Archive for the ‘Chugoku’ Category

The abandoned Japanese Sex Museum (a.k.a. the Mansion of the Hidden Treasure) first caught my attention in 2009 when I first started doing some research about haikyo on Japanese blogs. Three years ago the museum showed up on two or three homepages; both urbex and more general pop culture blogs. After that it basically disappeared, I haven’t seen pictures of the place ever since. So what happened? Boarded up? Security? Maybe demolition? Since *Michael* and I *were in the area anyways* we decided to find out, especially since the museum was pretty much on top of both of our “Places I Want To Explore” lists.
I guess the abandoned Japanese Sex Museum, along with the *Maya Hotel* and *Nara Dreamland*, was actually one of the locations that convinced me that Japan not only has abandoned places, but that it has some great ones. There are not that many sex museums in the world overall – so an abandoned sex museum is pretty unique! (Although “Abandoned erotic art museum” would be a slightly more correct name for the place now that I know what’s to find there.)

Opened on October 1st 1978 the Mansion of the Hidden Treasure was in business for almost 20 years before it was closed in the second half of 1997. Mansion of the Hidden Treasure is actually a great name since the exterior looks like a massive, old-style Japanese mansion, like a fortress almost. The entrance was guarded by a statue of Daikoku, the God of Great Darkness and one of the Seven Gods of Fortune. Opening hours were from 9 a.m. till 11 p.m. and the entrance fee was 1000 Yen according to a pamphlet that was lying around in an office room. Exploring the place further we found actual tickets with a printed price of 1300 Yen, so I guess the entrance fee was raised at least once during the 19 years of business. Several vending machines near the entrance and the exit offered all kinds of items, for example erotic playing cards and saucy postcards at the price of 300 Yen. One of the trashed rooms had a small stage and nearby we found a sign that said “Nude Show 2500 Yen”, so I guess it’s safe to say that there were live performances at the museum, too.

(If you are easily offended by sexual contents and you nevertheless read this far I strongly recommend to move on to another posting as from now the article will become a little bit more specific – while at no point pornographic I might mention the p-word once in a while and the photos at the end… or dear… well, it’s an abandoned sex museum, of course the exhibits are 99% erotica!)

As you may or may not know pornography in Japan is usually censored due to article 175 of the Criminal Code of Japan which says that people who sell or distribute obscene materials can be punished by fines or imprisonment – meaning that genitalia are usually blacked out, white out or pixelated with mosaic. Article 175 was part of the original Criminal Code passed in 1907 and remains pretty much unchanged till this very day. It was the written manifestation of the Meiji Era efforts to reduce the publication of pornographic materials. Before the second half of the 19th century the shunga, erotic woodblock prints and therefore a type of ukiyo-e, were quite popular – and as explicit as modern western pornography; probably even more imaginative since the shunga not only showed traditional sexual acts, but also sex with animals, demons and deities. Some of them even showed sex with foreigners… And I guess that’s where the worldwide image of weird Japanese porn comes from. Well, that… the used panties vending machines and of course the anime series Urotsukidoji, famous for inventing tentacle rape, creating a whole genre with just one extremely disturbing scene…

With that being said there was no pornography found in the abandoned Japanese Sex Museum – only a couple of paintings (some of them in a special room with black light lamps), softcore photos (e.g. Playboy Centerfolds), a couple of mannequins as well as lots and lots of wooden and stone sculptures; dozens of them, to be accurate. Sculptures of penises, vaginas, combinations of both, couples in the act, buttocks, masturbating animals, priests, deities, demons and whatever you can imagine. In one room there was a forest scene with penis shaped mushrooms. Or mushroom shaped penises. Your guess is as good as mine. It was almost impossible to open your eyes without looking at a phallic symbol.

While two or three rooms were completely trashed (basically the entrance and the exit areas as well as the offices upstairs) some of the exhibition area’s ceiling was quite moldy, but still in good shape. Those huge statues must have been insanely heavy, especially sculptures like the stone penis with a length of almost two meters, and let’s be honest: Who would actually hit a giant stone vajayjay with a sledgehammer or tip over a couple of marble dicks? Even the most ruthless vandal respects those symbols!

