BBC Storytellers – September 2015 Aussie cycle group meets Japanese country culture across Hokkaido

Speakers for the evening were Ron Wilson and Jenny Hole.

Both Ron and Jenny are accomplished Storytellers (their families agreeing no doubt) having presented many times at the Storytellers.

Ron’s previous talks have included:

  • His experience in the Summer of 1972-73 of fighting forest fires in the Snowy Mountains
  • Cycling in general and some of the regular rides that he does around Sydney and further afield on organised cycling holidays
  • The relationship of forestry with carbon, renewable energy, issues and the debate in Australia

Jenny’s previous talks have included:

  • Why I enjoy being a member of the BBC  … this included some references to winning the Jack Cox (wouldn’t we all enjoy being a member if that was the case!!)
  • The marvellous English Channel Relay swim (along with team-mates)
  • Travel stories about trips to Norway, Sweden, Russia and seeing the Northern Lights

Ron kindly started the evening off with a talk about his trip to Japan’s north Island Hokkaido in Sept last year – “Aussie cycle group meets Japanese country culture across Hokkaido in Sept 2014”


Ron with his lycra clad mates

A group of 17, mostly from the Waratahs Master Cycle Club, toured Hokkaido for 2 weeks in Sept 2014 guided by Grasshopper Tours. Hokkaido is mostly rural with rich farmlands, beautiful forests, lakes and volcanos with a vibrant fishing culture. They cycled across the mountains through ski resorts and stayed in guesthouses in small towns, as well as along the coastline. The guesthouses were traditional Japanese with local cuisine and with “onsengs” which are baths heated from volcanic activity. They were overwhelmed by the Japanese culture and hospitality with many different experiences.


Up late so still in dressing gown!

Ron brought along maps and set the scene with plenty of photos, He also brought along some Japanese garb which he donned resembling the karate kid. To be fair there was a story behind the attire. Traditionally on the last day of Grasshopper Tours there are challenges for everyone drawn out of a hat. Some of them are quite mad … one chap had to sing the Japanese national anthem, another had to eat raw eggs for breakfast and Ron had to purchase a bathrobe, and wear it for the first 25kms of the last ride!!!

Ron provided many facts about Japan and in particular Hokkaido; religion, cuisine, population, weather, and main industries (being agriculture, fishing, forestry, tourism and service industries). He also shared details about:

Grassshopper Adventures:

  • Asia’s leading tour specialist with 70 tours.
  • Half day to 2 week tours with 8,500 people each year.
  • Countries include Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, Bhutan, Taiwan, China, Japan and India.
  • Collaborate with other companies eg Cycling Japan for our tour.
  • Waratah groups have been on Grasshopper tours for past 5 years. Japan was 2014.
  • Approx. 100 staff with CEO ex Aussie

-and Grasshopper Cycle Tours:

  • 14 days in total with 10 days riding.
  • Total riding distance approx. 900 km.
  • 2 guides from Grasshopper who rode with us.
  • 3 guides from Cycling Japan to cover interpreting, mechanical issues, driving 2 vehicles, marking routes and providing morning and afternoon teas.
  • Group travelled on train for return and city.
  • Most riders brought own road bikes in carry boxes but 2 rented bikes.

After a short break Jenny told us all about another one of her trips, this time to Alaska for the whole of June. Initially she was rather worried that it would interfere with her swim training for the Catalina Channel swim on 23rd September but in fact it was quite the opposite as she still managed to get in the water and did more other exercise than she had envisaged. Jenny’s talk was accompanied with some wonderful pictures capturing some magnificent scenery and plenty of wildlife (in fact 29 bears in one day). Whenever there was a sniff of water our Jenny was there either snorkelling with wetsuit in 4 degrees, paddle boarding or bravely taking the Polar Plunge.

Polar plunge … 4 degrees!!

Polar plunge … 4 degrees!!

Jenny and another Aussie girl from Narrabeen were the only lady plungers. The reward was hot chocolate with a drop of Baileys. In one bay there were huge jellyfish which apparently paled our local jimbles into insignificance (hard to believe). Always up for a challenge Jenny also found time to enter the Fairbanks Midnight Sun Run (10kms) held as part of the Summer solstice celebrations.

It was good see everyone chatting, exchanging notes and contact details after the presentations by Ron and Jenny. Numbers were down a little as many regular attendees were still overseas after participating in Swampy’s Italian swim extravaganza (hopefully we’ll be able to hear all about it at the Storytellers) but in some ways this allowed for plenty of interaction and questions.