Japan – New Zealand – USA Colorado – Where We See The Damage Of The Recent Mudslides And Flash Floods


Japan

It took us over two days to get from Sendai to our home in the Far North of New Zealand.

The Shinkansen Express train from Sendai to Tokyo was fast, clean and very comfortable.
We switched at the Tokyo Station to the Narita Airport Express, and our flight left Tokyo right on time.

At the airport, a friendly lady promoting tourism to Japan asked us to take a survey about where, on what, and how much money we had spent during our trip to Japan.
Jules gave a lower estimate than I did…. I wondered which one of us was right…

At the airport, I stocked up on yummy Onigiri (Rice Balls) for our long flights and layovers.

I drank the delicious iced green tea, and iced brown rice twig tea, knowing that from now on, they would not be so readily available to me….no more vending machines with delicious iced tea at every parking lot, every street corner and every country road.

We said a fond farewell to Japan.

We had such a wonderful time, and I KNOW that we will be back again in not too long…

Thank you Japan for all the natural beauty you delighted us with….. All the mountains we climbed…. All the amazing Hot Spring Onsens….. All the beautiful people we met…. All the kindness…. All the cultural beauty….

Domo Arigato Gozimashita….

New Zealand

We had a long layover and a chilly morning in the Gold Coast of Australia before our flight to Auckland.

Our car waited loyally for us at the Park ‘N’ Fly and it started right away…. Thanks to the two new car batteries we had installed just a month before we left.

As we usually do, we stopped for a meal at Auckland’s North Shore rest area.
If we do not have the time for a proper meal in Auckland before we leave, we usually stop to eat, drink, and fuel our car there, before starting the long five hour drive up to our home in Kohukohu.

A lovely lady who works there, always greets us with a huge smile, and for some reason and despite our very infrequent stops there, she has remembered us through the years, and seems to like us…

She willingly makes for us special food that is not on the regular menu, and it always tastes great… Who ever heard of a rest area that offers organic greens and freshly cooked food…. I often wonder if it tastes better because of her sweet intentions.

In the USA at a rest area, she would have never stayed working there for so long….

At home, our lawn is beautifully mowed and our house looks fairly clean inside and out.

We spent a lot of time catching up on our sleeping, organizing our home and applying online for our Indian visas.

It is such a bummer that India has changed its rules to limit US tourists to only six month visas.
On top of this, the Indian government has outsourced their visa application process to a private company called Travisa.

It took us a long time and lots of patience to finish our applications online, and to submit the additional special hiking permits to Sikkim and other restricted areas of Northern India.

We needed to list every place we planned to visit and to scan our photos and signatures into broken links that did not work properly with Mac computers.

It felt so nice to be back in our lovely home with the vast water views and a garden full of blooming Camellias, Gardenias, Lilies, narcissi and singing birds…..

Aside from the natural beauty, I vainly enjoyed getting my hair done and just staying still for awhile…

The harbor looked so beautiful, and the weather which I had expected to be cold and rainy during August, was actually very mild and nice.

Yes, it rained…. but on the day we left to fly back to the USA, the sun was shining and we wore t-shirts as we ran a few last minute errands in the town of Kerikeri.

During the sunny drive from our home to Kerikeri, we admired the green hills and contemplated how unique and beautiful rural NZ truly is…

The rolling green hills… The flowering trees… The pasture… The woolly sheep….The strong free roaming cows… The rivers, the small one lane bridges, the ponds…. The empty large harbors….The green forests….It all looked so beautiful and so serene.

I realized how much I love living in rural NZ (part time), and I considered that maybe we were wrong to think about selling our home here…

As we drove through beautiful Northland, it was so easy to see all the blessings and uniqueness of this place…

At the airport, the Koru Lounge felt nice, with good food, drinks and friendly service.

The eleven and a half hours of our flight to LA, seemed to pass fairly fast…. Perhaps after many years I am getting adjusted to intercontinental travel….

When we were ready to disembark, I glanced at the busy plane and noticed that nearly half of the seats were filled with New Zealanders (Maori and Samoans) wearing black athletic jumpers.
They did not have the ‘All Blacks’ logo on them, so I asked a Maori lady with a friendly smile, what’s up….

She told me they were on their way to Calgary, Canada, for a Waka competition.

I know that Waka is the Maori word for a canoe, but my mind did not compute.
She must have seen the vacant look on my face, because she explained that they were rowing outrigger canoes and were going to compete in Canada.
She told me that NZ holds the world’s record….

I know nothing about outriggers, but I felt my heart soar a little…

USA

We landed in LA.
The LA airport is always a bit of a shock…. I prefer to land in San Francisco, but we usually take what is available and convenient as we make our reservations on Air NZ.

