** I would like to acknowledge the First Nations peoples of Australia, their elders and their ancestors, custodians of the land that I have been travelling through.
Throughout my blog posts about Australia, I will refer to the original people of this land as ‘First Nations people’, ‘Aboriginal Australians’ or ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders’. I asked a few people which term they prefer, and these were the preferences. The term ‘Indigenous’ was not liked. First Nations Australians often refer to themselves as ‘the mob’, too, and this term is often used by their friends and allies who are of European heritage.**
As a child of the 80s, I was in love with Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan. I spent my dinner times transfixed by Neighbours and Home & Away and I cried my eyes out watching Charlene and Scott’s wedding. An impression of Australia was implanted into my brain: a vision of a blonde-haired, tanned, surf-loving nation.
At school in England, we learnt how the ‘hero’ Captain Cook sailed around the world and ‘discovered’ Australia. There was no mention of the most ancient continuous civilisation on Earth who had lived on the land for 65,000 years before the British came. And there was never any criticism of the ‘Great’ British Empire.
I didn’t think much more about Australia as I grew older. Why would I want to travel to a country that was just like England, only hotter?
But then I discovered the words of Australian journalist John Pilger, and the beautiful songs of Xavier Rudd. Between John’s articles and Xavier’s music, I gained a new understanding of Australia – a country with one of the bloodiest, falsely-told colonial histories of all time. A history where white Europeans committed genocide on a massive scale. A history of racism, land theft, concentration camps and apartheid. An attempt to completely wipe out the Aboriginal peoples of Australia.
I’m always a little bit nervous when hitchhiking in a new country, especially where there’s a language barrier. But Japan is great to hitchhike! People know the concept (pronouncing it ‘hitch hike’, emphasising the space between the two syallables). We also saw some Japanese hitchhikers.
To hitchhike, you do the same as you would in western Europe, and stand with your thumb out. Sometimes we used a sign, sometimes we didn’t.
Waiting times were similar to in Europe, ranging from three minutes to three hours.
Hitchhiking at the exit of a rest area. We have a sign which may or may not say ‘west’!
The mountainous island of Yakushima is said to be 90% covered with forest. 90%! Because of this, Chris and I board the oldest, rustiest and cheapest ship in Japan’s waters and sail to this fairytale place.
Yakushima has actually been extensively logged and replanted. However, some old-growth forest still remains, and two-thousand year old yakusugi trees live on. They silently watch Japanese walkers who come for a two day holiday: a brief break from their sixty-hour working weeks.
“Remain calm and ready your bear spray,” I read on the Bear Smart website as we go up up up in a cable car.
“BEAR SPRAY? What bear spray?” I moan at Chris. “No-one told us to carry bear spray! Do they sell it in the tourist information shop down there? WE NEED BEAR SPRAY!”
But it’s too late. The cable car is already taking us up through thick clouds, leading us to the trailhead of our hike in Daisetsuzan national park. My phone loses signal as I frantically search online for what to do if you don’t have bear spray.
Japan is a hiker’s paradise, and the Dewa Sanzan (the three mountains of Dewa) is a pilgrimage route of the aesthetic Shugendo religion. Shugendo pilgrims and Japanese hikers can walk all three mountains – Haguro San, Gas San and Yudono San – although many non-religious hikers choose to walk just one or two of the mountains. Each mountain has a Shugendo shrine perched on the top.
The first mountain of the pilgrimage, Haguro San, is an easy walk, involving hundreds of beautiful stone steps.
Walking the hundreds of steps between Japanese cedar trees up Haguro San
Shrines at the bottom of Haguro San. These shrines weirdly worship the deities of mining, nation-building, fisheries, and national prosperity, to name a few. To me and Chris, this is contradictory to the little we have learned about Shugendo
Tokyo is surely the most capitalist, consumerist city in the world, and is not a good introduction to beautiful Japan. Billboards and lights scream at people to buy stuff. Trains are crammed with adverts whilst people are transfixed with smartphones. Everywhere I turn, there are women who look like film stars. Looking perfect is seemingly important in Tokyo.
The gaudy lights of central Tokyo make no sense to me. They seem out of place in a culture with such beautiful ornate art, shrines and intricate wooden buildings.
One advert says “life is beautiful.” Not in central Tokyo.
We spent our last couple of weeks in Aotearoa (New Zealand) hiking some astoundingly beautiful routes in the regions of Mount Aspiring, Fiordland and Aoraki.
The hiking trails that we did can be linked up (via a bit of road walking or hitching) to make a longer trail. At the bottom of this blog post is a hand-drawn map of the routes showing this.
Here’s a brief review of the trails we hiked.
I have been walking the Te Araroa hiking trail in New Zealand. This post covers the section between Lake Tekapo and Lake Ohau. After this we decided to quit the Te Araroa two-thirds of the way down the south island. Below I talk about our reasons why we quit, and I reflect on my time on the Te Araroa and whether it was a good hike to do.
You can also read part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4 of our hike.
I am hiking the Te Araroa, a long distance hiking trail which spans the length of Aotearoa (New Zealand).
This blog post covers the following sections of the trail on the south island: Rakaia river to Rangitata river; Rangitata river crossing; Two Thumb Track. (We did not attempt to cross the Rakaia river on foot, and we met no other hikers who did this). You can also read part 1, part 2 & part 3.
Rakaia river to Rangitata river
Rivers rivers rivers. I can’t remember when we weren’t walking through rivers, streams or creeks, and today I’m sick and tired of it. When was the last time I had dry shoes? I can’t remember.
This blog post covers the following sections of the trail on the south island:
Waiau Pass; Boyle Village to Arthur’s Pass; Arthur’s Pass to the Rakaia river.
You can also read part 1 & part 2 of the hike.
1) Waiau Pass trail in the Nelson Lakes: 115.5km, 8 days:
It’s raining. The river hurls water downstream and the track becomes part of the river. We huddle in hikers’ huts until the weather clears.
The river bursts its banks and the way becomes engulfed by strong water
The trail is here somewhere…
I can’t remember when I last had dry feet…
And then, when the sun comes out and we start to climb away from the valley, the Waiau Pass section becomes spectacular. If you’re choosing just a few sections of the Te Araroa, pick this one! Snow-capped mountains surround us as we climb higher.