On Tuesday the first cassic event took place.
In a nutshell, it was tough. 6 out of 6 Aussies agreed that the course was very difficult. (but perhaps in more colourful language)
The map was large (B4) and was very colourful with lots of dense forest, many uncrossable features and decent contours to contend with. Many competitors were over the 140 min time limit and many competitors did not find the required transmitters.
Kristian and Nelly competed on 80m.
Ewen, Jack, Jenelle and Peter competed on 2m.
Kristian completed the course in 124 mins.
Ewen found 1 Tx and finished on time.
Nelly finished in perfect time (with 44 seconds to spare) but unfortunatley didn’t find any Tx’s.
Peter, Jack and Jenelle found 1 Tx each but finished over time.
Todays sprint event was more enjoyable for all competitors. The open forest in this area allowed for quick running. All of the Aussie competitors found all of their Tx’s except for Peter and Jack.
The uncrossable fence 2/3’s of the way down the map caused some difficulty for many competitors trying to find transmatter 2F (Which also had its antena knocked down on the ground for approximately 20 mins during the event.)
After the sprint Jack, Nelly and Peter went on a tour to the unification observatory and DMZ museum.
Ewen, Jenelle and Kristian explored a local film set that contained many historic replica buildings from different periods and thought that they might find some instruments to assist in the local terrain.
Jenelle found a ladder (intended for storming castles) to assist with the impossible hills, whilst Ewen and Kristian found a battering ram to assit with getting through the inpenetrable forest.
6 athletes (5 from VIC and 1 from Qld.) Are currently in Sokcho, Korea for the 19th ARDF World Championships.
In the usual fashion competitors made their way to Korea all at different times.
Jenelle and Ewen were the first to arrive, enjoying a week long tour of Korea before the event.
Peter and Kristian met up with Jenelle and Ewen just a couple of days before the event. As a team we headed on a tour to the DMZ and individual members enjoyed some of the historic and cultural sights around Korea.
On the arrival day Jack and Nelly met up with the rest of the team in Sokcho.
The following day we had training with 3 seperate model events which were held in the area surrounding the accomodation.
During the model events all equipment was tested and working except for one of the 2m beams had a broken BNC connector, but luckily there was a spare. (however the spare PVC beam exhibited a design flaw so no doubt a fault report will be lodged with the manufacturer on our return.)
The first event was the fox-or which was held today.
For each age category a different map was produced with only the required Tx’s shown. There were a total of 10 Tx’s (10mW) plus the beacon (3W) but the longest course only covered 8 of the TX’s (map shown below for M21). Each Tx had its own morse identifier and were numbered 1-5 and 1F-5F.
The frequencies for the foxes were 3520 kHz (1,2,1F,2F), 3550 kHz (3,3F,4,4F) and 3580 kHZ (5, 5F) with the beacon being on 3600 kHz.
All Australian competitors completed the course within the allocated time.
Jenelle and Ewen both finished 7th in thier categories.
Kristian finished 24th in M21.
Nelly finished 27th in W21.
Peter missed 1 Tx.
Jack missed 2 Tx’s.Full results can be viewed for todays fox-or event here:
With the forecast wind and hail, 9 brave souls attempted the ARDF Sprint training held in and around Deakin Uni. A couple also did some of the Enduro controls, which was an orienteering event starting from the same spot.
The format of the event was a Five-in-Five 2m event, which in theory is possible to complete in about 6.5 minutes, followed immediately by an 80m Sprint ARDF event. Five-in-Five uses classic 5 minute cycle (1 minute each) ARDF transmitters spaced close enough that it should be possible, walking, to get to each transmitter as it comes on first time (for you). Only Jack WWW managed to get the transmitters in under 10 minutes (2 cycles). Good effort, Jack ! He admits he had a bit of luck, with earlier competitors just leaving transmitters as he approached, helping to lead him in. The time limit for this part of the event was set to 30 minutes. The transmitters were all in parkland, just off a track. In you look at the splits, below, you’ll also see Jack was the only one to do the transmitters in order, with everyone else going from #1 to #5, and then to others. Perhaps some just happened across #5 by accident ?
