Sayonara to the Land of the Sakura

From Niigata we catch the bullet to Tokyo, passing snow clad mountains and many tiny farms.

Big improvement weather wise from our inward journey. The elegant old Tokyo Station is visible from our hotel, so we can’t get lost here. Can we?

We lashed out to hire a guide for 6 hours. A lovely young mother of two, Yuka speaks perfect English, knows her city, and we have a whirlwind of alleys, fish market, subways and an old park.

 

 

 

In the middle of a major metropolis, the park struggles to compete with some of the more regional ones we’ve seen, but still manages to produce cherry blossoms and carefully manicured eye-scapes.

In an open area, hundreds of plastic markers are being laid out to control queues expected for the afternoon brief baby panda viewing. Poor panda, patient patrons.

Nothing to her, Yuko walks deceptively quickly, and I wonder how she can take such long steps. We go through the very old and soon to be relocated fish markets, the biggest in Japan, where motorized trolleys driven by formula-1 drivers hurtle around the congested walkways.

Authentic sushi for lunch – every item delicious.

Then through a maze of narrow streets and old buildings. Everything clean and neat. So many people.

Left to our own devices the next day we succeed in getting lost, but delightfully so, in the centre of this busy city. Navigation technique…let’s  go this way, that way, every way, look at it all, then when weary grab a cab home.

Tomorrow it’s back to Oz, and we’ll  see how Cyclone Iris treated us.

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HIROSHIMA

An evocative name in 20th century history.

The first atomic bomb obliterated this city. August 1945 changed the world, and wiped out thousands upon thousands of people in a few seconds. The blast, the enormous heat and destructive shock waves was a turning point in man’s history on this planet.

The Peace Park provides a sombre reminder, the museum details the orgy of destruction, while everything is hoping for a future without nuclear weapons.

An admirable  wish, shared by millions the world over, but seeming more unlikely by the day as more nations acquire the technology, and men with no thought for history – when will they ever learn – poise their fingers over nuclear buttons.

Buttons that can summon weapons hundreds of times more powerful that the two that finally halted the carnage of the Pacific war.

This blue white sign, in origami cranes, means “peace”

 

 

Sombre. That’s  the feeling Hiroshima left with me.

Yet the cherry blossoms still burst forth every spring for their 7 to 10 day life, while young families putter along their river in curious circular outboard powered boats. The word “boat” doesn’t seem to fit these strange craft.

By the way, pronunciation is optional. The Japanese alternatively use it with the accent on the “o” or on the “i”.

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Never Know Who You’ll Bump Into In The Middle of Australia

Coincidences. Don’t you love ’em? I do – so much that I’m working on a book of coincidences. So if you have one, I’d like to hear from you.

IMG_0176A couple of years ago I had an offer I couldn’t refuse. To be navigator of Rod Wade’s Model A Ford “Tudor Rose” in the 2013 Peking to Paris classic car rally. Two old men, one older car, 33 days and over 12,000kms through China, Mongolia, Russia, Ukraine, Slovakia, Austria, Switzerland, France.

Handshake at finish line of P2P 2013The last time Rod and I were together was in Paris, after crossing the finish line in Place Vendome, June 2013…

See BLOG POST ARCHIVE drop down on the home page, select category – Peking to Paris. Or go to www.johnbellbooks.com and press the red button on the home page.

Fast forward to 2015.

IMG_2671Carol and I, with Link and Diana are driving from Uluru in the Northern Territory to Cave Hill in South Australia, to check out some ancient aboriginal cave paintings. We call in to Curtin Springs roadhouse, about an hour out of Uluru, for the usual comfort stop.

And unbelievably there’s Rod Wade, in another (heavily modified) of his beloved Model A Fords!

IMG_2662The Vintage Adventurer himself, with a support team and several vehicles, doing his “Desert Rattler” run across Oz, from its western most point to its eastern most. The Ford, fitted with oversize tyres, can transform into effectively a half track, with an extra rear axle and all four rear wheels driving, another R.W. invention.

Dad Rod outback Aug15Another coincidence! Would you believe I happened to have my souvenir P2P 2013 cap with me!  So I wore it for the photo op.

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“The Fast Lane” – MELTED WAX written by JOHN BELL

Z - bow on against wharfThe development of friendship with Hank, American operations director Australia – development aided by a monthly brown paper bag (Nick begins to learn) – leads to a second, larger ship and another lucrative charter.

Another Dutch flag, another foreign crew.  Huge increase in work load.

Lady Luck showers him with smiles, seducing Nick into thinking himself infallible.

