Sunday, June 15, 2008
Given all the bikes are poorly maintained, but the selection is particularly shite if you show up later in the day because you drove from
Still it is hard to describe the feeling of just tooling around on a bike with no one to tell you that you can’t ride into the middle of the zebra herd. Or that you are getting too close to the giraffe. Or to explain just what one should do when barreling down a hill with no brakes dead at a warthog hog that thinks you are going to blink first in this bizarre-o game of chicken. (Should this ever come up for anyone reading this, I don’t know what the optimal solution is, but yelling like a lion seems to be sufficiently effective.) Let me sum it up as Really Bloody Cool.
At the end of the standard five mile trail ride is Hell’s Gate Gorge. It is a narrow chasm cut into the rock which eventually winds down to a slippery channel to a billowing sulfur pit and even narrower passage out of the gorge. How did I know it was slippery? Because, for just a bargain $8 more, you can hire a guide to lead you down the road to Hell. It starts out easy enough, but towards the end you get to hear such memorable phrases as “here you should be flexible” (referring to dexterity not disposition), “it is best to put a leg on each side of the rock,” and, my personal favorite while toting around my new Nikon, “oh yes, here you get the small shower.” He was right. It was only a little waterfall that one had to jump through. Plus, the wool sweater I am wearing because it is the dead middle of winter here in
My group and I spent the night at the Crater Lake Campground, on the shores of
After a peaceful night in my tent, we set out on our morning walking safari and crater climb. The walking safari involved wandering into the next-door natural sanctuary and trying to sneak up on giraffes. And zebras. And warthogs. And Thompson’s gazelles. And Waterbock. Nothing was afraid of us at all because there were no natural predators in the sanctuary.
I also now have a new favorite shrub, the whistling acacia. It has these weird bulby things on it when it is young, which provide the perfect home for biting red ants. When the giraffe comes to nibble the leaves around the bulbs, the red ants come out to defend their turf. They bite the giraffe’s tongue and the giraffe goes away. Brilliant!
After the walking safari, it was back to
Monday, June 02, 2008
Thanks to Mom and her incredible generosity with her Marriott points, instead of the flea bag hostel that I was planning on staying in, I spent the weekend in the Ritz Carlton, on the 48th floor overlooking downtown
I came in on the overnight from
Hypothesis 1: Everything wrapped in seaweed and rice tastes good. A couple times I couldn’t tell you if I was eating a plant, fish or animal, but I knew that I never wanted to do it again.
Hypothesis 2: I will eat anything. There was one place whose walls were plastered with pictures of goldfish, and then there were little tempura’ed things which you held and ate by the little fishtail sticking out of the batter. I was thinking about ordering one when the oft-ignored voice in the back of my head screamed “don’t eat that!” For once I listened. Maybe it was out of loyalty to my dearly departed fish Olive, but I just couldn’t do it.
That afternoon I poked around the gardens of the imperial palace (which were suitably imperial), and then headed up to Suidobashi for the highlight of my day. A Yomiuri Giants game! There are six baseball teams that play in
I arrived to the “Big Egg” to find out that there were only standing room seats left. Apparently the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters are a big draw when they are in town. (Japanese baseball teams are mostly named after the company that sponsors them. Nippon Ham sponsors the Fighters. I later discovered from Wiki that the Ham Fighters used to have a mascot called “Fighty” which was, and I quote, “a bright pink pterodactyl, whose head resembled a giant leg of ham, and who sometimes rode a bicycle around the pitch.” That made me happy.
The game itself was basically the same. You sort of spent part of the time thinking “cut-off man… cut-off man.” “play it on the hop... play it on the hop…” And the fans of the different teams sat in different sections, all color coordinated, with a brass section, choreographed cheers, and flags. But, in case you got homesick, the beers where still eight bucks and watery.
The next day I got up at 5 am to visit the famous Tsujiki Fish Market. It was an enormous warehouse the guide book tells me 15.5 million dollars worth of fish are sold *daily*. It certainly smelled like it, but I got some cool pictures. Then I waited on line for 1.5 hours with tourists from all over the
Then I did some warm-up stretching and went on a tourism sprint. I hit neighborhoods all over the city. For the sake of identifying the pictures, I will list them: Hama Rikyu Onshi-Teien (Detached Palace Garden in the middle of downtown Tokyo), water ferry to Asakusa, Senso-ji and the Five Story Pagoda, Chingodo-ji (which is dedicated to mischievous shape-shifting hedonistic raccoon-dogs who use their giant testicles to fly), Meiji-Jingu (peace Shinto shrine with very nice outdoor lamps), Omote-Sando (the Japanese teenage shopping district. They were selling beat up vintage Vans sneakers, identical to the ones on my feet, for $200. If I could communicate in anything more articulate that grunts and hand gestures, I would have sold those puppies and come home barefoot), and the red-light district of Hanazono-jinja (eh, nice, but nothing compared to
And finally… Hypothesis 3: I can eat sushi breakfast, lunch and dinner. True that.