Mark, Suzanne & Rodney elected to only do the Five-in-Five course, with Mark the winner amongst those. Suzanne suffered some late penalties (problems with #1), but still beat out Rodney for second place. Looking at the splits at control 6 (236), Jack was clearly the fastest at this part of the event, followed with an impressive 11 minutes by Jenelle.
An ARDF sprint event has a 1 minute complete cycle, with each transmitter only on for 12s each. This was set in an area with both complex buildings, the university, and parkland around Gardiners Creek. TX #5 and #4 were in amongst the buildings and this proved too much for Jack and Peter, but not so Kris and Jennelle, who both managed those with ease. Monica liked #5 so much she punched it twice (see splits below) ! Clearly after being so flustered by those two tricky TX’s, Jack and Peter both also forgot to punch the Finish Beacon (which you are required to do at international events).
And TX #1 in the uni accommodation area ? Well, it had to be there didn’t it 🙂 Can’t make it too easy ! Generally competitors had to plan and DF carefully in this event, as it could be easy to end up the wrong side of the creek. Competitors doing both events had an un-timed (up to a 10min limit) transition leg between 2m and 80m, to get their 80m gear in order. I’m happy to say the software handled this perfectly, and I didn’t have to adjust the times it published at all.
Yep, we got that hail, and the heavy rain, but luckily both were only for short bursts, being perfect running conditions otherwise. Monica says the hail even helped her spot TX#5, as she sought shelter under cover. Besides, it’s good practice and testing for your gear, as sometimes weather can be quite unpredictable at international events. Torrential downpours are not uncommon. Thanks to Ewen for the new 80m Sprint TXs. Proto TX#1 for the 2m set has now been completed (and works), so soon we’ll have a 6-TX set on both bands.
Thank you to everyone who helped pick up the transmitters afterwards, just before the rain came (again). Apologies to Monica for not giving her a key on her first attempt.
Here’s the map, with TX locations shown. I’ve used A->E for the 80m TX, and 1->5 for 2m TX. BB was the location of both 2m and 80m beacons.
The long and winding road from Moldova through Transylvania to Walachia (north to south)
From our rural retreat in Maramures we headed east to Moldova crossing the Carpathians by the Borgo pass road enroute to Bucovina. Egg painting is a competition among the villages at Easter time.
Lunch today was Mici, a rectangular meat pattie cooked on a BBQ and served with mustard sauce.
Visited two painted monasteries (orthodox). The first was for the local community (Moldovita) and used as a refuge in times of siege. Note the wall and the strong wooden gate.
The second was for the clergy (Sucevita). The outside walls of the church was decorated, one illustrating the difficult path in getting into heaven. Inside, the frescoes showed various methods of torture and head lopping. Again a walled garden and plenty of room for the local community to shelter in times of siege.
Next highlight of the road was the animal reservation with animals native to the area. One sad and lonely bear, a small herd of buffalo and several different species of deer.
We drove through the Bicaz gorge (river running down the side). Sampled some green nut jam. Walnuts cooked in a syrup halfway between golden syrup and malt extract. An acquired taste.
Our route took us past Lake Rosu, really a dam and then onto Brasov.
Brasov is also fortified. City square with Lutheran church – aka Black Church due to a fire. Johannes Honterus was
responsible for setting up the Lutheran church and the building of the first school (directly across from the church). The original school was wooden but suffered the same fate as the church and was rebuilt in stone.
It has been particularly pleasant having an evening stroll through the many pedestrian malls in our travels.
Fort on the hill outside Brasov. Spectacular view of the surrounding country.
Bran castle – summer residence of Queen Mary of Romania. No vampires in site. Apparently Vlad the Impaler (Dracula) was have seen it on his way through. The most interesting artifact was the scales of justice. Based on a person’s size and height, if they weighed less than expected they were considered apprentices of Satan and torture would commence. Hopefully you can read the information in the photo.
The most elaborate building in Transylvania is Peles Castle. Unfortunately only outside views, but obviously prime real estate.
Our guest house at Maramures is located in a peaceful rural setting apart from the chainsaws, angle grinders and whipper snippers. Hospitality here is exceptionally good.
