Mount Fuji, Conquered!!!

Sorry for the lack of updates, the internet at my hotel has been somewhat flaky the last couple of days!

We made it! On Monday, team Monkey headed out to the bus stop to catch the 5:50pm bus to Fuji 5th Station. The drive through the countryside in the dusk was beautiful in itself, and by the time we arrived, it was pitch dark. The 5th station was all closed, bar the main shop. We bought our Fuji climbing sticks (which turned out to be the best 1300 Yen I spent this holiday by far), as well as some Sake to drink when we were done. After a brief bit of messing around with torches and gear, we were ready for the off! The first thing we noticed was that we were going downhill. It turns out that in order to climb Fuji, one must first climb down.......

After an hour or so of trekking through the woods in the dark, we reached what we thought was the first station, but turned out to be the safety station. The marshals gave us some handy maps of the mountain and its various rest stations and we headed on. We passed a few small groups of folks heading back to the 5th station who'd been up for the sunset and come back down, who kindly wished us good luck.

We were starting to notice that the altitude was making things harder going than we expected, but we pushed on up some fairly tough ash tracks, until we reached the 7th station (there is no 6th station any more), and got our first stamp on our climbing sticks. The asthmatics among us were struggling a bit, but reaching the first rest point made me feel quite giddy and gave me the energy to rush on for the next station. Rich was starting to feel a bit ill at the next station from the altitude, but fortunately a friendly chap from LA gave use one of his prescription altitude sickness pills which eventually seemed to help.

The further up the mountain we got, the harder things became, and by around the 8th station, we started to encounter terrain that was more of a scrambling climb than a trek. We were also encountering large groups of other climbers. Looking down the mountain we could see long lines of torches down the mountain belonging to all the people behind us on the mountain, like a snaking trail of fireflies casing us up the mountain.

Eventually the altitude started to hit me quite hard too, I had a pounding headache, and my limbs felt like lead. A few times I had to be forced to stop, as my legs were literally giving out beneath my feet. Around the 9th station we joined a huge throng of people trudging up the mountain. We had started off full of energy, but by this point we were just trudging, one foot at a time to try and get up the last bit of the mountain.

Suddenly, we were at the top!!! I collapsed in an exhausted heap and we waited for Rich and Jo to catch up, which they did around 20 minutes later. We settled down on one of the viewing platforms, and waited the hour or so for sunrise. We had clear skies, and I can hands on heart say that the sunrise we saw was one of the most beautiful things that I've ever witnessed.

After a quick wonder round and a few comedy photos, we headed back down the mountain which was much easier (although quite dull compared to the ascent) and only took 3 hours. We then collapsed in a sweaty heap at the bottom, which was now a thronging hive of activity and waited for the bus back to Shinjuku. We finally got back to the hotel, almost 245 hours after we left, having been up for around 36 hours straight.

I'd like to say a huge thank you to everyone who donated, I appreciate it more than I can say. I'd also like to thank Jen, Lisa, Andy, Rich and Jo for being crazy enough to come with me on what has been one of the most challenging adventure I've ever been on!


You can see the photos from the trip here:
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Ready to Rock!!!

Yesterday we had a fairly manic day in the end! got up early and went to Yoyogi park, and checked out the people out doing their weekend activities. We saw a blind runners club, people slacklining, a guy practising tap dancing, a guy playing the Ukulele, people doing dance practice, kids doing sports, a hiking club learning to use poles and a guy dancing the funky robot while his mate filmed it. Its so cool that people actually use the park to DO stuff. I couldn't see people doing that kind of stuff back home, which is kind of sad.

Next we wondered round an insaneley busy Harajuku (even by Harajuku standards). It was heaving! And after a while the continuous loud screeching of the women outside the shops trying to get you to come in wore us down and we went to Kiddyland, which was even busier! Although we did see Hello Kitty doing a press conference dressed as a strawberry doing a press conference, so it wasn't a total washout :P

Next it was off to Akihabara to check out the nerd stuff, which was really good fun. Bought a few toys and model kits, then went for an enormous tea. While Andy and I were geeking it up, everyone else was checking out the massage chairs and foot massagers at Yodobasi Camera. Met up for a HUGE tea, and then some of us hit the Arcades back in Shinjuku.

