. That said, we skied every day and all the fields remained open. Just not fresh powder. 

Myoko is a stunning region, about 5 hours drive west of Tokyo. We arrived in our hybrid rental car at our AirBnB cabin late on day 1 and it was typical Japanese greeting. The host came out to greet us in the early evening fog, helped us into our house and half an hour later, delivered bowls of hot Ramen to our door. His kindness and friendship sustained throughout our entire 2 weeks. I love Japanese hospitality. 

The first few days we skied at the Kurohime Kogen Snow Park in Shinano-machi Kamiminochi-gun. It has one of the longest runs in Japan, around 9km. 

We negotiated a good deal for boards and equipment at the base ski shop and after briefly reacquainting ourselves on how to snowboard we went straight to the top of the mountain. The boys were jumping out of their boots with excitement and as soon as we got off the lift the quickly descended away from me as slowly I ploughed down the incredible slopes. 

These trips to Japan with my kids in 2019 & 2020 will be memories I'll cherish forever. I consider myself incredibly lucky that I happen to achieve these adventures before the pandemic came. Opportunities like this are rare and as we've all learnt in 2020, we can't take anything for granted anymore. 

Myoko Akakura Kanko, Niigata



Monday 8 March 2021

Local travel 1 - Nannup festival followed by Hamlin Bay

 With the pandemic and all restricting international travel, I took a few local holidays which in every case turned out to be more interesting and rewarding than I was probably expecting. 

First stop Nannup to the annual music festival. On arrival we learnt just how close this event had come to being cancelled just hours before it kicked off, however it didn't - and we were lucky enough to have not only our first holiday in a while, but also to be at a (small) music festival and enjoying live music again!

The line up was mixed, with a range of folk and acoustic acts, some real bush rockers who usually played at the Nannup pub rear garden venue and a finale' featuring our favorite band of the event, Alter boy.


yee ha

The natural amphitheater 

The pub
The rock garden

When the show was over, we drove  couple hours west to the Augusta coast and chilled at the amazing Hamlin Bay for a few days. This location and the caravan park situated right behind the dunes is amongst my favourite camping places... anywhere really!

Wednesday 6 November 2019

The big five O

Turning 50 was fun!...

From  the moment we landed it was on. Bukit Bintang, the track, bit of sight seeing, bars and restaurants. Repeat. Sometime on Sunday evening Sean pointed out we had only slept 8 of the 48 hours we had been in KL. All up it was 3 days and nights of mayhem. Best fun with the best bunch of mates.  

As always the MotoGP was an awesome experience. 
My 3rd attendance to the race was definitely, without doubt my most memorable.
But that was entirely due to the crew I had helping me celebrate.
The team shirts say it all right?

The apartment, transport, entertainment and the race all went better than we could hope for.
The guys may not know it (As I'm the first to turn 50 in this crowd), but having them there made the pain of getting old completely disappear. 
Will I go to the MotoGP in KL again? Yes - almost certainly.
Will we ever reach the heights of November 2019? Unlikely... but we may give it a shot.

If you're interested in doing this trip one year - the total cost for airfares, accommodation and race ticket with a 3 day pass is
approximately $500 ASD total! 

Jarrods favourite pic of the tour 

Foot massages required after walking around so much

Saturday 15 June 2019

Finally. Japan! And it did not disappoint.

At age 49 I finally got to Japan. The trip was 3 years in the making and the objective was to ski and snow board. We chose Hakaido to ensure maximum snow and hopefully reduced crowds. Furano to be precise. Furano is a skiing location around 3 hours drive east from Sapporro.
The trip hit top gear from the very moment we landed and set off in our rental car. Using the in car sat-nav, we self drove through the most inspiring land scape from Chitose airport to Furano.  This route takes an incredible highway through Shimakappu which includes no less than a dozen tunnels through stunning mountain ranges, some tunnels up to 9km long! The land scape was spectacular with a beautiful winter, snow covered blanket..

Our cabin at the foot of Kitanomine, Furano.

One of the many tunnels. The snow fall was relentless.

Driving in Hakaido is safe as the roads are meticulously cleared of snow and traffic friendly. That said, we averaged just 70km/hr on the highways as we adjusted to the sometimes heavy fog and snow conditions. This made the drive all the more exciting for us, stopping occasionally for the kids to run out of the car and dive into 20 foot high walls of snow!

Furano has 2 mountains with a total of 11 lifts. The longest runs around 8km. For beginners its perfect. And for the more experienced it offers enough variety for a good week. 50% green runs. 25% red and 25 % black. We spent just a day or 2 on green and spent most of our time on the red runs, even graduating to black in our final days. I snow boarded for 5 days then switched to skiing for the next 5. A few youtube videos and about 2 hours to learn. Me? I'm a skier. Loved it. Kids can keep the snow boards.

Our accommodation choice was the possibly  the most impressive AirBnB I have ever stayed in. A newly built timber cabin at the foot of the mountain with every convenience imaginable - In true Japanesse style.
After a day of skiing, we actually preferred getting a bag full of delicious supermarket dinner packs and sitting back at the cabin each night, eating sushi, noodles and fried chicken. That said, we tried a good number of local restaurants in our 2 weeks in Furano including Ramen houses and Sushi restaurants. The trip was a gastronomical delight.

All in all - Furano was fantastic and one of the best trips we've ever had. Already booked flights for next year.

