It’s a 40-KM train journey away. We pass through less densely-packed parts of town.
Hasedera village is tranquil and rural. You only hear the stream that runs through town.
The narrow main street is full of interesting shops.
It’s fun to browse. Maria buys a new wallet.
There are no non-Asian visitors here. It is off the (non-Asian) tourist map. Why are we here? In January 2016, we see Robert Lepage’s The Library at Night at the ‘national’ archives in Montreal.
Among its aspects is a VR (virtual reality, for those of you over a century old) tour of ten world libraries, some imaginary, some past and gone, some still in existence.
One was the rotating sutralibrary of the Hasedera monastery. Such a library is known a kyozo.
I find this so fascinating. I vow that if we ever go to Japan, we’ll seek out this library. (Thinking it not very likely, at the time.)
As it turns out, Hasedera happens to be located less than an hour from Osaka, where we first arrive. An uncanny coincidence.
So of course we make an effort to visit, since we’re in the vicinity.
While here, we touch the feet of the Buddha for good luck. Sorry, no photos allowed where the magic happens.
We have lunch in the village at a local restaurant.
Then back to town again. Did we mention that our place in Osaka has a resident cat?
His name is Akubi. Akubi means ‘yawning’, which he does a lot of. Usually just before napping. He has strangely short legs, like a dachshund or a corgi.
When he’s not prowling the hotel, he sits on a leash outside and lets adoring passers-by fuss over him.
You can see he’s just loving the attention we give him. </S>
Sight or Insight of the Day – Hasadera
In one of those exquisite ironies of travel, we arrive at the site of the Hasadera library in the temple grounds, years after first learning of it on a freezing Montreal January afternoon on the other side of the globe – and it’s closed. At least to the public.
Oh well. So it goes. This is what it looks like on the inside.
In the Macau Museum, we find this fascinating exhibit about cricket fighting. Below is a cricket fighting ‘arena’, some cricket cages and porcelain food bowls, and four ‘cricket ticklers’ with rat-whisker bristles.
We arrive in Hong Kong after an 11-hour overnight flight from Auckland.
There are more people in Hong Kong (7.4 million) than in New Zealand (4.8 million).
I’ve wanted to come here ever since reading the absorbing James Clavell novels Tai Pan and Noble House decades ago. Maria read them too, much more recently.
We stay in a guesthouse in Chungking Mansions. We had no idea it was kind of famous/notorious. It’s certainly interesting – like a termite mound of humanity. Or a labyrinth. Or a rabbit warren. It reminds me of an ancient Roman insula.
There are light wells that open onto steampunk-esque vistas.
In fact, a lot of Hong Kong has a Blade Runner look and feel to it. The flashy skyscrapers and shopping malls are interspersed with densely-populated blocks of flats.
We purchase some local duds from a friendly woman at a Kowloon street stall.
We walk down busy Nathan Road in the evening, heading for the Temple Street night market.
Including a view of the backstage. Much like we imagine an Elizabethan theatre.
Sight or Insight of the Day – Hong Kong
A notable detail about being back in Asia: the habit that many people have of wearing surgical masks.
Apparently this began as a (not very effective) preventative measure during the various outbreaks of airborne disease in Asia few years ago.
But now, many people seem to wear them as a fashion statement. As if it’s normal.
We find this so bizarre. It’s like being trapped in an episode of Black Mirror. It also makes people difficult to understand: in addition to being soft-spoken in general, a strong accent and a covered mouth make service-persons even harder to understand when they ‘re wearing a mask.
Time for a brief roundup of our journey back to Auckland. We spend a night in Mangawhai Heads.
We discover on this trip that a bowl of water set on the ground is a sure-fire duck attractant. They like to drink, or wash their beaks, or both.
One duck in particular spends all day with us. She sleeps at our feet, centimetres away. She has a pronounced limp when she waddles. We name her Jemma.
There’s no shortage of ducks in many NZ campgrounds.
We stop at Owera for a couple of days. Only 40 kilometres north of Auckland, it’s a relaxed beach town. Very popular for kitesurfing. Not surprising, given the gale-force winds that blow here.
A lot of activities in NZ involve jumping off of bridges, leaping out of airplanes, rafting down foaming rivers – you get the picture. Thankfully, we have transcended this age of adrenaline addiction.
In Auckland, we spend an afternoon at the zoo. We see some NZ animals, like keas.
I finally get to see a tuatara. Like most ground-dwelling creatures here, they are almost extinct.
We see kiwis in the kiwi house. (Q. where do New Zealanders go for information online? A. Kiwipedia)
We enjoy the Australian section for the wave of nostalgia we feel for that country’s awesome critters. For instance, they have a great Tasmanian devil enclosure.
We hope he strikes a more fearsome pose for the camera. He doesn’t disappoint.
Which reminds me, we book an appointment with a dentist while in Auckland.
Continuing the Aussie animal theme, we come across a pair of brolga cranes. Brolgas are well known for their graceful courtship dancing. In this case, one of the pair is totally uninterested.
I commune with a brace of emus.
We like the red panda. Looks like the love-child of a fox and a racoon.
Sight or Insight of the Day – Haere rā
We come full circle. When we first arrived in Auckland, I took advantage of the irresistible photo opp offered by this Vincent Street window. A few months and 7,500 kilometres later, it’s Maria’s turn.
So long, New Zealand. Thanks for being here for the world.
Less than an hour’s drive from Auckland, it feels like the end of the earth.
It must’ve been a challenge filming here. The only access is by steep, narrow, twisting roads – not the best for transporting cast, crew, and equipment.
Next to Russel (via Whangarei) and the beautiful Bay of Islands. We make an excursion to Otehei Bay, on Urupukapuka Island.
We enjoy an outdoor lunch.
The island has lots of rewarding easy walks.
There is supposed to be the remains of a Maori pa on this headland. We can’t find any trace.
We drive north to Cape Reinga, the northernmost point of New Zealand. (At least, the northernmost point that is convenient to get to.)
Because there is no alternative, we stay at the Department of Conservation campsite at Tapotupotu. No electricity or amenities besides basic toilets, but very pretty in its isolation.
Our time in Australasia draws to a close. I’m going to miss the long-distance drives. I enjoy the ever-changing scenery. And turning things over in my mind. Ruminatin’ and illuminatin’ on the state of the world. Who knows, maybe I think too much.
We can’t go any further north – we return south. We stop at the giant Te Puki sand dunes that reach up to 100 metres.
Sight or Insight of the Day – North Island Rambles
Kauri trees suffer from a disease called kauri dieback. The NZ government is doing all it can to protect surviving trees.
This includes obligatory decontamination of all footwear before entering kauri forests.
Everyone has to follow the rules.
The people and the government of New Zealand have put a lot of thought, money, and resources into this effort.
Somewhere in an earlier entry, we mention how the authorities and governments in Southeast Asia – the very people who should be protecting the natural patrimony of their countries – are in fact at the forefront of hacking down any remaining trees of value and replacing them with palm oil plantations for themselves and their cronies.
I’m not much of a tree-hugger, but I wonder with Bruce Cockburn – ‘if a tree falls in the forest, does anybody hear the forest fall?’