It's now Monday morning!!! Which of course means it's time for the climb. Just get up and dressed, then it's off to collect the bus tickets, and then a lazy morning procuring water and snacks, followed by a huge lunch. Then a short power nap, before we head to the bus station and off to Fuji!!! I'm excited, and a bit nervous. This is going to be quite the challenge. In 24 hours, we'll be on our way back down the mountain! Hopefully catch you on the other side :)
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Days 2/3

Busy, busy busy! Had an awesome couple of days so far. Yesterday we went to go to the Palace Gardens, only to discover that they were shut on Mondays and Fridays (open 7 days a week mr guidebook? I think not!!!). So we walked up to Ginza, stopped for coffee and cake at a brilliant pirate cat themed coffee house (its called R25 if you're ever in the neighbourhood, and it's ace). Then we looked at some of the tech coolness at the Sony building, as well as the awesome little aquarium they have set up outside at the moment.

After that we wondered up to Hanuhankan toy store for a bit, then got the tube over to Shibuya, where we wondered round all sorts of cool places. Found the Resident Evil themed cafe, but sadly it was shut, so didn't get to go in! We also found a shop with light up stairs that had a shoe conveyor inside, and Andy and I discovered that we are too wide shouldered to ever fit into awesome Japanese fashion clothes, which made us very sad. Topped the day off with tasty Sushi at our favourite revolving Sushi place, followed by Tour de France and boozes at a nearby bar.

Today we went over to Yokohama, saw flying fish, went up the big tower and saw some pretty good views considering the weather, and then walked down through the park, and then back up through Chinatown, where we saw many crazy things and ate some very tasty mini steamed buns. There was a big dance festival on, so we watched a lot of that as well, which was a very interesting experience. Most of the teams had at least one flag waver, and the one team (who we liked best) had what can only be described as Epic Flag Guy. Think Epic Sax Guy from Lost Boys, only Japanese, and with a giant flag. He was ACE. Mind you, the team, on afterwards had a guy who had EPIC VOICE. He was amazingly animated and shouty. We liked him too, although not quite as much as Epic Flag Guy.

Some photos from yesterday are up on the same gallery as yesterday, with today's ones to follow later on tonight after we've been out to Roppongi. The plan is to have food, and then hit up a punk rock train bar for a few drinks before heading back (possibly via the arcades).

Its only a day now until we head out to Fuji, which is quite nerve wracking! I'm a bit apprehensive, but also very excited! I can't wait :)
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The second wave of team Monkey have made it to Tokyo in one piece! Our flights were pretty stress free, and the plane was a newer one with tons of legroom! Only downer was the small screechy child that wouldn't shut up. Andy got the worst of it though as he was sat pretty much directly behind her.

We arrived at the same time as a ton of other flights, which meant immigration was pretty hellish. On the plus side, we hadn't even cleared passport control before someone asked if we were in a band, a new record for us! Cleared customs sans trouble and after another lengthy queue, we procured round trip tickets to Shinjuku and Suica cards (Japanese version of the Oyster card).

The trip to the hotel was interesting! Found it eventually though, and as expected, its a nice, but small business hotel. The sister hotel we stay at normally is way nicer, but as it was almost twice as expensive this time, we went for the cheaper option!

Wondered round Shinjuku for a bit and then checked in and slept for a few hours. Once that was out of the way we headed out to Lumine Est and had super tasty fried rice and Gyoza, followed by the happiest ice cream in the world from the Stone Cold Creamery, where the staff sing you a super happy song as they make your delicious ice cream :)

Topped the day off with a wonder round the neon lit streets, and a trip to the arcades to play some games! Back at the hotel now, about to crash out before we start our "proper" sightseeing tomorrow :) Only four days till Fuji! Its super hot here at the moment, and wicked humid. I was right to avoid this time of year on previous trips :P

I've uploaded some photos here: more to come in the following days on the same URL!
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Nearly Ready For the Off, and Introducing the Team!!!

Wow. Only two days to go and we're off. I think I'm mostly packed, just all the usual electronics stuff to charge and get ready. Hardly slept at all last night, kept thinking about the climb. Tonight I need to get my Mohawk re-dyed red, and do the last few little bits of packing.

I know there are some folks following this who don't actually know me in real life, so I thought I'd do a quick intro to the bunch of crazy people I've persuaded to follow me up an active Volcano on the other side of the world!

