Sunday, March 18, 2018


On our way from Australia back to the US we decided to stop in Japan for 10 days. We spent our time in the old city of Kyoto. It was the heart of winter there, so walking around the narrow streets took some getting used to. We had our cold-weather clothes from the boat with us, but things didn't get comfortable till we purchased some gloves. Because a US high government official had visited Kyoto, the city was spared any bombing during World War II and the hundreds of shrines and temples are intact.
A typical shrine would include a plaque telling of its history in English. I was always disappointed when it said this was the rebuilt 6th century shrine of some Buddhist or Imperial Leader, till I read further on and it would note that the last rebuild was in 1250AD.
The shines are mostly guarded by Lions and Liondogs. You tell the difference between the two, as one has his mouth open, the other closed. Its interesting that these are used to protect the temples, as there are no lions in Japan or liondogs, anywhere.
The food in Kyoto was great. They have a lot of Japanese restaurants there. of the first restaurants we went into. The restaurants focus on one type of food, such as Udon, Ramen, Sushsi, Yakatori and Tempura. This means you pretty much have decided what you will eat when you pick the restaurant. This is a Udon restaurant with a single row of bar seats.
To order you go to this machine and press the buttons corresponding to what you want, stick in some Yen and a ticket comes out. Seems complicated for a 8 seat restaurant, but it works. Good Udon too.
The shrines of Kyoto bring lots of Japanese tourists. The women often like to dress up fancy rental kimonos and take selfies in front of temples.
Groups of older school children are brought by their teachers to learn about their history and show respect.

Each of temples has a way to purchase some small item to leave there. These papers have prays on them and you can ask for good luck in romance, business and life. I'm not convinced it works, but I didn't want to take any chances.

 Food stores are always interesting to check out across the world as some insight to the local culture. Here's Chris in a supermarket picking out apples. The fruit is individually wrapped and blemish free.
This is one of the canals dug in the early 1600's used to trade cargo in Kyoto.
Doing a little street shopping for used kimonos.

On a particularly (really, really) cold day we took the train and subway to a weekend antique swapmeet at one of the temples. We could have filled a cargo container with the cool stuff that was offered. Chris bought an antique kimono and I scored a set of cool old Kyoto steel wood chisels. 

It made my trip to Japan even if I near had to freeze to death get them.

This temple has arches that lead up and then down the side of a mountain for a 45 minute walk around. This is only a small sample of the hundreds of pictures we took in Kyoto.


Friday, February 16, 2018


We put Georgia to bed in her snuggy cradle on the hardstand in Bundaberg (Queensland, Australia). Along with the hardstands there's also some nice bright blue ropes holding her down just in case she has to sit through some high winds. The field behind her gets a fair number of browsing kangaroos that hopefully don't jump the chain-link fence.

On our trip back to the US we decided to make a bunch of stops on the way. The basic itinerary: Brisbane-Cairns-Osaka-Honolulu-San Diego-Ft Lauderdale-Jacksonville-Greensboro, GA-Spartenburg,SC-Seattle-Bellingham,WA.
We landed in Cairns in the rainy off season. It was still clear it is a heavily tourist focused town. Can you guess where a lot of the tourists come from by the sign above in the airport toilet?

Since our flight was going to go through Cairns anyway we decided to stay for a few days to ride the train up to Kuranda and take the Skyway gondola back down. Cairns is pronounced Cans - don't ask me why. Kurunda is an aboriginal tourist town. The railway went in the 1890s for gold extraction. It began being a tourist railway in the 1930's.

The train station in Kuranda is fairly original. It has a switching yard so that the train direction can be turned around. This is the switch house containing all the manual controls for the yard switches. The three colors separate the controls for turning the switch, locking the switch and setting the signal. Visiting the switch house was right up there with checking out rusty stuff.

This local was playing a large didgeridoo on the sidewalk, making sounds of the jungle animals.

It was dumping down rain when we headed into Bird World who's claim to fame is that it is the largest single collection of free flying birds in Australia. I should have saved this photo for Valentines Day or, as I was convinced it was pronounced as a kid, Valentimes Day.

There was something really tasty to Chris' rubber soled shoes for this ring necked parrot.

Hungry critters.

This dinosaur looking Cassowary is native to Queensland. They can get to 5 feet tall.

Lots of waterfalls viewable from the train ride.

