Japan 2017

Day One:

We arrived back in Tokyo a little more than three years after our first visit.  Last time, almost all Tokyo.  This time, we spend a little time in Tokyo, and much time in the rest of the country traveling by Bullet Train ending up in Okinawa.  Today, it was all Tokyo … a little of the Ginza district, then on to Harajuku, teenage and fashion center of the city, and a great bowl of Ramen with a Santory beer.  Then, a little time in Shijuku train station and the Isetan department store to wait out the rain and then back to our hotel at Tokyo Station.  These are some of day one’s sites.


Japan10100 Japan10096 Japan10094 Japan10093 Japan10092 Japan10086 Japan10065 Japan10064 Japan10061 Japan10060 Japan10054 Japan10048 Japan10036 Japan10032 Japan10028 Japan10027 Japan10025 Japan10023 Japan10021 Japan10017 Japan10006

Tomorrow, Hakone by bullet.


Day two took us from the Tokyo Station on the Bullet Train to Hakone, and a day with our guide, Shin.  Shinkensen (the bullet train) travels at 160 miles per hour and as Zac said, man was not meant to go that fast on tracks.  But it does.  The lead car, to me, looks like a duck beak.  The train is cleaned by a crew – pink for women, blue for men.  Hakone is in the mountains very near Mt. Fuji, so it was a day of mountain hikes (very cold and snowy), Cherry blossoms, ancient royal castles, and Shinto shrines in the mountains.  The Shinto religion is native to Japan and celebrates nature.  Mt. Fuji is therefore important.   It is a plus 12K mountain that is extremely broad at its base.  It comes and goes on the horizon depending on cloud cover.  The day was all about the Japanese word:  “do” (pronounced doe) – one’s path.  




Japan20140 Japan20159

Japan20237 Japan20234 Japan20221 Japan20219 Japan20218 Japan20216 Japan20213 Japan20212 Japan20210 Japan20208 Japan20206 Japan20204 Japan20197 Japan20188 Japan20179 Japan20176 Japan20175 Japan20174

Tomorrow, Nagano.

Day 3 – Nagano

Another day, another trip on Shinkansen, this time to Nagano.  This is another mountainous region of Japan where we found many feet of snow and hiked to hot springs where Japanese snow monkeys come down to bathe.  I was not sure what to expect but what we saw was magical — many, many snow monkeys, some with babies on board, made their way to the springs where, much like we humans would, they bathed in the hot, steamy waters.  We passed apple orchards with mountain backdrops, and then headed to a Buddhist enclave of temples from ancient times, great ice cream, and then we ended up at a Sake brewery.  Not as many people today as the monkeys stole the show.

Japan30618 Japan30608 Japan30593 Japan30460 Japan30382 Japan30379 Japan30361 Japan30320 Japan30279 Japan30276


Japan30508 Japan30507


Japan30709 Japan30708 Japan30703 Japan30698 Japan30696 Japan30692 Japan30679 Japan30678


next up, Kanazawa.

Day 4 – Kanazawa:

On Day 3’s eve, we picked up Dan Zhang, Zac’s high school and college friend, who is teaching English in China.  Dan will travel the rest of the way with us.  The 4 of us then got the typical Tokyo train station breakfast, french bakery food on the run, and boarded the bullet for Kanazawa.  Almost 3 hours later (it would have been a more than 6 hour car ride), we arrived, and we were met by our guide for the afternoon.  The Kanazawa train station is built like a futuristic erector set.  There, we saw a TV interview and then onto the Kanazawa gardens with plum trees beginning to bloom, traditionally dressed men and women strolling, Shinto shrines, and a feudal castle built by the Samarai for the lord who they guarded before the period of peace began in the 1600’s.  We also visited two Samarai houses and had Japanese tea ceremony with our traditionally garbed female host.  Then, a short walk through the Kanawaza alleys to a bus (fare 2 – 200 yen) and then back to the train station and on to Kyoto where we stayed.  Zac and Dan’s room was traditional Japanese – no shoes.  Next, on to Hiroshima.