Tim - that's me! I'm a five year Hodgkins Lymphoma survivor. I was diagnosed at a very late stage, and my prognosis wasn't that great, so to still be here now is a big deal for me! Ever since I finished chemo, I've pushed myself to get out more and do stuff I've always wanted to do, and this trip is part of that, as well as a way to give something back to the awesome Lymphoma Association.

Jen - my wonderful and long suffering Fiance. I was super happy that she decided to join me on this trip, as she was there for me throughout my treatment, so it only seems fitting that she should join me on this trip! Jen is an awesome ninja, although she's highly susceptible to cat hypnosis. Its her one weakness!!!

Lisa - Lisa is one of my best friends and is an all round awesome and inspiring person. She wrangles rare birds for a living, and is famous for only being able to swear in front of small children. Like me, she's asthmatic, so I suspect she'll be my struggle buddy when the going gets tough near the top!

Andy - Andy is a friend of ours from Sheffield. He's a climber, crazy exercise nut, and one of the most enthusiastic people I know! Hopefully he'll be able to put all that energy to good use on the mountain :)

Rich & Jo - Rich & Jo are friends of ours who run the awesome Music Nonstop website (go there for all your alternative music needs!). Rich plays in Real Gothic with me at Whitby (a Goth football team that plays charity matches twice a year), and Jo is a super talented musical type who is in several bands!

Rich and Jo are in Japan already, they flew out last week to visit friends, so they're enjoying the awesomeness of Kyoto at the moment! The rest of us are super stoked about going, and can't wait! Bring on the adventure :)
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Fuji Adventure - Part 1

So, one week today we fly out to Tokyo to begin our trip to climb Mount Fuji to raise money for the Lymphoma Association (incidentally, you should totally sponsor us, if you haven't already:

In fact today, the first wave of Team Monkey, Rich and Jo are flying their way out, as they're visiting friends first, before meeting up with the rest of us next week. Safe travels guys, see you soon!

I think I'm all prepped and ready. We've done lots of long training hikes, including a stab at the Yorkshire three peaks last weekend, which had to be abandoned after two peaks due to poor Jo's shoes literally disintegrating off of her feet (good job that happened BEFORE we started up the mountain, that would have been horrible)! I've read up on it as much as I can and worked out what kit I'm taking up the mountain. Fingers crossed we'll make it to the top in one piece :P

This weekend I'll be doing the majority of the packing I think, so that I'm ready and prepared for next week. Can't wait!
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Uncle Travelling Tim

This year I've been something of the traveller. Not quite to the levels of some of my touring friends, but no slouch either. Part of it has been that I had family weddings to attend and conferences, but mostly I just like to travel! This year I've gone a bit mental, because I figure I should celebrate. It's not every year that you get the all clear from Cancer, so I wanted to make this year special.

I always said that if I got my all clear (and back when I said this, my chances were looking pretty grim, at least on paper), that'd I'd do some kind of awesome challenge, to raise money for the charity that helped me the most, the Lymphoma Association. Well that time has come, and after a lot of thought I decided to climb Mount Fuji! Ever since my first trip to Japan back in 2005 with Orange, Jen and Julie I was fascinated by Fuji. I remember going past it on a train and thinking to myself "how awesome would it be to stand on top of that bad boy and look out at the view?". Sadly, I could never persuade my chums to climb it on subsequent trips.

This time however, I managed to persuade not only Jen, but Lisa, Rich and Jo from MNS and Andy from Sheffield to join me in a crazy adventure to climb the volcano. It's less than three weeks away and I'm quite nervous. Since the back end of last year, I've started to get serious about getting fit again, and I've managed to trim up a fair bit since then. I'm still not sure how well I'll do with the altitude and exertion, but I'll never know unless I try!

We'll be getting the bus from Shinjuku to Kawaguchiko 5th Station, and from there hiking through the night to get to the summit in time for sunrise, before hiking all of the way back down again and returning to our hotel and collapsing in heaps and sleeping!

If you'd like to sponsor us on our epic endeavour, please visit our sponsorship page: here. Rich and Jo also have a separate page, as Rich's employer will match anything he raises, so please sponsor them too if you can! You can sponsor Rich and Jo here.
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So That's it All Done With Then?

