Mt Takadake Aso-San (1592m)

Thur 1 Mar.
Day 18

Tom and Paul at the top of Takadake, one of the peaks in the Aso Caldera Evil gullies, tricky climbing, easy slipping, almost caused a mudslide, ripped clothes and dodgy leg..

They began at 1.30pm. Tom`s legs were like "pistons", to quote Paul, while he began to struggle a little. At the summit they faced horizontal hail and near freezing temperatures. Their climb was made more difficult by mud gullies and slippery conditions. Sometimes the only way of progressing was by grabbing surrounding shubbery and pulling themselves upwards.

Downwards was a lot quicker - too quick on occasions, with Tom ripping his gortex jacket. Only slightly peeved though as the repair makes him look more 'hard core'. Paul picked up an injury on Aso`s descent to the extent that he couldn't bend his leg. As a result they camped early. They washed their clothes and found that by morning they had frozen solid.

Fri 2 Mar.

Day 19

more walking for Paulbetter leg, quick breather and on...

By morning Paul was back to his old self, so the early camp might just have saved them a possible few days of recovery. They push on to the next mountain.

Mt Kujo-San (1787m)
Sat 3 Mar.

Day 20

Mt Kujo - for pictures of the view from the summit, click here
click here to see the view from the summit
At last: views, bath and shave - the oft-dreamt-of delights of the hotspring

They climbed Kujusan. The views here were much better, they could finally appreciate the views that their height gave and so they found the motivation to push on with relative ease. They had their first bath and shave at a Mt Onsen resort. They camped at 1100m. It was close to water.

Sun 4 Mar.

Day 21

A bit of a rest again.

Three days of well-deserved rest, as they've climbed 3Mts in four days.

they spent the entire 1st day confined to tent and sleeping bags due to snow.

A croquet tournamentAll the mountains in Kyushu are now conquered and now it's northward to Daisen in Honshu which is reportedly one of Japan's scariest climbs, with difficult ridges to navigate. It is actually used by mountaineers as the practice mountain before their Himalayan treks. It should take about two weeks to walk it there.

Distance walked so far is approx 522km/311miles. 6 of the 100 mountains are now done and dusted.

At the moment they walk between 15km-37km per day, though they believe they will be pushing nearer 40km per day soon. Paul admits Tom could do it now and that he is still not 100% there, though he's feeling confident that they will both be well oiled machines within a week or so.

Mon 5 Mar.

Day 22

Cold walkingMostly cold.

All walking, a couple inches of snow, very icy. the guys wrapped up warm but still found it chilly. This week is about mileage and getting off of Kyushu asap.

Tues 6 Mar.

Day 23

Not so wet, and a quiet night

Made camp in an abandoned hunting lodge. This was perfect shelter from the rain, and a lot quieter than it would have been if they were out in the tent, with it reverberating on the tent's canvas.

A bit of a scrambleWed 7 Mar.
Day 24

A path with a mind of its own, a pesky map, and a rather slow-going and tricky trek

Began the day with an initial plan to find their major route within a brisk half hour trek. Their path however had other ideas as it split into two. 5 hrs of bushwacking following deer trails and a compass bearing. The map was leaving a little to be desired, giving incorrect contours from visible peaks, resulting in them taking bearings off the wrong hill. Then ended up further east than intended and only after a further 5 hrs of pushing through bamboo grass that was above head-height, winding thru close grown trees which caught their equipment at every step. By the afternoon they finally made it to flat open land.

Thur 8 Mar.

Day 25

A gnarled tree overlooks the seaSnow, civilisation, loitering with a tent, and all the dinnner in the world

Snowed most of the day, sometimes driving right in their path making it difficult to see. By afternoon they were in Kitakyushu, the main city before Honsu Island. They loitered until evening so that they could camp in one of the cities parks. They celebrated their completion of Kyushu by eating out at a Tabehodi (all-you-can-eat place) and spent 70 minutes eating various meats, vegetables and rice until both of them were nicely stuffed. They camped near the sea front.

Fri 9 Mar.

Day 26

Mobile phone, people running underground, achy joints.

