My latest Post.

This view,this beauty
A tear unbidden
Creeps into my eye.

My stay is short
But I shall return to this place
If only my life is long enough.

Such beauty
Gazing upon it
I hope my years are many.

Bokusui Wakayama.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Elements, and their unpredictability.

   In a recent post, titled "Mmm. What to wear......" , I included a chapter on The Elements and Mother Nature, and how vulnerable we are when we venture into the great outdoors. I mentioned in that post how, regardless of our motives and mode, or how experienced we are, or how well prepared we were, that there was no 100% guarantee you would return home alive & well. As I was editing the post, I was reminded of an incident that could have claimed my life back in 1993, thanks to the unpredictability of the weather.  
                                                       This is that story.
   I was accompanied on this hike by a friend, who was equally enthusiastic as I was about the great outdoors. The plan was to go to an area known simply as "The Cobb", located in (what was then called "The North-West Nelson State Forest Park") Kahurangi National Park. The area is very popular with outdoors people from all over Aotearoa and the World, with hundreds-of-kilometers of hiking trails and dozens of Backcountry Huts. Our route we found in a book written by an experienced local hiker and, after some weeks carefully studying the information, along with terrain maps of the area, we felt we could accomplish the course. We photocopied the route and map, to carry on our person, paid close attention to the weather forecast, prepared our gear & equipment (food - enough for a week, clothing - including a spare set, tent, sleeping-bag, cooking gear, first-aid and packs). We informed our partners (a colloquialism for wives) of our intentions (planned route, huts and times), in case something went horribly wrong. We estimated we would be away for four days. The plan, to commence our trek from the Bushline Hut (Map), stay the night, then proceed, after a short ascent, along the ridge-line running parallel to the Cobb River and Valley, then descend to the Fenella Hut (Map). After a couple of nights recuperating we would then return to our vehicle via the Cobb Valley track.
   On day one we drove to the area and found a suitable place to park our car - sheltered, safe and easily accessible in case we had to beat a hasty retreat (Map). We called-into the Park Rangers House to inform him of our intentions - this guy knows every inch of the area (he should do, he has been living there most of his life) and his advice is always most appreciated - before beginning our 2-hour ascent to the hut.

Leaving the Car-park, with
Cobb Reservior in background.
The conditions were ideal and we were feeling a sense of excitement for what the coming days would bring. If you look at the Map, indicating the location this photo was taken, you will clearly see the track.
   The Bushline Hut is a comfortable 2-hour hike up a moderate incline and is well sheltered in amongst the trees. As we were in plenty of time, we didn't rush and took many opportunities to admire the great views. Upon arrival, we were left with enough time to check-out the surroundings, put a brew on, have dinner and play a few rounds of Cribbage ( a crib-board and a deck-of-cards can be the best companion for hikers) before hitting-the-sack (going to sleep). The next morning we woke to perfect conditions for our next segment - clear blue-skies, calm and cool - and, after a hearty breakfast of porridge & banana, bread-roll and mug-of-tea - we were on our way by 8:30am. Our instructions said this segment would take between 4-to-5 hours, we estimated 8-hours. That's including sightseeing, taking photos and lunch-break. 

Iron Lake.
   An hour into our hike and we made our first stop. The water in Iron Lake was crystal-clear, so clear we were able to see the Native Trout swimming ( All native animals, fish and trees in our National Parks are protected by law. Get caught hunting or removing them and you face a hefty fine. A few years ago, a group of Norwegian Hikers thought it funny to record themselves shooting Tui then posting it on Youtube. The New-Zealand Government tried to have them extradited to face prosecution. The Norwegian Government refused the request. Which was good as they would have had the shit kicked out of them). On a rock-ledge, overlooking Iron Lake (Map.), about 15-minutes from our last photo-opportunity, we found a spot that was so beautiful and serene we were forced to stop again (this is why we allowed ourselves 8-hours).
Lake Lillie in the distance.
   This view, this beauty
   A tear unbidden
   Creeps into my eye.
   My stay is short
  But I shall return to this  place
   If only my life is long enough.
   Such beauty
   Gazing upon it
   I hope my years are many.
           -Bokusui Wakayama.


