Last year, Hannah Lobo, a former Geography undergraduate at Sidney and now a postgraduate, spent her summer backpacking in Japan and South Korea after receiving a College Travel Award.

Every year, the College grants several Travel Awards for the summer ahead. Students are invited to apply for an award, and the decision-making process involves the College taking into account financial circumstances, along with other factors including prior travel experience, and the proposed travel plan. 

Hannah told us all about her exciting travels: 

"Last summer I spent five weeks backpacking in Japan and South Korea. I was very lucky to be in Japan during the short period when Mt Fuji is snow free and climbing is permitted. At 3776 m high, it is Japan’s highest peak and is higher than I have ever climbed. We climbed during Obon week, the busiest week of the year, and had to queue where the path was narrow. However, this meant we made friends and we appreciated the extra light as we forgot to bring spare batteries! We reached summit at sunrise which was absolutely incredible.

The main cities we visited in Japan were Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima. My favourite part of Tokyo was attending a 5am tuna auction at the Tsukiji fish market. Before the auction started the tuna bidders inspected the texture and colour of the fish. The auction was very exciting - ringing cowbells, lots of shouting and fast hand gestures. The most interesting of these cities was Hiroshima, the site of the world’s first atomic bomb. We visited the bomb dome and peace memorial museum which advocates an end to nuclear weapons. The exhibits were very sobering and relevant in today’s political climate.

We spent our last four days in Japan walking the Nakahechi route of the Kumano Kodo through the Japanese countryside. The Kumano Kodo pilgrimage is the only walk with UNESCO world heritage status, along with the Camino de Santiago. We stayed in traditional guesthouses in rural areas, often with hot spring baths called onsens which were perfect after a long day of walking. Typhoon Cimaron hit during our walk, causing fallen trees to obstruct the paths and major bridges to collapse. It was fascinating as a geographer to experience the power and impact of this natural disaster. We were the only people in our guesthouse as everyone else had cancelled, but we were determined not to give up and, with some major detours, we completed the walk.

In Korea, we visited the demilitarised zone, which runs across the Korean Peninsula. We went inside an infiltration tunnels dug by the North into the South and saw the fake village at the northern border indicating the appearance North Korea is trying to uphold.

Finally, we did the four rivers cycle from Seoul to Busan over 5 days. This route is 633km long and popular with locals but not many tourists do it. The path runs down the middle of the country allowing us to experience life in different parts of South Korea, including rural regions. We were told that these paths were also made wide enough for tanks and we passed a lot of military training camps. Local cyclists were very friendly, and often stopped to chat or shouted ‘fighting’ as encouragement.

It was an amazing experience and I am hugely grateful to the support of college for making it possible."

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