Their home from homeA day monopolised by buying a mobile phone. This took three hours, in which they recieved 3 complimentary sweets, 1 coffee and 3 soft drinks. The lady did her best to describe the basic usage of the phone. Afterwards they made their crossing from Kyushu to Honshu via the pedestrian tunnel, where they found people running laps for exercise, underground to avoid the weather. The afternoon's trek was a bit of a battle with tiredness and aching shoulders, legs and feet. That night they found a nice quiet wooded area to camp and rest up.

Sat 10 Mar.

Day 27

Oops, wrong place to camp.

Breakfast interrupted as it seems thay camped right in the middle of prime deer hunting ground. No shots fired, though the guys had seen plenty of deer the night before.

Sun 11 Mar.

Day 28

A shadow of his former selfTom sums up the completion of the first part of the expedition,
and Ben, the third member of the expedition, describes his thoughts on the trek, waiting, and finally leaving to join the others.

Tom - "The walk is going well, the weather has been interesting. Some days we're sunbathing in shorts and t-shirts, the next we're wrapped up in every bit of clothing walking through a storm! Our bodies are OK. Paul has 5-56 blisters and a sore knee and ankle but they are getting better. I'm OK, but my ruck sack has broken in 4 places already! [This is one of the few bits of equipment that was not donated - see publicity section]. We have completed the first stage of the walk having climbed all 6 of the Hyakumeizan in Kyushu and crossed from Kyushu to Honshu. We have been walking for 4 weeks and completed 722km (451 miles) as of 11th March. We have been amazed by the beauty of Kyushu and the generosity of its people and are looking forward to seeing the rest of Japan."

Ben - "For over a year, as a team, we have worked to organise this charitable expedition. Only now as it is almost time for me to go and join Paul and Tom do I feel like I really know what I am letting myself in for. I am not a good organiser, the fact that I am about to leave university with a degree is surprising enough but walking straight into this… it is largely thanks to the skilled organisation by Tom and Paul. The four weeks since the lads left the UK have been long in terms of wanting to be with them, yet so short when considering the volume of course work I have had to do.

One week to go now, I am waiting for the rest of our equipment to arrive from our sponsors, and attending talks and parties and photo shoots, and the whole time I just want to get started. I want to stop thinking about how hard this is going to be and just experience it.

Through a contact in college I am being put in touch with someone in Croatia who has suffered because of landmines, I want to speak to them and gain a personal understanding of how very wrong the use of mines is.

To say that I am angry and upset about the landmine crisis is not nearly accurate enough. My involvement in this expedition goes far beyond feeling sorry for certain unfortunate people. I am filled with compassion and my energy seems to flow from that. But my motivation to do something, and to succeed at doing it stems from the reality that every one of us should be able to see: that it is the sad and shameful fact that there are still landmines in the ground.

This is not only wrong but sick as well, Sir Paul McCartney appeals for us all to imagine we have been in a war. “The war has ended and peace is declared. Yet as you drive to work, bullets are still flying. You take your child for a walk and snipers are still firing from the trees. We would all find this totally unacceptable. But this is exactly the same as landmines being left behind."

I have asked myself: How many times have I seen an appeal for a charity in need on TV? How often have I heard about people suffering in foreign countries due to war and famine? How many times have I been moved by the plight of these people, thought that I might want to help, and done nothing?

I have chosen to do this trek and support Adopt-A-Minefield(UK)™ quite simply because it goes directly to the heart of the problem, it removes the landmines that kill and maim innocent people. It provides the opportunity for human beings to go back to making their life, and it helps provide the support needed by landmine survivors.

I will not let myself slip back into that apathy that lets me glance over the problems of other human beings, I will not let the loss and destruction of life be something that is acceptable because it is inevitable. I have never had to face a war nor deal with the effects it has had on life after it has finished, but I am human. I am the same as that child in Cambodia and that man in Croatia, even though they are suffering in ways I find difficult to comprehend.

The logical progression from caring is doing, and doing can make a difference that improves one person’s life and saves another’s.

In one sense it doesn’t matter that I am doing this trek or that it is for the Adopt-A-Minefield Charity, what really matters is if I take what time, skill, and love that I have and use it to the best of my ability. It just so happens that for the next nine months I will be trying to be the best I can be for God and for the people who are at such risk from mines."