For all of the rigidity and rituals of the Japanese way of life, they are an incredibly peaceful, quiet people, with a sense of tradition and history that is remarkable, and they are very welcoming to Westerners.  We have only been asked about American politics twice, but it is on their minds and all we can say is that we and they will live through the next 4 years and be ok.  They seem good with that but they are worried about North Korea and want to know if we are at Japan’s side or not.  Silly, unplanned amateur tweets are not helpful in this world.  Everyone reads them and Japanese think/expect that as Americans, we can explain the crack-of-dawn tweet barrage.  This will likely be my only political venture for the blog.



Japan40764 Japan40747 Japan40743 Japan40739 Japan40737 Japan40734

Japan40781 Japan40774 Japan40775 Japan40777 Japan40770 Japan40768 Japan40767 Japan40766 Japan40765 Japan40762 Japan40755 Japan40754


Kyoto (briefly) and Hiroshima

We only stayed in Kyoto overnight but the first image is an iconic part of its skyline.  And, the second image is the famous Kyoto train station.  It is a wonder that is hard to capture its size and grandeur in a photograph.  Then, on to Hiroshima on the eve faster Nozomi line.  The third image is the Hiroshima train station (Hiroshima ecki, in  Japanese).  From the train station, we bussed our way over to the Peace Park (passing an entertaining hotel).  the Park is home of the Industrial Promotion Hall approximately 600 meters above which the first atomic bomb was detonated.  200,000 people died virtually immediately and the entire city went from vibrant to rubble instantly.  The remains of the building form the hub of the park around which there are smaller memorials and offerings.  The Peace Park is a series of contrasts.  First, it tries to make sense out of an event about which there can be no sense.  Second, you find people at the park who look at the Hall, and those who cannot, and who pray and who do not, and who cry, and who just pass by, and who meditate, and who protest, and who gather to remember, and who meet friends and who bring young ones.  The point of the park is not unlike ground zero, or the Holocaust Museum – a theme of “never forget.”  It is moving, but difficult to take in, as it is supposed to be.  







Japan50848 Japan50841 Japan50838

Japan50842 Japan50854 Japan50845 Japan50824 Japan50823 Japan50817

Japan50835 Japan50853 Japan50852 Japan50836 Japan50833 Japan50818 Japan50813 Japan50812

Day 6 – Miyajima

Today, a train to a ferry and on to the island of Miyajima, off the coast of Hiroshima where wild deer roam through the town and are quite friendly.  On the island, we hiked some 6 miles through the little village to the top of Misen Mountain and then down to a “ropeway” which is a two part tramway.  On the way up, many Shinto Shrines, a five story Pagoda, and many natives enjoying the wonderful Sunday weather. It was all quite beautiful and we greeted many families on the walk with a simple “konichiwa” said in a sing song kind of way, and all of whom replied in kind. 


Japan60865 Japan60871 Japan60875 Japan60878


Japan60910 Japan60888 Japan60901 Japan60920 Japan60929 Japan60938 Japan60948 Japan60952 Japan60959 Japan60960 Japan60963



Fukuoka and Okinawa

On to Fukuoka on the Shinkansen to meet Loren’s veterinary friend and colleague, Taka, and then to the airport by subway to catch a plane to Okinawa.  First, Fukuoka – a rainy day but we still caught our first, non-tourist Shinto Shrine after Spring Break where students had prayed for good luck to pass their tests.  The cherry blossoms had begun and the shrine also served as a market / meet up place for the locals.

Then a meal, 

and on to Okinawa by plane.  In Okinawa, we landed, took a monorail to our hotel, 

and the next day, we met Atsushi, his lovely wife, and their 2 year old son – Sonnybo – where we cooked together in their apartment and had a typical Okinawa meal for lunch of Bitter melon, pork, rice, tofu, miso with brown sugar sauce, and assorted other dishes.  One thing we love to do when we travel is to meet locals such as Atsushi.  Cooking in their apartment with them and spending a few hours talking makes you realize that the world is a smaller place than we sometimes think and people are not all that different in their hopes and wishes.  We hope Atsushi and his family will visit us in the Rockies.  Sonnybo is way cute – don’t you think?