      The next segment was quite interesting. We came-across terrain that one would have easily thought a very large dump-truck had tipped a load of large rocks over a cliff.  As intriguing as it was, one has to be careful when hiking over this type of terrain. One slip, and god-knows what would happen. As you can see in the photo, the weather conditions were still ideal.   
   Ruby Lake (about an hour on from our last stop) could not have been a more idyllic spot to break for lunch - sheltered and beautiful.
Lunch at Ruby Lake.
   We spent about an hour here and, apart from having a bite-to-eat, we took the opportunity to recheck our map & location. We were aware we still had some ways to go and more difficult terrain from what we had experienced up to this point. So a good hearty lunch was important.
   Little did we know, when we left this idyllic spot, that we would be returning, under different conditions, in a couple-of-hours.
   From here we had to make our way through thick and water-logged scrub while ascending to the ridge-line. Upon arrival we were overcome with what greeted us. The view was out-of-this-world and we immediately set-about to take it all in (Map). Immediately  below us was the Cobb River and Valley. In the distance was Mt Arthur (Map). After about 10-minutes of taking photos and admiring the scene, I happened to notice a menacing black cloud coming from the south, and heading in our direction. I said to my friend, " that doesn't look good, I think we should prepare for the worse".
Snow blizzard.
 Pitching Tent at Ruby lake.
   Within minutes we were engulfed by a Snow Blizzard (see photo) and, before the conditions deteriorated any worse, we made a hasty retreat back to Ruby Lake (checking our map and instructions we estimated we were about 10-minutes from the point of no return), where we immediately set-about to pitch our tent and camp-down for the night. As beautiful as the surroundings were, it was amazing how quickly all that changed. We were fortunate to have found a sheltered spot, away from the wind & snow, to pitch the tent. After changing into a clean, dry set of clothing, we slid-into our sleeping bags for the night. It was only 4pm and any thought of having a hot coffee and a bite-to-eat, would have to wait until the following morning.

The morning after......
   The following morning we were greeted by the sounds of the Dawn Chorus that made us feel great to still be alive. But, when we opened the tent and peered outside (see photo on the left) we couldn't believe our eyes what greeted us. It was picture-perfect - blue skies, calm and .....cold. While my friend boiled-the-billy I set-about to hang out our wet clothing, from the previous day, to dry in the warm sun. During a hearty breakfast we assessed the situation and felt, with the amount of snow on the ridge-line and our inexperience with snow hiking, it was best to abort the trip and return to our car (err on the side of caution). After a 4-hour hike we arrived back at our car to be greeted by an anxious Park Ranger. The previous day, while checking-out the days weather forecast (a task he does every day, and posts it on the noticeboard), he was made aware that a weather-warning had been issued for some "high-country" areas in the top half of the South Island, especially the North-West Nelson State Forest Park.
   A few days later we got together again, accompanied by a bottle of whiskey, to assess what happened, what, if any, mistakes we made, and would the incident put us off hiking. The incident didn't put us off hiking, and we went on to experience more of what the great outdoors has to offer. 
   Before I sign-off, there is something I haven't told you yet (you could call this the moral-of-the-story), what time of year it was. It was the 14th February 1993, the middle of the New-Zealand summer. While we were huddled-up in our sleeping-bags (fully clothed), at 4pm on that day,with snow falling around us, friends of ours were getting sun-burnt on Tahunanui Beach in "Sunny Nelson". Isn't "Mother Nature" something?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Images from my outings over the past week of 19/1-to-25/1.

