Tag Archives: hiking

Magical Castlepoint

Castle RockCastlepoint, New Zealand, located on the eastern shore of the north island was actually named by Captain Cook himself, because the rock at the southern end of the bay resembles a castle.

We spotted the Whakataki Hotel just outside the ridge of hills that hides the beach. Unbelievably, this hotel offered free camping in their back yard for RVs, or a mere NZ$5 per night if you wanted to use the well-equipped kitchen and hot showers. This was an absolutely brilliant alternative compared to the sterile option of the postage-sized camping spot for ten times the price at the ugly Castlepoint Holiday Park down the road.DSC02628

The Whakataki Hotel is not just close to the action; it is the action in this little town of less than 2000 folks! Their lively, neighborhood bar and restaurant is the busiest local bar scene in town. We enjoyed the fresh draft beer and (unlimited) fast internet. (Very few places in New Zealand have free, let alone unlimited, internet.) We met the rowdy sheep shearers drinking away the money they just earned, the regulars eager to explain the nuances of rugby and cricket, and the friendly locals wanting to know who we were and what we thought of their quaint town.

Coincidentally, the Castlepointers were having a fishing tournament for ladies only. What entertainment!DSC02631

On Saturday night, the award ceremonies were attended by the fisher-women and their cross-dressing cohorts. Yes, really! The local tradition for the Battle of the Babes fishing tournament is for the men to cross-dress at the awards night celebration! A rock band played oldies all evening. We danced the night away even though Ivan didn’t have a dress for the event.

We walked around the lighthouse and hiked the manicured trails on the hills that surround the bay. We explored the wide expanse of beach alongside the lighthouse where the fishing contestants were wading into the surf in the hopes of reeling in the winning catch. They braved the fierce crashing waves threatening to wash them off their stance and pull them out to sea.DSC02592

At one low tide, we made our way to the rock caves beneath the lighthouse. We were forewarned that the caves are guarded by giant seals. We didn’t want to encroach their personal space because although they look like cute stuffed animals in the photo, they really were fiercely huge  and threatening creatures.

One long-time resident, Jolly, befriended us because we seemed a little different from the average tourists, I guess. He was determined to show off the local products and gifted us some very delicious hogget chops from his freezer and a freshly caught crayfish that was huge. We ate well!

We’ve added this friendly town of Castlepoint to the possible locations to settle if we can’t move one day.DSC02641



Ishikiri – Mount Ikoma Hike

One of the really cool things about Japan: For a few dollars, you can take a train to the beginning of some great hikes. We started at Ishikiri station and hiked up toward Mount Ikoma. On the other side of this mountain (and the next train stop) is historic Nara. Near the beginning of the hike was a grouping of three shrines and temples.


Partway up the hill was a an active brewery. We didn’t see anyone that spoke English so we never learned whether they made sake or some other spirit. Out back they had the remnants of an old water wheel that was originally used to polish the rice in preparation for fermenting. While we were photographing the wheel, a group of Japanese hikers stopped and shared snacks with us.


High up on the mountain, we came upon another temple that was only reachable by the hiking trail. At the end, we relaxed at the Ishikiri hot springs which advertised a fantastic view of Osaka. They did have a good view but it wasn’t visible from sitting in the hot tub. Too bad. At least our legs felt better after the 400-meter climb.


Click on a thumbnail for the gallery view.


Hike Elevation Profile



Fireflies and Waterfalls and Beers! Oh My!

Although Osaka starts at sea level, it is surrounded by mountains. Numerous hikes, both easy and challenging, are quickly and inexpensively reached by the great Japanese train system. One easy and fun hike is Minoo Park Waterfalls.

We took an awesome evening walk there with a MeetUp group of about two dozen wonderful people, most of whom are Japanese that speak English. We started at dusk so that we’d see fireflies on the return trip. And we did.

The high points of this hike are:

  • The trail passes numerous cascades along the river and ends at the base of a 100 foot waterfall.
  • Shops enroute sell beer from the local brewery. I tried the pilsner draft and a dark lager in a bottle. Both were delicious, clean and crisp.
  • Minoo’s other claim to fame is the first Mister Donut in Japan. Whoop-de-doo.
  • A treat that is absolutely unique to Minoo is the fried Japanese maple leaves. Numerous shops along the way to the falls make and sell them.