Dinner was in an open air setting
Entree meat balls, soft cheeses, pork fat and tomato with onion bread
The lightest, fluffiest and tastiest donuts ever with blackcurrant jam
All washed down with Palinka and black currant “cordial”
Needed a sleep in after last night!
Late start, headed for the local market, plenty of “stuff” to buy from clothing, shoes, manchester and tools. Too late for the animal market. Probably a good thing.
Checked out a modern monastery at Barsana, beautiful wooden buildings and gardens, church with pictorial stories.
Memorial to the opponents of the communist regime, very bleak place.
In a complete contrast we visited the Merry cemetery at Sapanta with colourful wooden headstones with pictures of deceased in their occupations and poems about them (all in Romanian of course)
Spent a leisurely afternoon in the outdoor area. We have eaten so well the last few days Ewen has survived since breakfast on only one jam pancake.
We could not escape Maramures without a ride on the Mocanita narrow gauge railway at Viseu de Sus very close to the Ukrainian border. For the more ardent train fans it was a 1930s vintage steam locomotive that was used to transport timber down the valley. Originally timber was floated down the river, but after a dam burst the train line was built. The 21km ride to the turn around point was supposed to take just over 2 hours. It became pretty evident early on that at the current speed something was amiss and it would be a lot longer (3 hours eventually). Repairs were needed along the way and after much banging and crashing a bearing was suitably adjusted and we continued on our way. Included in the tool set was a most impressive oil can.
The track followed the river most of the way. Still plenty of logging happening here with some unorthodox methods of transportation. A large tractor pulling 10 -15 m logs down the river and smaller pieces being drawn by horse driven carts.
At one point the river narrowed with steep cliffs and caves hidden behind bushes. It was here that the German army had a first aid centre and stored supplies. It was also the point when they planned to ambush the Red army. There was a small museum at the turn around point and a picnic ground.
The return trip took only 90 minutes which was a relief. Sufficiently rocked, rattled and shaken for the complete trip.
There are a few obstacles along the roads in Romania, this cart was one of the smaller ones.
PS Jenelle is having a love hate relationship with the formatting!!
Our trip began with a short 20 hour flight to Bucharest. The most impressive building in the city is the Parliament House, second largest building only to the Pentagon. Ceausescu thought he would leave his mark by commencing this build, fortunately for the people of Romania he didn’t live to see its completion. It is a magnificent building inside, very tastefully decorated with high ceilings, marble floors and beautiful rugs and chandeliers. (no photos unfortunately as did not have a camera pass)
Another beautiful building was the auditorium for musical concerts. We chanced upon workers changing a light globe, quite an art in itself.
We visited the old town and enjoyed a drop of the local ale.
Many old buildings in state of disrepair, including this ruin outside our hotel window. (more interesting than a carpark) Taken from our room as there was a sign outside indicating no photos to be taken (left over from communist regime)
From Bucharest we headed west to the church (in white limestone) where the Romanian kings were buried. Lavishly decorated inside. Vlad the Impaler (Dracula) lived in the building behind this church.
This is one of the fortifications that the Austrian Hungarian Emperor sent German people to build in 12-13th century. It has suffered due to earthquakes over time. Opted not to climb the 1460 steps. Chose to indulge in a Romanian donut instead!
There was a very large dam (about the size of Hoover Dam) that needed closer inspection. Traversed the Transfagarasan Road (of Jeremy Clarkson fame), (perfect for road testing a corvette or similar vehicle) and then took a cable car for a less exhilarating ride.
Please excuse the erratic formatting. Only get to practice this once a year. Jenelle
Thank you for Kristian and Bruce for writing the blog during the ARDF competition while Ewen was doing his team leader duties and waiting for Jenelle to be rescued from parts unknown. All six of us are all bringing home extra baggage in the form of medals.
