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James's Travel log

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This is an ongoing, rambling project that should be finished the day after I die. Until then, feel free to read about some of my zany adventures, both in Canada and in other places.

Log entries 71 - 80 of 117 Page: 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Jul 20, 2002 02:00 PM Getting ready to go to Milwaukee

Getting ready to go to Milwaukee My friend from Japan, Keiko, landed at the airport tonight. I took her around Edmonton, showing her the oil derrick near the airport, Old Strathcona, downtown and the river valley. Then we headed to my place as she was really tired.

Jun 11, 2002 02:00 PM Helmecken Falls

Helmecken Falls Gregg and Norm headed off on their own. Jason and I went to Helmecken falls by car and hiked along the bluffs nearby. Afterwards, we headed to the Shadden and then back to Spahats Falls. Jason and I decided to head into town and stopped for a Blizzard at Dairy Queen. To egg Norm on (as he kept talking about getting a Blizzard), we stuck a DQ napkin under the wiper blade of their car, which was parked by the side of the road while they hiking were at Angel Falls.

Jason and I went back to the campsite and relaxed. Norm and Gregg showed up about an hour later. We all had lunch and then headed towards Clearwater Lake to do some hiking. We went up into the hills and checked out the Dragon’s Tongue, an ancient lava flow from Pyramid Mountain when it had been active. On the way, we also saw Sticta Falls. By this time it was about 5pm, so we had dinner and then played Risk until late that night.

Jun 10, 2002 02:00 PM Canoeing on Clearwater Lake

Canoeing on Clearwater Lake My buddies Norm and Gregg showed up in the middle of the night, after driving from Edmonton.

We decided to go canoeing on Clearwater Lake. We rented canoes for $20 per day and headed out.

We went first to Diver’s Bluff campground. We did some hiking and looked around. We found some quartz and a note that other hikers had found some gold nuggets a couple of days previous.

We were in good spirits, so we crossed the lake and headed to Ivor Creek campground. Due to heavy rains in June, a lot of the beach was under water, but we stopped anyways and had lunch.

After lunch and some swimming in Clearwater Lake (very cold by the way), we headed back. The trip back was long and hard due to headwinds, but it was a great day nonetheless. In all, we went about 16km by canoe.

Jun 09, 2002 02:00 PM What a terrible hike!

What a terrible hike! Hiking at Whitehorse bluffs. What a death hike! The trip through the forest was terrible. Thousands of mosquitoes biting you every second of the way, it was brutually humid, and it was poorly signposted. We got lost a couple of times and had to turn back. When we finally got to the bluffs, the sun kept the mosquitoes away, but the view was only so-so.

After having lunch and taking a few pictures, we headed back at an almost dead run because of the annoying mosquitoes. We got back to the car headed to Clearwater Lake. We went for a swim and cleaned off the dust of hiking.

When we went back to camp, some German tourists had pulled in next door. They came over and scolded us for picking up kindling around the site. Of course my buddy told them to mind their own business.

Jun 08, 2002 02:00 PM Heading for Wells Gray

Heading for Wells Gray Headed out for Wells Gray this morning. It’s a bit of a long drive, about 7 hours or so.

We cruised through Jasper without stopping, but when we got to Mt. Robson, it was surprisingly clear, so we stopped and stretched our legs.

Stopped at Spahats Falls on our way in. It was pretty cool. We also saw Green Mountain, an extinct volcano, and Dawson Falls on our way to our campsite.

May 10, 2001 02:00 PM A stop in Nikko

A stop in Nikko We left early in the morning and headed back to Chikura. We stopped in Nikko just before lunch and stayed there for several hours, wandering around and looking at tons of really gaudy buildings. I know it’s a UNESCO site but it just didn’t do much for me.

Nikko was built by the first Tokugawa Shogun, in an effort to keep his vassals broke as it was incredibly costly to build at the time. The Shogun figured if his daimyo (warlords) were forced to search for money to pay for Nikko, they wouldn’t have time to conspire to overthrow him. It worked and the Tokugawa shogunate lasted over 250 years, until the arrival of Commodore Perry’s fleet from the USA in the 1850s.

The one cool thing I saw were the three monkeys of the ‘See no evil, Hear no evil, Speak no evil’ fame. I hadn’t even known that that was Japanese! Apparently it was part of Japanese folklore for hundreds of years. Well, like they say, you learn something new everyday.

May 09, 2001 02:00 PM Hiking in Aizu-Wakamatsu

Hiking in Aizu-Wakamatsu I got up and had breakfast with the kids, but miso soup just isn’t enough for a gaijin like me, so I went to the 7-11 down the street and got a couple onigiri for the hike. We hiked around the lake at the base of Mt. Bandai and eventually came to a small village, where Mr. Matoba and myself stopped to get ramen for lunch.

Then we headed back into town and wandered around until we found a sake museum, which we then got a tour of. Then we headed to Tsuruga Castle in the centre of Aizu-Wakamatsu. The grounds were pretty interesting, as was the castle’s history.