Sadly that didn’t apply for the female models. The main exhibits in the last room were stolen (or “taken to security” by some previous explorers…) a year or two ago. One was a wax model of the famous European softcore erotic character Emmanuelle, the other one was a replica of Marilyn Monroe – both presented in slinky poses behind now broken glass. The already mentioned pamphlet / flyer featured photos of both wax figures and they looked pretty amazing. Even more so on the already mentioned Japanese blogs I saw a couple of years ago. When the museum was still open to the public the wax figures were scantily dressed and well-lit behind glass, but once it was abandoned the new visitors had less respect and undressed both Marilyn and Emmanuelle to show lower body parts that were out of sight before – and surprisingly both models were not as anatomically impaired as a Ken doll.
The left behind mannequins on the other hand were exactly that: Rather gender neutral below that waist and more or less what you can see at every clothing store when the clerks redress the shop window dummies. Of course they were all (partly) dismembered and slightly damaged, but they were basically normal mannequins… except for the really disturbing “Sleeping Beauty” one, which had vibrators mutating out of her nipples.

The main challenge from a photography point of view was the fact that 80% of the museum was pitch black, which meant that I had to take every shot with a tripod and illuminate every photo individually with my flashlight; similar to what I did at the *Lost Subterranean Shrine*.

With a sheer endless amount of statues and the time consuming process of taking photos Michael and I spent a whopping four hours at this fascinating location. Like I mentioned at the beginning, we both had high expectations about the abandoned Japanese Sex Museum and they were not only met, but exceeded. This haikyo is without the shadow of a doubt one of the best abandoned places in Japan and it would be a place worth visiting anywhere in the world. I just hope that future visitors will treat the location with the same respect Michael and I did so it will put a smile on the faces of urban explorers for decades to come…

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Addendum 2012-09-10: If you liked this article you might enjoy the abandoned *Japanese Strip Club*, too…

Addendum 2012-11-27: I just posted an article about another abandoned Japanese sex museum: *Hokkaido House Of Hidden Treasures*

Addendum 2013-05-09: Two months later I revisited the museum – *click here for more photos and videos*!

Addendum 2014-07-11: According to a friend of mine the museum has been demolished a while ago – R.I.P.!

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Spring time is long weekend trip time! While Kansai doesn’t have much of a winter it nevertheless can be quite cold, especially when having a hobby involving taking pictures in abandoned places, other places of Japan can be snowed in for months with meters of snow… So when the sun finally warms the hearts of Japan and causes the first sunburn of the young year it’s time to explore places beyond my beloved Kansai – whether it be *Kyushu with Enric* two years ago or Shikoku with Gianluigi last year (a series of articles yet to come…), it became kind of a tradition for me to go on an urbex spring trip with a friend of mine. This time *Michael Gakuran* and I teamed up for a road trip to the southern end of Honshu, Japan’s main island – Chugoku, to be exact, the area west of Kansai. A trip with such exciting places that I decided to start writing about it right away – the last pictures are barely 50 hours old…

At this point I don’t want to give away too much about the locations we visited or which order we visited them in. But there were 8 of them in 3 days. 3 long days I might add, with me getting up at 6.30 a.m. on a Sunday, at 6 a.m. on a vacation day and at 5 a.m. on a national holiday. As I mentioned before: I’m a morning grouch; and by “morning” I mean any point in time which is followed by “a.m.”…

But the trip wasn’t just exhausting, it was also exiting, fun, frustrating, satisfying, rich in variety, surprising, delicious (I finally ate Hiroshima Okonomiyaki in Hiroshima prefecture and bought the best local sweets outside of Kyoto – mikan dango) and insanely expensive.