Facilities at Sanyo Hotel exceeded our expectations
In our rooms chaos reigned
Photos from the closing celebrations
We left the competition area in fine weather and sunshine (compared to the cloudy wet conditions) to be dropped off at various locations. Jack left before the rest of us were up, Greg was settled in for the long ride back to Tokyo, Kristian joined us for the train trip to Takasaki and was last seen running upstairs with his bag to catch his connecting train in under 4 minutes. (a fair indication of his fitness level). Bruce, Ewen and I continued our adventure and finally arrived in Matsumoto.
We spent some time in the Time Piece museum
and then devised our own street-o to various sites including shrines, temples, gardens and the icecream shop.
Choosing dinner is always an interesting experience, our choices so far have been most acceptable.
Yesterdays trek was along the Nakasendo Way (built during Edo period) commencing after a 20 minute bus ride from Nakatsugawa, and continued through Magome to Tsumago. At this point (after 3 hr 30 min of walking and lots of up and downhill) Ewen and I opted for the bus to Nagiso station. Bruce continued on foot and arrived at the same time as the bus.
We have sorted out our transport across the Kurobe – Tateyama Alpine Route and will head off today for the start.
Today’s blog comes from Bruce, and covers the last 2 days of competition here in Gumna.
However, before that, here’s some pictures from the awards ceremony covering the first 2 days.
Yesterday was the 2nd classic ARDF event; 2m for Jenelle, Ewen & Jack, 80m for Kristian and myself.
Yep more wettish conditions, but far less rain, more just humidity and wet forest. After issues with water somehow making it into the 80m sniffers the day before, in the torrential rain on the Sprint day, we were all equipped with multiple layers of plastic bags today.
The Start location was the same, but we went the opposite direction.
For some reason they had North at an angle and downwards on the map; no orienteering conventions followed here ! At least there are blue North lines.
The terrain was hillier, with some pretty impressive cliffs.
Kristian wasn’t quite able to maintain his commanding form today, but still managed a commendable silver, as luckily others in Open found it tough too. We estimate the running ‘orienteering’ time would have been under 30mins, so the course length was short, but tricky dircetion finding.
Not the same story in my age group, with some times around 44 mins (well under the Open times, with the TX we didn’t have to find only a few mins extra.
I had an awful day making mistakes/confused on both my first and last TX, so with 2 major errors consigned down to 7th.
All Jenelle’s W60 girls DNF’d either with overtime or no TXs found, with Jenelle heartbreakingly the closest on only 2 mins overtime. The overtime rules in ARDF are sudden death ! Time limit was 2.5 hours. More some navigational confusion this time, apparently. No medals in W60 for this one.
Ewen and Jack have pulled off a team gold. Jack did a great course to get bronze, but Ewen had a pretty awful time on 2m at one of the TX’s, and made it back with only minutes to spare. Those who beat Jack, though, each only had 1 team-mate, and they both failled to find all TX’s, so that puts the team result up the top, despite the pretty average total time.
Greg, as a roving field referee, may have travelled more distance than any of us competitors, as he visited all controls, both 2m and 80m, and he had a fun time walking aroind with his Japanese counterpart. One 80m TX was misplaced, resulting in it being only about 350m from another 80m TX. Both Kristian and my GPS traces confirm this. The organisers are collecting all contributed competitors GPS tracks in order to do some sort of live replay.
So, another pretty good day for the Aussies.
In the FoxOr today, the courses were yet again from the same start area, this time with a map overlapping with the first classic a fair bit, but landscape rather than portrait.
Again Kristian beats all for gold on a physically tough M21 course (only drop 1 particular FoxOr). By a good 25min margin too.
Today he was joined by Jennelle who picked her way carefully through the W60 course to soundly beat the other 2 ladies. Another gold.
Ewen had nothing left in the tank afterwards but did a consistent course to get a well earned silver. The
orienteering expertise showing through.
That’s it for the medals today. Looked for a while like I might get one despite a poor order selection on my part (really I should know better!), but two Lee’s from Korea downloaded very late, both with shorter times, pushing me into the 4th place twilight zone, with Nikolai from USA in first.
Great event by Japan, in challenging conditions, especially the sprint day. This terrain was much more forest runnable than back in 2005.
The only comments I might make were:
– The training day transmitters were not properly representative of those used in the field.
– Downloading at the hotel afterwards is a bit frustrating, not knowing till much later in the day how you fared.
