Hokkaido, Japan

I like Hokkaido and have visited more than 10 times so far.

 

When we visited in 2016, Shibazakura and tulips had bloomed at the same time and were both in full bloom.

 

The Shiretoko Five Lake Walk can only be done after registering for the tour and when it’s bear season, after attending a safety lecture. When I visited in 2003, I could walk freely, but the route from Lake 3 to Lake 5 was closed because bears had been seen.  This time I was happy to be able to go around all the lakes, even though it was a guided tour.

 

In March 2018, I learned about the Shiretoko Five Lake Snowshoe Walk Tour in a magazine. The last tour of the season was scheduled for March 21st, so I quickly booked a plane, hotel, and car rental for March 18. As soon as I arrived I tried to make a reservation for the tour, but was told it was dangerous to walk on the lake ice because there had been a few warm days during the winter. The tour had been closed that same day.

 

It was very disappointing, but I enjoyed snowshoe hikes elsewhere. Especially Kaminoko ike pond was good.  We parked the car on the side of the main street and walked for about 45 minutes to the pond. We saw only one other person. The water temperature stays around 8 degrees all year round. The water doesn't freeze even in winter and is a beautiful cobalt blue.

I still wanted to do a snowshoe walk on Lake Shiretoko so I visited again the next year.I made a travel booking in early March of 2019.  As the weather could sometimes be rough, I checked the weather forecast and then made a reservation for the tour.

 

The weather was fine and it was the best day to see the Shiretoko mountain range so well. Because it had snowed the night before, I was able to walk on the white snow.

 

I will go back to Hokkaido where I always see new scenery no matter how many times I go.

Photos
 

National Parks - USA

We took a 19-day holiday that included Japanese Golden Week and we started our holiday in San Francisco.  We rented a car and went on a trip the national parks in three states.  We made hotel reservations only for the arrival date and before returning home.

 

Yosemite National Park was quite crowded, so we had to go back about 20 kilometers because we could not find a place to stay. Nevertheless, the weather was fine the next day and we enjoyed the magnificent view.

 

It was my second time to visit Grand Canyon, but it was great.  We got up early in the morning and took some pictures of sunrise, and also sunset photos in the evening.

 

The highlight of this trip was Antelope Canyon. There are two Antelope Canyons,  an upper and a lower, but the upper could only be visited with a tour so it was hard to take photos without someone's head in the picture. The lower one also had a guided tour, but when I said "I want to take my time and take photos", I was told "Please feel free."

 

We walked slowly through a narrow and winding path and took many photos.  The problem was when we climbed up the last ladder and got out of the Canyon ... without a guide, we couldn't find our way back to the starting point.  We had no choice but to go back down into the canyon and follow it back.  We now saw everything from the opposite side, so I took a lot of photos again.

 

At an artificial lake called Lake Powell, we took a boat tour and went to Rainbow Bridge.  It’s a big rock that looks like a dinosaur pushing its head into the ground.  We had to walk about 2km from the boat to the bridge under the hot sun. It was recommended that we carry a bottle of water.

 

Death Valley was really hot, but it was a beautiful place. Right next to that is Mt. Whitney, which still had some snow on it.  We had not brought trecking equipment and had not allowed enough time in any case, so we climbed as far as possible by car.

 

Our plan was to go back to San Francisco from the other side of the Yosemite National Park, but the road was not open yet.  We went by a roundabout way, but were able to return to San Francisco on time.

 

We drove 3000 km all together.

Photos
 
Tasmania - Australia

I always wanted to go to Tasmania. However, I wanted to go around the island slowly, so I waited until I could get enough free time.

 

At last I was able to take a month or more and flew to Tasmania via Sydney. This was my second trip to Australia but Tasmania felt different from the mainland.

 

I chose a place where I could trek, and traveled slowly, spending a few days in each area. What surprised me was the absence of trash. I went to beaches several times, and the water was always very clean. I saw many animals and colorful birds that I had never seen before, stopped many times and took many pictures.  I also want to upload photos of the scenery.

 

I went in the spring, so I want to go in fall next time.

Photos
 
New Zealand
South Island

It is a country next to Australia but I felt somehow distant.  We planned a month trip and arrived in Christchurch via Sydney, we had a bit of trouble immediately.

 

We flew with Emirates to Christchurch, but one of my suitcases was left behind in Sydney. The next flight from Sydney was about midnight, so they said they would deliver it to our hotel. Luckily, it was a suitcase with trekking equipment, so we thought it would be OK for a night without it.

 

The only thing I missed was a conversion plug to charge the smartphone, so we tried to buy one at an airport store, but it was too expensive!  We thought that a shop in town would be cheaper, so we decided to first go to the hotel.

 

When we checked in, we asked, "Do you know a shop that sells conversion plugs?"  The receptionist handed us one from behind the counter and said "Here you are, you can keep it if you want."  We were grateful.

 

The suitcase arrived safely before checkout the next day. I have traveled a lot, but this was the first time a suitcase had been left behind. It was fortunate that we didn't lose it.

It is a beautiful country.  Once we left the city, there were very few people and I could enjoy the scenery. The trouble is that there are a lot of black flies anywhere near water.   We bought insect repellent in Christchurch because I heard that Japanese repellent wouldn't work. We also tried to avoid bare skin as much as possible because we didn't want to be annoyed by itching for a long time from insect bites.

There were encounters with many birds that I enjoyed, as well as the wonderful scenery. There was one bird whose crying sound was unique.


It is a country where you can easily enjoy as soon as you get there, because there is almost no jet lag flying from Japan.  It became one of the places I would like to visit again someday.

North Island

We liked New Zealand South Island very much, so we decided to go to North Island also.

 

Going to the South Island, we had reached Christchurch via Sydney with Qantas, but this time we went to Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific, then to Oakland with Air New Zealand. That was cheaper than going to Auckland by direct flight from Japan. Also, the direct  flight would be too short for sleeping.  In addition, I wanted to get a new iPhone at Hong Kong airport.  The price is not so different from buying one in Japan, but it was attractive that there is no shutter sound when taking a photo.

 

I bought an iPhone as planned and then took a flight to Auckland.  Air New Zealand was one of the best airlines I've ever taken.  If there is an opportunity I will fly with them again.

 

We have friends who went to New Zealand on their honeymoon.  They said that they liked South Island better than North Island and I feel the same way.  However, it is a beautiful country rich in nature. Both North and South Islands are wonderful places.  I was happy that there were no black flies on North Island.

We went on a tour to Hobbiton, a Hobbit village that became famous in “Lord of the Rings”.  I searched a lot, but a tour was the only way to visit there.  It was so cute and it looked like hobbits could come out of the houses at any time.

 

There were two mountains similar to Mt. Fuji in Japan. Mount Nauru Hoe and Mount Taranaki.   We wanted to climb Mount Taranaki, but gave up because we had no equipment.  We stayed 4 nights in the nearby town, New Plymouth. 

 

It was cloudy on the day we arrived, and I asked the visitor center about the weather forecast and they said, "The mountain will surely stay covered with clouds for three days."  We were very disappointed.

 

At first it was covered with clouds, but after a while I could see some mountains. The next day there was a wind and the mountains had no cloud.  To my surprise there were some Canadian geese on Lake Mangamahoe.  I remember there were Canadian geese on Lake Yamanaka near Mt. Fuji.  Did they fly to both of those places from Canada?

 

Anyway, I would like to go there again.

Photos