   Most of my outings are planned. They need to be, especially when it comes to telling my loved-one where I am heading-off to. But there are times when all that goes out the window and I head-off on one of my "getting lost" trips. That's what happened last Saturday 21st January. I discovered a mountain road that I never realized existed, and off I went.
My kinda' environment.
This is me to a tee. Stopping when I feel like it, taking-in the environment, listening to the sounds (or in this case, the lack of them) and feeling healthier in the process.
   If I thought this was awesome, something just as spectacular was about to appear further along the track. 
Tamatsuoka-jinja Shrine and Stage.
  My track looked like it was about to exit into a village, when I noticed a side-track and took it.I emerged into the grounds of Tamatsuoka-jinga. Looking around me I felt awestruck that a complex existed in such an isolated location. If you look behind the statue, you will see an avenue of twenty-seven vermilion colored Torii. I will place this site on my "must return" list.
   I have this "thing" about the Elements and Mother Nature (I am in the process of composing a post on this subject) and their awesome and unpredictable power. This image on the right is an example of what can happen and how vulnerable we are when their power is unleashed. Most of the landslide has been moved away, but I could see what area it covered. These instances don't give any warning. 
Where I'm heading - Map Location.
Where Photo Was Taken - Map Location.
Tuesday 24th January and I head to the hills for a bit of cycling amongst the snow. Looking out from our balcony, I could see the hills surrounding Kyoto had a fresh coat of snow on them and, once I got all kitted-up, I was on my way. The view, as I cycled along the Yodogawa River cycle-way (in the above image) looked so inviting I couldn't wait to get amongst it. Having cycled in this area many-a-time, I knew I was in for some serious hill-climbing. But, what the hell.
Road-side Lanterns Approaching
Yokoku-ji Temple.
Map Location.
   After I reached the plateau, after my first hill-climb (Route-79), I struck my first lot of snow. It wasn't much, but very beautiful none-the-less. I could also feel the temperature drop slightly. From this point the road ascends from 249m to 253m in just 2.6km and becomes more sheltered. And much more colder. The temperature must have dropped below zero in that short distance as my toes became cold, as-well-as my fingers and, also, my ....... Here I had to pull   my neck-warmer up over my nose, which is a pain-in-the-ass as it fogs-up my glasses, and my head-warmer down over my ears. God-knows what I must have looked like.
Ozawa-cho Village.
Map Location.
   The village of Ozawa is the junction for several tracks leading to-and-from Pon-Pon Yama (Mt Pon-Pon), a favorite destination for many of the local hiking fraternity.As you can see in the above image, there is a lot more snow about and I have to be cautious of the road surface as it begins to descend (the road descends 100m in just 1.5km).
Kawakubo-cho Village.
Map Location.
As I was passing-through the village of Kawakubo-cho I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, a large concrete Torii and was curious where the road, that passed under it, went to. This was my cue to venture off the road and go bush (or in this case, forest). 
Map Location.

   Partway through the forest I spotted a trail branching-off the road and wondered where it led to. It was the beginning of a hiking track and, as you can see in the photo, it offered a fine view of the surrounding area. Mmm, curiouser -and-curiouser. But, I must move on (maybe I shall return). 
  A hundred-or-so meters along, and the road came to a (familiar) junction where a sign, with the Kanji Character for Temple on it, provided me with an ideal opportunity to stop for a break - a hot coffee and bread-rolls.  
Entrance to Motoyama-ji Temple.
Map Location.
Gate, entrance to Motoyama-ji Temple.
Map Location.
   After a 2.6km x 217m hill-climb ( I was gasping for breath after) I arrived at the entrance to Motoyama-ji Temple (I used the word "familiar" earlier. I have used this track several times descending from Pon-Pon Yama). It was colder, I was feeling knackered, I was hungry, but all that went-out the door as I entered the complex. With all the snow lying-about, this was an "outdoorholic's" dream location. The temple is located 502m on a mountain and is part of the "Tokaido Trail". The complex deserves more time to wander around and view the grounds and so, in saying that, I have placed this on my "must return" list.
Yours Truly at Motoyama-ji Temple.
   As I was about to depart, a few flakes of snow began to fall and I was reminded of my steep descent I had ahead of me (a descent of 479.1m in 4.3km) and, as the road is a popular destination for those on a pilgrimage to the several shrines and temples in the area, I thought it better to move-on.
End of the Road.
Map Location.

