There snow festival like a Snow Festival

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And Sapporo certainly knows how to put on a Snow Festival!

Way up in the north of Japan about 60 odd years ago, a few bored students thought they’d kill some time sculpting snow.  It was a huge hit and fast forward to today, it’s one of Japan’s biggest festivals, attracting millions of visitors a year.IMG_7736

For a week each year in early February, Sapporo turns into a winter playground as Odori Park in the centre of the city is crammed with snow sculptures, locals, tourists, food outlets and dogs.

A visit to the Festival isn’t just about seeing what fantastical shapes and edifices have been miraculously coaxed out of a heap of snow,IMG_7755

the people watching is fantastic,

Yes, this is grown men and women on a miniature train.

Yes, this is grown men and women on a miniature train.

as is a tour through the food huts,IMG_7326

and spotting the dogs with nappies is a bonus.

Yes, that is a nappy.

Yes, that is a nappy.

For a great overview of the site and the beautiful mountains surrounding the city, head up the tower at the head of the park.IMG_7501

A second site at Tsudome is where you can whizz down snow slides and the Susukino site holds all the ice carvings.IMG_7242

Be prepared for crowds of tourists all trying to cram in front of your photoIMG_7345

so if you can stay awake, it’s worthwhile going back later at night after all the families have gone to bed.IMG_7719

I would thoroughly recommend a trip out to the Sapporo Beer Garden to kill some time where you can grill your meat at the table and buy a never ending stein of Japan’s finest. The setting is also pretty spectacular.IMG_7684

Wiwi’s top tip:

This is the north of Japan in winter, so come prepared for snowy and icy conditionsIMG_7332

and a pair of strap-on ice grips for your shoes is an absolute genius idea and must have saved my bottom at least a dozen times.  These are sold all throughout the city in convenience stores and are an inexpensive way to walk a tad more confidently.IMG_7404

 

 

Happy New Year!

Hands up who didn’t follow through with a New Year’s resolution this year?

You can’t see me, but I have both hands up! Despite my best intentions, I’ve sadly neglected this little blog of mine as I discovered the delights of Instagram for the first time (please feel free to come and find me if you’re also on)!

Yes I finally joined the 21st century, bought an iPhone and found myself oohing and aahing over the wonderful photography you can find on Instagram. I also discovered people make a living out of travelling and posting on Instagram – who knew?? Well not me obviously as that would have been my career aspiration as soon as Instagram started!!

Sadly I’ve not travelled that much this year. There was my NYE trip to Iceland which you may have read about at the time…
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…followed by a short trip out to Uluru which was incredible…
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…but that’s where I dropped off. I also visited the Vivid Festival in Sydney..
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…and had a quick dash across the pond to visit the Kiwi rellies…
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…and a few weekends with family and friends.

It’s not been my busiest travel year, but I can’t complain. Stay tuned for 2015 where I visit Bali for the first time as a tourist, and I join the throngs seeing in the dawn at Gallipoli on Anzac Day!

May 2015 bring you all happiness, joy, laughter and good health.

Flights of Fancy – the Rock from on High

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Have you ever decided on a whim to throw caution (and budgets) to the wind and splurge on something that turns out to be one of the most breathtaking experiences of your life so far?? I seem to be becoming a bit of a fiend for this, and my latest splurge of a joy flight over Uluru and Kata Tjuta did not disappoint.

We decided on a sunset flight hoping for some spectacular colours and were excited to learn that for some reason we were the only 2 booked for that afternoon – we would have a plane to ourselves! IMG_5667

As our little aircraft took off from Uluru airport, I saw why people may have decided against a flight that afternoon – it was pretty hazy.  I was miffed.

Oh well, I would just have to make the most of it.  We passed Uluru and although it was hazy, it was still beautiful.  IMG_5672

Then we neared Kata Tjuta and I had to remind myself to keep taking photos.  What from the ground looked to be domes nowhere near as impressive as Uluru turned out to be the most incredible rock formations I’ve ever seen.IMG_5682

As we circled around, the view constantly changed and I could see the valleys in between, the green edged water run offs from the rain a few weeks back and the incredible colour glowing in the late afternoon sun.IMG_5711IMG_5714

I was almost considering asking our pilot for a second pass and to skip Uluru altogether I was so impressed.  I’m so glad I didn’t, as even though another turn around Kata Tjuta would have been amazing, the Rock beckoned and proved that she wouldn’t give up her outback title without a fight.

Again, my preconceived ideas were turned on their head, and Uluru turned out to be every bit as spectacular from the air as Kata Tjuta.IMG_5742

The usual ‘loaf’ shaped image that had always been in my head was sliced as we flew past incredible striations, ripples and folds.  We could even see pools of water catching the light at the top.IMG_5744

As the sun sank lower, the colour intensified lighting up the rock with an almost theatrically improbable glow.IMG_5732

We needed to be back by dark, so with great regret we turned back toward home.  Over my shoulder the show continued and I could see Kata Tjuta putting in a final attempt to claim top billing.IMG_5760

Back at the airport with my feet on the ground, my head was still in the clouds reliving the incredible sights we’d just seen.  It had looked to be a stunning sunset even from the ground with clouds catching the last of the light, but nothing can compare with that joy flight.IMG_5791

If you’ve made the trek out to Uluru, do not hesitate to have an opportunity to see it from the air – you won’t remember how much it cost next year but the memories of it will last a lifetime.

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