Publisher: Mirador Publishing (24 Sept. 2018)
Available in ebook and paperback
| About the Book |
For some people, retirement dreams consist of comfy slippers and gardening. Not so David and Helene whose dream was of adventure.
They presented Audley Travel, specalities in creating tailor-made journeys to all corners of the globe, with the challenge of exploring the history, landscape, wildlife, people and food in fifteen countries over ten months.
Fortunately, they were up to the task so David and Helene traded their slippers and gardening gloves for 53 flights, 30 trains, 8 boats, 3 cruise ships, 1 light aircraft, 1 hot air balloon, a motorbike and sidecar, countless speedboats, taxis, tuk-tuks, cyclos, bicycles. And a disobedient horse.
Turning Left Around The World is an entertaining account of their adventure, often intriguing, frequently funny and occasionally tragic. Share their adventure, enjoy the surprises and meet some fascinating people with some unusual customs.
HIKING THE NAKASENDO HIGHWAY AND A CAREFUL ONSEN BATH IN TSUMAGO, JAPAN
The Nakasendo Highway was first established in the 8th C. linking the areas around the then capital Nara as the state grew. Its full length is an impressive 531 km between mountain ranges, on paved and cobbled paths. Villages en route were selected as Post Towns to provide food and lodgings for official travellers, our hike was from one of these, Magome to the most beautiful of them all, Tsumago the finest traditional Post Town in Japan.
“Ring bell hard against bears” read the sign attached to the first bell post we came across. Without a bear to ring it against I gave the chain a long hard pull with the hope that the peels would scatter any bears on our path. The bell posts were dotted every half a mile or so along the track as it passed through the pine forest above the gushing river.
Coming out of the bear’s home we arrived at the river bank and an absolutely stunning view of cherry blossom in whites, pink and reds, some trees surprisingly displaying all three. The scene was thick with colour and an ideal place to stop for our picnic of sushi, Sapporo beer and a small bottle of sake on a low table under the cherry blossom, what could be more Japanese? Wonderful.
Our stay that night was at a traditional Japanese hotel known as a ryokan, where we were to really experience the best of Japan’s hospitality and its exacting etiquette. It’s the footwear that poses the biggest challenge. Shoes off and lots of mutual bowing on arrival, we were then provided with slippers and followed our host to our room where we were required to enter bare foot and were given the colourful toilet sandals to be worn in the toilet only – walking out with these still on would be a huge faux pas.
The room had a low table with still lower and quite demanding chairs, the floor was covered in tatami mats and the walls seemed to be made of paper. But there was something missing, no bed. Our non-English speaking host must have registered my confusion as I peered into wardrobes, the bathroom and even the balcony, well you never know.
‘Futon, David,’ said Helene, who knows about these things.
Our host mimed making a bed and not to touch the rolled up colourful duvet affair in another cupboard.
‘Fair enough, floor it is then,’ I said, ‘only one night I suppose.’
We were then handed our own yukata’s, apparently. A dressing gown kimono type of affair that tied, importantly left side over the right (no idea why), with a huge double waist band around the middle, and fell to the floor, Helene looked terrific, I looked like I’d just got up.
We were now all prepared to tackle our first onsen bath, a long-standing tradition the Japanese are very proud of and which is riddled with ritual. We needed to be careful here, onsen bathing is enjoyed naked. These hot cypress springs are both indoor and out and can be communal, fortunately our ryokan provided a segregated option so we set off in our colourful yukatas and a pair of open clogs to find a black flag for me and a red flag for Helene signifying the entry to our respective onsens.
The changing room had a multilingual notice with instructions for use.
1. Strip naked.
Now I’m as uninhibited as the next person, but it’s difficult to maintain your dignity swanning around an onsen with nothing more than an insubstantial flannel generously provided in the bamboo basket where you deposit your yukata. Where do you hold it, for a start? There seemed to be two schools of thought here, those who gaily flounced around with flannel flung brazenly over their shoulder, and those who surreptitiously held it casually but carefully in front of them.
Opting for the latter strategy I entered what at first looked like a cross between a beautician and a milking parlour. Three legged low stools were lined up in front of large wall mirrors and a selection of soaps, oils and other unidentifiable cleansing potions were presented on another low table.
2. Wash thoroughly before entering the onsen.
Each mirror had a shower attachment next to it, one of those on a coil that is intended to be pulled out of the wall. I glanced at my fellow onsen users for a clue, trying desperately for my glance not to be confused with a stare.
What an odd way to shower. Having eased my way down onto the low modesty stool I selected a couple of colourful liquids in Japanese bottles giving no indication which part of the body they specialised in and held the shower above me. I must say it was quite an enjoyable experience, once I realised no one paid any attention to where all the hot steamy water was flying around, it was fun.
3. Enter the onsen slowly, it is hot.
The indoor onsen was gurgling away with water fed from a natural spring and added to with entirely unknown oils and minerals giving it an oily and not unpleasant aroma.
But I made a quick dash across the shower area past the indoor pool to submerge myself in a vacant part of the open air onsen. By heck it was hot.
I watched the sun go down behind the blossom laden hills in the distance as the hot oily water soothed my aching limbs from hiking the Nakasendo Highway. And I got it. What a wonderful way to spend an early evening, no wonder the Japanese are so proud of the tradition.
Dinner was to be an equally traditional affair. Dressed back in our yukata and second set of slippers we were directed to our personal dining area in the partitioned restaurant and seated at a low table laid beautifully with small bowls and dishes, jugs of sake and glasses of a wonderfully sweet plumb wine.
The dishes kept coming from our waitress in her colourful kimono and the sake kept flowing as our miming of the ingredients became more extravagant and funnier. We collapsed into futons late in the evening for a wonderful night’s sleep, what a glorious day.
My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the blog tour invitation and Cameron Publicity for providing the extract.
| Author Bio |
I retired from advertising and marketing when Helene through I may still be fit enough to take on an adventure around the world. It was an itinerary for those of us of a certain age who prefer to turn left when boarding, choose a one-to-one specialist guide rather than a bus full, and enjoy a room with a sea view rather than one with a shared loo. I hope you enjoy our exploits and share a laugh with us along the way. Happy travels David.