Sunday 1st July
Day 140 - 25km (Well, Paul & Tom)
Ben - "I could just hear my Mum and sister
telling me that I needed to rest and recover but at the same time
I don't want to sit around. The three of us discussed what to
do, and decided that I should take some time to heal and Tom and
Paul should walk on so that we could still keep to our schedule
for arriving at Fuji for our party 21st - 22nd July.
On the one hand I really struggle with this
decision because I am missing mountains and miles but I do realise
the need to recover properly. Also I was able to get to the hospital
easily and I was in a good place to meet my pal Deb who was on
her way from Australia to join us.
Rachel went out of her way again to drop Paul
and Tom back at the mountain and I began sleeping."
Paul - "Just a quick note from me about
the second half of the day for Tom and I.
The afternoon saw us walking over a pass, under
a sweltering sun, on a road that varied between a gravel track
and a tarmaced road. Tom was happy to be back in the hills and
walking again but I really just wanted to be heading back to Rachel's
to spend a few days doing nothing. Sometimes the last thing I
want to do is walk, Tom never seems to struggle with these feelings.
We camped fairly early that evening by a river
about 1km from tomorrows trail head and enjoyed having only 2
men in the 2 men tent!"
Mt Hiuchi-yama (2462m - No. 45)
Mt Myoko-zan (2454m - No. 46)
Monday 2nd July
Day 141 - 20km
- "By Japanese estimations today's walk should have taken
us between 16 and 18hrs!
Consequently we were up at 4:30am and were walking
by 6:15am, silly times of day that have become almost normal recently.
Two peaks today but thankfully we were able to dump our packs
at the tail head and only carry the essentials up the hill. We
made good time up to the first hut. The one thing that slowed
us was having to stand at the side of the track and let crowds
of up to 50 fellow walkers pass us. Hiking season has
We had to trudge over snow fields and up a snowy
slope to make the first summit, a strange feeling as the temperature
was edging 30°C. From that first summit we were able to see
that our intended route along the ridge from the mountain that
Ben had fallen off would have been much harder work than the road
we walked yesterday. That was a nice finding.
the second hut we once again dumped even the bag of essentials,
and raced onwards towards peak 2. More snow, lots of trees, boulders,
bit of mud then on the summit some really strange boulders that
Ben would have loved. Back at hut 2 we finished off our food chilling
in the sun with four other guys who had obviously finished walking
for the day. It was 3:00pm. To my mind these guys have the right
idea! Not us though, we had another 2hrs just to get off the hill.
best thing about today's walk was the scenery, flat plateaus,
lakes, and alpine pastures of knee high bamboo grass. Two peaks
wasn't enough for Tom, he wanted more. Does the boy ever tire?
Where does he get the energy? He finally let us stop an hour later
at the trail head for next day, a nature trail cutting a massive
corner by crossing a mountain pass."
Ben - "Well I wasn't with the boys for
a couple of days but the time I spent recovering proved really
very productive - I surprise my self. Amidst the bread and cakemaking
with Rachel, I met and spoke with Josh Raub (another Jet teacher)
and he told me about his beautiful girlfriend who work with a
TV company and had begun negotiations with her producer about
airing a show with us in! Further more she had already translated
half our webpage into Japanese ready to put up on the internet!
Was this OK Josh asked? OK!..This is great!!! Nagano and its teachers
have really been a boost to the promotion of charity and the trek."
Mt Takazuma-yama (2353m - No. 47)
Tuesday 3rd July
Day 142 - 24km
- "We started the day thinking that if we went well we might
make it halfway up today's peak to an emergency hut marked on
our map. So again we started at the crack of dawn. By 9:00am however,
we had crossed the mountain pass, having spent the morning from
6:00am walking along forest tracks and through muddy bogs, sweating
under the baking sun. By 10:30am we were at the trail head phoning
Ben and happy to hear that Deb had arrived safely from Oz.
We're used to people telling us to be careful,
but today that reached new heights as the people in the campsite
at the trail head told us not bite off more than we could chew
(well that is one translation, another could be - 'Don't be complete
idiots!'). It was 11:00am and even by Japanese timing we would
be back before dark.
me this was one of the most interesting mountains we have climbed
in a while. The first half of the climb was up the ridge wall
through real jungle-like forest, following a river, even into
the river at times. The second half wandered its way along the
ridge towards the peak. My legs were tired, the trail kept going
up and down, and Tom didn't seem tired at all, but it was an enjoyable,
if hot, walk. The summit climb was steep, steep enough to make
me wonder if it would ever end, but the views were great from
the top - one side of the ridge filled with cloud, the other clear
We made it back down to the campsite by 5:00pm
although there was no one to see that we hadn't bitten off more
than we could chew. 7:00pm saw us sat in a car headed towards
a house and a shower - strange how things work out sometimes.
