This is a tale that begins at 2:45am. Why it begins at such an ungodly hour is anyone’s guess but it does, and here it is. At 2:45am I wake up for the last time on Australian soil. I shower and dress and then spend 15 frantic minutes trying to shove everything into my backpack and close it while mentally running through a final checklist. I make myself one last cup of tea that I pack into my fancy new travel mug and we hit the road. I cry for 15 minutes having left my puppy behind. We take a brief detour to Amy’s house to collect a still drunk Shona and continue to our final destination, Tullamarine airport. By this stage, it’s just past 5. We check in while Mum takes too many pictures of me sans makeup and head through security. We get half way to the gate when I decide we have time for food and we head back to have our fill. We are on the way to the gate again when we see the board flashing final call for our flight and Shona breaks into a run. I realise that I literally have moments left with my Mum and my brother and start to cry again. This is why I have no make up on. We get to the gate and she checks us through, the last to board. I grab Mum and hug her and tell her I love her and then I am ushered onto the tarmac, tears streaming down my face. I tuck myself into my seat and cry for a while, half glad the final goodbye was pulled like a ripcord and half wanting more time for the things I should have said but didn’t. And then we’re off. After a brief stopover on the Gold Coast, we are on our way to Japan. It finally hits me about an hour in exactly what it is we are doing. It hits me that I have just left everything and everyone I love behind. It hits me that I can no longer just go to my Mums and see my family. It hits me that I have left, this is real, I’m gone. I’m so tired and for a while I want to turn around go back. I don’t care about the world or seeing any of it. I want out. Finally the plane lands and we are in Tokyo. There’s no going back now. We leave and catch the train to Ueno, find our hostel and hastily set ourselves up before, 22 hours after I woke up, I go to sleep.
Ok, so I’ll admit, I even cried while I was writing that. I should have written it on Thursday so I didn’t have to cry two days in a row but there was no way I could have constructed sentences in the state I was in. (I wrote this last night.)
Today we woke up with the sole purpose of walking around a little, checking the place out. we left the hotel just after 9 and just walked around Ueno, back through the station, past a small crazy sort of market, through Ueno Park, past a few temples & into the zoo, which conveniently, was free today!
It was there that I had my first encounter with a toilet of the traditional Japanese variety. All in all successful but by no means pleasant. We didn’t spend a lot of time in the Zoo, just a half hour or so but the highlight was the Lion and & the Lionesses. Lionesses are just so beautiful and they’re strong independent women to boot! We watched as the Lion lovingly groomed one of them, her seemingly pleased at the little bit O’ love and affection before completely ignoring the second lioness, who was quite up for a bit of action to try his luck with the third, who, let me tell you, wasn’t having a bar of it. Turns out, it was quite entertaining to watch! After being rejected quite vehemently, our little lion did what any lion would do really – he stomped over to the corner to sulk. It was awesome for us cause he made this extremely loud sulking noise, all of which the Lionesses ignored, in true lady style. When we left there we decided it was time for lunch and set about finding a meal to eat.
We stumbled across this lovely little vending machine eatery where we set eyes on a scrumptious looking eggplant dish. At 580yen, we were in. We ordered and took our ticket to the bench, trying to look like we knew what we were doing but clearly making arses out of ourselves. Our food came, and to our surprise, it contained pork. Strike one on our culinary trail. For many reasons I cannot explain here, even though I don’t eat pork, I was forced to eat all of mine and some of Shona’s which left me feeling both physically and mentally sick but full and glad for the part of the meal that was eggplant. After lunch, we decided to head in and check out Tokyo central so we jumped on a train and head towards the hustle & bustle. Only hustle & bustle it was not. We decided then instead to head to Shinjuku, a land Lonely Planet had promised would hold the hustle & bustle we desired but before we left, we would take a little sqiz at the Imperial Palace. We walked (for ages) only to find out that it’s closed Mondays & Fridays. Damn. So, we headed for Shinjuku instead with a little stopover at the TIC (tourist information centre) to prevent us from getting lost again. I forgot to tell you that bit, sorry.
When we arrived at Shinjuku, the first thing that happened to us was that we got lost again. In the subway. I’m serious, this place is like a crazy maze. It’s crazy. They say that 3 million people pass through Shinjuku station every day; I can attest to this! We stumbled across a Deli in the basement, which was handy as it was on my list before finally finding our way out and over to the seedier part of Shinjuku where we wandered for a little while, marvelling at the lights and crazy craziness that was everywhere before, after a brief interlude, deciding to head back to the hostel for a little R&R.
Here are a few things I will share with you that I have learned so far.
Backpacking is quite different from travelling and it’s not so easy to lose that mustn’t waste time feeling. Last night when we were sitting on the steps in Shinjuku, not sure what to do, it took me 1/2 hour to convince Shona that going back to the hostel to chill and watch some shows was not wasting time in another country. It’s called recharging so we don’t burn out after a week of travelling. It was 6:30pm by this stage & we had been out since 9am that morning.
Ignore those backpacking websites that list 55 things you should take with you and pay close attention to the little words at the end that say ‘don’t bring too much stuff, a heavy pack is the last thing you will want’. Trust me, it is the last thing you will want. The 20kgs of mine combined with the 9 kgs of my backpack was a lot of weight for my little frame to carry. And it hurts.
Bringing my laptop was an awesome idea. With my travel safe, I’m not worried and my 9 hour flight would have been a new kind of hell without it. God bless you Apple!
Also on the topic of flights, I’m so glad I’m flying Qantas to Paris. 13 hours needs a certain standard of airplane.
I’m not sure I’m ready for shared rooms. My new bunk mate can attest for that when I walked out of the bathroom with my pants down as she arrived.
But now, another day begins and I need to go and have some breakfast, even if my body says no. That pork did more of a number on me than I first thought, I can’t even think about food, let alone meat for a while, that’s for sure!