The men guarding the castle were among the last samurai in ALL of Japan to be defeated by the Emperor’s troops. 19 young teenaged fighters known as Byakkotai (White Tiger Fighters) were based in the mountains nearby and saw what they believed to be Tsuruga Castle on fire (actually it was buildings nearby). They thought that their Lord had been slain and the Imperial Army victorious, so they all committed seppuku (ritual suicide) rather than be captured. This secured for them a place in Japanese history as those who truly embodied the samurai spirit.

After the real battle was finished, Tsuruga Castle was burned by Imperial forces. It was rebuilt by a wealthy descendant of the shogun in the 1960s and now functions as a museum. While it wasn’t as interesting as Matsumoto or Ueda castles, it was still worth visiting.

May 08, 2001 02:00 PM Chugakuryoko (School Trip)

Chugakuryoko (School Trip) I was rewarded for being a good teacher. I got to go on my school’s annual trip. Each year, just after the school year starts, Japanese students in junior and senior high get together with their classmates and head out on trips all over Japan. Some students go to Himeji Castle in Hyogo-ken, others head to Kyoto, Japan’s ancient capital, and so on.

The 3rd year students in my school decided to head up to Aizu-Wakamatsu in Fukushima, about 100 km north of Tokyo. At the time, it didn’t seem that interesting, but once we got going, it was fun.

I got to school at 6am that morning, as the bus left at 7am and the drive would take about 6 hours all told.

We headed out and very quickly, the kids started singing karaoke, which gets annoying after a while, but I just read or talked to Mr. Matoba. Several kids asked me to join in and sing a song, which I would have, but all the songs on the disc were in Japanese. I found this strange, because if you go to a karaoke parlour anywhere in Japan, it will have at least a few pages of English songs. There are usually no Canadian songs except for maybe Celine Dion, but that another issue altogether…

We stopped at Nasu Highland amusement park just after lunch. I rode several roller coasters with the kids from 3-? and wandered about the park. Then everyone boarded the buses again and it was back on the road to Aizu-Wakamatsu.

We got there before supper time and checked into our hotel. My room was a traditional room, which meant sleeping on the floor on a futon. Still, my roommate was Kyoto-sensei (the vice principal), and he was a blast.

Mar 31, 2001 02:00 PM The Great Wall at Simatai

The Great Wall at Simatai We got up early and headed by taxi to the Jinghua Hostel on the southend of Beijing. I feel sorry for any poor bastards who stay there. It was right next to an open sewer or something and the whole place smelled like feces.

Still, it was from here that the only tour bus in Beijing would take us to Simatai, a part of the Great Wall about 2 ½ hours from Beijing. We had read on the Net that it was in its original state and not overrun with tourists like the closed Badaling portion of the Wall. The only problem was that a minimum of 6 people had to show up to get the bus to head out. Fortunately for us, several people showed up and off we went!

The bus ride was a little freaky, with our driver thinking he was a Formula 1 driver, but we got there in one piece.

The Great Wall @ Simatai is fantastic. Built on top of a huge ridge, it took us 30 minutes to get to the top, by a combination of hiking and skytram.

On top, the Wall was amazing. While it was crumbling, there were no escalators or handrails like at Badaling. The view of the surrounding valleys was incredible.

Unfortunately, we only had 3 hours on the Wall, so we couldn’t hike too far. Still, we went through about 10 towers.

We got back at about 5 pm and went into a downtown district for dinner. We went into a fancy Chinese restaurant, and Brendan balked at the prices, so he left deciding to go have dinner at a street vendor. The three of us sat down and ate for only a little more than the previous night. The coolest thing about the restaurant was the waiter who brought us tea. Instead of the usual pot on your table, he walked around the restaurant with a huge teapot with a 2 metre long spout! Then he would stand 5 feet away from the table and pour tea into your cup, all without spilling a drop! Then, we did a little shopping in a street market and headed back to the hotel. The next morning, it was back to Japan and work.

Mar 30, 2001 02:00 PM Saturday in Beijing

Saturday in Beijing We got up early and had breakfast in the hotel. Not very good, but at least it was cheap.

Stung by the cabbie from the night before, we headed on foot to a street market that sold CDs and DVDs for a song. We walked for over an hour, but only found a few stalls that sold anything, and the selection wasn’t very good. Interesting thing was the guys selling CDs were Russians, not Chinese.

We flagged a taxi and headed to the Temple of Heaven, making sure to get the cabbie to turn his meter on. The fare going almost entirely across Beijing was 1/10th of the previous night’s fare.

We walked throughout the Temple of Heaven and huge park it is in. The architecture was interesting, but some of the buildings need serious renovation. We crossed a busy street looking for a Chinese restaurant or stall to get some food but couldn’t find anything. We settled on KFC. Not very Chinese I know, but it was quick and it was that or nothing. We decided to have Chinese food for supper to compensate.

We grabbed a cab to Tiananmen Square and walked north, towards the Forbidden City. In Tiananmen Sqaure, loudspeakers were playing what we had to assume was patriotic music (maybe the anthem, but we weren’t sure). We crossed a 10 lane wide road to get into the Forbidden City, which was incredible, but again in need of restoration. The tile roads/walkways were falling apart.

We went back to the hotel and had the most amazing dinner in the hotel’s restaurant. All four of us ate and drank for less than $20 US.

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