Japan Round 2, Part 3: Sakata… GAME OVER

Waddling off the night bus with swollen ankles and undoubtedly a bit of body odour we walked through the humid streets of Sakata to Ben’s place. After much needed food and showers we took Tom off to the highlights of Sakata… the supermarket, HardOff (second hand shop that is just amazing) and the 100Yen shop! After such a busy and strenuous morning we naturally felt the need to unwind and relax by heading out to the sea.

Training to Fukura we spent the afternoon (and a fair portion of the evening) drinking beers in the sun, eating snacks, climbing over the Buddhas (carved into the rocks) and jumping off the rocks and swimming.

As tended to be the pattern of our days in Sakata we started slowly… In the afternoon Tom and I went into Ben’s school to speak to one of the classes. Our chat to them covered everything from where Tom lived in the states, to my travels, to the teacher insisting that Tom tell all his friends to vote for Hillary Clinton as Japan did not want Donald Trump to be President… quite a lot of pressure on Tom I thought!

Teaching the Japanese how to pronounce his surname “Dethlefs”
A mandatory arm wrestle
Convenient that Tom’s arms are the same length as a selfie stick

That evening we went to Kappa Sushi… undoubtedly one of my favourite restaurants in Japan. The novelty of sushi coming via spaceship or race car has not worn off! After many, many plates of sushi and quite possibly the same number of beers we were asked to leave (as they were closing not because we were being rude or annoying) and off we went on an adventure through the park next to Ben’s apartment that provides an excellent adventureland for the slightly inebriated.


The highlights of our remaining days in Sakata were undoubtedly dinner at Ben’s friend’s restaurant and the trip to the aquarium.

Returning to Kakochan and Kochan’s for dinner I was greeted by a warm cry of “PIPICHAN” as I walked through the door (Pipi because I pi, pi, pi like a bird the whole time aka talk non-stop!). Much like the time before, dinner at Kakochan’s and Kochan’s was a wonderful evening, endless food, drink and excellent company always makes for a good time. To my slight dismay, the food this time was more red meat based and included liver and tongue – which it turns out I don’t have a stomach for.

Some of the kindest people in Japan

Satochan, Ben’s friend took Tom and me to the Kamo Aquarium on one particularly wet afternoon. This is an aquarium that centres around jellyfish which was quite unexpectedly far more interesting than I had anticipated. Jellyfish are seriously aesthetically pleasing creatures…

The aquarium also had a sea lion show on while we were there. Turns out sea lions are quite athletic animals and also quite intelligent. The sea lion was able to perform handstands, jump through hoops, balance a rugby ball on it’s nose and catch rings around it’s head…. I cannot do one of those tasks. Full points to the sea lions.


For Tom’s final night we went out for dinner with Umetsu, Satochan and Tokochan. We went out for okonomiyaki where Satochan and Umetsu cooked up more food than I thought humanly possible. Okonomiyaki is brought from the kitchen as a collection of raw ingredients that the guests cook themselves on a teppanyaki.

A rather unappetising photo of a delicious meal

I left Sakata the next morning – after breakfast with Ben, he and his friend saw me off at the train station. Making it to Tokyo I went for a run and some soba noodles and then had a final sort through of my belongings before my flight the next day. Waking up at the crack of dawn in Tokyo I was restless and ready to get on a plane to NZ – waiting to catch a plan is perhaps my least favourite activity.

To try and burn some of my perhaps nervous energy I went running in the park near my hostel – after doing some stair repeats for a while I went to leave the park only to be stopped by a Japanese guy in his hands he held three drinks, a water, a green tea and a sports drink. He gifted them all to me as he was unsure which I would wanted but thought I might need a drink. It was an act that would never happen in NZ, yet here in Japan I wasn’t remotely surprised. I have grown somewhat accustomed to this innate kindness and generosity that the Japanese consistently exhibit.

Boarding the plane in Tokyo and approaching my final destination of Christchurch I was excited at the thought of abandoning my backpack and having access to other items of clothing. I also had a moment of being absolutely stunned and gutted that my five months of insane fun had come to a close so much more quickly than I anticipated and sort of wishing that my flight from Tokyo was bound for somewhere else new and exciting in the world as opposed to little old NZ.

Since arriving home and being reunited with friends, family and dogs I have to say I am pretty happy to be back… There’s something about home comforts that just can’t be beat sometimes!