I found an ideal location to stop for that long-awaited coffee & bread-rolls, while admiring the view (normally when I stop for this reason, I like to sit and admire the view but, on this occasion, my view was spoiled by the mess of a motorway construction-site). A footnote to this photo - to get from where the camera is located to where I am posing, is a distance of about 20m, which included a jump over a barrier, and I had 10-seconds to do it in. The couple, about to pass-under the Torii, wondered "what the hell was this guy up to", until they saw the camera. I got a very polite konnichwa as they passed. Oh how I love the Japanese.
   This trip is dedicated to my late Father-in-Law, who passed-away on this date 7-years ago. I am sure, if he was still alive, he would have been with me. But he was, in spirit. And I miss him so. Tonight I will be burning an incense and praying for him at his alter.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Mmm. What to wear..........part-2.

   In my previous post ( "Mmm. What to wear....." ) I talked about the appropriate clothing to wear when venturing into the great outdoors, on bike. After signing-off and posting the blog, I realized I had more to say. So folks, welcome to "What to wear, part-2".
   Do you remember this photo? This is my gear, all laid-out on the lounge floor (much to the annoyance of my dear wife) for my upcoming bike-ride during winter (if this was summer there would only be the cycle-shorts, shorts and shirt with the windbreaker in my back-pack). 
   Okay, you have been reading some really-great blogs about the world of biking - "This Piece of Rock""""Florida Biking" and "Trail View Mount" - and decided you want a piece-of-the-action. You've picked-out the bike you want and are waiting for delivery. Next, you want to put-together a kit to wear. Here are some "do's-and-don'ts" when it comes to selecting that gear.
   I am not fashion conscience, I don't care what I look like, the less amount of time I spend in front of the mirror the better (it also saves on the budget not having to purchase a new mirror). So, if you are into the latest fashions, by-all-means go-ahead and spend-spend-spend but, remember this, every dollar/yen spent on clothing, is a dollar/yen less to spend on your bike (that's unless daddy has given you his credit-card). Most of my outdoor attire is either old wear - the sweater I purchased about 20-years ago and, since then, it has passed-through three, of the five stages of wear (stage-1 = good wear, stage-2 = casual, stage-3 = around home, stage-4 = hiking/biking and stage-5 = rubbish) - or second-hand. Only a few items are new - cycle-shorts and polypropylene long-johns and singlet. It wasn't until after 10-years of cycling that I purchased my first set of cycle-shorts and the recommendation came from my doctor; I had been to see him regarding a case of hemorrhoids (o.m.g. who would want to be a doctor?) and, as he was aware I cycled a lot, he asked me if I wore cycle-shorts. The rest is history. My bum didn't know what struck it when I first wore them, especially the part that doesn't see much of the sun (that's unless you are building sandcastles on a nude beach). Comfort isn't the only benefit from wearing these shorts. It's the chamois skin lining inside that prevents chafing brought-on by perspiration. The polypropylene underwear are amazing. I first came across it when I was kayaking. This stuff keeps you warm, even it you are soaking-wet (dunk the singlet into a bucket of cold water then wear it. It will still keep you warm).
   You have arrived home from a great ride. You have clocked-up a few kilometers, seen/experienced some awesome scenery, worked-up a huge sweat. You've stripped-off, taken a shower, hung-up your gear and are about to fill everyone in on your trip. Right? WRONG. Unless you have zero regard for your family and neighbours, I would suggest you wash or soak your gear. And, while on this subject, don't (and I mean don't) use that clothing for anything else other than for cycling. It smells, and that is putting it mildly.
   We have reached the highlight of this blog (no,I'm not about to sign-off), a fashion show of yours truly modelling my seasonal outfits (move-over Armani).
 Wearing all that winter gear can have it's negatives - it takes the best part of 5-minutes to get dressed/undressed, you sweat like crazy (unlike summer, you don't realize it until you begin peeling-off all that gear) and finally, god-help you if you have to use the toilet (if that happens, don't leave it too long because, by the time you search through all that gear, then find it, you are most probably already peeing yourself). My windbreaker has a double zip and can be opened from the top and bottom.
   Cycling in the Spring and Autumn one has to be just as careful, as when cycling in winter and summer. In the image on the right (taken in October/Autumn) I am still wearing my summer windbreaker, but have a long-sleeved shirt and summer leggings. In the forest you are out of the warm sun and the temperature can drop quite suddenly. Summer is probably the most hazardous time of the year to be exposed to the elements.
So don't make the same mistake I did once, and go out lightly clad. You will pay for it. As you can see in the image on the left, I am still wearing a shirt that covers most of my upper-body and loose fitting shorts. Also take note of the drink bottles I have. My bike has frames to carry two and I have another in my bag. If, when out on a ride, I pass a spring, I stop and refill (a note of caution here, if it is an extremely-hot day, avoid consuming water that is too cold. Your body might react).
Riding in the rain.
Oh how I love getting down and dirty. In this image I have just returned from a ride through terrain that, just the day before, had experienced a typhoon and there was plenty of mud and water still lying-around (as-well-as trees and landslides). If you are venturing-out in conditions like this, or are likely to return home looking like this, try and have a bucket at the door for those dirty, wet clothing. That way you will avoid the inevitable tongue-lashing when those muddy footprints have been discovered.
Cooling down.
   In the image above (taken on the same trip as the summer photo) I have discovered a spring and decided to strip, cool off and re-stock my water supply. It was very hot this day and this came as a welcome relief. I was 5-hours into a 7-hour trip, and I was aware that there would be little shelter from the sun for the remainder of my journey.
   I love venturing into the outdoors, regardless of my mode, and am constantly aware of the risks involved, especially when it comes to the elements. I hope you too, if you are planning on getting-into this lifestyle, become to appreciate it as well. Enjoy.