Then on to to the airport for a drive across the tarmac (actually very cool),

and onwards for our helicopter trip out on the ocean to buzz over the islands that lie just off Okinawa (in rained but it  was still beautiful),

then back to the hotel for some dinner fare in town at a local haunt (saki on the wall but we drank beer):

and today, back to the mainland as we begin to head to Tokyo for the Friday return to the states.  I have two other random shots that follow.  Neither is great, but the story is:  the first is a harp player we heard in Tokyo and the second, on our trip to Kyoto, we had the good fortune to sit next to 4 Geisha girls.  The are typically very stealth so the notion that they traveled in full gear is pretty surprising, let alone that we saw them.  The bad news:  I chickened out and did not ask to photograph them so I had to steal a shot while they slept (I actually practiced how to ask them in Japanese so the chicken out part was epic).  So, I have no Geisha face shot unfortunately. 

Oki to Fuku to Hiro

Long day of traveling from Okinawa to Fukuoka on a 767 and then to Hiroshima on the Shinkansen.  In Hiroshima,  arrived to a sunset and then had a bottle of Japanese Chardonnay and Wagyu beef (the beef cattle that are massaged by the farmers for more tenderness – for real).  The wine was great and the beef, while very expensive, was memorable.   Dan headed back to China this morning to hugs and good wishes; it was so great to see him; and we are now just a threesome again (San).   

Back to Tokyo

We are back in Tokyo for our last 24 hours.  Last sushi tonite, followed by an after dark walk around the Ginza.  It is hard to describe the visual excitement of Tokyo at night.  It is like Times Square but much more so, and it is everywhere not just in one district.  It is fun to stroll and photograph because it is so lit up and colorful and alive.  Each store and  building and sign is more lit up and colorful than the next as if in a competition.  People here do not just walk with a purpose but they hustle and scurry.  They pour out of the train station into the Ginza in wave after wave of bodies.  The lights and colors await them as the surface from the trains below.  Here are a few shots:

Last day in Tokyo:

Our last day in Japan before we ran for the train to Narita Airport and the journey back to Denver.  We took a subway to one of many urban parks within Tokyo.  The cherry blossoms have just begun in Tokyo.  There were painters recording the scenes.  The park is at the base of a baseball stadium that houses the Tokyo Giants.  Then back to Tokyo Metro and a quick walk to the Imperial Gardens where Japan’s emperor resides.  

Iceland – The Land of Fire and Ice

Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Our last full day in Iceland and we hooked up again with our guide, Villi Godi, and headed north on the west side of Iceland to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.  The Peninsula is very Iceland, with lots of coastline, snow capped mountains, some waterfalls, and some small Icebergs.  We had the most amazing Fish Soup, an Iceland staple, at a guest house on the Peninsula that Villi took us to.  Here are some shots of what we saw today.



the crew:


and the rest:

_DSC5554 _DSC5656 _DSC5647 _DSC5625 _DSC5634 _DSC5603 _DSC5583 _DSC5561

Around Reykjavik 

Today was a crisp blue sky day in Reykjavik with strong winds as the fight between winter and spring continued.  We saw the Voiths off today and so it is just the three of us remaining.  We spent the day strolling in the wind around the capital city before tomorrow’s adventure up the western coastline.  Here are some of the sites of Reykjavik:

you can probably figure this one out, although the Icelandic troll may throw you a bit:


Our new apartment on the harbor:


The harbor:_DSC5521

some of the structures of Reykjavik:

_DSC5526 _DSC5527 _DSC5533

Winter and spring:


The Canadian embassy:


Scenes from the city lake, looking back, an inhabitant, and with ice on the lake that appears as broken glass:

_DSC5543 _DSC5544 _DSC5546 _DSC5548 _DSC5551

Icelandic Cooking Class Saturday

Sun and bursts of rain and then sun again in Reykjavik as the winter and the spring fight it out for supremacy. They say they only have 2 seasons here, but it seems like there is some spring in the air even as it is periodically cold and windy.

We have developed a tradition of finding a cooking class when we travel and learning about the food of our host.  Today, we headed off to Salt Eldhús and an Icelandic cooking class from Matti.


On the menu:  A sautéed fennel salad


with twice smoked lamb carpaccio (smoked over beechwood and sheep poop – no lie – those Vikings were a hardy and innovative bunch)


with radish sprouts


and home made mayonnaise seasoned with Arctic thyme.


