Nishiki Market, Kyoto

Tucked in between Teramachi and Takakura and one block north of Shijo is the Nishiki markets with it’s multi-coloured glass roof. An awe inspiring selection of gastronomic sights, and smells, greets you in what the locals call Kyoto’s pantry. Some of the stalls sell takeaway in the form of sashimi and yakitori skewers and there are some small sit down restaurants tucked away here and … Continue reading Nishiki Market, Kyoto

To Kyoto by Shinkasen

Kyoto city of a thousand temples, pavilions, gardens and stately palaces, all surrounded by the surging froth of ¬†modern Japan. Behold, the golden layer cake of Kinka.. Let’s wind the tape back a little to see how we got here shall we? Dateline Narita International airport, situated in Chiba prefecture to the east of Tokyo.Our intrepid travellers arrive on their way to Yokohama via a … Continue reading To Kyoto by Shinkasen


Aoraki, or Mt Cook if you prefer, is the tallest piece of real estate in New Zealand so as we had a spare day in Queenstown…Yep you guessed it, road-trip! From Queenstown it’s about a seven hour drive through the central Otago region, known for it’s vineyards and  where we stopped for lunch at (strangely) a nice little vineyard. Yes it’s long drive but you do get to see a … Continue reading Aoraki

Auckland vulcanis redux

Rome might have its seven hills but Auckland is built on the bones of fifty or so¬†volcanoes. Oh, and the volcanic field is still active which in turn¬†means that eventually it’s going to rumble in to life again with predictably bad consequences. Still it’s not quite as bad as what might happen if the Taupo super volcano¬†kicks off… ūüôā That warning having been delivered, if … Continue reading Auckland vulcanis redux

The Maori portraits

An exhibition of the portraiture of Gottfried Lindauer is on at the National gallery in Auckland, its an absorbingly interesting insight into the Maori of the 19th century. I’ve seen one or two of these portraits before in other museum but this is a very well curated and comprehensive exhibit of his life’s work. Check it out if you’re in town.  Continue reading The Maori portraits

The Sound of Piopiotahi

Very Hebridean Taking our leave of the Routeburn we picked up our bus at 11 from the Divide Shelter car park and kicked back for a couple of hours travel not requiring ou legs.We drew some curious looks from the other passengers given our slightly travel stained appearance.  Even getting to Piopiotahi/Milford is dramatic, the road winds up through the mountain valley past the avalanche … Continue reading The Sound of Piopiotahi

To the Lighthouse

I’d finished my week of teaching penance so to celebrate¬†I jumped in the car and took the peninsular road down to the lighthouse at Cape Schanck. Parked the car and walked down from the lighthouse car park to Pebble bay. As it’s a popular stop it’s¬†all stairs and boardwalk and an easy walk on a spring day, you¬†could even do the walk in a suit … Continue reading To the Lighthouse

Day eight: Tumbling down

Millennium camp, the last morning

Millennium camp, last day. Awoke to find that the towel I’d left outside had frozen solid so this morning’s wash was a little brisk. The peak is behind us now, so it’s disbursing of the tips¬†to the porters and getting ourselves together for the last hike down the mountain to the Mweka¬†gate. Continue reading “Day eight: Tumbling down”

Day Six/Seven: The curve of the earth

From the crater rim

Man, what a night! So, after a few hours of not very restful rest we assemble in the Bucky dome for our pre-summit brief. The weather is cold but clear and you can see the lights of the other climbers heading up the mountain in the darkness of New Years Eve. It’s a slow slog up the hill now, bulky in our cold weather gear, sometimes stopping to let quicker parties through. The air’s getting thinner all the time and I’m struggling now to ¬†keep up with the rest of the party, feet are going numb as the heat leaks out through the soles of my boots (even with¬†two pairs of¬†yak wool socks). Despite the rest stops I’m falling behind as we ascend into a series of mind and body numbing switchbacks,¬†listening to the porters singing (clearly they are acclimatised). Me, I’m just wondering am I going to get there? Thinking about just lying down I’m so exhausted. Eventually G and I fall out of the line with one of the summit porters and I sit down on a god damn freezing rock to catch my breath. Camelback’s frozen (predictably) so down to water in canteen.¬† Continue reading “Day Six/Seven: The curve of the earth”

Evening on summit night eve

Day Six: Barafu camp

Evening at Barafu, summit night eve

Day six is another clear morning, so it’s off on the trail to Barafu camp (4662m). The landscape is drier now and dustier as we head north easterly on a steady upwards slope until we hit an easterly running valley that takes to the foot of the ridge on which Barafu camp sits, a final (damn exhausting) scramble and we’re at Barafu. Continue reading “Day Six: Barafu camp”

Climbing up through the Groundsels forest

Day Five: The Barranco wall

Climbing up through the Groundsels forest

Up early, but even with an early get up the Barranco wall already has a long line of climbers winding up it. Our guides elect to wait for the crush to ease, so it’s another little while before we head off. The days clear and cold as we cross the Barranco and start our scramble up the wall. Continue reading “Day Five: The Barranco wall”

Day four: To the Lava towers



Woke up this morning with frost on the ground, today we’ll be leaving the mountain heath and heading up into the alpine desert and the Lava towers at 4627m. As we’re not taking the Western breach route we’ll then head down again through the Barranco valley to Barranco camp. We’re doing the climb high, sleep low thing today.