Why insanely expensive? It’s because at the end of the first day a serious mishap happened to me. We were on our way to a hotel to stay for a night when we saw this huge, blue and white flame at a gigantic industrial plant – probably coke oven gas burning at a cokery. (Addendum 2012-06-11: I guess I was wrong about the gas – Gert from South Africa wrote me: “This couldn’t be coke oven gas burning, because coke gas got a very very hot orange (impurities) or yellow (cleaner) flame. But the flame in the video is actually blast-furnace or corex, midrex, finex gas flame (more methane content in gas).” Thanks a lot for pointing that out! I really appreciate it and changed the title of the video below, too.)
We decided to make a stop to take picture or two and when I got out of the car to marshal Michael I grabbed my bag and I don’t know how or why, but my beloved D90 camera flew through the air and crashed hard to the concrete ground. The body cracked open a couple of millimetres so I could see the insides. Parts of the electronics were still working (e.g. I could use the screen to look at the photos on the memory card), but since the lens mount was part of what cracked it was impossible to take pictures anymore. Mad props to Tokina BTW! The mounted 11-16mm lens survived without a scratch or any other damages as I found out with relief the next day.
Sunday evening past 7 p.m. – of course I was in shock at first, because going on a photo trip without a camera is pretty pointless. So we headed towards the flame to take some picture which I couldn’t do since my photo camera broke and Mike couldn’t do because of the lighting, lenses and passing traffic. So I took the video you can find below the article – it doesn’t fully capture the beauty of the flame, but it will always remind me of the death of my favourite camera so far (I also included the last JPG I ever took with it, even though it wasn’t related to urbex). Back at the car we decided to look for an electronics store, although it was almost 8 p.m. on a Sunday evening. After a couple of minutes we found a shopping mall, but it didn’t have a camera store. The staff at the mall was very nice, telling us where to find an electronics store – but it closed at 8. Michael, who did all the talking since his Japanese is WAY better than mine, wasn’t discouraged by that and asked for the phone number of the store. Although the store was closed Michael called and somebody picked up. He told them my tricky situation and they agreed to let us into the store if we hurry – so I got into a taxi and went straight to the store. There a guy with pretty decent English helped me at the camera department. I was hoping to replace the D90 with another one, but they didn’t have them in stock. A lower model was out of the question, so the only option was a D7000. Which they didn’t have in stock either. Just the display model – which they couldn’t sell me without the kit lens since it was a display model. After some deliberation and the certainty that not buying that display model would mean losing at least 5 hours the next morning looking for another camera (electronic stores in Japan usually open at 10 a.m.) I half voluntarily upgraded from a Nikon D90 to a Nikon D7000. With a bad feeling since I not only spent a huge chunk of money, but I also had to learn by doing how to handle a new camera. While I’m very pleased with how the photos of all locations turned out it was quite unnerving at times to get the shots I wanted to take.

Now just a few quick words about the locations we visited. The undisputed highlight of the tour was the abandoned Japanese Sex Museum. Both Michael and I had high expectations and we were not the slightest disappointed, shooting in almost complete darkness for the majority of the 4 hours we spent there. Another glorious highlight to me was the Kart Pista Hiroshima race track – why it was a highlight you’ll find out soon. Since theme parks are one of my favourite types of abandoned place we visited two of them and I loved them both. 4 world class haikyo in 3 days – plus 2 good ones (a Meiji Era army fortress and a quite tricky hotel) as well as 2 more we took pictures of because we went there and it would have been a waste not to cover them… a strip bar in an onsen town (euphemistically called “theater”) and a car camp site. To my knowledge all of these places never appeared on English speaking blogs, some of them are even unknown to the Japanese urbex crowd. So please enjoy the preview pictures and come back for much more information, photos and about one hour of video material!

Here’s an alphabetical list of the upcoming locations:
Ganne Fortress
Hiroshima New Zealand Farm
Japanese Sex Museum
Kart Pista Hiroshima
Moriyama Auto Camp
Noga Hotel
Onsen Town Theater
Yamaguchi New Zealand Village

(If you don’t want to miss the latest article you can *follow Abandoned Kansai on Twitter* and *like this blog on Facebook* – and of course there is the*video channel on Youtube*…)

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The La Rainbow Hotel & Tower (a.k.a. as the Graffiti Hotel) was one of my favorite explorations of 2011. I knew about that place for quite a while and I guess it’s one of the most popular abandoned places in west Japan for a number of reasons. First of all it’s in that ineffable “Nippon No Haikyo” book – and then of course there are the countless colorful graffiti, the unusual architecture and the observation tower with its moveable platform…