The main course was pan seared salmon with more Arctic thyme,


northern cracked peppers


and lava salt (salt from the 2010 eruptions of Eyjafjallajökul along the south coast of Iceland which brought worldwide air traffic to a halt), barley risotto  (because of the long, cold winter here, they rely on barley as their grain staple, rather than rice, wheat, or corn) with a delicious Icelandic Auður cheese melted into the barley.


And for desert, an Icelandic dish called Skyrr Mouse similar to Panna Cotta but made with legendary Skyr Yogurt with fresh picked Icelandic blueberries.  Icelandic Yogurt in the Skyr tradition is made in New York by Siggi’s Dairy and can be found in many supermarkets.   The Skyr Mousse was flavored with home made vanilla extract that Matti makes by soaking vanilla bean pods in Icelandic Vodka for 6 months.  Gotta try that when we get back.


Our class was 2 Shaikens from KC, 1 Shaiken from Washington, 3 Voiths from Philadelphia, a Parisian, and a family also from Philadelphia (small world).

Here are some shots of the action:





A really amazing meal!

Golden Circle Day

It is hard to describe the scale and beauty of the sites to see on the Golden Circle to the north of Reykjavik.  The size of the natural wonders in such a small island nation is extraordinary.  Even the pictures do not explain how gigantic the waterfalls are, or just how big the volcanic crater and the geyser are.  The Golden Circle is remarkable and we were treated to a mostly sunny day.  Therefore, I will just post the pics without commentary, except for the first picture.  The left cliff is the edge of the American tectonic plate and the right cliff is the edge of the European tectonic plate.  These two continental geological plates meet in Iceland and are pulling apart at the rate of 4 cm’s per year.  The rest is self explanatory except for the scale.











Last, I made mention in a prior post that the Hallgrimskirkja Church in Reykjavik was designed to replicate cliffs on black volcanic beaches in Iceland.  Here is the church again and the cliffs.




Next Two Days

The past two days, the weather was very unpredictable.  Yesterday, it rained, we had very gray skies, and the wind whipped up to 40 mph (here, they measure their wind in meters per second, and it was a lot of meters per second).  So, we hopped around Reykjavik looking for things to see and for me, things to photograph.  We went back to the Hallgrimskirkja Church to walk up to the clock tower and see the view:


and then back down to the church for another view of it.  It is designed to reflect some of the cliffs on the southern Iceland coast that overlook the Atlantic:


We also visited the Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Center on the wharf.  It was quite a walk to get to the building with the wind whipping off of the bay.  The building is made of glass of different colors with a very unusual roof, all geometric, and it was sponsoring a chess match.4th-5thdaysiceland-459



Today, we headed out to the Blue Lagoon, about 50 kilometers from Reykjavik on the way to the international airport.  It is a geothermal spa and the water gets its hue from silica and other minerals.  It is surrounded by lava fields covered with moss.  It rained 0n us while we bathed in the spa, which was a little weird to be sitting in water over 100 degrees fahrenheit while water barely above freezing fell on us.  But, it was a fun experience and the sun broke through and treated us to a rainbow over a lava field, Iceland style.



Day Two – Northern Lights

We drove through hail, sleet and snow to get to the international airport at 6:45 a.m. to pick up the Voiths who arrived on their flight from Newark.  And, now we are six.  Despite this morning’s hideous weather, it cleared, and there were solar flares today.  Clear and flares – a great combination for Northern Lights near the Arctic Circle.  So, we decided to go out tonite at 10 p.m. with our guide, Stephan, in search of the Northern Lights and we were not disappointed.  It was quite a show for a couple of hours just outside of Reykjavik.




First Full Day

Today was our first full day in Iceland.  We employed a guide – Villi – to sherpa us along the southern coast of the island.  And, here he is by a glacier he took us to:


Wed rove along Ring Road going east of Reykjavik and came upon a farm owned by a couple whose land sits at the foot of the volcano that erupted twice and caused worldwide airline interruption in 2010.  The family did not abandon the farm and their story of saving their animals and their farm is remarkable.  Here is Villi and the wife who was gracious enough to talk with us extensively about how the eruption affected her family and their lives.


We saw thatched roof dwellings, old churches (at the foot of mountains), walked to a glacier, and a huge waterfall and made friends with some horses, an Iceland breed that is friendly and beautiful as the manes blow in the wind.










