Welcome to Shinjuku - Tokyo pt. 1


Nine stories up, behind the thick glass of a hotel window, you’d think there would be a bit of quiet from this crazy city; but no. There’s a constant rhythm of sirens and horns from the streets below, almost as if they’re the sustained, thumping heartbeat of Tokyo.


It simply does not feel real.

The second you’re off the plane you’re thrust into a bustling, fast paced world mixed with an intriguing balance of tradition and innovation. Foreign characters and words fill every blank space, and every space filled with someone who clearly needs to be somewhere yesterday. We thought the airport was crazy…


Then came the train.

You’ve heard about Tokyo’s metro trains surely… Now stick three foreigners who have been there five seconds, with three big suitcases, and you might start to get an idea of what it was like.

The whole trip we were wide eyed, taking in every detail and piece of information our senses would allow. Neon signs and car lights flashed past the windows as the train hurdled bridge after bridge. Our bewilderment must’ve been obvious, because an expat down the carriage locked eyes with me and offered a smile. A smile that I’m still unsure if it was meant to comfort or if he was saying “Good luck”. Perhaps getting off the train and onto the street would give some sensory relief?

I shouldn’t have given myself the luxury to think so.

Welcome to Shijnjuku.

From the first glimpses out the plane window, right up to this point, there’d be only one way to describe the experience thus far: Sensory Overload. Stepping into the street outside Shin-Okubo Station was like walking into the set of a movie… Thousands of lights buzzing as far as the eye could see, all reflecting off of the obsidian streets, shiny and wet from the persistent drizzle. The roar of the Metro trains overhead; strange smells of food, wafting up stranger still stairs that seemed to disappear down into some other underground dimension. It just didn’t feel real. You hear stories and see videos and photos - yet nothing can prepare you for simply how alive this place is.


Your entire peripheral vision is assaulted by colour and lights. Your aural senses are thrown by electronic beeps and whistles from every direction. Yet strangely enough, the feeling of rain gently falling on our faces seemed to be the only sense of familiarity… that is until we smelt food. If there’s one sense more primordial than any, its a human’s need to feed.

That was enough to kick us into gear.

Get to the hotel, dump the bags, and find our first meal.

Shop after shop, neon sign after neon sign… we weren’t quite sure what to pick, so we just took a punt and wandered up some pretty looking set of wooden stairs, and sat at something that wasn’t so much a table, but rather an enormous slab; a clear cut-section of a tree no less than 200 years old. It turned out we’d somehow walked into what was surely one of the few indoor smoking Korean barbeque restaurants around… but that hardly mattered. After several quick hand gestures and an absolute barrage of sound that I can only assume were words, the waiter left us to digest what just happened, and to figure out what the hell we were meant to do next… the Japanese menu wasn’t much help either.

After wondering why there was a doorbell sound every few seconds, the waiter showed up. Apparently the button on the table we’d been playing with is the button to call for service… and the reason for all the doorbell sounds…


No matter. We pointed at some pictures, food magically arrived, got eaten, and we were off. Time to wander the streets! Wait what’s that? A kebab for 400¥? Done.
Alright time to wander the streets.

Lights, sounds, smells. Again, again, again. Countless busy streets, and countless tiny alleyways all equally as busy as the main roads.

Taxis with automatic doors, cyclists with no helmets riding on the wrong side of the road, giant glowing buildings dedicated to some strange sexualized iteration of slot machines… not a single thing was even remotely similar to the country we called home a mere 24 hours earlier.

At least for now, the golden beaches and crashing waves at my doorstep were so far and beyond. The soft glow of my phone screen the only comforting sense of familiarity… yet even that, I put aside and told myself, “this is why you’re here.”

3 friends, 16 days. One incredible trip.

This post marks merely the first night of many in a country full of wonder. Stay tuned for more!



In a Land of Giants pt. 3

Click here if you missed Part 1, or Part 2!

It’s already seemed like forever.

From the towering Pines of Laurel Hill, surrounded by photographers and cameras -  to the isolation and darkness of the Yarrangobilly Caves. Many hours in a cramped car, whizzing by the ever changing landscape.

‘Forever’ was only the beginning. We left that snow covered valley, and set our sights on where we’d spend the rest of the week. The Snowy Mountains of NSW. 

To Jindabyne.

Now here’s a photo of me.

Why the hell did I put a photo of me? Because before you start reading the rest of this post I want you all to know that this one is a little different to parts 1 and 2. Less about blowing minds with the excitement of adventure - but more to reflect on, and bring to light the real reasons why this was a trip I cherished so much.

This post is personal, and a little bit deep.

Had you’ve read the footer to parts 1 and 2, you probably saw this coming.