I’m always happy to introduce friends to my urban exploration hobby, so when my buddy Luis showed some interest in accompanying me I suggested a place I wanted to go for a long time; one I’ve never made it to due to the rather long train ride there. (About 3 hours plus and at least half an hour of walking – or 2 hours for double the fare taking one stop on the fastest Shinkansen.)
Usually the journey to an abandoned place isn’t exactly a fun time, but thanks to some very interesting and insightful conversations with Luis we both arrived at the La Rainbow Hotel & Tower in a very good mood – which got even better once we realized that the place was off the main street and had no security whatsoever; which came with both the good and the bad aspects (easy to access, relaxing photo and video shoots for hours / vandalism, arson, …).
One thing was perfectly clear from the first second: The La Rainbow Hotel (I never got why Japanese love to mix languages!) was a pretty big building! It was so huge the floors were not only connected by staircases and elevators, but also by escalators.
To my surprise the number of guest rooms was rather limited. There were none on the first floor. Or on the second floor. Neither on the fifth or sixth floor. So here’s a floor overview:
1F: entrance to the hotel, exit of the observation tower, ticket machines, arcade, bathes
2F: entrance to the observation tower, front desk of the hotel, party rooms, kitchen
3F: guest rooms 301-327
4F: guest rooms 401-437
5F: upper entrance to the building via a bridge, kitchen, family restaurant “La Rainbow”
6F: bar, beer garden

Having learned from previous experiences (never explore a floor when you are not sure in which condition the rooms below are in…) Luis and I made our way up. 1F, 2F, 3F, 4F, 5F, 6F. The hotel was equipped with several large Japanese style gathering / party rooms, one of them even still had a karaoke machine, but some of the guest rooms were Western style. This was rather interesting, especially since it looked like as if the rooms were designed and furnished individually – a common thing in love hotels, but not in standard tourist hotels. Another huge difference from normal hotels: the gigantic window fronts of most of the rooms. The La Rainbow Hotel had ceiling to floor windows with a rather nice view at the Seto Inland Sea and the Great Seto Bridge.
The main difference between the La Rainbow Hotel and any other abandoned hotel I’ve been to before (and after…) was the huge amount of graffiti. Like everywhere else in the world abandoned places and graffiti go hand in hand, and most of the time they are nothing more than a couple of ugly scribblings. Not in the case of the La Rainbow Hotel. The graffiti there were real pieces of art most of the time. And they were everywhere! I guess about a third of all walls received a new layer of paint, often as big as 2.5 x 4 meters. The absolute highlight in that regard was the basement of the La Rainbow Tower. Having the observation platform hovering over your head isn’t exactly a calming feeling, but the graffiti down there on a gigantic circular concrete canvas… As much as I usually despise graffiti at abandoned places, even I have to admit that they looked beautiful there! Especially since they were rather well made and offered quite a bit of variety…

Speaking of the observation platform: It was attached to a tower 150 meters high (the highest observation platform of its kind in the world when it was built – not only in Japan!) and it was moveable not only vertically, but the platform was also able to spin around the tower. 23 meters in diameter the viewing cabin offered space for 150 guests at a time, the fare was 800 Yen for adults and 500 Yen for children. With the proper lighting (which was installed…) it must have been quite a sight after sunset. Well, it actually was. In the basement of the tower Luis and I found a box with several old photos of when both places were still welcoming customers – and especially the nighttime shots with long exposure time were stunningly beautiful!

Too bad the life of the now abandoned revolving observation tower was as short as that of the adjunct hotel. Little is known about the history of the unfortunate pair, but it seems like the place was the another product of the real estate bubble. From 1978 till 1988 the Great Seto Bridge (also known as Seto-Ohashi Bridge or the Japanese name Seto Ōhashi / 瀬戸大橋) was constructed… and some people decided that a bridge like that needs a place to welcome all the visitors who would come from all over Japan to have a look – ignoring the fact that the area already had some hotels due to the Washuzan Highland amusement park nearby.
The question is: Who were those people? A local taxi driver told Luis that the hotel was built by the Okayama prefecture and run for three years in the mid 1990s before it was privatized. The new owners gave up after only one more year as the general Japanese population wasn’t as fascinated by the bridge as the local politicians hoped it would be. The bridge is a great way to get to Shikoku, but “Hey, let’s stay for a night at a fancy hotel with rather small rooms and look at the bridge!” didn’t come to many people’s minds.
The more likely story is that a private investment group burned quite a bit of money when they opened the hotel and tower in 1988. They named the place after one of their two golf courses and were making big bucks at the time with their 400 seat seafood restaurant and two cruise ships. It was one of the companies that dreamed of making the area a “Japanese Venice”, actually buying large quantities of land on small islands like Yoshima. Since the Seto Sea boom bursted along with the Japanese asset price bubble (1986 to 1991) the La Rainbow Hotel & Tower soon faced financial issues and was closed for good in 1997 – something the internet and our taxi driver to a second location agreed on.
The latter story is more likely for two reasons: First of all I found a brochure by said real estate investment group laying out the whole La Rainbow project. And in 1990 the actress and singer Youki Kudoh (who later played alongside Ethan Hawke, Zhang Ziyi, Ken Watanabe, Jackie Chan and Max von Sydow in movies like Snow Falling On Cedars, Memoris of a Geisha and Rush Hour 3) did a commercial for the place usually referred to as Hotel La Rainbow in Japanese. (I named it slightly different here for the purpose of readability. Technically you have “La Rainbow”, the tower, and “Hotel La Rainbow”, the hotel.)
It’s said that the first round of vandalism was unleashed on the place by a motorcycle gang, but that kind of sounds like an urban legend – like the one you get with pretty much every abandoned countryside onsen hotel, where the last owner committed suicide. After the rough guys left the complex was taken over by graffiti artists and the usual vandals and arsonists…