Japan Round 2, Part 2: Fujisan + Tokyo

Early next morning, fresh off the night bus Ben joined us in Tokyo. He and Tom hadn’t seen each other since 2012 (not that you could tell) so the morning was spent shooting the shit. As we ventured out into the streets of Tokyo the first order of business was taking Ben (the hipster…) to get good coffee – Fuglen cafe in Ebisu was just the spot for that. Not only were we supplied with good coffee but also delicious pastries and granola as well. Moving slowly on we ambled through the chaotic main street of Harajuku where we found useful items such as…

Naturally I bought a shipment load of this

From Harajuku to Ueno we continued to meander through the streets/metros of Tokyo with no real purpose to our day.

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In Ueno we went to the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum where we tried to go into a gallery and were told we had to pay… bailing on the idea (as the gallery didn’t look terribly exciting) we turned to leave when an old man came up to us and handed us two postcards explaining that if we signed them we could go into the gallery for free… Not your typical gallery entry but hey it worked for us!

Our day concluded with a trip to the supermarket to buy snacks and water for Fuji and having dinner with my friend Shigeki who helped organise our whole Mt Fuji mission. Dinner with Shigeki was slightly more of a brief food tour of Nishi-Ogikubo.

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Taiyaki being explained to us

We started with Taiyaki – a fish shaped pastry (bread.. unsure) filled with red bean paste. We then moved on to sampling some green tea. Stopped in at an izakaya (Japanese pub.. where salarymen go after work) for some yakatori. The yakatori was probably my least favourite of all the Japanese food I have tried – these are skewers (kebabs) of liver, tongue, cartilage, chicken skin, minced chicken…. not really any food I like to eat! While the boys did a good job of eating most of the food, Fi and I did an equally good job of shifting food around the plates to make it seem like we had tried everything! Finally, after our brief stint in the izakaya we finally went to the restaurant where we were having dinner. It turned out Fi and I hadn’t done such a good job disguising our dislike of the yakatori as Shigeki’s ordering this time contained nearly exclusively fish and vegetable based dishes!! Our dinner was spent discussing the impending trip up Fujisan and Shigeki’s plans for us for the next day – 6:00am collection to start driving to Mt Fuji… we discovered the next day Shigeki had perhaps anticipated we might be slower walkers than we were!

6:00am rolled around quickly and we 4 giant humans (by Japan’s standards) clambered into Shigeki’s brother’s people mover (he decided his car despite being a 5 seater was not big enough for us). After an hour and a half of driving and a 20 minute bus ride we reached 2000 metres and the 5th station of the Subashiri Route. After a few photos and our first “pay per poo” loo stop (I just mean you have to pay to use the loo… not anything weirder) we were on our way just after 9:00am.

Team Fuji and our amazing helper Shigeki!

Shigeki estimated that it would take us 5 hours to reach the 8th station where we would be staying… that was not the case! Our walk started through forest with a volcanic rock floor and as the forest fell away endless volcanic rock continued (it did lead me to question the intelligence of those who carried bear bells as there was just no way a bear’s life could be sustained on Mt Fuji!).

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Within 45 minutes we made it to the 6th station and began to cotton on that perhaps the Japanese time estimates were quite generous. We continued parambulating up the side of the mountain, stopping at all the rest stations for a snack and drink… and sometimes just to put a bit of space between us and the very annoying American Army guys who were exceptionally loud and obnoxious.


Team Fuji taking a rest

By 12:30 we had reached the 8th station where we would be spending the night. Dinner wasn’t till 5pm so we had a lot of time up our sleeves. After more snacking and taking advantage of the free wifi (yes Japan has free wifi 3,500m up a mountain!) we decided to go up to the summit and walk around the crater rim. (When we arrived at the 8th station, both Ben and I were feeling a wee bit light headed but after an hours rest we were right as rain).


The walk to the summit took about 45 minutes and was relatively uncrowded (not what we would experience in the morning).

A disused hut on the Fuji ascent
Ultimate tourists

When we reached the summit we were greeted by even more volcanic rock and absolutely no snow (despite not seeing any snow the whole way up I was still somewhat surprised). As we circled the crater rim we were treated to spectacular views of the inners of the crater that was coloured by beautiful reds and greens.

Crate Rim Mt Fuji style

The quiet of the Fuji summit that afternoon certainly gave us no indication of just how busy it would be the next morning.

