Milkless tea and a day-long train adventure: The Northern Explorer in New Zealand

During Golden Week, I went to New Zealand for the first time with my parents. With no experience in the southern hemisphere, we scrambled to find out what to add to our Must Do List.

When I suggested the Northern Explorer train, my mother’s eyes lit up, and my father shook his head in resignation. He already knew that this was happening. My mother and I have talked about doing long train rides for ages, from the Trans-Mongolian Railway to The Canadian (Toronto – Vancouver), so this was an inevitability.

The Northern Explorer is a train that runs from Auckland all the way down to Wellington (or vice versa), and slowly winds through all sorts of beautiful landscapes along the way. Today, I’ll share what a day on this train felt like.

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How many roads up Mt. Inari?

I visit Fushimi Inari Taisha at least once a year. Despite its’ crowds, I still find it to be a beautiful spot. And once you go up the mountain a little ways, the crowds quickly disappear behind you so you can enjoy the quiet of the shrine.

This past spring, I decided to hike up Mt. Inari with a couple of friends. We started off the same way most did–walking under the bright torii gates. But it wasn’t long before we got tired of the press of people (we went on a weekend) so we looked around for an exit. Lo and behold, to the right of the main path was a marked hiking trail that said, “Mt. Inari.” We gladly escaped, and had ourselves a little adventure.

After all, while you can have a lovely time following the torii gates up the mountain, you can also explore a few side-trails instead and discover parts of the shrine you might not otherwise have even noticed.

For today’s post, I’d like to share a couple photos of the things we saw that day. I hope you enjoy!

Fushimi Inari 2019 002 Torii above

First, the view from our path above the torii gates. You can see that it was quite busy that day!Fushimi Inari 2019 017 cemetery and cherry blossoms

It was still very much cherry blossom season, so we got to enjoy some spring sakura during our hike.Fushimi Inari 2019 004 Bamboo

We also stumbled across a residential area on the side of the mountain, which included a beautiful bamboo grove. There was almost nobody else around, so we thought we might have walked up the wrong path. We pressed on, however, and were glad we did; we soon found a trail marker that reassured us that we were going the right way.Fushimi Inari 2019 008 Big Rock

Along the way, we found other shrines in addition to Fushimi Inari, including this giant stone. The signs were all in Japanese at this point, and the path was completely quiet save for us and one other woman walking around.Fushimi Inari 2019 010 Gate at the top

As we neared the summit, we spotted one of the torii gates. It had been a while since we’d walked under one, so we were glad to see something familiar. Especially as, during our walk, we’d been seeing a large number of warning signs posted for bears and boars!Fushimi Inari 2019 013 Gates Pretty

I know a lot of people want to get the shot of the torii gates at the foot of the mountain, but I encourage you to go up to the top, if you’re able to do so. You not only get some lovely views of the city, but you also get a chance to snap photos without a hundred other folks in the shot!

Have you been to Fushimi Inari Shrine? If so, what did you think of it? Are you someone who likes to get there at dawn to avoid crowds, or do you just grit your teeth and push through all the people?