Oh, by the way: The strange sounds you can hear in some of the videos are neither ghosts nor Imperial Stormtroopers charging at the building – initially I thought they were birds, but in fact those were the steels cables of the tower hitting each other and the tower itself due to high wind; quite irritating and spooky at first…

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I have to admit: Finding and exploring the abandoned poultry farm in Okayama prefecture was one of the most rewarding and exciting experiences since I started urban exploration. It was unusual in many ways and I’m so eager to tell you about it, that this has become the fastest published article in Abandoned Kansai history – the events, photos and videos are just 5 days old…
Gosh, where to start? Pretty much everything about this exploration was unusual. The whole thing started when in 2011 a *red factory* / mine popped up on Japanese blogs several times. Urban exploration usually means going to places where many men (and women) have gone before, so I did some research, but didn’t get more than the information that the red mine was supposed to be in Okayama prefecture. So when I kind of randomly looked at the satellite mode of GoogleMaps I found two places with red roofs in the mountains that might have been abandoned. While I found confirmation about the smaller one that it was really a factory, the larger one I had no lead on. A still quite blurry satellite image, that’s it. No information on other blogs, no marking on a Japanese haikyo map, no Streetview – darn, not even a link to a Panoramio photo nearby. Just a bunch of buildings with red roofs standing rather close to each other, kind of similar to the satellite image when you look at the *White Stone Mine*. I didn’t know what they were or even if they were still there as the satellite photos of GoogleMaps tend to be a couple of years old. Nevertheless I grabbed my equipment and a book (The Hunger Games, which I really enjoyed!) last Saturday early in the morning and boarded a train – and another one, and another one, and…
After I finally reached a small station in the middle of nowhere I left the tiny town it was in quickly and walked along a country road for about half an hour, reaching a small settlement close to where I suspected the red roof shacks to be. I was on my own for this exploration – it’s hard to find people to get up when it’s still dark outside to go to a cold place in the middle of the mountains, especially when you can’t promise a spectacular site; or in this case: anything at all. While I was walking past gorgeous little wooden Japanese houses with the stunning roofing tiles and neat gardens a small pickup truck with two senior citizens passed me and turned left down the road – where I suspected the red roof shacks to be. My heart sank almost as quickly as when Gil and I approached the *Deportation Prison Birkhausen-Zweibrücken* back in Germany. And like half a year ago I was right: Getting passed by a truck near an abandoned place is barely ever a good sign. When I reached the small gravel road that supposed to lead to the red roof shacks I found the street and the whole area fenced off. Not with a sturdy fence that is easy to climb. No, one of those half-ass ones you basically have to trample down to get across – unless you are willing leave and get home. But at that point it wasn’t the decision to be made. Because the previously mentioned senior citizens were there, early on a Saturday morning of all days… inspecting the fence and making sure that it reached about a meter over the little river so nobody can go around it – like *Enric* and I did at the *Iimori Mine* two years ago. Since those guys looked like they came to stay I climbed a nearby small mountain with a cemetery. My hope was to get a glimpse into the valley, to at least confirm that the red roof shacks were still there. But that didn’t work out either. Slightly frustrated I came down the mountain and made my way back to the train station when I realized that I will miss the once per hour train by about five minutes even if I’d run. At that point I became rather frustrated and angry. Why the heck did I get up early on a Saturday winter morning to ride trains for hours to go all by myself to a cold mountain valley where I didn’t know what to expect just to find it fenced off and guarded by two old guys? While I was silently cursing on my way through the settlement outside the little town I heard a small pickup truck behind me. When it passed I saw the two old guys sitting in there and I stopped… I had at least half an hour to kill and even then I would make the next train. Why not getting back to that stupid fence?