It’s not often I feel short in Japan but…

After circling the crater we descended at pace (thanks to the deep pebbles that allowed us to run down without injuring ourselves) to the hut. Dinner was Japanese curry, rice, hamburger meat and essence of salad. We considered this quite a small meal and also ate the breakfast we were given, much to the horror and amusement of the Japanese watching us. After a “shower” facilitated by wet wipes and a repack of our belongings we sat around watching the sunset until lights out at 8:30pm! 

The sleeping arrangements in the hut were intimate… and not in the way that anyone desires. Between the four of us we had two futons… Ben and Tom sharing one and Fi and I sharing another.

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Three bunks high, in the shape of a U… Made for a sleepless night.

I estimate there were 50-60 people in our room.. all very squished. Sleep wasn’t something that any of us had a lot of, while Fi was mashed against the wall, I kept been knocked on the head by the woman sleeping near me, Ben was constantly caught between Tom and myself and Tom kept waking up uncomfortably close to the Japanese man next to him! While people started to get up at 12:30 to start their ascent… absolute madness in my books given that the sun doesn’t rise till 5:19am! We held out until 3:15am to start our very chilly and slow ascent(despite Shigeki’s recommendation that we start at midnight). The temperature itself wasn’t that chilly but there was a horribly bitter wind and the slow pace due to the sheer number of people climbing made it quite a cold walk.

A poor photo of the number of headlights to the summit of Fuji

We started with great gusto covering the first 100m at serious pace this was however short lived. We quickly found ourselves wedged within a cast of thousands walking to the summit for sunrise. The pace slowed to a standstill in many places and in a very unjapanese manner we cut the queues where ever possible shooting up the side of the line and scrambling over rocks! Thanks to our queue cutting skills we managed to make it to the summit with a bit of time to spare before sunrise.

Many, many humans

Perching on the side of the mountain we watch the sun rise up over a blanket of clouds… as cliched and corny as it may sound (and be) it was SPECTACULAR!

Ball of fire
Ball of fire got higher
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So happy I couldn’t keep my eyes open

Despite the amazing view the wind had a real bite to it, so given our adventures round the summit the previous day, once we had confirmed that the sun had yet again made it safely into the sky we opted for a rapid descent.

Descending Mt Fuji is a lot of fun for the first 10 minutes as you are able to run down the scree without losing control. However after the novelty wears off the skidding and flying rocks becomes mildly frustrating.


Walking down the many switchbacks we eventually came down to the green plateau that marked more or less the conclusion of the descent… it was only 8:00am!! (Thankfully we had changed our bus booking back to Tokyo from 3:00pm to the earliest of 10:00am otherwise it would be a very long wait). Stopping at the first cafe we saw that had a sign saying coffee we stopped there for food and coffee and sat in a zombie-like state for 2 hours until we could board the bus.

When we made it back to Tokyo we were all zonked, a lot of climbing and not a lot of sleep suddenly took quite a heavy toll. After about 4 hours of napping we finally pulled finger and left the AirBnB for what ended up being a lot of beers around Tokyo… Quite a few of which were consumed at tables so small they looked more like they were designed for one Japanese person… not 4 westerners!

Forced out of bed due to check out a bit groggy we were up at nine tidying up the AirBnB. Once we had fulfilled our obligations we all agreed we wanted the most western brunch we could find… A cafe next to Fuglen called Bondi delivered on the western brunch… it just took about 3 hours from the moment we requested a table to the moment that we left the restaurant (something which had I not felt quite so tired might have generated serious annoyance on my part). We then enjoyed a bizarre day with a serious range of activities.

We first came across something called Shibuya Bosai which turned out to be an earthquake drill to help citizens learn how to cope with earthquakes. We watched the police, army and some other group (I can’t remember who) go head to head in a race to rescue people from earthquake stricken buildings.  We then walked to Meiji Shrine where we got to see a couple of Japanese wedding parades as well as hilarious votive tablets and beautiful sake containers..



Our next adventure in Tokyo found us watching a “band” of Japanese people play a variety of “instruments” (including a recorder piano that was played while wearing a cat puppet).. The music was very catchy (we were humming for the rest of the afternoon) and the band paraded down the street that had been covered by a patchwork quilt!

Continuing to wind our way through the streets of Tokyo we eventually came across a jazz festival that Tom had found out about – turns out the Japanese have quite the love of jazz. While having never been an appreciator of jazz in the past it was a very relaxing way to spend the afternoon.