Andy had offered us a place to stay months ago over email. When
I rang him tonight to ask if we could stay tomorrow, he immediately
offered to pick us up tonight and drop us back here in the morning,
to walk back to his place without packs. He is a fellow long distance
walker, having completed the Appalachian Trail's (AT) 2000 miles
a couple of years back, so was happy to help us out in any way
Wednesday 4th July
Day 143 - 22km
Tom - "After getting up at the crack of
dawn, Andy drove us back to Tuesday's pick up point and Paul and
I set off down the road back to his house again!
The forested mountain valley turned into paddy
fields. We walked as fast as we could spurred on by the thought
of a cold shower. The afternoon was spent washing cloths, showering,
reading Tintin books and sleeping. Andy got back from work at
5pm and we spent the evening talking about his experiences on
the AT and the gear he used.
He had managed to complete the walk with one
pair of boots (they needed taping up for the last 50 miles), one
pair of cotton shorts, 2 cotton t-shirts, one $50 rucksack, some
plastic water proofs and a 7 foot wooden staff he picked up along
the way (his most treasured possession!). At 7pm we got a call
from Ben and Deb, who had arrived at the local station. The rest
of the night was spent catching up on the last few days."
Thursday 5th July
Day 144 - 40km
Tom - "Once again Andy offered to pick
us up at the end of the day so that we could do another day without
backpacks (Andy calls this slack-packing).
spent the first 2-3 hours trying to find our way through acres
and acres of apple orchards on a maze of roads. We reached Nakano
city (just north of Nagano) at 12 and stopped for a lunch break.
The second half of the day was spent heading into the mountains
along a series of steep windy roads. We had arranged to meet Andy
between 6 and 7 at a junction of two roads.
We got to this point later than expected only
to find Andy wasn't there. We waited by the side of the road till
8pm when Ben decided to phone Andy's home. This meant he had to
walk to a place here he could get coverage on our mobile phone.
Deb, Paul and I were laid flat on the warm tarmac, and failed
to see which road Ben walked down.
At 9pm Andy showed up having got lost in the
hills. The next 2-3 hours were spent going up and down the roads
looking for Ben, however we did not cover enough ground as we
underestimated how far he had walked (about 5-6km) to get coverage.
With petrol running out Andy decided to head into town to get
petrol and check his answering machine.
I stayed at the junction and waited to see if
Ben would come back. At 12am it started raining and I shouted
out into the darkness "Ben, are you there?", only to
find that he was walking back up the road and was only 25 metres
After phoning Andy's home to tell him everything
was OK, we found ourselves a shelter, some cardboard boxes, and
smelly carpet (cat pee?) to sleep under. All in all the day was
a bit of a disaster caused by lack of communication between the
team members. Well at least we've learnt a lesson!"
Friday 6th July
145 - 25km
Ben - "A weary looking Andy arrived at
our cardboard campsite with Paul and Deb who had done the next
few days food shopping in 7 Eleven...not cheap! We sat and regaled
them with the idiocies of the night before whilst packing the
The day passed as did the good weather. We walked
to the trail head of mountain 48 and arrived to sleep in a hut
filled with the craziest looking spiders. Deb tended to her sore
and abused feet. She is starting to see the folly of taking a
holiday with us!"
Mt Naeba-yama (2145m - No. 48)
Saturday 7th July
- "Nobody seemed to move for ages this morning. Sleep deprivation
had granted us the right to lie in before climbing mountain 48.
The climb was through forest to begin with and we met about 15
other climbers on the way up. Near the top there is a beautiful
plateau that was a really nice surprise, made even better by beautiful
weather. We stopped briefly on the way down for a lesson in Sansai
(wild vegetable) picking from a mountain guide and then we headed
Sunday 8th July
Day 147 - 40km
Paul - "It has happened so rarely really
in the past couple of months, it feels worthwhile to mention that
all we did today was walk along roads.
Our day started before dawn today, not out of
choice but because we were actually camped at a trail head and
hikers started arriving at 4:00am. What gets me is the time they
must have had to leave home to get there!