Monday, January 16, 2012

"Mmm. What to wear. Decisions-decisions-decisions".

   I've heard that phrase many a time, especially when my w............. ( at this point I think it best to keep my sexists jibes where they properly belong, in the trash can) ...and I too can be heard uttering the same comment, especially when I am preparing my gear for my next venture into the great outdoors.
   My friend Steve, aka Florida Biking, wrote in a recent blog, titled "Cycling when it's Cold....", about the importance of being properly attired when out on your bike, regardless of the season. Again, Steve has hit the nail firmly on the head with his comments, in particular where he explains how a large nation, such as the 'States, can have the two weather extremes at the same time of year. But in a small country, such as here in Japan, it can be quite different (and at the same time, the same).
   Before I commence on the topic, I want to opine firstly about a belief I hold, regarding the great outdoors. When one ventures out, regardless of their motive or mode, you are at the mercy of the elements and Mother Nature and all they can throw at you. Regardless of your experience / qualifications / skills, or how well you have prepared for your venture, or how well equipped you are, there is no 100% guarantee you will return home alive & well. We are all affected by complacency and even a walk in the park can end in disaster. Don't think, when you read what I say, or others for that matter, that you will be able to survive whatever is thrown at you. But don't let me put you off. 
   Now back to the subject at hand. This post is my spin  on the type of clothing appropriate for the time-of-year/season for here in Japan. Here we experience two weather extremes (check-out my blog on the "Four Seasons of Japan"), summer, where it's either very-hot or extremely-hot, and winter, where, to coin-a-phrase from back home, is Brass-Monkey conditions. I will begin with summer where it's not uncommon, when out-and-about, to pass a roadside thermometer that is reading a temperature of between 35c-to-40c (95f-to-104f). Not only is the proper clothing important, but an adequate supple of liquid  should be included in your kit. It can be quite easy for some to show-off his/her bravado, like I did once, and head-off scantily clad and suffer the consequences. If my plan was to impersonate a beetroot, I did a very-good job of it, not to mention the pain I suffered the following day.This time of year most of my outings will be in sheltered areas, and I sometimes go cycling during the night or early morning to avoid the extreme heat. A couple of pieces of chewing-gum can go some way to relieving a dry mouth.
   Winter, like summer, requires one to be careful when it comes to preparing for your venture. Winter is the time-of-year where we, like our animal cousins, tend to go into hibernation and put our gear away for the warmer months (that's unless you are a ski-buff). But hey, you don't have to take-a-break. It's great cycling in the cold and snow. You just have to be more careful. Your preparations should commence the minute you climb-out of bed - keep yourself warm, remain in your pyjamas and wear a dressing-gown and put the heater on. Then tuck-into a good breakfast - banana, yogurt & muesli, toast and a hot cup-of-tea - before climbing-into your gear. In your pack, include something to eat along the way - banana,mixed-nuts,energy bar, as-well-as a flask of hot water for the coffee you plan to stop for (like I do). During winter you are burning twice the fuel as when you go riding in the  hotter months, so a big diet and keeping warm will go a long way to relieving any problems you may experience.