“a three part series about a little bit of time spent away with two of the people I hold dearest.”

Well that’s the real reason for this trip.

There’s no denying one’s connection to nature can be an awe inspiring and incredibly humbling thing. To feel alone in the woods… or anywhere for that matter. It’s something I live for.
But something I’ve come to realise in recent months, is that life never really is complete without having a select few, to be able to share those experiences, and share those stories with. The friends and companions we have in our life are the ones who can exhibit such power on us. Of course, everyone should be willing and able to find pure joy and happiness within their own self, and own life - not needing the external pat on the backs by those around them… but oh how rich an experience, when you have someone to share it with.

I recently learned the importance of this, when one of the best friends I’ve ever had to pleasure to call one - moved away. Here is a guy who was on the same wavelength as me. Neither better, faster, stronger or smarter, but rather both willing to squeeze out the best in each other, and encourage each other in whichever way necessary in order to enrich our lives and make our dreams as far fetched as they may be, seem that little bit more fulfilled.
Him moving away however - that held weight. It wasn’t till after he was gone that I began to feel the drag of my daily life.

Don’t get me wrong I’ve got nothing to complain about either way! Life since he left was on the move and pretty great. I can never, ever complain about my day job, climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge - and while I was there I met the absolute love of my life. Life plodded on, joyous and upbeat, albeit different.

The news of him coming back, probably didn’t hit me as hard as it should have, but that first little adventure we went on when he was back? Holy shit. I’d forgotten how special a thing, to have a friend.


Now onto the other end of the gender spectrum.

EDIT: This part was written whilst love reigned strong. For the sake of the written piece I’ll let what follows from here remain, however this was a romance that ultimately wasn’t meant to be. What happened? She said she loved me… I guess she forgot. You never stop loving silently the ones you once loved out loud, but for the sake of honesty - know that it is no more.


*Long story short - she’s not from where I’m from. That in itself makes life an awful lot more difficult - especially when the other person practically IS your life. This trip would be a special time. A time dedicated to building the memories that would span the oceans between us one day. It would be beautiful and encouraging - yet at the same time bittersweet. For it wouldn’t be long till those memories would have to span so far.

This would be her first trip to the snow - and her first time on a snowboard. I hoped, memories that would be so strong and joyous as to create a burning urgency in our plans to make the borders between us smaller. Though as the seconds ticked on, I knew they were ticking towards an impending goodbye.

You see, that all created an interesting mix. The bittersweet romance between me and her was countered by the joy of having a best mate who’d once departed, back again. It gave hope.

All feelings of nostalgia for something we hadn’t yet said goodbye to was trumped by the sheer excitement of one day being back again. All feelings of despair were crushed under the continual reminder that life simply will go on. All thoughts of love ending - conquered - by the understanding that there is no goodbye, only see you later.*


So here we are. Myself, and two people I dearly love. After all, what would humans be without Love? 

RARE” reckons Terry Pratchett’s ‘Death’.

Now back to the adventure at hand.

The road from Yarrangobilly to Jindabyne was a fairly familiar one, once we were past Cooma.
A quick stop at Adaminaby and the big fish, and we were well on our way.

There was an awful lot of excitement as we neared Jindabyne… At least for Rhys and myself. Eleanor was probably wondering what the big deal was, as the slopes themselves had to wait another day, and was a good half an hour further than Jindabyne where we were staying.

Anyone who’s been to Lake Jindabyne - you know the excitement.

The winding road, the familiar bush.
The crest over the hill - and the lake beyond.

Jindabyne is a sleepy, yet special town. Sitting high above where it once lay, the flooded city sits at the bottom of the lake created by the dam. Character. And a special place to call home for the next several nights.

Of course the trip to the snow wasn’t just the three of us. A larger handful of friends from my workplace and beyond would all congregate in a MEGA AirBnB in East Jindabyne. We dumped our stuff, said hello to the resident Black Labrador, and set off for the town center to get Eleanor’s snow stuff.

Now there was a sight that made me smile. Nuggets Crossing. The charming little “second” town center of Jindabyne. Mindlessly browsing through the stores had almost become a ritual of ours in Jindabyne… usually ending in too much of our tax return spent on gear we’d use once a year…. but it was awesome.

We were too late to the party to join the others at a Mexican joint in Jindabyne for dinner - so instead made use of the time to fulfill another one of Rhys and I’s Jindabyne rituals.

Mario’s Mineshaft.

The quaint yet surprisingly large venue, with the pretty waitresses (sorry Eleanor) and creepy owner (sorry Mario) that always had at least a couple televisions playing Art of Flight on repeat, is a staple amongst Australian snowy weekend warriors. We were there for a week… and we went often enough to prove it.