Great day with Villi.  Thanks so much!  Next up – the Voiths arrive at 6:30 a.m.

Fight Over and Arrival

All told, it is about a 7.5 hour journey from Denver north to Eastern Canada, across to Greenland, and then down to Iceland and the airport at Reykjavik near the Arctic Circle.  We arrived in Reykjavik at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday and with wifi in the airport while we waited to clear customs and get bags and rental car, here is what we saw on the laptop:


Just like home.  Then, into the diesel engine manual transmission VW bus with studded tires for the frozen roads, and then the 40 minute trip to Reykjavik.


We confined ourselves to a walk around Iceland’s principal city waiting for check-in time at our apartment rental.  It was a gray, wet day in Reykjavik but the temperature was above freezing so not too bad at all.  We visited the Hallgrimskirkja Church and were treated to an organ recital.  Very cool church:




And, we took in some of the city until we ran out of steam.






A quick update and a note to check back from time to time to follow our adventure to Iceland, the land of fire and ice.  Loren and I meet Zac in Denver and then take off on Icelandic Air non-stop to Reykjavik where we occupy an apartment for 12 days, meeting up with the Voiths of Philadelphia, and traversing the island in a Volkswagen bus.  Like my blog entries of our adventure to New Zealand, I will add to this blog periodically with images of our “near-the-arctic -circle” expedition – posted in reverse chronological order so the most recent posts will always be on top.  Follow us as we seek out glaciers, volcanoes, icebergs, a blue lagoon, geysers, puffins, the people of Iceland, and everything else this northern tiny island country has to offer.  Cheers – Mark

Adventure New Zealand

We find ourselves halfway around the world in a different country, time zone, hemisphere, and day.  Welcome to New Zealand, and my occasional blog of our adventure.  There will likely be no sports images for a couple of weeks as we take in this far away land and meet up with Zac for the first time in over 4 months as soon as he finishes finals at the University of Otago in Dunedin, NZ, on the south island.  The posts will be in reverse order, with the latest one at the top so you will not have to re-read each time I post.  Hope that helps.

The end – Our Return

After Milford, we stayed for one evening in Queenstown, and then back to the Claremont in Dunedin before heading home.  Queenstown is adrenaline-town to me — jump off a bridge; jump out of a plane; fly off a mountain.  I must confess to being just old enough to feel that I am not jumping off or out, or flying except in a plane.  It is beautiful and our B&B – the Queenstown House – was exceptional, but I think I am several decades too old for the true Queenstown experience.  We dropped Zac at the bus station for his last two weeks in NZ, a trek with his mates on the Kepler Track, a swim with Dolphins, and then his flight back to the states.

Loren and I made it up the coast south of Dunedin to the Claremont and our last night with Gunn.  A fabulous victorian B&B that she runs.  We are in the tower – three floors up and high atop Dunedin.  Beautiful.  We ate at a little neighborhood Italian restaurant on the beach in Dunedin tonight watching surfers brave large storm waves in the Pacific, with only South America as the next land mass to the east.

Tomorrow, we do our 28 hour trip back to KC.  I should be quite the sight to see on Monday morning at my desk as we arrive late in the evening on Sunday night in KC.

So, goodbye New Zealand and all of the Kiwi people we have met.  What a wonderful adventure and to our new Kiwi friends, thanks for the great experience.  you are all wonderful.  Goodbye furry friends . . .


and coastlines like no other.




Kia Ora!


Day 9- Milford Sound

We headed off through Fiordland (or Fjordland) National Park over a small windy road, through breathtaking valleys, past mirror lakes, and soaring snow capped mountains, with our destination Milford Sound, which is misnamed a “sound” we are told as it is really a large series of fjords.  It was all quite breathtaking.  Here is what some of it looked like:








Then, while Zac and Loren hiked for a bit, I had a spot of tea with our guide Albert of Trips and Tramps,


and then back to Te Anau for our last night with Janice and Lindsay of the Cats Whisker and a wonderful dinner at the Redcliff cafe – rabbit, venison, NZ Salmon, and of course, lamb and Sauvignon Blanc and Emerson’s Pilsner.  Ahh, life is good.