– Transmitter placement a bit off yesterday resulting in TXs too close (but it didn’t really impact on the competition).
– Start list generation needs lots of work. Many in same category starting together.
Pictures from tonight’s awarding ceremony may appear in a later blog.
Initial on land instructions, safety briefing, kitted out and out into the sea to practice paddling, and use of the rudder. Only one unscheduled swim from yours truly, unreal sensation. Paddled for about 2 hours to nearby cove (couldn’t call it a beach). Snorkelled, lucky enough to see some pretty little fish, a couple of larger ones that I tried to pursue but they could swim faster than me. Lunch on the rocks and headed back to starting point, Bruce, Kris and Ewen seemed to be quite proficient. As far as I was concerned steering the kayak was not second nature and invariably became unstuck at a critical moment. Arrived back at our starting point just as the afternoon storm broke. Almost didn’t need a shower to wash off the salt.
Transported back to Shimoda station, with just enough time to book tickets for the train to Tokyo. We journeyed together for part of the way. The last we saw of Bruce and Kris, was them scurrying along the platform to catch their connection in 4 minutes.
Our Friday in Tokyo, Ewen and Jenelle took a bike tour. Very exhilarating riding on the streets of Tokyo, not for the faint hearted.
Saturday trip to Mt Fuji
It took about 40 minutes longer than expected to get to Mt Fuji, bus travel is not the way to go in Japan. Passed an amazing fun park on the way.
Ewen, Mark and Jenelle joined Jack for a tour. We eventually got to Fuji 5th station (where the climb starts) about midday. The traffic was very heavy and crowds of people. Fuji was being coy, and only managed a fleeting glimpse as the fog rolled in.
Visited the lava forest, Shiraito Falls and Lakes and garden.
These activities seem quite tame after more recent events!!
We have all settled in at event HQ in Ikaho Japan.
The training day was wet, but the signals all seemed to be quite strong. (perhaps too strong?)
The sprint transmitters seemed to be stronger than the classic ARDF transmitters!
ARDF classic competition #1
On a very wet day the ARDF competitors gathered up a muddy creek ready for the start.
Jenelle, Bruce and Kristian were all on 2m whilst Jack and Ewen were on 80m.
The very first start group had Kristian and Ewen in it, with the other Australians starting up to 30 mins later.
The course provided interesting terrain with some very runnable forest, and some areas that you wouldn’t dream of entering into, and if you ask Jenelle possibly even a nice house with a warm heater in it?
After some mucking around on his first Tx Bruce gathered his thoughts, and finished strong with a fantastic sprint from on side of the map to the other. Bruce managed to grab Bronze in the M50 2m category.
Ewen had some initial technical issues, but then recovered and had a pretty good run, finishing just outside of the medals.
Jack had a couple of overshoots but also managed to get to the end without too much drama. Jack came in in 4th position in the M60 category.
Jack and Ewen secured bronze in the M60 classic 80m team competition.
Jenelle spent a fair amount of time searching for Tx4, but then with time almost up and having switched to her spare receiver she attempted to locate the finish beacon, but this seemed to be in the wrong direction. Eventually after flagging down a passing motorist, Jenelle was shown some true Japanese hospitality, before her hosts were eventually able to get in contact with the organisers, who when they were collecting her also appeared to be some what lost.
Kristian had a great start getting the first 4 Tx’s pretty quickly, but took the scenic route around a pig farm to get the last one, before being the first competitor back at the finish. This run was enough secure gold in the M21 category.
Along the way various people saw Greg wandering around looking very official. Greg found most of the 2m and 80m transmitters.
80m ARDF Sprint
It was very, very, very wet thanks to Tropical storm Etau.
Bruce got everything he needed, but unfortunately one of his punches didn’t register correctly.
Ewen managed to find everything he needed, and ended up in the silver medal position in M60.
Jack did the first half, but then went to the finish thinking it was the spectator beacon.
Jenelle found all of hers except for 1 and headed into the finish a little bit early. Which gave her the bronze medal in W60.
Kristian found everything eventually, but finished outside of the placings.