We completed our day in Tokyo with a trip up the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building to see just how dense and endless the city was!


Finally we parted ways with Fi – Tom, Ben and I took the night bus to Sakata, where Ben lives, and Fi had one more day in Tokyo before she returned to NZ.

Japan Round 2, Part 1: Nikko… Without a Typhoon

After a decent amount of flying (turns out Brazil to Japan isn’t a direct route) I made it to Tokyo.. A place where I felt so immediately comfortable and like I knew what I was doing it was almost, almost like coming home! I managed to get myself to my hostel, to a sushi bar and showered in fairly quick succession and then, despite having spent 24 hours flying and generally not exerting myself I was exhausted and went to bed!

I met Fichan early next morning (fresh of a plane from London with less sleep than any human should be allowed to have) and we went off to Nikko. Our “limited express” train seemed to be more limited than express, stopping what felt like every 10 minutes it suddenly became clear why the train was so cheap. Despite the train’s slowness it still fulfilled it’s purpose and took us to Nikko. By a stroke of luck we reached our hostel and deposited our bags just moments before the office closed for two hours, then as heavy rain set in we settled into a restaurant for two hours, eating soba noodles and passing time before we were let back into our hostel and Fi could finally have the shower and sleep she was longing for. The rest of our day was spent in bed, two slightly jaded travellers really not making the most of the day!

Our original plan for day 2 in Nikko was to head out to the national park where there was meant to be a lot of good walks. Sadly for us there was a serious typhoon forecast which really slowed our progress. It was originally forecast to hit at midday and pass through rapidly… Thinking that wasn’t so bad we spent the morning in a big shrine complex (while it rained.. But didn’t typhoon) that was in close proximity to our hostel so if the typhoon did hit we could easily get back. The shrine complex was nice but not as amazing as we had hoped. When we were last in Japan we went to an amazing shrine complex in Yamagata surrounded by trees and built up a hill, this one therefore was slightly underwhelming (for us at least).

Midday came and went and still there was no typhoon. It turned out the forecast had changed and it was now meant to hit at 3pm. So yet again we postponed our plans… The Japanese were very concerned about this typhoon and insisted that it was unwise for us to go to the national park. We were told about a hill nearby that we could walk up and get a view over Nikko… I can report we never found that hill. Instead, we found a road that went uphill for a while and then just disappeared into what looked like someone’s private farmland. 

The highlight of our road walk (in hiking boots) was the cool man hole cover

Meanwhile, the sun shone and no typhoon came. By the time we returned to our hostel the forecast had been changed yet again… The typhoon was not going to hit where we were and was in fact much weaker than they had originally predicted. By this stage the day had somewhat become a write off. Knowing that we were leaving Nikko the next day back to Tokyo we were determined that our third day here would NOT be a waste so we hatched what we thought was a foolproof plan… Getting up early and bussing to the national park, hopping off the bus at the start of a ropeway which would take us straight to the start of a five hour walk then jumping back on a bus to Nikko that stopped at the train station to jump on the train to Tokyo… We’d even make it to Tokyo by 5pm.

Well, even the best laid plans fall through. While we made the early bus and hopped off at the ropeway that was about the only real success of the day. Once we arrived at the ropeway we found our first issue. The ropeway was 100% closed and not opening till 9am (it was 7:30am). After speaking to two Japanese men who spoke very little/no English we managed to establish that we shouldn’t just walk up the road (a very unjapanese thing to do)… While both men drove off, up the hill, with spare seats (we had really hoped they would offer us a lift), Fi and I remained somewhat stuck with the next bus not coming for an hour. Then we had a stroke of luck… 5 young Japanese boys and 1 girl pulled up in a people mover. They were loud, chatty and very keen to be helpful! After a conversation in English/via Google translate we had conned our way into a lift up the hill in their car. Before the car was started the boys had a couple of important issues they wanted to address with us…

  1. Did we know who Justin Beiber was?
  2. Did we like his music?

Clearly very important questions (and answers) when you are giving a lift to two strangers, easily the best way to establish they aren’t serial killers. Sure enough the music was plugged in and some of Beiber’s greatest hits were pumped through the car stereo (all the while Fi and I tried very hard not to outwardly laugh). Thanks to the Google maps blue dot we managed to gain our bearings and after about 5 minutes we told the boys just to drop us on the side of the road (they were off to an outlet store somewhere in the mountains… We were slightly confused)! While we were still not where we had originally planned we could see we were close to both a lake and some waterfalls so we figured we couldn’t really go too far wrong.