   Lets take a look at my gear, beginning at the top. If you have any respect for that organ ensconced in your skull, I would suggest you protect it with a head-warmer (and not to forget a helmet). My singlet & long-johns are made of polypropylene  (or polyprops as we call them back home) that work by entrapping your body-heat and not allowing it to escape. A must. The tank-top, shirt & sweater are self-explanatory. The neck-warmer is great, especially if it gets bloody cold or there is a stiff breeze blowing. It can be pulled-up over the mouth & nose. The gloves, cycle-shorts & shorts are also self-explanatory. The windbreaker may not seem much, but is probably the most important piece of gear you will wear. They are thin, light and flexible and protect you from the cold-wind. Most people who have experienced hypothermia have done so because they weren't protected adequately from the wind. Earlier in this chapter I mentioned some of the items to include in your pack, a good pair of woollen pants should be taken "just in case". 
Yours Truly.
And bingo, the finished product. All kitted-up and ready to go. Hopefully you will resemble the same (maybe better looking). Now, have you Got & Done everything? Liquid, food, map, charged-cellphone, spare gear, camera. Yes? I bet you forgot one thing. Have you given instructions of  your intentions? I bet not. Remember what I said earlier - complacency. And remember, whatever instructions you give, stick with them, don't alter your plans without informing someone else. While also on the topic of complacency, don't rely on your cellphone coverage. A lot of people venture into the outdoors thinking "she'll be right, I've got my cellphone. If I get-into any trouble, I'll call for help". Have you heard of Murphy's Law?
   Forgive me if I sound like I am patronizing you. I just worry about those who venture-out without proper preparation. My experience has come from mistakes I have made over the years (and there have been a few) and I have been fortunate (I won't use the term "lucky", as luck had nothing to do with it) to have survived. It's a great world out there, and the more that come to appreciate and experience it the better.
   I would like to thank my friend Steve for allowing me to quote from his blog - Florida Biking.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Bookride to Kyoto.

   I don't need an excuse to go for a bike-ride, or a walk/hike for that matter. Although, in saying that, a majority of my outdoor pursuits have been executed with a purpose or plan in mind. It's just being in the outdoors that gives me the impetus to don my hiking or cycling gear and get-out and experience what "This Piece of Rock" has to offer. I guess that explains why I'm so addicted to it.
   My friend Steve, aka Florida Biking, wrote in a recent blog ("Do you remember when you were a kid?") about the benefits one experiences when out cycling. Today's outing contains many of Steve's insights regarding the benefits of cycling - fun, health, sights-'n-sounds, satisfaction - plus a shock discovery which will be the topic of a later blog.
   Today's outing did have a purpose - to visit my favorite second-hand bookshop so as to restock my supply of reading material. Reading is another of my (many) obsessions and, as it has been over a week since I had my nose in a good book, I decided on a trip into Kyoto City to satisfy my needs.

Green e Bookshop.