This 'crashed' DC3 is not really rusty stuff as it is made from aluminium. Plus it was actually a plane used as a movie prop and then moved to Kuranda for tourist enjoyment.

Just to help you understand the general level of culture in Australia, here's a central gift item in the Kuranda Railway station store. Kangaroo scrotum bottle openers - a gift for all.
  Ok, it was touristy-- but really fun.


Monday, January 15, 2018

Aussie Animals

After getting our rudder somewhat back together we decided to pass on doing the 1,000 miles down and back passage to Sydney. We needed to do a Visa run the first week of February and were feeling pinched for time.  We are on a 12 month visa in Australia that is multiple entry for a maximum of 90-days at a time, and our 90-days are up soon.
So we spent some time in the Southport area, which is Fort Lauderdale with more jet skis, less charm but nicer beaches.
While in Southport we did a road trip courtesy of our friends Judy and Sherman on the half US and half Australia boat Fair Winds. I managed to forget to bring my camera with me, so only got a few cheap Huawai phone shots. This is the Byron Bay Lighthouse on Cape Byron, the eastern most part of mainland Australia. It was built in 1901 and still flashing away to the cruisers passing by offshore at night.
ByronBayIMG_20171224_122644 Almost like a selfie but with some additional help.
We drove inland into the coastal mountains to the town of Nimbin. The main reason to go here was to see the Museum of Marijuana. Unfortunately it burnt down two years ago. Pot is illegal in Australia, but Nimbin seems to be a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell kind of town in the state of New South Wales. It makes its money selling pot paraphernalia and t-shirts to tourists while supporting a robust 1970’s hippy community.
After Southport we brought the boat up to Manly and took a slip for a few weeks so we could explore Brisbane. Manly is about a half-hour commuter train ride from Brisbane. It is a major boating stop on Moreton Bay. After we purchased our GO Cards (Queensland trasport cards) and learned to use the train, bus, ferry system, getting around was easy.
The bird life in Queensland is really impressive. You see a wide variety of interesting critters just walking around town and the parks.  This is a white ibis that goes after junk food like sea gulls would in the states.
These cranky and noisy Rainbow Lorikeets come out in flocks to feed each evening.
If you didn’t get the hint from the photo at the top of this blog, here’s another hint. We went to the Australia Zoo. This is the private zoo started by Steve Irwin – the Aussie who was famous for saying ‘Crikey!’ every time he got near a wild animal.
The zoo is nicely laid out with a bunch of somewhat interactive exhibits. The Saltie Show, aka saltwater crocodiles, doesn’t allow for a lot of customer interaction with the Salties. In practice, you don’t really need to be concerned about the crocs in NE Australia as long as you stay at least 25 feet back from the waters edge and never swim in itSad smile
The waters around here are really full of unfriendly creatures. You don’t swim in any of the murky waters due to the territorial bull sharks. The clear waters are OK as long as there are no Great White sharks. Over the last two weeks three people have been stung by Stone Fish – majorly painful. There was just a warning not to swim off the beaches on Fraser Island because of the poisonous and potentially deadly box jellys. It’s a tough crowd here.
Koala’s make for an iconic picture of Australia. Big claws, but not deadly.
Chris snuck up on this Koala and followed the petting rules: not on the head.
Meerkat looking for overhead predators.
The bird presentations at the Zoo were even more interesting than the Salties. This Red-tailed Cockatoo was in training. She’s workingon showing less attitude about people being close by.
The other iconic Australian critter is clearly the kangaroo. Look close and you can see the Joey in the mothers pouch.
Joey sticking his head out of the pouch to get a little fresh grass treat.
The Kookaburra – I’d say iconic but you aren’t allowed to have three iconics in one blog post. We were walking back at night from seeing a movie (and to escape the heat) and saw a Kookaburra sitting on a No Parking sign and occasionally swooping down to pickup bugs attracted to the evening lights. Check out their famous laugh here (scroll down to the audio clips). The movie was Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – two thumbs up.
A few more gratuitous koala pictures. Mom with a baby – neither one very alert.
Now this youngster was busy getting to the freshest gumtree leafs.
We are still in Manly, Moreton Bay, till some weather passes through. Then around Wednesday we plan to make the 200 mile sail north back to Bundaberg. We’ll put the boat on the hard there and fly out just before our visas expire. This will start an extended state-side visit and grandkid fix.