So that’s what I did. I hurried back to the fence only to find that Japanese planning never disappoints. Since I couldn’t make it around the fence I just followed it for a while. Up another mountain and another cemetery. And there it was, an opening in the fence, at least a meter wide, probably to allow hikers and mourners to reach the top of the mountain. I followed the fence back (on the other side, of course!), only to find a rather steep slope along a wastewater pipe or something like that. Luckily somebody set up a rope there, so it was quite easy to get up and down, ignoring the fact that I ripped my fingers on the cutting plastic, but well, small sacrifices…
Finally on the other side of the fence at the gravel road I hurried deeper into the valley. The road here was overgrown and barely visible, but to my left I saw a couple of shacks in abysmal condition. I was relieved. A lot! Whatever I saw on the satellite pictures was still here. But the feeling of relief didn’t lower the tension at all. At this point I was still visible from the street and being alone in a fenced off area in the Japanese mountains isn’t the best situation to be in. No need to worry about poisonous snakes in January, but I ran into both wild boars and wild monkeys before… and there are wild bears in Japan, too. I tried to ignore those worries and hurried deeper into the valley on this overcast, hazy winter morning. And there it was – the big red building with the intact roof. And at first sight it was clear: This wasn’t the red mine / factory I hoped it would be… it was better!
The first thing that caught my eyes was the small silo in front of the open, but rather uninviting building. When I entered I saw cages inside. Dozens, hundreds of them. With the roof still intact the building was pretty dark towards the middle, so I got outside again, circumvented the place and entered from the back. It seemed like nobody had been here in years. And there’s where I found a couple of Lyon Debeaker machines (to „stop losses from picking, cannibalism, fighting, and egg eating”). A silo, cages, debeakers… no need to be a modern Sherlock Holmes to conclude that this was an abandoned poultry farm. An abandoned poultry farm that, to my knowledge, hasn’t been mentioned on any urban exploration / haikyo blog. Ever. Not in Japanese, not in English. So this wasn’t the nth mine to visit – no, this was a unique place. An abandoned poultry farm in Japan!
Finding new places is always exciting to some degree, but in most Japanese prefectures you can’t throw a stone without hitting an abandoned private home or small business, so it isn’t actually that unusual. Finding a yet unknown gigantic abandoned animal farm in the middle of nowhere on the other hand… that’s kind of the urbex definition of “jackpot”. I was truly happy for a short moment, until I realized that I had only a little bit more than an hour to shoot the huge place – I could afford to skip a train, but I would have to catch the next one to make it on time to the second place on my agenda that day. Nevertheless I forced myself into taking my time at the mostly undamaged building. Doing some bracket shots and taking photos with long exposure time in the dark parts of the one room building.
Separating the one intact building from two dozen severely damaged shacks was a small, mostly dried out river. I followed it for a while back towards the fence to find a place where the river bank on both sides was rather low so I could make it on the other side. I had about one third of my time left to cover 80% of the area, so I decided to leave my tripod behind and take some freehand photos, which turned out fine; nevertheless I wish I had an additional hour or two, but there was this other mysterious red roofed building on my schedule. So I hurried a bit making my way through the poultry farm and took a video on my way back to the tripod. I then crossed the tiny river and walked carefully up to the fence, but nobody was in sight. Just to be sure I climbed the mountain again and ripped my fingers just a little bit more. Back down the mountain and through the settlement. This time with a big smile on my face. I had found a huge yet unknown unique abandoned place in the middle of nowhere without any help and explored it all by myself on a cold Saturday morning – the only thing making this experience even sweeter was the fact that I almost failed when the two old guys showed up at the fence at the same time as myself.
What an absolutely awesome adventure!
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