There were a number of (probably water related) technical issues, which are currently trying to be resolved before we go back into the wet tomorrow.
Greg only managed to spot Jenelle out on course in the rain.
(sorry, no pics today, as it was too wet.)
Tonight is the awarding ceremony for the first classic event and the sprint, and apparently it can viewed live at http://www.jarl.com/reg3ardf2015/
The presentations are scheduled to start at 7pm local time (8pm AEST).
From Kagoshima – Coordinating public transport is not without its dramas. Missed the only bus to the Samurai Village and had to take a taxi. Immaculately trimmed and maintained gardens, not likely to be replicated in Melbourne.
An attempt to visit the Kamekazi museum at Chiran was thwarted by heavy rain (big Queensland sized rain drops) and lack of time. We found a warm place (coffee & tea rooms to shelter) as we waited for a bus back to the train.
The second attempt to visit the Kamekazi museum was successful, but needed some fine timing to coordinate train-bus connection. Chiran was the site of the training airbase for young pilots. Old film footage of the servicemen working on aircraft brought mixed feelings (my dad having done the same in New Guinea).The photos of the families waving goodbye and the translations of the messages the pilots wrote to their families were quite moving. Proud young men doing what they thought was the right thing to do for their country and families at home.
The hot sand bath and hot springs were definitely worth a visit. Didn’t know the soles of the feet and heels were so sensitive to heat. It was rather embarrassing having a male voice calling CQ just outside the entrance of the women’s onsen.
We timed our return to Kagoshima perfectly and caught the Shinkansen to Hiroshima, speeds over 300 kph.
Day 1 in Hiroshima, began with a visit to the Peace Memorial Museum and Park.
Exhibits included diorama of the aftermath, remnants of clothing, building materials and household items.
The story of the paper cranes made by young girl in the hope that they would save her life.
Our attempts to fold paper cranes were pretty abysmal, and needed much help from the women to get the final result.
Entrance to Hiroshima castle (reconstructed)
Mid afternoon – visit to the Naka Incineration Plant, not your usual tour attraction, necessitated another run to catch the bus. It is well set up for viewing with a wide corridor down the centre, all behind glass of course, and scaled model explaining the layout. Apparently it is quite spectacular at night when it is all lit up.
Day 2 Hiroshima Today’s excursion to Miyajima Island went ahead despite some pretty ordinary weather. Arrived at high tide and the entrance to the Shrine was under water and not possible to walk to the Tori (gate). Opted to take the ropeway and climb to the top of Mt Misen. Unfortunately we only had a good view of the fog. Ewen and I checked out the waterfall route on the way down. Lots of granite steps and very slippery in parts. By the time we got back down the weather had fined up.
A visit to the aquarium. Penguin feeding (Humboldt penguins, saw none of these in Antartica), a sea lion show, colourful fish and various amphibious animals.
Glad to put our feet up at the end of the day. Dinner at a local bar. Very animated waiters. Lots of shouting and cheering. As my mother would have said, less of that and more concentrating on the job at hand. They forgot Bruce’s order.
Fleeting visit to Himeji to see the castle. Wedding cake castle. Seat of power here from 1400s. Castle has undergone several restorations over the years. Huge timber supports. Not a lift up window seat, but a defence mechanism for dropping of stones, pouring boiling oil & water on the enemy. Good view from top. (Photos in my next blog)
Getting expert at changing trains mid journey, successful at one connection, next trip has 3 connections.Let’s see how we go. Very successfully. Arrived at station, shuttle bus appeared, hotel on the coast, brilliant view, superb dinner, onsen, what more could you ask for.
I’ve been a long time reader… I figured it was about time I posted something.
My story starts after leaving Jenelle and Ewen after a fantastic day of kayaking at Shimada. (Jenelle will fill you in soon!)
5 trains after departing Shimada Bruce and Myself arrived at Kawaguchiko at the base of Mt Fuji where we meet up with Jack at our accommodation.
After some much needed rest it was an early rise to catch the first bus to Mt Fuji Subaru line 5th station (the stations are huts along the track – 5th station is much more than a hut though, but it’s where you start walking from. 10 is the top)
The weather gods must have been happy with us, as we had a wonderful view of Mt Fuji in the morning and great weather all day.