Much of the days walking was very beautiful,
our roads winding through forested hills and back country. Some
of the roads were so quiet we were able to take part in the newest
team craze - reading while walking. It's not actually that hard
to stay on the road! Differing walking speeds, different desires
for the day, a single map, and the baking sun all caused more
internal team frustration than we've seen for a while. Injuries
and the pressure of trying to reach Fuji in time don't add up
to calmness and serenity.
Debs suffered today, her feet like burning coals,
what a wonderful holiday we are giving her. The pain got so bad
she decided to hitch ahead and take a break while we caught up.
The highlight of the day was hearing from Cat
that there were tickets to Thailand available on the dates we
wanted and just within our price range. The expense caused indecision
initially but by the time we stopped walking for the day, having
spent the last hr doing calculations, we concluded that even getting
to Korea by train and ferry would not be that much cheaper (travel
within Japan is very efficient and very expensive). So we ended
the day high in the hills again and ready to give Cat the go ahead."
Mt Shirane-yama (2171m - No. 49)
Monday 9th July
Day 148 - 42km
Paul - "The initial plan for today was
to bag the peak (an easy climb just off the road) then get down
into town in time for Ben to get his stitches out. So once again
we saw what the world looks like before 5:00am and were walking
An hours walking saw us over the pass and into
very different countryside, few trees and wide open spaces, volcanoes.
Our guide book was totally unclear about peak No. 49, naming one
and showing a path to another. Unable to find anyone to explain
we realised we'd have to bag both just to make sure.
named peak is officially off limits due to volcanic instability
but the summit is about 20mins from the road and the guys doing
drilling on the mountainside said that seeing as we'd got this
far we may as well go to the top! Very casual with the rules.
It was only at the trailhead to the second peak
that we realised everyone else walks up a concrete path to view
the volatile mountain and its moonscape landscape from a safe
distance and with volcano shelters close at hand.
also realised that a few hundred people probably saw us getting
our proof shot on illegal ground!
Mountain number 2 was also a volcano but a safely
extinct one covered in beautiful alpine flowers and hundreds of
people there to photograph them. While the volcano itself was
safe, it turned out that the summit was 'closed' due to some sort
of problems with poisonous gases. We didn't come across any gas,
neither had the
Korean's who had left their own summit board.
We concluded our day of illegal activity by
walking down a toll road. They really should make the no walking
picture bigger - Deb honestly didn't see it!
We didn't get into town in time to get Ben's
stitches out but we were able to buy some tasty, healthy food,
find out where the hospital was, and fall asleep under a bridge."
Azuma-yama (2354m -m No. 50!!!)
Tuesday 10th July
Day 149 - 40km
Tom - "After an early breakfast Ben and
I went to the hospital to get his stitches removed. First we had
to wait an hour for the doors to open and then another hour and
a half to see a doctor. However once inside the surgery the stitches
were out in a couple of minutes and we were ready to hit the road.
Ben said his leg felt a lot better with the stitches out.
The day was an absolute scorcher (34°c)
which didn't helpwalking. We
dumped packs at the start of the road we would be walking along
the next day and headed towards Mt. Azuma-yama, our fiftieth peak
(Yahoo!). We started up the gentle trail at 2pm and fought our
way through bamboo for most of the climb.
This peak would definitely be in my top three
most boring peaks of the walk so far, but I felt pretty pleased
that we had climbed half of our mountains (we have walked over
2000 miles now so we have also completed over half the distance).
On the way down we walked past some bizarre boulder formations,
where Deb decided to show off her climbing skills (she's very
We reached the bottom of the trail just before
sunset and Ben decided to run back to the bags and set up camp
for us (6km)."
Mt. Asama-yama (2568m - No.51)
Wednesday 11th July
Day 150 - 26km
- "The morning was spent walking (or hitching in Deb's case!)
to the top of a pass at the start of the trail to Mt Asama-yama.
Again the weather was hot and the road seemed to drag on and on.
We started up the trail at 1pm and passed by a number of hikers
who had bagged the lower peak. The higher peak is officially off
limits due to poisonous gasses and volcanic activity.
view from the lower peak was beautiful as the extinct crater below
was filled with lush green forest and surrounded by steep cliffs.
We walked from this summit along a ridge to the base of the larger
summit which bares a striking resemblance to Mt Fuji. We followed
a path up the peak and came across a no entry sign as well as
ropes closing off the peak.
to say we wanted to bag the summit so we hopped over the ropes
and reached the rim of the active crater. We had to do a dash
to the summit, a 10 minute walk around the crater to reach the
highest point. The gasses coming out off the crater were pretty
unpleasant so once the photo was taken we headed down as fast
as we could.