I am not in love with LA.
The downtown is dingy and filled with homeless tents… The ocean water is cold, the highways are one big messy traffic jam and the place feels worn out from overuse.
It seems to be so full of pretense…. Full of empty promises,…. Full of dry Hollywood dreams and shallow ambitions… but even as these thoughts entered my mind, I knew that I was generalizing and that maybe I was just tired and exhausted, because you cannot really sum up a city of millions of people like this…

We used the express “Trusted Travelers” line, and bypassed all the huge immigration lines of both residents and tourists.
I give thanks to be back in the USA, with its emphasis on “time is money” and hustle free conduct….

Back in NZ, we had to declare our hiking boots and wait at a special line for them to be irradiated, and for them to wash the bottom of our boots of any organic matter and remnants of Japanese soil…

If we had brought any camping gear, we could have spent hours in the Bio line at the Auckland airport…..

Not so in the US… We didn’t, but we could’ve brought a whole mad Chinese cow and not get bothered in the US airport….
Welcome to America!

In no time we’d deposited our luggage at the connecting flight transfer counter, and we were out into the hot LA summer air.

We decided to eat lunch at the Encounter Airport restaurant, while waiting for our flight to Denver…. Which of course, is delayed for two hours.

At least they had sent us an email ahead, alerting us of the delay…

The airport speakers are alerting visitors that they are not required to give money to any of the many solicitors, hoping to extract money from naive tourists….. the speakers are announcing that those solicitors are NOT affiliated with the airport.

I wonder if it would not be easier just to ban those scammers from soliciting at the airport… But this is the USA and it is unconstitutional to ban people from public places because of their scamming intentions….
Welcome to the USA…..
Welcome to LA…

The Encounter restaurant is located in the ‘Theme Structure,’ which is that futuristic looking building dominating the LA airport that looks like a spaceship on stilts.

The elevator is full of scuff marks and smells funky.
The elevator’s doors open and deposit us on the floor of a wide restaurant with nice views of the runways, but the ugly carpet is dirty and all the tables, sofas and chairs are banged up and full of scuff marks….

The waitress comes to take our order….she wears a black uniform full of dirty stains.

After seeing the condition of the place, we make a ‘safe choice’ of two salads with the dressing on the side.

The food is fine but indifferent.
I miss Japan with all my heart…..
I miss the attention to details and how in Japan you can get great delicious food almost any place… And how they clean and keep everything sparkling….

I try not to look too much at the Air NZ plane still sitting next to the same gate where we landed…..
Soon it will take off back to NZ….
I feel a strange sensation of homesickness….

I also try not to look at the Air NZ plane because a piece of something green (hopefully lettuce) is dried on the glass in front of me….

We land in Denver by midnight.
We spend the night at an airport hotel, and at the reception desk they offer us free chocolate chip cookies, and extra toiletries since our bags were checked all the way to Vail.

We land in Vail on a dry mountain summer day and our Jeep which has been loyally waiting for us for over three months, starts up with no problem.

In our local bank, we run into one of our neighbors…. She tells us to expect the worst, as we drive up the Colorado River, since our area recently suffered a major flash flood and mudslides.

While we were hiking in Yamadera Japan, I got an email from one of our neighbors who told me about the floods and mudslides.

When I expressed my concerns, she went over to our house and took photos of our yard and driveway and emailed them to me.

From the photos it looked like our house was OK, but our driveway will need to be redone, and a lot of cleaning and clearing needs to be done to clean all the dry mud from around our home and from our front patio.

I am SO GRATEFUL for having such great neighbors…
Flood damage can be cleaned and repaired, but good kind and considerate neighbors are a real asset.

The drive home is a bit of a shock.
The Colorado River is red and muddy, and the road has been cleared by now, but we could see all the damage and all the heavy equipment and crews still clearing our area.

My neighbor’s yard is full of large boulders which had run down the mountain by the hundreds, and their beautiful large fish pond is full of mud and debris.

But I am NOT the least bit discouraged.

Even though FEMA has declared our area a disaster zone entitled to Government grants to restore and recover the cost of the damage, we do not plan to place a claim for our driveway.

It is summer and I am determined to enjoy it!

We have a great lunch at Pullman’s restaurant, and we shop at the Farmer’s Market in nearby Glenwood Springs, and enjoy all the summer bounty and goodness….
The heirloom tomatoes are beautiful and sweet and the narrow cucumbers are delicious…. Later at home, I make a most delicious summer salad.

The guy who makes superb home made smoked salmon, has a sympathetic look in his eyes as we tell him where we live…. He has also heard about the flooding and the mudslides that damaged our area….

The next day I start cleaning our house in earnest, while Jules drives to do more and more shopping….
We are no longer two free roaming backpackers with a good pair of hiking boots, climbing mountains…. We are now homeowners…. And of course we are no longer remote travelers…. We are consumers….
And we are consuming… And consuming…. And restocking food and cleaning supplies…

It is good to be back in the land of Great Abundance….. Where everything is so readily available and so plentiful….

Joking aside, it is truly good to be home….
Welcome to Colorado…..

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