Monday 12th March
Day 29 - 2.5km
Dean and Mihoshacks to chandeliers.

We had two options today...we could continue forwards with approx. 35km to cover or we could walk a meagre 2.5km and spend the day in a top ten Japanese beauty spot, eat incredible food and take a bath in a hotel rated the 11th best in Japan.

The latter option was just too tempting. Dean, an Aussi, and his Japanese wife Miho worked in the hotel and had spotted us walking, and asked if we were ok. They often go Antique hunting and, for helping them move a large piece of furniture, they gave us a day to remember.

Another highlight was that Penny Beaton, who had been so helpful 2 weeks before, called to say that the charity's Japanese bank account was open and that she's now working on visa extensions. A very comfortable evening followed, sleeping indoors on squishy futons...lovely!

Tuesday 13th March
Day 30 - 26km
Paul's blistersBlistering barnacles.

I had been bothered by an ever increasing one on my finger and Dean and Miho sorted it out, so by mid morning we were heading for the SW coast of Honshu. Tom cooked tea over a camp fire as we had forgotten to buy fuel in yesterday's excitement.

Wednesday 14th March
Day 31 - 40km
The BIG 4-OH!!!!!!

We finally hit walking 40km in a day, and it only took a month. The day was always about distance. The usual routine is a strong morning walk. A short break at about 11am and then lunch between 1 and 2pm. 1 hour for lunch. Walk until 6pm. Shorty break and then walk until tired or we find an appropriate place to camp. Tom is usually 50m ahead because of our natural walking speeds. Team moral is still very good.

Thursday 15th March
Day 32 - 38km
The reward for the day's workAnother day by the sea.

We headed for an onsen marked on the map only to find the hotel closed at 2pm. No real excitement today. It drizzled all day, felt a bit like home. Went shopping. We try to shop for everyday for a day or so ahead to keep our packs light, but we still can't resist a bargain if we see it! The day ended without the expected bath, but a we were able to catch the sunset over the ocean as we camp on the beach.

Friday 16th March
Day 33 - 39km
Cormorant RockHow about a donut?

We continued up the coast this morning. Highlights: lunch on a private beach with cormorants for company, filming our shopping trip and going to Mister Donut for a break. Tried to learn some Japanese from the Minidisc but found it mentally exhausting!

Saturday 17th March
Day 34 - 20km
The wonderful Hideki and MariTonight you stay my house.

We had planned to do 28km today but at 3:45pm it started to drizzle and me and my pack felt all clunky - that day before rest day feeling. Suddenly Tom was stopped by a Japanese man. He had seen us the day before and had been looking for us for most of the day. Hideki and Mari's generosity was sometimes totally overbearing. They took us to an onsen, fed us sushi and sake, talked about mountains he'd climbed as a younger man. Then came 2 games of bowling and 3 HOURS of Karaoke. I sang four of my first ever Karaoke songs while Tom banged out a few Stones and Beatles numbers. We retired at 3:30am!

Sunday 18th March
Day 35 - 14km
Another rest day, and Ben sets off at last.

Before leaving, Mari and Hideki gave us food for the trip, and sight seeing to a Mt Fuji lookalike. Just a routine day after but such warmth will be hard to forget in a hurry.

Ben - "Mum, Dad and my bro took me to Heathrow to wave me off. Mild drama in the airport met us there, as I do not have a visa, nor any idea about how we are dealing with any visa problems, but the nice young man at Korean Air didn't charge me for excess baggage. My dad and brother cruised around on a trolley filming everything that moved and in fact a lot of stuff that didnt - like toilets! Andy (my bro) has always had a thing about toilets. They will be missed.

Sat on the plane for 11 hours. I thought about no one thing in particular. I was not really excited. This has taken over a year to organise and now I was actually on the final stretch of waiting to join the lads and I was struggling to smile. Even the take off and landing produced no more than a glance from under a lethargic eyelid. I was overwhelmed by the most difficult goodbye ever.

My best friend at college was diagnosed terminally ill at Christmas, and I had known since then that when I said goodbye to leave for Japan that it would be the last goodbye. I had been unable to find the words to express how I wished that things were different, that I wanted to be there, but 'I love you' is all I could manage. One thing becomes clear, I am not here to enjoy my self. if I was I would be staying home with my friend, I am here to attempt a trek not done before and to help a cause that could save a lot of lives."