This time we all kept our food down (Rhys you know what i’m talking about) and made back to the house, where we’d hang out with the gang, relax by the fire - and get stoked for the snow the next day.

Rain.

Not ideal when you want snow.

Nonetheless, it was a good first day. Nice and early in the lift line, and not as wet as we thought up top. The stickier snow gave us a better speed to get our snow legs back before the temperature dropped that afternoon. It also gave us a nasty reminder as to how we hadn’t done the exercise we knew we should have done before diving head first into a solid week of pumping turns. Probably not the best first experience of snow to the resident newbies as well! (Eleanor being one of them.)

No one tossed and turned that first night.

Day 2. 0827 hrs.

First lifts are going. Up we go.

One spur of the moment turn down a not so mainstream run and all of a sudden we were boot deep in the good stuff.

The temperatures dropping overnight, and the snow falling low, meant the next three days on the slopes would be a time to remember.

I couldn’t be more proud of the two girls who’s first time it was on the slopes, and especially Eleanor. These guys admittedly picked it up quicker than I did, and braver too.

Like, they were on their feet the whole time!

Seriously, they were naturals! Hardly fell at all.

Heh. Sorry girls, but welcome to the world of learning to snowboard! Really, you did well.

The next days on the snow I generally kept the camera away. Firstly I wasn’t super keen on squashing it under my back, but I also wanted to focus on riding the incredible terrain that the Australian snow has to offer. The flora and fauna around here is so unique. Snow gums with arms that try grab you, the huge granite boulders above the tree line - and off course the odd wombat or kangaroo if you’re lucky.

My favorite part of being on those slopes were probably the times where we’d pause on a run where there’s no one around - and the silence that followed. The air so still, and the snow absorbing all the sound… it was so peaceful, yet powerful.

One afternoon proved to be particularly special. An impulse decision down a dirt road to Thredbo Diggings campsite lead to one of  the purest examples of the kind of joy, and light hearted wonder, travelling with friends can bring. Throwing rocks across a river (because someone couldn’t skip them), wandering through tall grass, and standing in amongst one of the most beautiful valleys i’ve ever seen.

Good temps and fresh cover each day lent to an amazing several days on the snow - but as always, soon came time to go home. 

Not before one last wander down to the lake, and oh boy did the Snow Mountains put on a show to farewell us goodbye, and till next time.

This whole journey had been a moving experience in itself. From the giant pines of Laurel Hill, to the giant valleys on the journey between. Here we are at the end of the trip, engulfed, embraced, by a giant, powerful love. The love of these giants I have the privilege to call my friends.

Love you both, to the moon and back.

-

This post is the finale of a three part series about a little bit of time spent away with two of the people I hold dearest. Cramped car trips, smelly snowboard boots.
Snow covered valleys, crisp mountain air.
A time, a memory; a story to be told.

Click here if you missed Part 1
Click here if you missed Part 2

Don’t forget to follow me in Instagram! Most of my photos go on there.

@adrianmascenon

And throw me a like on facebook while you’re at it.

Stay tuned for more blog posts and shots. Behind the scenes shoot, talks about gear and of course - wicked trips away.


In a Land of Giants pt. 2

Click here if you missed Part 1!

So begins day 2 of our journey. 

Farewell to the towering giants of the Sugar Pine Walk, and onwards to the great expanse between us and the Snowy Mountains of NSW. Between us and there? Well none of us actually knew. The plan was to venture south, whichever way the map would lead.

What greeted us along the way… well in truth, was nothing like what I expected.

The drive to the Snowy Mountains i’ve seen before, as have many, many others. You go through Goulburn, down to Cooma and on to Jindabyne. The usual NSW bush alongside huge dual carriageways, Lake George, and the wide empty Cooma rock farms. However because we weren’t going the usual route, and in reality coming in through the back and skipping Cooma (and everything before it), we didn’t really know what to expect. It was all new for us.

It started off being eerily similar to the usual route via Lake George. The big Gums, the dense bush, and even a Lake.

A few quick snaps, a visit to a poor excuse for a toilet, and onwards we went.

Towering steeps to our left and a vast lake to our right. Waterfalls, and rock faces high above us teased us between the trees. The terrain around us became more rugged, as did the narrow road we travelled. Turns became tighter, and we climbed higher. Steep roads and tight turns that make the entry to Lithgow seem like a gentle hill. Up we climbed. Into the clouds, and a clinging fog. By now the trees were truly wild. Towering over the road, wondering who dare enter their world, their wilderness. Snow began to line the road. 

With only the odd gap between the trees, it was hard to grasp just how aggressively the terrain had climbed, but an impulse stop at a lookout changed that.