I haven't posted on here for a while (since Kinetik last May in fact), something which saddens me, as I always preferred Livejournal to a lot of the more "immediate" social media sites. The fact that I haven't been updating is mostly down to being mad busy with work these days and not having much time for stuff like this. Excuses aside, I hope I'll be updating this thing a bit more often from now on. I have no idea how many people are still on here, but that was never really the point! I always used this as a place to write stuff down and to get stuff out of my system.

So it seems fitting that I should post here about a fairly major event that happened at the beginning of the month. Some of this may come across as a bit cheesy, but fuck you, it's my post, I'll be as twee as I damn well like.

Back in June 2006 I was with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, after what seemed like fucking forever as a bizarre medical curiosity while the doctors tried to work out what the hell was wrong with me. For those who weren't around at the time, or who have short memories, the highlights are linked to here.

In early January this year (the 3rd to be precise), I had my final appointment at Cancer club. Usually you get a random Oncologist, so sometimes you see a familiar face, sometimes you get someone you've never met. This time I got the chap who I first met, led in my hospital bed at St James', not long after my lung biopsy. He was the one who first properly explained my diagnosis (no counting the arsehat surgeon/consultant who sniffily informed me that I had a "bit of cancer", but nothing to worry about the previous morning), so it seemed kind of fitting that he should be the last oncologist that I saw before being discharged.

It was quite an emotional moment, really. When I was diagnosed, I was REALLY ill. My chances were given as around 50/50 for still being here five years after treatment. So my oncologist seemed genuinely happy to be able to discharge me after my 5 years of observation/check-ups. He smiled, we chatted about stuff, he shook my hand and I went to the desk to hand in my paperwork. The receptionist asked when I was back, to which I grinned and replied "never, hopefully!". She looked at my paperwork, grinned, and said "Congratulations!". Several nurses and patients also offered me their best wishes. I accepted, blushing, and then had to leg it before I burst into tears.

I managed to phone friends and family to tell them the good news, and got as far as sitting in the car before the enormity of it all hit me, and I broke down in tears for quite a while. Tears of joy, tears of relief, tears of sorrow, I'm still not sure. Probably a bit of all three if I'm honest.

So that's it, all done and dusted. With any luck I'll not have to go back to the Oncologist ever again and I can look forward to a relatively normal life, free from blood tests and hospital visits.

I'm still a bit freaked out by it all actually. Being a medical mystery, being treated for cancer and then the aftermath have consumed a great many years of my life. I know I always put on a happy face about it all, but honestly, back in 2006 when I was led in hospital just after the operation, throwing up from the Morphine, I genuinely thought it was game over for me. So for me still to be around over 5 years later is just amazing.

Being ill taught me a lot of things that I still carry round with me to this day. From not taking the important things in life for granted, to the importance of a healthy work/life balance, I wouldn't be the person that I am today without having gone through the events of the last 6 and a bit years. I discovered that I have some of the best friends that anyone could hope for, something for which I am still profoundly grateful. I also rediscovered my love of travelling, and pushed myself to do a lot of stuff that I'd probably otherwise have never got round to doing.

Since being ill, I've travelled back to Japan (twice), been to the biggest gaming convention in the world (several times), learnt to snowboard (and got relatively decent at it, although you wouldn't believe it if you saw me on my first trip), travelled halfway round the world to see bands I'd otherwise never get to see live, been nominated for MVP on an open source project, run several 10Km events and visited loads of places all over the world.

So kids, remember, there's more to life than just working yourself to death for money. Your friends are more important than you realise. But most importantly, don't forget to LIVE. Always wanted to learn to climb, but always put it off until "tomorrow"? Don't. Go out there, book yourself into a course and give it a go. Hell come and speak to me and I'll take you climbing. Do it now, or one day you may wake up and realise that you've run out of tomorrows and the chance to do that thing is gone, maybe forever. Write that song you always wanted to, paint a painting, tell someone how much you care about them. You'll be surprised how much better you feel for doing it.

Thank you, to all my wonderful friends and family. You were there for me when I was at my lowest, and I owe each and every one of you a debt that I can in all likelihood never repay. I hope that one day I will be able to help you guys as much as you all helped me.

And finally, so long cancer! We had an interesting time together you and I, with many ups and downs, but ultimately its time for us to part our ways now. Don't let the door hit you on the way out. Oh, and if I EVER catch you sniffing round my friends, I will hunt you down and kick you in the balls repeatedly.......
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Back from Whitby. I remember when getting back from the weekend meant 100's of LJ entries to read through. Now days, not so much.......