We camped under the shelter of a tourist information
Thursday 12th July
Ben - "We were seriously early risers today
because we had a deadline to meet, so we walked the 16 km off
the mountain in time to be picked up by Josh and Mihoko. This
wonderful couple were not only working real hard to make the pending
TV programme work but Mihoko is also in the middle of translating
our website - all of our web pages! - into Japanese, and now they
were coming to pick us up.
They drove us to a restaurant where we ate a
complimentary lunch with the producer and his lovely camera crew.
The programme (e-gene) focused not only on the charity and the
trek but also on the way we are using technology such as the internet.
(You can see a copy of the interview online at e-gene's website
- check out the cartoons of the Trekkers too. Click
here to go. - ed)
It is so exciting to now see the interest in
the trek and its aims growing throughout Japan.
After our interview me and the guys left Deb
waiting at the station nursing her feet and awaiting the arrival
of Tim while we went back to the pick up point to collect the
miles. As we arrived back with Deb, Tim appeared from the station
as if by magic...and there was much rejoicing!
We camped on a Park Golf course next o the river
and were gifted by some very tasty cucumbers from a passer by...life
Friday 13th July
Day 152 - 22.5km
Relaxed and Short
Paul - "Tim now thinks we lead a totally
easy life: long breakfasts, long breaks, few km's, and someone
to pick us up and drive us to their house to stay at the end of
the day. He just picked a good day for his first day with us.
The initial plan had been a big road walk plus
a mountain but Andre (yet another generous Nagano JET who had
offered us a place to stay) only had a short window of time in
the evening when he could pick us up. We soon realised we couldn't
fit everything in and as we were going to have to hitch to get
to Fuji on time anyway there was no rush.
It was a blisteringly hot day and the scenery
wasn't thrilling so the day's pace dropped accordingly. By 3:30
we were squeezed into a car and on our way to our first full day
off since the 28th of June!
Once again a telephone call gave us the highlight
of the day: Penny was happy to inform us that A-JET were willing
to accomodate us at the JET Orientation Conference in Tokyo (provide
us with a stand and let us speak) . At the very least this means
that we will be able to tell a whole load more people about what
we are doing.
The evening saw the team divided. Ben, Deb and
Tim off to a party with Andre and Kate (another JET in Andre's
city, the person who actually picked us up while Andre cooked
us dinner), while Tom and I (the light weights) stayed behind,
answered the team emails and watched a video (and got some sleep)."
Saturday 14th July
Anyone for a Swim?
Paul - "As always much of the day was taken
up with trying to get the webpage up to date. As there are so
many mountains in this area our routine of writing each week has
flown out the tent door (along with our weekly day off!). It was
even baking indoors today however, so Tim tempted us away from
the computer (a real hard job) with stories of a gorge with deep
water, high jumps and rocks to play on.
All his stories were true and much fun was had
by all. So much so that we stayed too long, and ran out of time
to get to a BBQ and a showing of the Lions vs Australia. Instead
we bought food on the way back and cabbaged at Kate's in front
of some dreadful TV. A nice relaxed finish to the day."
'Cow Mountain' Utsukushi-ga-hara (2034m - No.52)
Sunday 15th July
Day 154 - 27km
- "We'd just finished our last minute typing, eating and
packing, and were walking out of Andre's door when I asked if
anyone knew where the phone was. As professional hikers we are
complete airheads sometimes! The big jumps and rock climbs of
yesterday had excited us so much that we all left happily without
our phone. We may get it back someday: JETs often visit those
Kate did us yet another favour and dropped us
off back at in the village where she had picked us up the day
before yesterday. It was midday and the sun was baking down when
we (minus Debs who hitched a lift) finally got walking. Climbing
three quarters of the hill on tarmac and taking a really long
route to the top (so we could dump packs) we eventually made it
to the summit of this 'rugged' peak at 5:00pm.
is one of those mountains that you just have to figure was very
different when it was chosen as one of the famous 100. For a start
its summit plateau is accessible via tarmac (we refrained) There
is a museum you could visit. There are herds of cows grazing and
the actual summit post is hard to find behind a massive hotel
and a whole crowd of mobile phone masts!