The Kegon Falls were pretty cool, while you couldn’t get much closer than the viewing deck (that you could only access by elevator) it was still rather spectacular. From the waterfalls we wandered through a small town (only slightly confused as to where we wanted to go) and found Lake Chuzenji.

The similarities between this lake and Lake Rotoiti near Nelson were unreal… A huge body of water, surrounded by lush green hills, you could almost fool yourself into thinking you were home…. Were it not for the fact that the lakes banks were surrounded by Goose shaped pedal boats..

We wandered around the lake and eventually found a way to join up with a walking path up into the hills. The path was more or less deserted and poorly maintained. We were stoked. 

Wandering through the trees, up and downhills we eventually came across what we assumed was the equivalent of Japanese DOC workers.. They stood, at a junction ringing their bear bells. Fi and I became slightly apprehensive but after an exchange of indecipherable cheers and OK signals we ventured on. About 15 minutes later we heard a noise that Fi described as the sound of a large animal exhaling. Suddenly our cheery exchange and ok signals became slightly less reassuring. When we heard the sound a second time we lost our nerve and became adamant that we had in fact heard a bear. Spinning around and charging back in the direction we came we both agreed while it probably wasn’t a bear it would be really sad if we didn’t get to climb Fuji because we were mauled to death by a bear!

Given that our walk was cut short we grabbed a coffee before jumping back on the bus to Nikko and then on the train to Tokyo.

Back in Tokyo we met the only unknown member of Team Fuji, Tom. Tom went to Yale with Ben and had just been at the Olympics with the US Men’s Rowing team. Arriving at the Airbnb while he was out running we realised we were meeting a giant when his shoes were nearly the same width as the doorway. Sure enough Tom returned and fulfilled our predictions of being a very tall human. 

As it was Tom’s first trip to Japan, and Fi and I were old hand’s at this stage we took him off to our favourite stand up sushi bar (yes we are such locals we have favourites).

With our bellies full of sushi and beer we quickly deflated in terms of energy levels and turned in early at the Airbnb eagerly awaiting Ben’s arrival in Tokyo the next morning and the commencement of Mission Fuji in 36 hours time!

Salvador, Bahia

Leaving the chaos and fun of Rio behind a very tired Annie boarded a plane for Salvador a city on Brazil’s northwest coast known for it’s Afro-Brazilian culture and beaches. Arriving in the evening I bussed to my hotel Casa Inglesa (would highly recommend) (I splashed out after the not particularly good hostel in Rio) and promptly told the hotel owner that he didn’t need to worry about giving me activities or things to do that evening, all I wanted to do was shower and sleep! To my delight the hotel owner did inform me there was Netflix on the TV in my room… So for the first time in a long time I lay in bed watching TV as I fell asleep and when I woke up I continued to watch TV and not do anything for a while… It was bliss.

When I finally forced myself out of bed I was treated to complimentary breakfast which was a real step up from the complimentary breakfast we were served in Rio ! I started the meal with fresh fruit (melon, mango and papaya), followed it with some granola and yoghurt and finished it off with a cheese tapioca… It’s fair to say that I was taking full advantage of the breakfast and had zero intention of purchasing lunch that day. Leaving the hotel I initially struggled to find the bus stop as there were no visible signs of one, after wandering up and down the street for about 10 minutes I noticed that the bus appeared to just stop where the crowds of people had chosen to congregate along the street. So I joined one of the groups, asked if they were waiting for a bus to the historical centre (or if they could tell me which line was) and I was set, within 5 minutes I had boarded a bus with AC and wifi (very upmarket I thought) and off to the historical centre I went.

Lift between the Upper and Lower parts of the historic centre

Salvador’s historic centre is divided as an upper and lower area, while you could walk up or down the hill between these two areas it is far more novel to take the lift that costs all of $0.10 NZ between the two levels. Getting into the lift with 20 other people, there was no AC and just one man sitting on a chair playing music from his phone very loudly who operated the lift. After 15 seconds the cramped and hot journey was over and I stepped out to this view…

It’s fair to say that a lot of Salvador is missing the facelift that I suspect Rio de Janeiro had prior to the Olympics. Buildings like these littered the streets of the historic centre. I wandered the streets in search of the Mercado Modelo which I had been told was full of artisan handicrafts from Bahia. Finding the market I should probably not have been surprised to find that the area was full of junk and all those useful travel items I had been missing such as hammocks, drums and Gollywog dolls… Obviously it took an awful lot of self-control not to buy everything in sight!