Z - lookin galong bridge at seaWith two ships and accelerating cash flow, Nick’s contacts widen.

Soon he’s organising charters for other ships, moving cargoes from the Great Lakes to New Guinea, beef from Australia to Khorramshar, scheelite from Bass Strait and on and on.  He quickly learns the shipping business, but not the management. Hank widens Nick’s horizons, involving him in a huge property deal.

He certainly doesn’t listen.

Nick’s new found wealth and lavish lifestyle draw interest from the media. Including ex-love Angie’s boss, who sends herZ pic take from wharf again to interview him. Nick tries to rekindle the Angie thing, but she’s not having any, listening only to her head instead of her uncooperative heart. Interest too from vested interests, sharks in deep water.

About here Lady Luck should’ve backed off.  Brought him down to earth.  But she doesn’t.

The tempo of his life, and his partying, screams to a crescendo.

A Lockheed Hercules joins the ships.  A partnership in a new-build gas tanker.

On and oKemphaan - aka Nordhaan - off Bouganville, PNGn.  Nick is caught up in a heady world of private jets, fast cars and faster women. A 7-ship fleet takeover and a public float of the company puts him at the top of the corporate tree.

But something is missing in his life.

Because he still has not learned.

 

MY FASCINATION WITH PNG FOLKLORE – PURI PURI written by JOHN BELL

Sepik aerialI’ve always been fascinated by the folklore of the country of my birth.  A country of so many disparate tribes, languages and customs.  But some of the lore spans many regions.

And not the least is Puri Puri.  In its deadliest sense, the closest I can parallel it to is the Australian aboriginal “pointing the bone”.  If a Puri Puri practitioner (or witchdoctor, medicine man, or whatever you like to call it) places a death spell on a victim, and the victim knows, then that victim will die.  As with the pointing of the bone.  If both parties believe strongly enough, then it will happen.elder on drums

I know this flies in the face of our science based society, but I also know there are many believers, as there are many who can tell you they have seen it happen.  Including Australian expatriates living in New Guinea.

sago porridge at villageThe lighter side of Puri Puri is the casting of spells of all sorts.  On demand by “customers”.  The most common being a love spell, where the unresponding target of a young man’s affection is put under a love spell by the Puri Puri man.

highland villageNonsense, you say? During my research I interviewed a PNG couple, very westernised now, who told me much about Puri Puri.  Including that they told their children not to believe that nonsense, that mumbo-jumbo.  Yet right at the end of a very interesting couple of hours, they sheepishly admitted that they met each other through a Puri Puri love spell.  So what about that, you unbeliever?

man & kids in dugoutIn my view, PNG people are very spiritual.  Which is probably one of the reasons they were easy converts to Christianity.  Puri Puri is spiritually based, and we all know what belief can do.  Or brainwashing.

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Again I’ve taken the liberty of huge author’s licence in my treatment of Puri Puri in the book.

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It’s happened!   PAYBACK, PURI PURI and MELTED WAX are now available on Amazon!

Please follow this link, https://www.amazon.com/author/johnbellbooks, to find all three ready to download as eBooks or purchase as paperbacks.  I’ll have books available in August if you’re looking for a signed copy.

Hope you get as much enjoyment out of reading these tales as I’ve had in realising them!

 

LADY LUCK, THAT EVASIVE LADY – MELTED WAX written by JOHN BELL

K at Kieta wharfSo Nick Williams, last year trawler skipper, now head of a tiny company going down the gurgler, finds himself with a Dutch flagged vessel in Townsville, trying to get work on the Australian coast.  Locked out by the unions and the bureaucrats, his situation rapidly becomes desperate. Money is non-existent.  Creditors are mounting.  Stress.

Kemphaan - aka Nordhaan - loading off Kieta, PNGEnter Angie (from PURI PURI) who is sent north to interview Nick as director of the prawn ship company. Given the intensity of their Kavieng romance and their disastrous bust-up, this is one assignment she definitely does not want. She resists temptation and Nick’s attempt to re-kindle their love affair.

Kemphaan (aka Nordhaan) unloading at night  in Kieta, PNG

With the capriciousness often attributed because of her gender (not by me, of course) to Lady Luck, that evasive lady smiles on Nick and his partners.

After several months of a learning curve as steep as the Apollo lift-off, Nick secures a charter from a major U.S. multi-national.  The ship is running cold goods from Sydney to Bougainville to feed the rapidly growing workforce employed in the new copper mine an Panguna, in the mountains behind Kieta.Shut down by the unions for looking into the hold during loading

A lucrative charter, the syndicate’s fortunes rapidly turn around.

Even then Nick doesn’t learn.