Day 7-8 – Fjordland | Te Anau

We drove 3 hours south west of Dunedin to Te Anau in the Fjordland region of the South Island of New Zealand.  We are staying at the Cats Whisker B & B; no cat – it died sadly.  Now the cat is a cute little Maltese mix dog.  Very friendly.  Our hosts are great.  Te Anau sits on Lake Te Anau, reported to be the largest fresh water lake in this part of the world.  It has snow capped mountains that frame it on each side.


On Day 8, we are headed over those mountains for the fjords and the coast — Doubtful Sound and Dusky Sound – discovered and charted by Captain Cook in the late 1700s.  To get there, you can backpack for 7 days, boat, or fly.  We chose to get there by float plane.


Our trip is touch and go due to weather but the rain and hail break for a couple of hours, the sun peaks out, and our pilot Alan decides to make a go of it.  And off we go.  We flew across the fjords to the sounds, often at what appeared to be eye level with snow capped mountains – the Southern Alps – dusted by cold weather and snow last night.  Again, the best way to describe what we saw is by images:






We touched down in the bay at Dusky Sound in search of dolphins and found some, playful around the plane as we floated in the water, although I was unable to get a great shot:



then back to Te Anau before the rains hit again.


Tomorrow, Milford Sound.


Day 6 – Otago

Day 6 was all about nature on the wild coastline of the Otago Peninsula just a short drive from the center of Dunedin.  Nature on the Pacific coast is all about birds, seals and sea lions.  Here are some of the wildlife we saw today during our 8 hours on the shoreline, the journey courtesy of our guide, John.  He knew all the places to find wildlife and give me (and Zac) a chance to shoot images of the birds.  It was quite a remarkable day discovering exotic looking birds including the rare Yellow Eyed Penguin as they finished their day at sea and came out of the water, walked across the beach where we sat, and made their way to their nests on the hillsides.  I am afraid I don’t remember the names of all the birds that follow, but they all have personality.

Yellow Eyed Penguin:





Seals and Sea Lions:




Assorted other birds:







Travel day tomorrow to the Southwest portion of the South Island – Te Anau.


Day 5 Kia Ora in Rotorua

A full day of geothermal wonders followed by an evening with the Maori, the native people of New Zealand.  Kia Ora means hello, good health and several other sentiments.

The geothermal activity here is substantial with geysers and active volcanoes about, boiling mud pits, hot springs of all colors reflecting the interaction of elements at the surface and below the earth, and craters from an 1880s eruption that turned a small lake into a huge lake.  The best way to describe what we saw is in pictures (no photoshopping of the colors).thermalday5-476






And, the distant hole in this next shot is one of 5 craters from the 1880s eruption.  Under the lake that now sits below the mountain was another:


We then spent our evening with the Maori, learned about their culture, dined on food they cooked for hours in a pit in the ground on white hot rocks.  Here are some of our hosts:



On our drive back from their village, the bus had representatives of the US, New Zealand, Australia, China, Taiwan, Korea, the UK, French, German, and one or two other countries.  We had all spent our evening with the Maori.  Each country was asked to sing a song — kind of corny, harkening back to summer camp and  The Wheels on the Bus.  The US contingent sang She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain.  The Australians sang Waltzing Matilda, etc.  Somehow it worked.  Maori magic I guess.  For that short bus ride, the world and its many conflicts seemed to melt away and everything made sense and was balanced.

November 9 NZ (November 8 US) is a travel today to Dunedin, the South Island and the meet up with Zac for the next part of the adventure.

Day 4

Long drive today as we leave the Bay of Islands behind

NZ day 1-476

and drive through the countryside for 6 1/2 hours (actually, Loren has mastered the left side of the road thing, so she did all the driving)


south, past Auckland to Rotorua.  Outside Rotorua, Loren met a friend – may have practiced some medicine without a New Zealand license – sheep in the background wanted no part of her but the horse was looking for love.


We ended the day at the Blue Lake in Rotorua, a spiritual place we are told.


Tomorrow, some geothermal activity and a dinner with the Maoris.

Day 2-3 Bay of Islands

Day 2 had us helicoptering our way around the bay for 45 minutes.  We tried to get on the copter in between rain squalls but failed in our quest.  Nevertheless, the sun broke through at times to reveal a series of rocks and islands with almost a golden glow to them.  Some are privately owned, such as by Tom Cruise, we are told.