Tuesday 23 October 2018

AFL Asia Champs 2018

The 2018 edition of the Asian AFL Champs was held in KL in October. Once again it was a monumental event with over 20 teams competing including a womans division for the first time.

I pulled on the boots for the Philippine eagles one last time. Played the first 3 games of 5. We made the grand final only to be beaten in a hard fought contest by the super strong Indonesian Volcanoes.
Matt Rutter, Anthony Sacco, Winner Santos, Evan Spargo, Ed Newbound and Mr Aisa Kaweng NG lead the team once again. This core group are no doubt a big reason this team has reached such great heights which includes the last 3 AFL Asian grand finals. Whilst it was comiserations after the final,we managed to pull ourselves together and celebrate the weekend with all the other teams.
Another great weekend and I believe a very resepctable result. Next year the tournment go to Vietnam.

7am arrival

Coach Sacco giving me the word

The boys post match

Me and my roomie

A team that drinks together...

Silly Sunday

More silly Sunday

..and more..

..and a bit more

Newspaper article about the finals

Friday 1 June 2018

2 stadium run in Melbourne

One of my sporting highlights this year included A footy tour to Melbourne with Levi's team, the Wembley Downs Cats to play a couple of junior league games and catch some AFL at the home of footy, the MCG!
The trip included a fantastic Saturday morning training session with the North Melbourne Kangaroos, the dream time match between Richmond and Essendon at the 'G', and lots of sight seeing around the streets of Australia;s coolest city.
The highlight of the tour was playing 2 thrilling matches with the Keon Park Football club and the Hampton Rovers. The boys came away with a 1-1 record but far more significant was the hospitality extended to us by both clubs.
As with all trips I tried to get some running in, so with a mild hangover one early, cold but very pleasant Melbourne morning, I managed to run Ethiad to the MCG. Turns out there is a beautiful river side dirt path a lot of the way between the 2 stadiums which tracks along the Yarra.
Although we had to sit through another Freo thrashing, the boys got to go out on to the MCG during half time and I got into a dust up with the Collingwood that made our weekend complete.
P.S. All dads got the bed by 9pm every night.

...I'm high on ridge, looking over the the MCG...
The WDFC at the 'G'

(This pic must have been around 8:45pm....max)

Running route

Levi and I having a coffee break

Coach Mike and the boys walking the lane ways of Melbourne

The Keon Park club made us a beautiful welcome

This is a keeper. Levi and Majak

Team photo with the Hamptom Rovers (Came out of retirement to coach this game) 

This animal assaulted me

Wednesday 11 October 2017

Cycling in KL; O-bikes

KL is one of the many cities in the world to adopt O-bikes. A bike share service where you can pick upand drop off a bike at various bike stand locations. Unfortunately the system is flawed. Theft, vandalism and general dishonesty means a lot of the bikes are left in unauthorized locations and damaged. In any case, I became a regular user of the O-bike and besides walking,  it was my main modes of transport for the 2km or so to and from the office. In grid lock traffic its often the fastest way across town!

Register you account,wave your iphone and unlock a bike.

Saturday 9 September 2017

Cycling in KL - Batu Caves

For a fairly easy but rewarding bike ride in KL, head out to the Batu Caves. The caves and temple are located just 15km north of the city centre on Jalan Lingkaran Tengah 2. The best route to get there is via Jalan Sentul Pasar which actually becomes Jalan Batu Caves. Easy.  The road is wide, safe and relatively flat. You don't really leave the city on this ride so there is no need to carry provisions. Just stop at any 7-11 on route to refresh. The caves are great...That is; For a free attraction, or small donation they offer a great sight seeing opportunity and an excuse to climb about 1500 stairs! Bring a bike lock and leave your bike at the bottom of the stairs.
Beyond the caves is 'Raintree park' which can be easily circumnavigated on quiet streets. At the north side of the park is a rock climbing operation which has a number of climbs up the cast rock face. A great morning out and you'll be back in town before lunch!

View from the top of the stairs at the entrance of the Batu Caves

Ride right upto the caves entrance

Friday 7 July 2017

A Runners Life in Kuala Lumpur

Finding ideal running routes in KL can be a real challenge. It is not exactly the most tourist or pedestrian friendly city. There are many positives to getting around, like the overhead LRT monorail, and the underground trains. And taxi and ride share is cheap.
On foot however, I discovered side walks are rarely continuous and pedestrian access is often poor or non-existent.  There is almost no bicycle lanes and given that KL drivers are a little aggressive and average speeds relatively high compared to some other Asian cities, riding or running on the roads is not recommended.
I eventually found a couple of nice city parks to run through and returned to them on a regular basis.
Taman Titiwangsa is located just north of the city and kampung Baru, just 1 block past Tun Rasak. Its a large park with a good path of about 3km around a lake. The views back to the city are inspiring and the park is at its best early morning or at dusk. It has lighting so can be safely navigated up to 10pm at night. The park can get a little crowded on weekends as families visit to walk or use the hire bikes.
From my apartment I would put together a 5 mile run, crossing Tun Rasak at an overhead walk way and completing 1 lap of the park.

Onee of the nicer paths along Jalan Raja Muda Abdul Aziz

View across the lake at Titiwangsa looking back to downtown
Another run I did occaisonally was a down town circuit. Mainly through city streets and up to the famous and centrally located park space of Taman Ampang. Situated right in the middle of town, the park includes the impressive KL tower. The park does not have a path through it but you can climb the road to the base of the tower and get a view of the surrounding city.