Green e Books is neatly tucked-away in the Marutamachi Area of Kyoto City and specialises in second-hand English books (today was my lucky day, as all books over ¥600 in price were discounted by 50% and, if you purchased three books, you could select a fourth for free. Plus the freebie box was full of books) and, after a half-hour of browsing, I came-away with seven good books (beats taking medication for my O.C.D) ranging from a couple of novels, a D.H.Lawrence classic and a book on the Krakatoa eruption.
   There are many routes to get me to Green e Books, the shortest about 50km, but, as it has been some time since my last outing and I had all the time in the world, I took the scenic-route, about 70km. The route I have done many times so, with camera in hand, I set-off with the hope I would discover something new along the way. And that I surely did. 
   As I was cycling-along the Uji River, towards the dam that controls the canal flow into the Ujigawa, I stopped to check something on my bike, and it was then that I noticed it - a Castle sitting-atop a hill in the distance (partly visible on the left of the photo). 
Approaching Chushojima.
Location - photo taken.
Location - Castle.

I can't recall how many times I have cycled this stretch of track, but this is the first time I have seen this Castle. Fushimi-Momoyama Castle will be the topic of a future blog (once I gather more information on it).

Fishing on the Yamashina Canal.

   This guy has the right idea how to spend a lazy Sunday. I don't think he cares if he catches anything, it's just the thought of chilling-out on a comfortable deck-chair with a fishing-rod in hand. With the cold temperatures at this time-of-year, most of the fish would have gone into hibernation.
   I have by now exited the track and entered the busy thoroughfares of Kyoto
City. As I pass-by the huge & impressive vermilion-colored Torii, that signifies the entrance to Heian-jinju Shrine, I can't help but notice many of the streets barricaded-off with firemen standing guard and directing traffic. Parked along the streets (photo on the right) are many fire-engines. My first thought was "oh-my-god there is a fire somewhere and a National Treasure is on fire." Then I remembered, it's "Dezomeshiki", or "New-Year's Firemen Parade". This is where, once a year, firemen, and their machines, come-out and display their techniques - emergency rescue and disaster intervention (as-well-as putting-on a show for the kids).

Coffee Break on the Chushojima Canal.
I have done my shopping and, on an outing like this, I look for an ideal spot to stop for a coffee and a bite-to-eat. On this occasion I have chosen the path that runs-alongside the Chushojima Canal. I like my coffee and it gives me the excuse to stop & rest before continuing, it also allows me to check-out what books I have purchased. The path I am following runs parallel to the canal as-well-as the Keihan Main Line, that runs from Osaka City to Kyoto City.
Time for a read.

   Wary of the cold I don't want to linger for too long. I know I still have about 30km left to ride.
Rubbish in the Canal.
  The canal branches-off from the Biwako Canal,(Map) just before it runs into the Kamo River. On this day  the canal had been drained for cleaning and, as you can see, an array of litter is exposed. This is just one of many bikes abandoned in the water-way. 
   Do you like Puns? Then check-out the building on the left. If I was in a different mode, I would have passed this (like I had the many other times I have passed-by this building). This is a classic play-on-words and one that amused me highly. At this point I am looking back at where I have come from. 
Yours Truly.
  Five hours and 69.5km later I arrive home, buzzing. I have been on a great ride, seen/experienced things I never realized were there, picked-up some great reading material, chilled-out +++++++. All that is left to do is to peel-off all that clothing (all 12-items), thanks to the cold ( a later blog) and take a shower. Then, compose this blog while the details are still fresh in my mind.
   But, before signing-off, I want to take the opportunity to acknowledge Steve at Florida Biking, for allowing me to quote from his blog. Steve posts some great blogs, that are a mixture of information and humor and I recommend you to connect to his mailing-list.
   While on the subject of blogs, I want also to recommend Charles at Trailviewmount and Kevin at Trailsnet. I always enjoy reading these guys latest blogs and chatting with them via our "Facebook" pages.
   So, until next time, happy cycling.