An interesting feeling, looking out at the valley. Watching the low clouds fumble and roll over the ridges and spurs, the peaks of the mountains completely hidden. In honesty it’s a similar feeling and view to the Blue Mountains, where I love the feeling of looking on the huge valleys and feeling small and insignificant. Humbled. However this was so different… In amongst the clouds, from such a high point - we felt tiny, sure… but insignificant? Hardly. I felt alive, and connected. Connected to the ridges and the spurs, the valleys, the rivers, the waterfalls and the clouds. When in such a remote and rugged place, in a valley so untouched and wild, I couldn’t help but feel humbled, and be brought to the same level as every other living thing that lay before me. The birds, the trees. Every living thing held such a level of importance, and there I was in amongst them. No more superior, no less, but rather a part of it as a whole.

A crazy man in shorts, thongs and a t-shirt reminded us that it was nearly freezing, so we made our way onwards, the feeling of being humbled hanging fresh in the air.

The feeling of vulnerability and being completely at the mercy of the wilderness didn’t exactly stop once we were back on the road. If anything it just got stronger. Thicker. There were times where we didn’t know what was 50m in front of the car because the fog hung so low and so dense. It was that feeling of anticipation and unknown that would spur us onwards.

As the terrain rose and fell over the next hour, so did the fog and the snow. Constantly teetering on the edge of the sky and land.
We spotted a sign that I recognised. Words I’d seen on an information board and remembered in the back of my mind. Here it was in the familiar brown tourist sign, indicating a turn off. So down the dirt road we went, and onwards to the Yarrangobilly Caves, deep within Kosciuszko National Park.

The thought of ‘caves’ got me excited enough… but then there was this tiny dirt road, winding through ancient forest, with snow covering its base. The most snow we’d seen on the trip yet.
The road descended quickly, winding in and out and around through a steep valley.

An old stone gate, park benches. A red roofed building, and towering limestone walls. 

Sold.

Out comes the flash, and in we go.

First through a quaint forest track, that then opened to a vast limestone valley, with black and gold stone 440 million years older than ourselves.

An enormous open shaft above us gave us a taste of the sheer scale of this place. Towering at least 60m above us, water dripped of the hanging vines, and birds flew through the huge hole. Onwards along the track it got wetter, and darker, until an open steel gate invited us further.
In, we dove.

Incredibly dark. Ferociously quiet. There aren’t many words to describe the sheer level of unexpected awe we found. A random spur of the moment decision to turn down some dirt road, somehow lead to an immense and vast limestone cave system. Caverns that seemingly have no roof, and ancient, untouched formations that defy gravity. Sensor lights urged us on further.

We were the only ones in the cave. The entire system. Pure, and utterly inexpressible silence, only broken every now and again by a drop of water into a pool, that was likely thousands of years old.

Ducking and weaving through tight passageways and open chambers, the path lead in all directions. Down at first before doubling back, rising up some stairs then descending into another chamber. Again and again the path turned and tumbled, and we immediately were filled with a huge respect and appreciation for the people that would have first discovered places like this. Our sheer awe, must’ve been only a fraction of theirs.

Eventually just as we were climbing out of the cave, we heard the first voices echo through where we had just been. A gentle nudge back to reality. As we exited the cave, the only reaction I found appropriate, was to just laugh, and smile.


This is what exploring and being on the road is all about. Those random little side tracks and moments that leave you with such a light and airy feeling. The anticipation of the unknown, and the joy of having ventured through it.
Had we known what was down that road, or deep within those caves, we wouldn’t have had the same joy. The same anticipation, and you could even say, no motivation to even venture there in the first place. You could say that it’s the darkness, not the light, that really draws us forwards.
 


So again, onwards.

The bush around the exit road, just as windy as the drive in, was covered in snow. Of course we had to stop for a shoot and a jump around, but it was more than that. With such an excitement still fresh in our minds from the caves, the snow served as a reminder of what was still to come. A week surrounded by the white stuff.

On top of the world. We were buzzing and feeling as high as we could be! The road out of there was white with snow, and I felt as if it couldn’t get any better; but the road ahead, was where some of my fondest memories of the entire trip would lie.

Wild brumbies, and the vast, open, snow covered plains they run in. The vastness of it, seemed to amplify the immensity of time. 

It was as if we spent an eternity in that valley… an eternity I would have happily stayed in.

An eternity owned by giants.

This post is Part 2 of a three part series about a little bit of time spent away with two of the people I hold dearest. Cramped car trips, smelly snowboard boots.
Snow covered valleys, crisp mountain air.
A time, a memory; a story to be told.

Click if you missed Part 1
Click here for Part 3

Don’t forget to follow me in Instagram! Most of my photos go on there.

@adrianmascenon

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