Once we arrived at the 5th station we set straight off. Bruce and me climbed 1570m up to the summit (elevation 3776m) in just over 3 hours, then we had a rapid 1.5 hour decent after a journey around the top. Jack made it up to the 8th station (elevation 3100m) and made a couple of radio contacts before heading back down.
Today we said farewell to Jack who was off on a bus trip with Jenelle, Ewen and Mark and we grabbed a couple of bikes to do a quick tour of the lakes before we returned to Tokyo before we head off to Gunma province where we finally join / rejoin the rest of the team.
And now just a couple more days until the serious stuff starts. 🙂
Well, you’ve followed the excitement of JWOC, then the WOC, and the adventures of those in Scotland at the WMOC, then the magnificent gold in the WMTBO at the sprint by Angus R, and possibly even the Icelandic bike trek by Greg A and Gavin’s mountainous ramblings on the way to the WRC, so surely that’s it ? All over for the year ?
Well NO!! because there’s just one more, and we’ve of course saved the best till last !
The Region 3 Radio Orienteering championships being held in Japan.
I’m getting waaaay ahead of myself though, because we aren’t actually at the champs yet, just on the way. Some of us have actually made it to Japan though, so this blog entry will just recap the last few days.
[Those following/on Facebook may have already seen some of the photos, but I make no apologies, because they are some of the best, and we can`t have the blog missing out on those !]
We’re on the Southern Island of Japan at present. Not as far south as Yakoshima Island (refer Glaspoles), but nearly.
I’m writing this blog entry on the train b ask from Ibusuki, but let’s go back to the beginning :
First day, a bit out of it after all the flying etc, was a visit to Kumomoto castle.
The next day we hired a car. The excitement for the day was one of our number misplaced a handbag. I don’t have one and pretty sure Ewen doesn’t either! Luckily, being Japan, it was handed in to the police. However, since we only discovered the lack of said accoutrement on returning the hire car, two of our party stayed behind in Kumamoto to travel back to Aso police for the bag, whilst I headed on down to Kagoshima. I managed to convince the hotel in Kagoshima to not charge them a cancellation for the night though.
Had a slightly abbreviated walk at Takachiho Gorge, due to cyclone damage, and an even more abbreviated visit to Mt Aso volcano, where the cable car (ropeway) had been closed down temporarily, due to a level 2 volcano activity risk just declared by Japan BOM, up from level 1.
A bit rainy the next morning, but it slowed a bit later in the morning so I sent fit a walk around.
E & T arrive, so it’s off to the Samurai gardens <pictures may follow later>, and the next day the Peace museum south of Kagoshima.
Had to visit the Ibusuki hot baths, despite the humidity, on multiple recommendations.
Bus arrived as expected at 8 and we headed to Astana. I assumed we would go to the airport and then have to get a taxi to our hotel, but instead of going around the ring road we headed directly into town so we decided to see if the driver would take us to our hotel. We had the hotel address in Russian, but the driver spoke no English so I wasn’t hopeful, however after stopping at the railway station to drop off some Hungarians and Czechs we eventually stopped in a side street near our hotel. Greg had a city map on his phone which was very helpful here. The driver consulted some workmen and motioned us back into the bus and off we went, the wrong way down a very narrow street. Much “nieting” and arm waving convinced the driver he was going the wrong way and he then backed about 100M back to where we’d come from and headed off about 50m in the correct direction before stopping again. We were then about 50 meters from our hotel so decided to walk.