As well, we headed for a rock called the “Hole in the Rock” and the copter landed on the top (the furthest right dash of rock on the top of the island).  The landing was not as scary as I expected.


We had great views from there even as squalls were coming past.

Today (day 3), we ferried our way from Paihia across the bay to Russell.  Russell from the air:


In the 1800s, Russell was a hotbed of brothels and liquor and earned the name the Hell Hole.  Not so any more.  Now it is older homes, gardens, beaches, and shops.


It has a church where the pews are lined with embroidered pillows – wonderful idea:


The wind was quite substantial so we just toured on foot and did not take a boat trip around the bay (other than the ferry).


We also toured a glow worm cave.  The insects adhere to the cave ceiling and glow to attract their prey – it is like looking at the milky way – but no cameras allowed. Travel day tomorrow.


Day 1 and 2

We started our adventure on the north island. After a 12 hour flight from LA, we landed in Auckland, went through customs and drove north the the Bay of Islands and Paihia.  As we drove north, we  inched closer to the equator as NZ is in the southern hemisphere.

The trip out of Auckland quickly turned from big city to very rural.

NZ day 1-488

It is the beginnings of spring here.



Once in the Bay of Islands, we of course had mussels for dinner.  NZ is home to the world famous Green Lipped Mussel, a giant among mussels, with a wonderful sweet taste like no other in the world.



We visited the Waitangi Treaty Grounds where the British and the native Maori signed a treaty of equality that governed their relationship, not perfectly at times, but it seems to mostly work.  The grounds are not only historical but show a bit of the Maori culture and art.  We have more Maori exploration in the coming days.



We have been above NZ in a helicopter (more later) and oh by the way, this is truly a beautiful land.




from our room at the Allegra Bed and Breakfast:


Off for more green lips.  Check back!



four more months

do :: or :: diso is officially 8 months old. I am very proud of the reception the online magazine has gotten from photographers and others and the subscription rate has remained constant. True, Sports Illustrated has not yet called to inquire about an acquisition of my publication, but maybe,  I am not selling just yet!  In any case, here are the most recent four covers of do :: or :: diso. Visit, read the articles, catch up on the archives, and subscribe at: disports.com.


jSept 2014 Flex cover-450

oct 2014 muscle cover-450


read the magazine, and thanks for visiting my blog — Mark

Jose Canseco and the T-Bones

August 3, the Kansas City T-Bones sponsored a home run derby featuring Jose Canseco, formerly one of the two bash brothers of the Oakland A’s, author of Juiced (a tell all book about steroids in baseball and his personal use).  The T-Bones are Kansas City’s independent minor league baseball team playing out of Kansas City, Kansas, with a slogan – “Fun … Well Done,” apt for the land of beef.  Jose appeared just after a celebrity softball game and just before the T-Bones game began.

He strolled onto the field, bigger than life and almost as buff as when he played big league ball



He talked to the media,


warmed up a bit,


and then got serious – hitting a softball some 450 feet over the left field wall and into the nearby parking lot.  Are you serious – a 450 foot softball blast?


He mingled with some dignitaries:

Former major league pitcher Diego Segui, who, like Jose, is of Cuban descent, and Frank White, former Kansas City Royal and currently the first base coach for the T-Bones:



Then, after the T-Bones game ended, Jose came back for his home run derby for charity – Harvesters.  He took his swings as well as a group of guys who volunteered to take their shots as it got dark.






Afterward, he checked the scoreboard.


For me, a great chance to sit 7 feet from Jose with my D4 and a 70-200mm lens and capture some of the man.  After all, he was a 40 home run, 40 stolen bases champ, a slugger for the A’s, who loved and still loves baseball and still sounds like a kid playing stick ball in the street when he talks about the game; a guy who can still hit the ball, hard or soft, a mile, a guy who is still a physical specimen and as a result, fields legitimate questions about continued juicing; a grown up big kid who is funny, warm, engaging, and who also did things and promoted a lifestyle that came to dominate baseball for more than a decade in ways that still challenge the veracity and propriety of our national past time.

And then, he strolled off into the night, and off to the next barnstorming stop on the minor league circuit.  The dichotomy that is Jose.


Thanks for stopping by my blog.  Mark