After a brief wander through the Mercado Modelo I headed back up to the upper level of the historic centre, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, to have a look at the colourful buildings and just wander through the streets. The area was full of touts, pastel coloured buildings, musicians, women dressed up in traditional Bahian dress… It was everything a tourist attraction should be!

The Church at the end of this street, Igreja e Convento de São Francisco, gained my custom due to the promise of a bathroom inside. While the Church’s interior is enormously ornate and golden, my favourite part was the blue tiling in the courtyard which depicted scenes based on quotes from the bible, my favourite quote being…

Which translates to ‘Nothing is more useful than silence’… I like it in more of an ironic rather than instructive way.

As I wandered down the side streets of the historic centre I was surprised to find that unlike many European cities, the historic centre is still very much an area where people live. There were kids coming and going from school, houses opening out onto the streets and men sitting on verandas shooting the shit.

While walking through the streets I was also able to see a drumming band walking through the streets, with the noise so loud you could feel it vibrating up from the streets and through your bones.

The streets were just very full of colour, both in buildings and in the way people dressed. It is evident everywhere you turn that Salvador’s Afro-Brazilian culture is well and truly alive and thriving in the city.

This was the only evidence I found that Salvador was involved in the Olympics at all!

Leaving the historic centre around 2:30 I headed back to my beachside hotel for an afternoon of blobbing on the beach and basking in the sunshine. After negotiating the buses back to Barra I stumbled across a vegetarian buffet restaurant that was heaving with people and decided I would be silly not to give it a crack. After some confusion over how the buffet worked the staff successfully explained to me that this was a restaurant where you weighed your plate at the end of the buffet and paid based on the weight of your plate! Excited by the prospect of this I loaded my plate up with all the delicious and mysterious things I could find (only one item of which I deemed uneatable)…

What this meal lacks in presentation it made up for in customer satisfaction… it was nearly all delicious!

Stuffed full of veges I wandered down to the beach where I concluded my day lying in the sun reading, swimming and watching the sunset… 

After sunset I somewhat lost my nerve to hang around that area by myself and sought refuge in my hotel room excited by the thought of Netflix, my book and another big night of sleep!

My second day started with another delicious breakfast, made even better than the day before by the discovery that I could have a banana and Nutella tapioca (naturally I had 2)! After breakfast I had organised to go on a tour 70km up the coast to a beach town called Praia do Forte. As I left my hotel it was pouring with rain and the thought of a day at the beach seemed somewhat ridiculous!! On the tour with me were two lovely Italian sisters, one of whom is currently living in Salvador working on her architecture PH.D., an Argentine woman, about six Brazilians and another Italian couple. While it appeared that every person on the tour spoke Portuguese except me I was lucky enough to have the Italians help translate everything into English for me so that I knew what was going on. Arriving in Praia do Forte the weather cleared, the sun came out and it looked like it was going to be a beautiful day.

We were taken straight to the Tamar Turtle Sanctuary which is a conservation effort that occurs down the coast of Brazil to help sea turtles. It was amazing to see the turtles and watch them cruise about… I even got to touch one… I couldn’t help but feel that this conservation effort was slightly misguided, the turtles were kept in very small pools and given that some of them migrate up to 10,000 miles each year.

I’m somewhat confused why we call sunglasses “tortoise shell” when it’s definitely a turtle’s shell that they mimic!

I then went to explore the town of Praia do Forte. It has a real “resort town” feel, like Denarau in Fiji. Walking down the Main Street the buildings alternated between restaurant, shop, souvenir stall (rinse and repeat). After about 30 minutes of wandering up and down the Main Street we got back into the mini van to go to another, less crowded beach for lunch and a swim. As we climbed into the van the weather turned at alarming speed, one moment it was a crystal clear, blue sky day and then all of a sudden the sky was full of black clouds that promised torrential downpours. 

We arrived at the second beach and decided that we would try wait out the bad weather by having lunch at Bar do Carlinhos. Sharing a meal with my new Argentine friend Silvia we ate moqueca de pescada amarela and camarão. A fish and prawn dish served in a broth with rice and some sort of cheesy mashed kumara. It was seriously delicious, traditional Bahian cuisine!

