A very bad thing happens.

We left early yesterday to get to the ferry as our gearbox was on the blink.  We had been advised to take the rally route, rather than the more direct way, because there would be no mechanical support for us otherwise. Bad call.  As events unfolded, we would have been far better taking our chances the other way.

We started climbing and climbing, the gear box just about holding out.  The top just never seemed to appear.  It was 12kms of steep, steep road to the summit of the snowy mountain. What goes up must come down and that's where our real problems began. 
You need to use engine breaking with old cars and, with a dodgy gearbox, that was problematic. It was all a bit less than ideal. Adrian was using the brake as little as possible on the 25% gradient descent, but the worst happened and we had complete brake failure.
I like to think that I am a pretty strong person. I don't get fazed easily and just like to get on with things.  But, at that moment, coming down that mountain…

In which rather a lot happens.

Spirits were high on the ferry across to Sado Island, where we were to spend 2 nights. The two and a half hour crossing sped by and soon we were leaving the boat to a rapturous welcome.  People were lining the streets, cheering and waving, in what was the best welcome we have received by far.  In fact, our whole time on the island has been characterised by the warmth and friendliness of its inhabitants. 
Quite simply, Sado is fabulous. Stunningly beautiful, with little fishing villages and  a mountainous interior, it has enchanted us all. It was a welcome two night stay and so yesterday was a chance to explore the island properly without pressure.  Car 9's plan was to leave after breakfast for a days sightseeing and going to see a special performance of the world famous Kodo Drummers who have their training school here. 

About 500 metres from the hotel there was a strange clunking noise that Adrian thought sounded like gear box trouble so we returned to let Simon investigate it. The…

Mountains, blossom and smalls.

I was instructed by a couple of crews to find a down and dirty steakhouse for dinner on our free night in Tokyo.  It is no lie to say that it is possible to spend an absolute fortune on your supper here. £500 per head is perfectly possible for somewhere swanky.  

After a bit of research, I found a small local steakhouse a 15 minute taxi ride away. We were dropped off on a road and told to go into a tangle of alleys left, right, left again - that sort of thing. On our way to the restaurant, Sophie saw a rat. We climbed a narrow flight of stairs and entered a tiny room with only around 12 covers. There was a fire in the corner and our chef was sitting on a stool cooking the steaks. The only choice was the size of you piece of meat. It was delicious and they loved having us there. A group of 9 foreigners would never have happened before, I'm sure. 
As we left, Scott saw another rat.  It had livened up somewhat whilst we were dining and we realised that we were in the red light distri…

Fuji-San, boiling petrol and fish.

What a fab couple of days we've been having.  Fuji was shrouded with thick cloud when we woke up but, as we drove towards it, everything cleared and it put on quite a show.  

The car does not like the volatile petrol and it keeps boiling. Something to do with where the pipes and the carburettor are in relation to each other. As I write, it shaving its insides re-routed. A few other cars are having similar difficulties.  

Getting into Tokyo was surprisingly easy - despite signage confusion, we came straight to the hotel with not one traffic hold up. I wish driving in London was so straightforward. We came in on a very high level road but I don't suppose a flyover at eighth storey level along Marylebone and Euston roads would go down too well. 

Tokyo is a very cool and exciting city and well worth a few days exploration.  We are staying at the fabulous Palace hotel overlooking the Imperial gardens. This morning, the occupants of cars 9 and 14 left at 0530 to go the fish market. …

A few mishaps, cake and a bear.

Feeling suitably serene after our Temple night and 6am devotions, we left the enchanting village of Koyasan towards Lake Biwas, our next destination. 

A lovely mornings driving took us to the outstanding and beautifully conceived Miho museum. The whole thing was mesmerising; the approach, the building itself to the collection, all perfect. If you are ever in Japan do not miss it. I was particularly captivated by two carved figures: one 4,000 years old and the other, a woman with a leopard on her back, a mere 3,000.
The afternoon was uneventful. Pinking, but nothing more.
The karaoke kings, Walker and Evans snr, and the queen, me, crashed a group of Japanese having a party. We bonded and a great time was had is all I'm saying. The secrets of the karaoke room stay there.  Our new found friends were high fiving  us at breakfast. 

Yesterday morning took us into the Alps - an exquisitely beautiful area. All was going well. We stopped at a small theme parky village for lunch and set off…