We got off the hill with the aid of head torches
and quickly made camp on the balcony of a nearby café/souvenir
(1925m No. 53)
Tate-shina-yama (2530m No.54)
Monday 16th July
Day 155 - 37.5km
Paul - "Tim Craft had been with us for
3 days by now and had never really experienced a 'proper' day
(ie a decent amount of distance/pain/boredom etc). We changed
that today: plenty of road walking, hot sunshine, another poor
(plus crowded) mountain, all rounded off with a second peak which
seemed to climb into the afternoon clouds forever. It's not that
we like seeing pain in the eyes of those who join us in walking.
We just carry on life as we are used to it. I guess we just forget
that we've had 5 months of practice. Both Deb and Tim hurt while
they were with us - a big thank you to both of them for putting
up with the pain to be with us.
No. 53 had a road nearly all the way up on one side, and ski lifts
to the very top on the other. Needless to say it was crawling
with people: school groups, day-trippers, pensioners, babies and
us: five very sweaty gaijins carrying big bags (yes, we got funny
looks). We started climbing No.54 at about 4:00pm, so it was deserted.
The plan had been to get right over the top
before camping but the climb was harder than expected. So after
'borrowing' some water from the hut near the summit we pitched
camp, once again in the dark, right on top of a protected flower
patch (it was dark!)."
Tuesday 17th July
Day 156 - 24km
Starting Yatsu Ridge
and then there were
Ben - "We were the cause of some disgruntled
interest from the guests of a mountain hut near our campsite.
As we packed away our tents a group came to watch and tell us
off. I think perhaps they were bitter because we paid nothing
for our sleep and they paid lots.
We were soon stood on a high pass and waving
goodbye to Tim. Tim used the most amazing hitching technique.
A man was stopped at a road junction and Tim barked at him: "I'll
come with you."
We passed many primary school children who were
on day hikes in the mountains as we climbed onto the shoulder
of Yatsu-gatake. To begin with we made good time, but alas a deep
conversation numbed our sense of direction and we took a wrong
Soon after correcting our booboo, we made camp
and settled down just before the heavy rain arrived."
Yatsu-ga-take (2899m - No. 55)
Wednesday 18th July
Day 157 - 20km
Ben - "To make up for yesterday's mistake
we got up at 4:30am and prepared for the 8 peak monster that is
A beautiful sunrise touched the peaks with it's
fiery glow. We were amazed to see great queues of people ascending
to the summits. We soon joined them on this famous and beautiful
On the highest peak we encountered a group of
all were roped together. They had managed
to tie themselves into an impressive knot. It was like watching
school children as they excitedly unravelled themselves.
The descent into Yamanashi ken took 3 ½
hours and we started hitch-hiking at 3:30pm. We were leaving Yatsu-gatake
to return in about 4 weeks after climbing Fuji, sorting visas,
and promoting the trek in Tokyo. We arrived at Andre's house that
evening and began 2 days of paperwork."
Thursday 19th July
Pumping out press releases
Tom - "After climbing 4 mountains in 4
days it would have been nice to put our feet up, but we had work
to do! Having passed half way mark of the trek (55 mountains and
over 3500km completed) we decided to spend the days before the
Fuji climb drumming up as much support for the charity as possible.
This involved writing and sending out a press
release (which graphically described Ben's fall), to newspapers,
outdoor magazines and radio stations. Many thanks to our parents
for contacting local papers and radio stations for us.
Tim popped in to see us as he was in the neighbourhood
and it was good to see that he had fully recovered from the 3-day
torture session that we had put him through.
During the day we were also trying to get tickets
out of Japan by any means possible. Cat from Hikone spent the
day calling travel agents trying to get flights out of the country
for less than 70,000 yen. There were none on the dates we needed.
The only options were to catch a ferry to Guam (a very long trip!),
or to Pusan in South Korea. Even ferry tickets were hard to come
by, but Cat managed to get us some tickets sailing to Pusan on
the 25th and coming back on the 28th.
Thank you Cat for all the hard work you've put
Friday 20th July
Food for Fuji
Tom - "Another day of emailing and typing.
The highlight of the day was our shopping trip to get food for
We had asked as many people as possible who
had helped us along this trek to climb Fuji with us on the 21st
July. As a thank you we decided to throw a cheese and wine party
on the crater rim as we watched the sunrise.
Paul and I spent at least an hour searching
the shelves of the local supermarket for good cheese (very hard
to come by in Japan), biscuits, wine and chocolate.
