As February takes hold in Wakayama, we witness the first signs of nature's renewal. While winter lingers in other parts of Japan like Hokkaido, Toyama and Nagano, we are blessed with milder temperatures. The plum trees, symbolic of this region's charm, begin to bloom, showering the landscape with delicate blossoms. It is during this magical time that I had the pleasure of hosting my friend Keenan, who, like me, sought an escape from the confines of the world and the constraints of COVID.

Keenan, a fellow South African now living in Tokushima, arrived with a striking white Honda bike, his ticket to freedom on the open road. Excitement and laughter filled the air as we caught up in the late hours of the night. He arrived late at night, bringing with him a lot of stories and laughter. We caught up over a late-night feast of delicious burgers that I had prepared. His bike, admittedly a very cool one, is something he takes pride in.

The following day, we embarked on a journey to Nachikatsuura, a town known for its awe-inspiring landscapes. Our first stop was Nachi Falls, a majestic waterfall that holds the title of Japan's tallest single-drop waterfall (那智の滝). Standing in its presence, we were reminded of the raw power and beauty of nature. We also took part in a local tradition, drinking the water using a 100 yen ceramic plate, believed to bestow seven extra years of good health and vitality. We then explored the grounds of Nachi Taisha, immersing ourselves in the serene atmosphere before embarking on the scenic hike up and down Daimonzaka (大門坂), a charming hillside path that lies on the Kumano Kodo (熊野古道).

To refresh ourselves, we visited my local gym's pool. It was a perfect opportunity for me to satisfy my love for swimming and burn the rest of the energy I had left from the day. We then headed for the hot springs of a nearby hilltop hotel, indulging in the restorative powers of the natural waters. As the sun began its descent, we marvelled at the breathtaking hues of the sunset, casting a warm glow over the surroundings as it sank into the horizon.

For dinner, we ventured to a local burger joint known as the gathering place for a few of my acquaintances. Takahiro, the charismatic owner, greeted us with a warm smile and infectious humour. Laughter filled the air as we savoured our delicious meal. The store's name is Chill Store, and you really do feel at ease on the premises.

While Keenan embarked on a coastal night ride with his bike, I took a moment to immerse myself in my artwork. I'm currently working on an African-inspired artwork that makes and it's eating so much of my time.

The next day, we explored the scenic coastal areas, marvelling at the vibrant pinks and whites of blooming plum trees. The colours were simply breathtaking. As the sun shone brightly, casting its warm embrace upon us, I couldn't help but feel grateful for the splendid weather that enhanced the day. It reminded me of the simple yet profound pleasures of life. I somewhat compare the Cherry Blossom (Sakura, 桜) period to South Africa's Jacaranda spring period. It would be a dream to witness both annually. For now, I look forward to the Sakura season ahead.

As February unfolds in all its glory, we embrace the beauty of nature's awakening and cherish the moments spent with cherished friends. May the joys of this season fill your hearts and bring you renewed hope and happiness. I'm looking into getting a yellow bicycle soon. We're gonna attack these fitness goals one day at a time!

Stay tuned for more adventures and delightful discoveries in Wakayama!