A longer update this time as I'm currently relaxing in the beautiful country town of PingYao, China. China has so far been an amazing experience, a land of contrast betwen old and new, rich and poor. but thats for later. Now I'll continue from where I left off.
But first heres a few photos of Mt Fuji from the summit which i found on my video camera. I took the 7pm bus from tokyo and got to Mt. Fuji around 10pm. The night trek would take about 5 hours i think. Its normal to do the night trek as many people want to see the sunrise. BUT>...i had forgotten my torch!!!!! bad move...There was no moonlight that night and it was pretty much pitch dark. The mountain is volcanic so there are plenty of lava/volcanic rocks around. not so good grip, hard to see path and not good boundries which means easy to fall off edge. Well, sounds bad? It was. Only a few falls and a few scratches, otherwise managed to scramble (literally at times on all fours to 'feel' the path up steeper and rockier sections) my way to the top. TIP: don:t forget torch on night treks.
climbers reaching the top for sunrise. It was COOOOLD..mainly because it was very very windy! brrr...i had to put my sleeping bag inside my jacket as insulation..ahhh..who cares if I looked like the michelin man..i was warm...
just before sunrise
right on sunrise
As I mentioned I've changed plans a little. From Japan, I headed back to europe to visit Murien and her mum's house and farm they are building in the famous Sicilian tourist town of Taormina. For those who have seen the photos of Venice, Taormina has a similar feel and look as it has the small tightly packed houses and is full of tourists. The difference is that it is located on a mountain side on the edge of the coast. The town is old and has a long history dating back to the Greeks who build the famous ampitheather there over 5000 years ago? or was it 3000?? i can:t remember. Anyways, I spent about a month there and meet many interesting local people. I think spending time in a place lets you see more the way the people live and how they do things, and in Italy things are not as they seem. I've always thought it was a rich country with big name cars and fashion, but I found it to be quite the contrary. The Italy you see outside of the big touristy cities like Rome and Venince is poor and feels stagnant. Corruption is rife and things seem to be unorganised and done half heartedly. For example, there are heaps of houses which are half built and are left like that for years or even forever. The money the government spends for the services usually ends up in other peoples pockets and things are a sham. I also noticed that they are in general very lazy people, and tend to leave things overlook things. They also like to use their hands a lot when speaking. I think you know what i mean. Humm...being very negative hey..but at least the food is good.
view of the beaches from the city of Taormina. Its one of the biggest tourist town in Sicily and is know as the pearl of the meditteranean. There is a lot of rich folks around and most tourists are mid to older age.
little alleyways everywhere you go.
taormina. you can see another small town at the top of the mountain, its called Castlemola.
small coastal towns.
lava everywhere on Mt. Edna.
helping the local kids put away a boat for storage during winter.
this is the country house Muriens mum is building. Its about 15 minutes drive from taormina. As you can see, im hard at work lifting heavy rocks!
thats me and thomas, an Irish wwoofer, building bamboo roofing for the patio.
chicken house. took i think 3 days to build. it was finished with wooden and plastic roofing.
view of Mt. Etna with snow. the view to the left is the coastline. It would have to be one of the most spectacular views I've seen from any window.
night view with lava coming out of Mt. Etna. Its the red line near the top right. The smoke and ash from the eruptions forced the airport to close.
Mt. Etna Market.
The beginning of the week from hell. OLIVE picking...OLIVE crushing...OLIVES..the bain of my existence
From Sicily, we went to Barcelona. Barcelona is a very vibrant city. People here like to party and they eat dinner later than the Italians!
the city itself is very widespread but has not many tall buildings. The layout is in a gridlike format.
some funny thing at Park Guell. It was designed by Antoni Gaudi, the famous architect.
another Gaudi thing
another Gaudi design, the Sacred Familia. It began over a hundred years ago and is still being contructed. Its a huge cathedral. They predict that it will be completed by 2020.
its pretty impressive.
re-enactment of my 'tree branch in the face' incident. btw, thats Rita, a wwoofer from Hong Kong who wwoofed at muriens mums place.
pimping up for the mongolian visit...its not mine of course!