Again, looks don’t do this justice!

After lunch and another hour and a half of Spanish-Italian-Portuguese-English conversation the rain showed no sign of abating and so as a group we decided to head back to Salvador early rather than trying to stick it out in the rain.

As night set in and the heavens continued to pour down on Salvador I lay in bed watching multiple episodes of Gilmore Girls in the dry safety of my hotel room. The highlight of the evening was finding the perfect volume that didn’t need to be changed when the theme song was playing… Which was inexplicably much louder than the rest of the show!

As occurs everywhere I travel, inevitably at some point life admin, such as washing, must be done. So my third day in Salvador started with me trying to work out which of my clothes were dirty and which just smelled a bit funny because they have been travelling round in a backpack for four months. My two new Italian friends then invited me to their house for lunch to stopping by the vegetarian restaurant I found to buy some cake to take with me I tootled off to their house where I enjoyed a delicious Italian meal… “Just like Mama makes it”. We had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon talking about our experience in Brazil, my travels in Italy and their plans for the future. It was somewhat startling to hear these 28 and 30 year old girls talk about how they couldn’t move out of their parent’s house in Milan because it was so hard to find work and they just couldn’t afford it. They were equally surprised to hear me say that in NZ the norm is to move out of your parents’ house when you leave school and (unless you are like me) not move back in. After lunch we wandered down to the beach and stayed there till the sunset, laughing at the Brazilians cheering at the end of the sunset – I was then informed that that happens nearly every night!

My evening took a slightly strange turn when I returned to my hotel and found two Canadian women in the lobby. While normally that is not cause for concern or alarm given out history it was a seriously strange coincidence.. To explain this I must backtrack a bit…

While in Rio, travelling to the Modern Pentathlon, Angus and I helped two Canadian women on the train who were confused about where they should be getting off. We told them we were getting off at the same stop so we would let them know when to hop off. We did that, parted ways and thought nothing more of it. That night, after roaming the streets of Rio for a wee while Angus and I ended up at a random little cafe in Saint Teresa and ended up seated right next to these same two Canadian women. None of us could really believe the coincidence, while these women were dining near their hotel Angus and I were not near our hostel and had ended up at that cafe by accident because we didn’t like the menu of the cafe I had originally suggested we go to. We chatted to the two women a wee bit, laughed at the coincidence and discussed our respective travel plans. Realising they were also going to Salvador we laughed and said imagine if we ran into each other there – realising this was near impossible given the size of Salvador and the fact that our trips only crossed over by two days.

Back to Salvador… After a day with the two lovely Italian girls I walked into the hotel lobby (this hotel has 8 rooms… More of a guesthouse) and who do I see sitting in the lobby but the two Canadian women. After recovering from the shock (which in my case presented itself as a laughing fit) we all agreed clearly the fates were pushing us together so we popped out to a vegan restaurant down the road and had dinner together.

My final day in Salvador commenced with me doing battle with my backpack which seems to be getting harder and harder to close with each passing day. When I finally got to the zipper to close and lick I stored my belongings and headed off to the Afro-Brazilian Museum in the historic centre. The museum was very small and informative, explaining the influence of the African slave trade that was headed up by Portugal on the modern demographics of Brazil and in particular the Bahian region. My favourite part of the museum was the wood panel carvings at the very back of the museum by Hector Júlio Paride Barnabó. The wood panels had Afro-Brazilian deities carved into them and then had been made three dimensional through use of metal. 

Leaving the museum I got caught in a surprise thunderstorm and in the 50m I ran to reach the shelter of a cafe I was soaked to the bone. As I burst through the door of the cafe the waitresses response was perfect, she simply picked up a pile of napkins, walked over to me and started patting me dry. The staff at the cafe took a liking to me and gave me my second cappuccino free and both of them were decorated…

Jumping on a bus to head back to my hotel to do some odd jobs, such as buying presents for people in Japan, I became slightly distracted by the wifi on the bus… I missed my stop and didn’t notice for 20 minutes at which point we were well and truly in the slums. I decided to sit tight as I thought surely the bus would do a loop. Well, an hour and a half later the bus did turn around to complete the loop.. We had reached the airport!!! 

A map of my extended bus trip

Three and a half hours after boarding the bus I made it back to my hotel. Losing faith in my bussing ability I called and uber and ubered to the airport setting off on my final adventure of my five month trip. Back to Japan to climb Mt Fuji!!