Meeting new friends

We wake up late, Maki has already gone to visit her Mum and won’t be back until tomorrow. We fire up her laptop, we were in touch with our first contact on last night and we promised we would check our mail this morning.
Couchsurfers (CS) was recommended to us by some fellow travellers, it is a social website where people offer accomadation to travellers in their own homes. If you are looking for a couch you search the area you are in and anyone whose status says they have a couch available will show up. You can then request a couch and the hosts can look at your profile and decide whether to get in touch with you or not. We have not stayed with anyone through this site yet, we are just trying to build up our profile and get the hang of it at the moment in preparation for Australia and New Zealand where its really popular. Aside from staying with people you can also find people who are nearby and meet for coffee or lunch etc. This is how we met Angi, she contacted us as she is fairly near Maki and is also a stranger in a strange land, she asked if we could meet up. We emailed her back and arranged lunch at Maki’s friends cafe. She caught the train and I picked her up from the station on the bike after first dropping Karen at the cafe so Angi could borrow her bike gear. Unfortunately it started to rain and by the time I got to the station it was raining hard and Angi wasn’t there. Fortunately there was a bench in the dry where I could wait, I had plenty of blogs to catch up on so it wasn’t a problem. After a while she appeared and apologised there was some confusion over the trains and she caught the wrong one. No problem I say, oh and sorry about the weather. She bravely dons Karens waterproofs, jacket and helmet and we set off. I show her how to plug in the intercom so we can talk a little on the way there. We get to the cafe which is called Hull, its a nice place, situated right on the lake front and is part birdwatching area and part cafe. Maki’s friend has been kindly entertaining Karen for the past hour or so and makes us feel equally welcome, we get all our wet gear off and settle in. Over a delicous lunch of octopus starter and shrimp pasta we get to know Angi who is an American over here teaching English for a year. She is good company and the conversation flows effortlessly, we all share a common passion for photography and images something we discovered when she pulled a gorgeous Leica compact camera from her bag to take our picture with. In her original email she mentioned she wanted to take a  polaroid of us and our machine which at the time I thought was just a turn of phrase. She then produced a 70′s Polaroid reporter camera which is just huge, I have memories of polaroids as a kid and this is just as I remember. It has a huge plastic case which hinges open from the bottom allowing the bellows lens to fold out. Focusing is via a manual focus ring which is calibrated in feet and the viewfinder is on top and wouldn’t look out of place on an anti aircraft gun. There is no built in flash, it takes those old flash cubes that were single use. Boy cameras have changed beyond recognition in a relatively short space of time, this beast is way bigger than any modern camera. It is really cool in a retro way and I take some pictures of it which I will post.
The food is excellent and very reasonably priced. We spend a very pleasant few hours eating and talking but its a grey wet day and we are starting to lose the light. I need to drop Angi back to the station but not before pudding there is a choice of apple or pumpkin tart and both look really good. Karen and I solve the dilemma by ordering one of each so we can try both, both taste as good as they look.
 Angi takes a picture of us next to the bike with her Leica and the Polaroid. The Polaroid comes out kinda blurry but is still way cool, the picture looks like we have been teleported back in time and we are travelling around the world in 1976. I wish I had asked her to take two so we could have kept one but I didnt think of it at the time. I drop Angi back at the station. As we were discussing things that had happened on our trip Angi laughed and said you are blessed well I have to confess I didn’t feel it later as after dropping Angi off I ran out of fuel and struggled in the dark and pouring rain to plumb the emergency tank in, by the time I returned hours later to the cafe to collect Karen I was thoroughly wet and fed up.
Collecting fuel and food we headed home for a bath, barely off the bike at Maki’s we hear Kev Karen? It is Jo and An a Belgian couple we have been in email contact with for a while now. Paul and Helen an English couple we met in Mongolia gave them our email and they travelled with Scott our Canadian biker friend also. The evening has suddenly become brighter, Maki is out but we pre warned her they might arrive and her answer was “no problem they can stay, have a party” what a star she is. We have just been to a supermarket to buy our dinner but by pooling resources we make it stretch for four. Cooking dinner is tricky however as we get talking about our travel and experiences and we just can’t stop talking long enough to cook. Eventually we manage to rustle up a pretty good meal between us and we sink quite a few beers and yep it’s a party. They are great to talk to and we have much in common so we talk until the small hours. Jo and An retire to their Nissan Patrol camper which is parked in the community centre opposite, they asked permission and were told it’s fine to stay overnight as long as they move the car tomorrow. It even has toilets outside which are always open so it works out well.
Next day An and Jo come in for breakfast with us and Maki who got back early this morning. They get along well and it is a good morning, Maki makes a few calls and is able to help them with some contacts in Tokyo. They will ship from there to South Africa shortly and were stuck for a cheap place to stay in what is a very expensive city. They then go out to be tourists for the day and we suggest a few things. Maki goes out and we start sorting out our gear and getting ready to leave for our tour of the south tomorrow. We catch up with clothes washing as it’s a good drying day, we hang it up on the veranda on the sunny side of the house and sun ourselves for a bit too. About 5pm An and Jo come back and we jump in their car to go into town to buy food and beer for this evening. Maki showed us a cheap food store so we take A & J there to show them what they look like as they are one of a chain. The prices are so much more reasonable than most other stores, we wish we had found out about them weeks ago but there are only a few shops in the chain. I will never complain about the price of food in England again, in Japan most things are double if not triple what they are at home. I recently saw a bakery in a supermarket charging 500 yen for a full size loaf of bread, thats nearly £5.00 Gofans (guzzioverland fans) and thats not so uncommon.
Shopping done we head back and Jo and I cook a curry for everyone which goes down well. We have another good evening with the five of us. We write a joint reply to an email from Paul and Helen some British travellers we met in Mongolia and An and Jo met in Russia. They shipped to the USA from Vladivostok but we have kept in touch since. Its a fun party atmosphere and Maki seems to enjoy it too, Spontaneos travellers meetings like this are always good fun.
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