Well, the next stop was the beautiful country town of Lepanges, about 3.5 hours train from Paris. We stayed at Muriens former wwoofing hosts for about 3 weeks. They are a most wonderful family of 3, Stephen, Anja, and their daugther Alina. They are a German family but have moved across the border and are living a simple lifestyle. So far, this farm has probably been the most self-sustaining. They have solar power, wood buring stove/oven heating system for cooking, heating and hot water, all the fruit and veggies from their organic garden, make their own yogurt, cheese, jam, sourdough bread, pasta, dried fruits and so on... They hardly buy anything from the shop and theres hardly any rubbish or plastic in their bin at all. I think in the 3 weeks we were there, they didn:t even fill up 1/4 of a garbage bag. Anyways, I was chopping wood, weeding, planting, cutting trees down, burning branches, pruning, berry picking, and picking and juicing apples most of the time.
their old stone house. formerly a glass factory apparenlty. You can see the solar panels on the roof. Btw, France produces I think all or most of its energy from nuclear power, and Italy does not generate any power at all! They just buy it from the French!
The house when they brought it was basically falling apart. Stephen does not work and spends most of his time rebuilding it. As you can see the inside is like a big barn. They have chickens, gooses, and sheep.
Alina, guess she's never seen an asian before?! haha..kidding. i think she was just playing games
the compost toilet. its basically a bucket inside which gets emptied every morning or when its full. Humm..i would have to say that while its clean, organic (they turn it into compost for the fruit trees), and very environmentally friendly, it has to be the worst toilet system ever. For pissing, its easy cos you just find a nice tree in the backyard. For crapping, this is where the compost toilet comes in and becomes a little tricky. The catch is, you cannot piss in it cos the urine is smelly... Which means making sure you piss outside before you have a crap inside. I'm not sure about others but if I'm crapping, I need to piss at the same time, even if i already took a piss outside...humm....it was a very painful and very difficult skill to learn. Any accidents I hear you ask? no comment.
the trailer we stayed in. It was very nice and had a wood heater inside.
picking apples. we had tonnes of em.
We spent a week cutting and juicing the apples. Also made apple jam, dried apples, apple crumble, apple pie, apple salad...
growing some grass things to eat. you can see the homemade jam in the back. they are sweet and delicious.
From Lepanges to luxemborg, belgium and germany.
luxemborg. Interesting place. The population isn:t that big but it just felt like a small city of germany or belgium and not its own country. There:s nothing really distinct about it.
inside of a church
Belgium. Brussles, home of the EU parliament. I think its one of the most underrated places in Europe to visit. The old buildings are as nice as any i:ve seen. Anyways, I dont]: know why I dont: have photos of it but I do have some nice ones of Brugge, an old city a few hours from Brussles. For me, this small touristy town has the most beautiful buildings in Europe.
actually this is one of brussles, with a waffle van! man this guy knows how to make a waffle...deeelicious...
some square in brugge
nice buildings like this...in brugge
and this! love it!
the most wonderful museum ever, the chocolate museum. The ticket counter had free chocolate. I took some before I bought the tickets..hehe..then when I bought the tickets, I took some more. Dropped one on the ground by 'accident', I was devastated and they saw my sad face and offered me some more.. hehe
anyways, belgium is famous for its chocolates. I asked the guy doing the demonstrations on making chocolate as to how you can tell what good chocolate is...his reply, 'if its belgium, then its good'.
To Berlin, Germany. I didn:t like Berlin as much as I thought. The city, while interesting with all the markets, was very quiet and lifeless. There is a lot of history here with Hitler and the war, and it seems that much of that history and the burden of its legacy is still not only part of the city but part of people living here.
Berlin Wall in Germany
The Christmas markets in Berlin. There are over 50 of them in the city. Its very nice and has heaps of interesting little stores.
more christmas markets.
Well, thats it for Europe. A most fascinting continent to visit with all the different countries, cultures and history. I like most the old buildings and houses in Belgium, the small streets and alleyways in Italy, and the beautiful scenary and mountains in Austria and Switzerland.
next time i:ll update on china.
till then, have fun at work!