Wednesday, May 27, 2009

3-day weekend in the middle of USA

Mother road. Route 66. The heart of America. The place were dreams start, where the skies are higher and clearer and stars multiply in the night sky. Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, South West Colorado...

This weekend has been really intense. It has been the longest road trip in my life. I have driven 1900 miles in 3 days! I know... it is insane... but I started driving and could not stop. The road became a magnet and the beautiful landscape the reason to keep on driving. I started driving through California, Arizona, got to New Mexico, short time in Utah and visited South West Colorado before making my way back.

I have slept in my camping tent every night, in the middle of nowhere. I have not paid a dime for lodging. The desert and forests have been my home and let me sleep in them. To wake up to the sound of birds singing in the morning in the desert. To experience a thunderstorm in a tent in the middle of the Arizona desert. The wind in your face zooming towards Colorado, across Arizona blood red lands.

I have visited many National Parks and National Monuments and step on 4 states at the same time!

The Painted Desert in Petrified Forest NP /Arizona:

The Petrified Forest /Arizona:

Canyon de Chelly NM /Arizona:

Four Corners Monument /Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado:

Mesa Verde NP /Colorado:

Grand Canyon NP /Arizona:

On a 15-km hike in Grand Canyon NP /Arizona:

Grand Canyon was the original objective of this trip. It was covered in clouds the first day and that made me go further. The last day, it received me with open arms and let me see its sheer beauty.

Now, back to work in Pasadena! Only two more weeks before the end of the course!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Hitting the road

The West, the legendary American West, with its wild land and vast plains, deep canyons and deserts. Definitely, reading "In the Road" by Jack Kerouac is having a very bad influence in a "crazy" mind like mine. If I read that book, I can't help feeling the travel bug waking up inside me! I gotta hit the road!!

Monday is a national holiday in US. It is Memorial Day. Therefore, this weekend will last 3 days and that is an opportunity that can't be wasted! In 4 hours (Saturday at 3am) another road trip will start. First stop: Grand Canyon, in Arizona. Next... who knows!

Walk in Tokyo: Yasukuni Jinja and Kitanomaru Koen

Last time in Japan, this is March, I had time for some nice strolls in areas I did not know in Tokyo. This time I will talk about a nice walk in real downtown (Chiyoda). I went out of the metro near Yasukuni Jinja, visit the shrine, went to Kitanomaru Koen, and head for Ochanomizu where I bought a 30-liter backpack (Naoko's present) to go to China.

Yasukuni Jinja (靖国神社) is a famous and polemic shrine in central Tokyo. This shrine is one of the biggest and nicest in Tokyo, but there are some War World II Japanese military men enshrined here. Therefore, it is quite polemic. Japan invaded many Asian countries before and during WWII and anything related to that topic is a source of polemics in Asia. Anyway, I wanted to go there and I will opt out of any political/historical comments :)

The shrine itself is quite nice. Or better said, the environment is pretty nice: very large torii at the entrance and open spaces.

I could even see some girl wearing kimono, which is always nice! ;)

Can you see the Imperial Chrysanthemum at the entrance gate? That is the symbol of the Imperial family.

Some nice statue of some famous samurai.

And this is the shrine:

After that visit, I went to Kitanomaru Koen (北の丸公園), which is a park next to the Imperial Palace Gardens (some Japanese think it is just the same park). This park houses Budokan, a famous shows venture in Tokyo. It was almost hanami (花見) season, so many trees were blooming at that time.

After the park, I went back towards Yasukuni Doori and headed for Ochanomizu, where I checked several of the old bookstores and bought a couple of second hand books. Afterwards, I went to the area with many sport/outdoor shops and bought my nice huge backpack which will be my travel companion in the coming years! ;)

Afterward, back to Sendagi for a nice family dinner :)

Friday, May 22, 2009


Today I went through a metamorphosis XD

I changed from an altered state...

... to a normal state.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Some inhabitants of Death Valley

Death Valley NP

Death Valley is an amazing place. The name is quite attractive... what could move early explorer to call this place Death Valley?? Once you get there, you get it... lunar/martian landscapes with no signs of life except a few rattlesnakes, lizards, coyotes... and a few small flowers in spring. And temperatures that can rise up to 57 degrees centigrade in Summer (not kidding!).

This place made a great impact in me... It is so wild that it is utterly beautiful... and so unforgiving...

This is what the valley looks like from Dante's View, a viewpoint in the Black Mountains (yeah, every name here is kind of cool!).

This is the view from Zabriskie point. This landscape is so strange... it is hard to believe it is real!

This is Badwater, the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere and one of the hottest point on Earth. The ground is made of salt... water that comes out of the Earth's crust evaporates leaving only salt behind.

And the Devil's Golf Course, another famous landmark because of the strange salt formations on the ground.

And this is the Artist's Palette. Mountains take different colors because of the minerals they are make of. So beautiful under twilight!

And the Valley is so vast...

... the mountains so colorful...

... and canyons so spectacular!

Human exploitation of the valley was tried. The valley is rich in a mineral called Borax which is useful for many things. However, the climate is so harsh that borax works lasted for only 6 years and everybody left. The Valley inhabitants left some ruins and ghost towns behind.

The valley a small area where water comes out of the crust and does not evaporate immediately. There some tiny fish can strive.

Another interesting area is the big Sand Dunes in the Middle of the Valley, house to many lizards and some bushes.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Some party photos in Japan 2006

I was checking the photos of that intense/crazy/fascinating summer of 2006 and found some nice party group photos!!

With A-chan's family and Yuuka after hanabi (fireworks) in Kitasenju.

With some friends from JAXA: Shimizu san, Okada-san and a coworker.

Mic, Kasumi and Nao in a ska show in Shibuya.

With Yuuka, A-chan, Koono san and Mic and Paolo in Shinjuku.

With Kayo, Take and Yama chan in Roppongi.