I'd like to say a special thank you to Andre,
who let us stay in his house and use his computer whilst he was
tanning himself in Thailand. Help like this is vitally important
for us as we are doing our own PR. Thanks also to Kate for letting
us use her computer and letting us play with her psycho cat."
Fuji-san (3776m - Mt No.56)
Saturday 21st July
Sunday 22nd July
the Death Zone
Paul - "Saturday started at 5:00am and
didn't finish until 11:00pm on Sunday! A wild experience that
saw all our guests suffering from the altitude and us literally
falling to sleep on our feet whilst still walking, as we headed
back to the base of the mountain.
Of course you will have to read the book to
get all the details but here are a few!
from Andre's out to the highway took a while but eventually we
were picked up (by a lady with a vivid purple fringe) and dropped
by the highway tollbooths. Our next hitch took us directly to
the trailhead at the base of Fuji (blessed again!) It took us
ages, and a couple of wrong turns, to finally get ourselves moving
at a respectable pace up to the 5th Station. Dumping 2 full packs
of stuff around Station 2 helped. All we carried to the summit
was plenty of clothing and our 'Fuji Food' (celebratory wine,
cheese, biscuits and cookies).
8hrs of climbing (that 99.9% of climbers don't
do) later we walked into the 5th Station. I knew it would be big
but even so I wasn't prepared for the veritable village of hotels,
shops, restaurants, and car parks that we found at 2300m.
We had about two and a half hours rest before
the final 1476m, during which time we cooked some dinner and met
up with the rest of the party (Thom, Mihoko, Josh, and Rachel).
By 10:30pm we had finished marvelling at the massive amount of
chocolate that Deb's folks had sent us for our party (thank you
Mr & Mrs Stuart), and were ready for our summit bid! The weather
was clear, calm and warm enough for t-shirts and shorts (once
you were walking).
to describe the climb? A dark trail weaving through a twinkling
column of huts? Half seen groups of people slumped at each switch
back trying to regain breath, strength and the motivation to carry
on? Crowds resting at each of the multitude of huts? Simply a
mass of huts? I was expecting a long, torturous, trudge up a sandy
path but happily a good portion of the climb involved easy scrambling
up solid rock. There was gravel and loose scree but only at top
and bottom. By 2:00am we were in the thick of crowds and hardly
noticed the conditions underfoot.
The final part of the climb became a mad race
through the queues to reach the summit rim before sunrise. It
was all looking for foot space, sliding into gaps, making breaks
round the side, weaving through walls of people, and dodging hundreds
of walking poles.
To avoid such experience Tom forged his own
route up a solid rib of rock that shot directly upwards. For his
pains he was shouted at by an irate mountain guide who later accosted
him on the summit rim, grabbed him by the shirt and continued
shouting at him!
As the rest of us neared the summit, colour
started draining back into windproof jackets and fleeces worn
against the pre dawn and high altitude chill. Dawn found us all
on or very near the summit. We were blessed with majestic views,
Fuji at its best. The sun rose in all its glory over a sprinkling
of clouds that hung below us making everything totally spectacular.
The thing about Fuji is that it raises straight up from the valley
below and is not part of a chain so when you get to see the view
the pain of the climb and the altitude is well worth it.
settled in a locked doorway to break open the Fuji food (the chocolate
had already been well broken into on the way up!) and enjoy the
warm sunshine before heading round the rim to the actual summit.
Altitude problems started to settle down with
us. Rachel couldn't face anything and sat slumped clutching a
single cookie. Josh and Mihoko had a tiny nibble then and then
settled down to sleep. Thom gulped down a healthy amount of food
and drink then suffered big time on the way to the summit. Debs
had a little snooze in preparation for the summit then woke feeling
too faint to stand. We three hardened mountain men (ha ha) were
tired but otherwise fine, so continued on around the rim alone
to the actual summit that is actually totally hidden by a big
old weather station - nice.
It's a weird world up there, barren, moon-like
and, today, surrounded on all side by views down
into the lush green valleys below.
Debs found hidden strength and caught up with
us just before the summit. Josh and Mihoko headed back down before
the rest of us. Poor Rachel missed that departure party and had
to wait for us without enough strength to take herself down. Ben
ceremonially lobbed Danielle's knickers into the main crater (long
story - ask him!). Tom collapsed into an exhausted 5min kip which
took thrown rocks, shaking and finally some singing from Ben to
A crazy time. Rachel was in a bad way. We should
have got her down sooner but also had to get to the summit - first
time we have had a problem balancing altitude sickness and getting
to a summit! Through various carrying and supporting methods,
and Rachel's inner strength that kept her going, we were able
to charge down the 'sand track' descent route at a decent pace.