The hotel didn’t look so great from the outside, but the staff were very helpful and the rooms were clean, modern and comfortable. We’re out of the city a bit here and things not quite so glitzy. Still much building work and relatively new huge buildings however. After settling in we went for a walk, partly to find a place for dinner and also to get some lunch which we bought from a small supermarket in a huge apartment block. We were not far from the “circus” a large space ship shaped arena, the roof of which I lit by ever changing coloured lights. As we only found one possibility for dinner Jenelle did some goggle searching after we returned to our hotel which suggested we needed to be one street further west. We investigated this street later in the day and found many very upmarket restaurants which probably wouldn’t have been too happy to have jeans and T shirt clad Australians. Eventually found a small very nice small place to eat. (No English – just lots of gesticulating & miming)
14th Sept Race to the airport and worlds shortest bus trip
Ordered a taxi for 11, I thought, to take us to the airport. Went down the a small shop to buy some things for lunch and got back at about 10.45 and a few minutes later the taxis arrived. Two taxis as we couldn’t fit in one. Off we went at ever increasing speed. Fortunately the roads were very good. At first I thought the taxis were having a race but then it dawned on me that they probably thought we needed to be at the airport by 11. Faster and faster we went at one stage reaching 150km/hr. The speed limit appeared to be 70km/hr as a couple of times we slowed to 70 for speed cameras. We arrived in one piece at the airport, checked in and went and sat under a tree to eat lunch and let the adrenalin levels subside a bit.
Boarding time arrived and we boarded a bus to go to our plane. The bus moved off and stopped 20 metres later. We got off the bus and boarded the plane!
The flight to Kyzylorda was uneventful. We were met there by four people and transferred to the train to Baikonur which took about 3.5 hours. The third class tickets implied seats and not much space but we had two sleeping cabins so were quite comfortable. Also the carriage had a hot water supply so we were able to make tea to supplement our cheese, biscuits, beer and chocolate for afternoon tea. The country side was a bit like central Australia although there was some evidence of irrigated crops in one or two places. Very flat and sandy with low scrub.
We passed through several villages on the way and saw one or two tracking stations and other buildings in the distance. We were met at the station by only three people this time, a driver and two interpreters who transported us to our hotel. The weather is quite warm. Hotel is good. Baikonur is in Kazakhstan but is very much a Russian city. We passed through a check point on the way in and the currency is Rubbles. Temperature can vary from -40C to + 40C here during the year with cold winds but little snow.
Latish start then off to the space museum. With driver and interpreter. Joined by a “space” interpreter at the museum.
Many models of Soviet and to a lesser extent American rockets and other space objects including the International Space Station. Also saw a video of the inside of the ISS. Many rocket motors and other associated rocket parts. Many photographs of the Cosmadrome being constructed and other memorabilia also.
After the museum we did a tour round the town. Saw a Soyuz rocket, the Gagarin memorial, and an obsolete Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. The town has many parks and open areas. Our hotel was on one side of Lenin square which you can imagine has seen its fair share of military parades. Buildings are generally typical Soviet era with new buildings on the outskirts of the town.
After lunch we visited the “space” school. Essentially a secondary school dedicated to those who will work in the Cosmodrome after going to university in Moscow. Many student built model rockets, some of which had been flown, and aeroplanes, gliders etc. Were shown a video of Soyuz launches. Here there were also many rocket motors and associated parts. Quite impressive although not many computers obvious. Visit ended with our launching a couple of model rockets. Link to rocket video – http://youtu.be/n4LsC4uMQfY
After dinner went for a walk to find a supermarket to buy some water and the necessary ice cream. Many people out enjoying the cool of the evening.
According to our guide there are very few, perhaps 20 per year, English speaking tourists visiting Baikonur. The population of the city is largely Kazakhs, looked after by the Kazakh government and Russians, looked after by the Russian government, with the Russians being better off which can cause tension between the two.
We were taken to Turotam station in good time to catch the train however the train only stops for 5 minutes so there was a bit of a run to get to our carriage, especially as the train arrived one platform further away than expected. We only had one cabin this time but still enough room.
A rather delicate operation decanting water into our water bottles in a rocking train. Were collected at the Kyzylorda station, only 2 interpreters and a driver this time and taken to lunch, which was good. Arrived at the airport early so had some time to fill in. Plane left on time for the 1.5 hour flight to Almaty, where we were met by our guide for the next part of the trip and also a driver. Countryside from the plane looked fairly desolate but there were a couple of large rivers flowing through it and some areas looked like they had been cropped.
Almaty is close to the Tien Shan mountains which we saw in Kyrgyzastan and are high and snow capped. We will explore this area more in the next few days.