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Looking across the plateau towards Kibo

Day three: Shira huts

Shira campsite in the morning, looking towards Kibu

Morning of the third day, a cool clear night. Had to get up for a call of nature around three, the moon flooding the plateau with it’s cold light and Kibo standing up against the stars. The air is thinner here and walking back to the tent it suddenly feels like you’re no longer swimming safely at the bottom of an ocean of air but the only person alive on a vast alien plain¬†exposed to the pitiless gaze of ancient and indifferent¬†constellations. Or at least that’s how you feel at three in the morning. ūüôā Continue reading “Day three: Shira huts”

Day two: Shira 1 camp

Cloud and moor, with G

Waking early, always early on the trail, it’s a¬†bird bath¬†with the ubiquitous bowl of water, breakfast in our Buckminster dome mess tent and a short wait while we (the porters) strike camp, then we’re off on to Shira 1 camp. Climbing up out of the climax rainforest and heading east the air is cooling but still humid and it’s raining intermittently as we move above the forest line and we’re walking amongst heather and stoebe under a lowering sky. Yes it’s east, east and to the east again young man as we climb up the ridge line until we hit our lunch stop. Continue reading “Day two: Shira 1 camp”

Day one: To Mti Mkubwa

Early morning, Stella Maris Moshi

And we’re off, Moshi to Londorossi gate then Mti Mkubwa

An early start, and we were off in the bus for a couple of hours boneshaking ride to Londorossi gate. We’re using the Lemosho route which takes you up through the western cloud forest then east across the Shira plateau where it joins up with the Barafu route then it’s Barranco, Katanga valley and Barafu before the final New Years Eve ascent to Stella point. Continue reading “Day one: To Mti Mkubwa”

The snows of Kilimanjaro

Searching for¬†Hemingway’s leopard So dear reader, after many adventures on the grass ocean of the Serengeti, and a side trip to the lost world of Ngorongoro, the good doctor and I have finally arrived in Moshi Tanzania, the jump off point for our climb. We’ve had our briefing from the head guide, met the other members of the party and done a final equipment check. … Continue reading The snows of Kilimanjaro


The old town¬† Got¬†up very, very¬†early,¬†my bad, I¬†woke up zero dark early with the net result that we spent an hour extra at Helsinki airport really, really early, G was justifiably annoyed. Still we got to Tallinn airport and as we had a few hours before our connecting flight to Moscow well let’s go explore the Old Town. There are lockers at the airport for … Continue reading Tallinn

South to Tammisaari

The stone men of Helsinki railway station

Leaving Tampere and the good Doctor.* I headed back to Helsinki by train to meet up with an old chum from the Navy at Pullman’s bar¬†which is located upstairs in the central station. Pullman’s is a nice place to catch up with an old friend, a¬†comfortable old school decor and a small but decent selection of beers on tap (try the London Pride) make it very easy to while a way an hour or so in conversation. Then it was off down the freeway to Tammisaari where Rob (my friend) and Outi (his wife) have their place.

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The Lenin museum

V.I.L is in da’ house And just when you thought that Tampere couldn’t get more interesting it’s a flying visit to the Lenin Museum. ‘Visit’, said the invitation on their website, so I did. The museum is located in the Tampere workers where (naturally)¬†underground meetings of the¬†RSDLP¬†were held back in the day. Oh and it¬†was also here,¬†in 1906, that Lenin met¬†Stalin¬†for the first time. All … Continue reading The Lenin museum

Alexander Church

There’s a lot of churches in Tampere, and this Neo-gothic* survivor from the Russian Duchy is named after the Russian Tsar Alexander II, yep him of the Blood of the Martyrs in St Petersburg. The church park used to be a graveyard, there are still tombstones lying around, and (so the story goes) there’s also a mass grave from the Finnish civil war somewhere in … Continue reading Alexander Church

Welcome to Moomin Valley



Yeah all right you’ve got me, this whole trip was just an excuse to visit Moominvalley. Well more precisely¬†the Moominvalley museum¬†in Tampere dedicated to the works of Tove Jannson. Like y’know Moomins! Oh alright, I’ll explain a little more, the Moomins and their friends are a cast of fantastical characters that populate the novels of the Finnish writer and illustrator Tove Jannson. Moomintrolls are distantly related to trolls, but prefer to live in houses rather than behind stoves or under bridges. The series charts the adventures of Moomintroll his family and friends (my favourite is¬†Snufkin¬†the chap sitting in the tree in the illustration below with his trademark and much beloved hat) as they deal with everything from floods to comets. If you have a young reader in the house with a taste for the fantastical then I recommend the Moomins series unreservedly. Continue reading “Welcome to Moomin Valley”