Once below about 3000m Rachel made an excellent recovery and was
able to walk the rest of the way to the 5th Station unaided. A
dramatic example of the power of altitude. Fuji's descent route
is all I hoped the ascent would not be - sandy gravel from top
to bottom. It is a true blessing for descent though, kind on tired
knees and easy on a tired mind.
Thom had perked up as soon as we started descending.
Josh and Mihoko got down early and got some sleep. Debs had been
fine since catching us at the summit. So by the time we said our
goodbyes at an unbelievably crowded 5th Station we were all once
again healthy and happy (if a little tired!).
Unfortunately we still had a descent of the
lower half of the mountain, and a hitch into Tokyo ahead of us.
This section of the Fuji experience (12:00pm - 5:30pm Sunday)
was perhaps the most weird. The trail on the lower half of Fuji
is wide (in most places), easy underfoot and becomes a very gentle
descent towards the base of the mountain. This was all just as
well as by 2:00pm we were all fighting sleep constantly. Ben came
to at one point still on his feet but in the forest at the side
of the trail and with no recollection at all of getting there.
Debs said she spent a bit of time dreaming (not day dreaming mind)
as she walked. We could all be seen to weave like drunks across
the path, and if we sat down for a break we all promptly fell
asleep. It was like trying to stay awake during a long train journey,
but we weren't sat slumped in a carriage, we were walking!
We finally made it back to the road where this
whole adventure had started from and after a change in our hitching
spot were given a lift back out to the Highway. Loud, regular,
firecracker explosions (the bird deterrent employed by the farmers
of the surrounding fields) grated on our tired nerves as we sat
on the slip road and watched car after car race by.
Eventually one kind soul stopped but he stopped
on the far side of the road having seen us as he left the Highway.
He ran over and informed us that in his opinion hitching into
Tokyo was crazy due to our timing, and it being a Sunday (cars
full of families on day trips), and that consequently he was willing
to give us a lift to a nearby station. We buckled. Light would
fade soon and we were exhausted. So what if trains cost money!
Debs claimed to be rich and wouldn't let us
pay for our tickets. We all slumped into our seats, happy we could
just sit and didn't have to converse with anyone. By 10:00pm we
were sat in Thom's living room. By 11:00pm we were all fast asleep."
Monday 23rd July
I didn't know the world existed until noon.
Ben - "We all achieved our longest lie
in today. Paul summed up our fatigue induced state as he said
that, "He didn't know the world existed until he woke."
(We normally wake up 3 or 4 times a night in the tent. We had
very little planned, but did get to organize the masses of kit
that litter the humble abode of Thom and Siobhan. A video rounded
off the perfect sloth of the day."
Tuesday 24th July
We're Going to Hikone
Ben - "Three weeks had been easily enough
time for Deb to change from guest to team member, so waving her
off from the station was very strange. She had experienced first
hand the life that we lead and enriched it for us. She'll be missed,
but she has loads of kids back home in Oz that need to learn P.E.
Literally the rest of the day was spent travelling
the cheapest, slowest, most uncomfortable trains to Hikone. We
went to pick up our ferry tickets from Cat.
I'm quite looking forward to seeing another
stamp in my passport, and the chance to see another life in Korea
also heard you can buy cheap climbing kit!
Roll on Korea!"
Wednesday 25th July
Faster than a speeding bullet
- "We had to get up at the crack of dawn if we were going
to make it to Shimonoseki (the port we would sail from) by slow
train (which stopped at every one horse town). We said bye to
a sleepy Cat, and ran to the station to catch the first train.
As the day wore on we realised that we wouldn't
be able to make it to the port on time on the slow trains. We
bought ourselves a ticket on the shinkansen (bullet train), which
took an hour to cover a distance that would have taken 4-5 hours
to cover on a slow train. We reached the port on time.
Pulling out of Shimonoseki was strange as we
could see the bridge between Kyushu and Honshu, where Paul and
I had been back in March. After a scorching onboard bath (Koreans
like their water HOT!), we collapsed into our room which we shared
with 5 other guys."
Thursday 26th July
"So ferry across to Pusan
Tom - "The boat pulled into Pusan at 9am
and for the first time on the trek I was in Paul and Ben's shoes,
not being able to understand a word that people were saying.
