Quilotoa, Central Highlands

Visiting the Quilotoa crater from Black Sheep Inn was an easy 45 minute jeep ride. Once at Quilotoa the views were spectacular. We had been thinking we would walk to a neighbouring town Guayama, but decided on the day to take a good look round the crater instead. We walked part way round the ridge and then did the descent. It was pretty steep but the views were amazing.

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Black Sheep Inn, Central Highlands

Our first morning at the Inn was bright and clear – fantastic. We went for an amazing walk to the top of the ridge behind the Inn. Past the llamas, and a donkey, up some narrow goat tracks to reach the top. The outing was a bit more exciting than expected though. We had been warned that you need to take a ‘dog stick’ to scare off any           over-excited farm dogs that like barking at passing traffic. Unfortunately on top of the ridge we had a rather aggressive one, who turned out to be the leader of a pack of four – which had us waving our sticks and walking away in a determined manner – and kind of spoiled the ‘nice walk in the country’ ambience. But plenty of relaxing in lovely surroundings in the afternoon so it was easy to get back to a more ‘tranquilo’ state.

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Pichincha views, Quito

Waking up to a spectacularly clear day, we decided it was the day for a ride up the mountain in the Teleferico (cable car). We had glimpses of Cotopaxi on the way up, at around 10 am, and a clear view of the mountains to the north. At the top it was relatively tourist free, very tranquillo and beautiful. Three hours are recommended for a walk to the very top – so we aimed instead for a gentle amble on some of the trails closer to the Teleferico. Having been in Quito for a while now we didn’t find the altitude too limiting, although few people around us were puffing as they walked about. For extreme cases there is a handy oxygen bar in the main building next to the Teleferico arrival point.

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View down to Quito town
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Oxygen bar
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Chocho bush (lupins), Pichincha. The cooked beans are a local snack. 
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View to Ruku Pichincha
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Vocan Cayambe

 

Rumipamba, Quito

We took the opportunity to go on an excursion to an archeological site within the city of Quito, Rumipamba. The site is still being excavated and part of the park was closed due to ongoing work. As with many such sites, you can’t actually see the richness of the finds. The interpretive centre helps identify the importance of the area for the non-expert (ie me). We are talking finds from 1500 BC. There are some reconstructed huts that give the flavour of the kinds of dwellings found here centuries ago. But I wonder – why did the population keep on returning when volcanic eruptions kept destroying their villages?

The place has wonderful views of Quito, today very tranquillo: and we saw a few hummingbirds as well – one with a spectacularly long tail. (M says it was a black tailed trainbearer).

Nagoya by bike

Nagoya is not only a good location for day trips to surrounding areas, but a cool town that has a lot to offer. We were able to hire bikes from a drugstore near Nagoya station (just ask at the wonderful info desk inside the railway terminal for details – around $6 for a day’s hire, no bond) which was a great way to see more of the city. By bike we checked out Nagoya Castle, Central Park, Tsurumai Koen Park, the amazing covered shopping streets of Osu, the park behind the Science Museum (Shirakawa) and then back to near Nagoya station to return the bikes and find somewhere for dinner.

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Food trucks at Nagoya Castle
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Sakura at Nagoya Castle
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Yes, Nagoya Castle. Burnt to the ground (almost) in an air raid in 1945, lovingly rebuilt
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Tsurama Park – picnic time
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Window shopping by bike in Osu
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Back of the Science Museum/ Shirakawa Park
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Drugstore to look for for bike rental
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Cycle friendly Nagoya

So much to see in Tokyo

A week in Tokyo is going so fast! Over the last couple of days we’ve checked out Ueno Park and surrounds, Shinjuku shopping, and a few of the local craft brew bars.

Ueno Park was in full cherry blossom frenzy, even though there was not much blossom actually out yet. People were picnicking and taking photos and having a good time regardless. A wonderful atmosphere. We detoured to Benten Hall, and on the way there was a kind of flea market and various street food stalls which was interesting viewing. We also stopped in at the Toshogu Shrine and Daibatsu before picking up some street food lunch – on the way to the fabulous Tokyo Museum. So much to see at the park and Museum, but we gave it a good try and enjoyed everything we saw. On the way home, we tried out the Irish Pub ‘World End’ and it’s sister venue, Towa. Towa has Japanese craft beer and soba noodles. I liked both places. World End was a trip back in time – punk music playing and the venue smoky and dark. Towa was much more sophisticated – with the added Tokyo element of trains rumbling over head every 5 minutes or so. We finished off the evening with a walk around some of the Ueno sidestreets. Venturing into some pachinko and slot machine venues was an experience – the volume was incredibly loud with music and machine noise, and the venues were busy, with young/old/male/female playing.

 

Pinch me, I’m inTokyo

I am so excited that after many many years of wanting, I am finally here in Japan. We arrived at Narita Airport and easily caught the Shinjuku Limousine bus into Tokyo (an hour and a bit), then a taxi to our apartment. A quick exploration of the neighbourhood and dinner out at a local ohitzuen diner set us up well for our next day. We decided to take it relatively easy – so started with a late breakfast at a noodle joint (tix paid via machine), then checked out the Japanese Sword Museum. In the afternoon we ventured to Shinjuku Gyoen Park for a walk for our first experience of cherry blossom frenzy, finishing off the day with a craft beer or two at Watering Hole and then Japanese Italian at Buona Vita (established 2016) for dinner. A pretty good day 1.

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Choose your food before you buy your ticket at Fujisoba
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The Sword Museum was a wonderful insight into the importance of these artworks for Japanese culture
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A taste of cherry blossom madness at Shinjuku Gyoen Park
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The greenhouse at the park is well worth a visit
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Cherry blossom with bird
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Strike a cherry blossom pose
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Everything blooming and when

 

 

 

Singapore under glass

Love calling in to Singapore – this time we did some repeat visits to show family some favourite places, and we also tried some new things. If you had a really, really fabulously paying job it would be so easy to live here. One of our taxi drivers pointed out that Singapore is now number 1 for cost of living! Everything is ‘plus plus’ (add all those extra taxes before you convert into your own currency!) But the food is amazing and there is also such a diversity of things to do. We’ve been to Gardens by the Bay before but this time we had a longer walk in the gardens and included both domes, and made a return visit at night for the supertrees light show. Cloud Forest, and its sister, Flower Dome are worth every ‘plus plus’ cent. And the light show is free.