We soon found a tourist information office,
where we were given directions to a cheap hotel (£15 a night
for a 3 person room). After a quick sleep we wandered around the
streets of Pusan eating food in the restaurants and from the street
In the evening we went to see "Tomb Raider"
at the cinema as both Paul and Ben are fans of the computer game.
We all walked out less than impressed with the movie but at least
happy that we'd paid a quarter of the price we'd have paid to
see it in Japan."
Friday 27th July
Full Day Chilling
Paul - "Today didn't start until 11:00am.
At this point our hunger wouldn't allow us to stay in bed any
longer. Lying in is so nice sometimes.
I guess it could be said that I didn't take
full advantage of our Korean experience. In the morning Ben and
Tom went off to a nearby beach, Ben desperate to find some rock
to climb (he succeeded). Me, I spent the morning, and some of
the afternoon, sat in front of a computer utilising the free Internet
provided by the Korean Tourist Board, catching up with as many
neglected friends as possible.
In the evening we went out for a proper Korean
meal finished off by a couple of doughnut things that were as
good as they had been last night! We had (and still have) no idea
what we ordered that night. We just pointed at what other people
Each of us did our own thing then, getting some
on-your-own time. In general this included some wondering round
the downtown stalls, some time pondering another movie, some poetry
writing (Ben), some TV watching back in the room. Just enjoying
Saturday 28th July
Paul - "Our ferry sailed at 7:00pm. The
day was spent trying to sort out our return flights with Korean
Air (we're almost there), perusing some outdoor shops, writing
more emails, and buying enough food for the next day or so.
We boarded the ferry with 1900 won left (just
over £1), so Ben wandered into the restaurant to see if
we could purchase some leftovers. The manager (who spoke good
English) took us to be penniless and gave us each a full meal
of curry and rice, then wouldn't even accept our 1900 won! Sometimes
it really does pay to be blatant and ask.
We fell asleep well fed and happy, having a
much better than expected holiday in Pusan."
Sunday 29th July
Ben - "Cheap trains torment me. This journey
sucks! This was the official team anthem, sung sporadically over
the 24 hour epic from Shimonseki to Tokyo.
The only assistance we had was two horrendously
bad purchases of 60 centimeter pink sausage. Quite literally as
pink as "the Panther," and far less tasty, I'll wager.
We had left the port at 9am and arrived the
next day in Tokyo at 4:30am where we had to wait 3 hours for a
train to Thom's house in Machida.
However we were all quite happy, our bid to
stay in Japan had worked, and we are now the proud possessors
of another 3 month visa. Until the next time
Monday 30th July
& Penultimate Penny
Ben - "As if Thom's apartment wasn't cramped
enough, here comes another one. Penny though is very small, and
there's always room for a small one.
Penny's 3 year stay in Japan was almost at an
end, so we planned a humble party at an English pub followed by
a few drinks to the James Bond soundtrack and ping pong. It was
great for me to finally meet the owner of the voice on the phone.
Penny's support in Japan has ranged from writing
leaflets in Japanese for us to hand out, to checking our email
and reading it to us over the phone. She has offered to continue
her support from Scotland where she's about to pursue her Masters
Degree. GOOD LUCK PENNY!"
Tuesday 31st July
Talking to the JETs
Tom - "It had been good to see Penny, despite
the fact she thrashed me at table tennis, and saying bye to her
was hard. She's been our translator, set up an account for the
charity, helped Aidann with the webpage, fed us and provided a
place for us to stay.
After packing what we'd need for the next week
we left Thom's and headed for Shinjuku (the skyscraper district
of Tokyo) to promote Adopt-A-Minefield at the JET conference.
By the way, 'JET's' are assistant English teachers
who work all over Japan in Junior and Senior High Schools. I was
a JET in Hokkaido between 1998-1999.
We strolled into the Keio Plaza in our best
cloths (hiking boots, North Cape polo shirts and trousers) and
set up our stall. During the day we gave out hundreds of leaflets
explaining the trek and the charity. Lots of people were interested
and put their names down on the mailing list and a few people
even made generous pledges.
Our accommodation problem was solved when we
bumped into a girl called Angie who we had met whilst we were
in Nagano. She said that the three of us could sleep on the floor
of her hotel room and gave us her key!
After a refreshing swim in the hotel pool we
headed down to an Irish pub, met up with Angie and a party of
new JETs. At the end of the night Nina (Angie's room-mate) sung
us a couple of songs that she'd written. She's got a beautiful
voice and I can think of few better ways of falling asleep."