Monday 19th March
Day 36 - 42.5km
Some fishing boats at rest Welcome to hotel Tomato. Ben meets Thom, and then the rest of Tokyo in a train carriage.

90km to Matsue read the signs, and we had 2 and a half days to get there for our rendevous with Ben. We were followed for an hour by a campaign van announcing coming elections over a grating Tannoy. The afternoon was fast paced as we moved through a sleepy fishing village. I was getting tired and hungry and mind-bending boredom was setting in.

Suddenly Hideki and Mari appeared bearing gifts of whisky.

We decided to spend one more night together and Hideki said he knew a place where we could stay. They were so insistent that we stay in this hotel and than go to see a temple that there was no refusal past my own personal fatigue.

Ben - "I have been travelling for over 24 hours all together, sweating into the same clothes and trying to no avail to make friends with people who have no idea what I am saying. So you can imagine my delight at meeting Thom (our resident updates correspondent) at the airport in Tokyo. Thom lives in the suburbs and picked a tired and stinkin' scouser up and then helped him carry ridiculously sized baggage onto ridiculously packed trains that would be a death trap in Liverpool. But in Tokyo people enter a different world on the train. After squashing into every conceivable nook, three more people climb on and we all hang like Rhesus monkeys, with no one saying a word, not even to the scouser who's armpit is wedged in the face of the woman who might actually be asleep! Food and sleep followed."

Tuesday 20th March
Day 37 - 31km
Temples and tea, and Ben makes contact.

We awoke to find we had stayed in a "Love Hotel". These are reasonably cheap places which require no human contact when booking. Some rooms are themed and they are very common, as many families still live in very small apartments and this allows couples their privacy. The night was a little uncomfortable.

A generous Japanese familyBefore 9am we had eaten 3 bowls of Soba (cold noodles), been shown around a fantastic wooden shinto temple (click here to see pictures from the visit to the temple), bought more food and left with Mari in tears. Their generosity will stay with us both for a very long time indeed. Bowled over by their warmth, we were invited in for tea and snacks from a salary man we passed in the street later that day. It kind of takes your breath away.

We slept that evening on benches by the beach, as shining the torch had revealed plenty of action from the resident sand lice, though none got in our hair.

Ben - "Contact with the boys who are now nearing Matsue where I will meet them tomorrow. So good to hear the voices of my companions at last. Finally I think I am starting to get excited. Only one long train journey left until we tackle the 7th mountain Deisen. Apparently the true summit is suffering from a severe bout of falling apart ness... very dangerous = exciting. It is time to get fit and catch up with Tom and Paul"

Wednesday 21st March
Day 38 - 15km
Ben meets up with Paul again at last3 the magic number - the team is complete.

Ben had called the night before and announced his arrival on Japanese soil. He was collected by Thom James, our man and resident reporter in Tokyo.

We arrived in Matsue early and made use of Mister Donut's bottomless coffee cups. So much so that when Ben arrived at the train station I was a little shakey from the caffeine. That or because the biggest hightlight Ben with Trenaof the trip had just happened. Ben was here
and the team of three was finally complete! Interesting times ahead with team dynamics, but it's a challenge we are all looking forward to.

We then met Trena (or Trenta as we for no real reason called her). She helped us before the trip sending info, and her friend Meg gave us lodgings for the night. That night we all went out for curry and gave a certain bottle of whisky as a present to Meg.

Thursday 22nd March
Day 39 - 15km
The Team's hostess for the nightThree million listeners

Ben had organised a radio interview with a Tokyo station (J-wave). This left team leader Tom on the phone from 6:30am explaining what we were doing to the nation's capital. We re-organised the packs, sent the excess back to Thom in Tokyo, and continued toward Daisen, a good strong afternoon's walk. We got tired and found some flat land owned by a sweet old lady who was happy for us to stay and even gave us dessert that evening!

Friday 23rd March
Day 40 - 34km
Lovely lady, Horrid hill

The kindness of the lady reminded Ben of his mother and a tear crept from his eye as we ate the breakfast of 3 boiled eggs each and packed the lunch she had made us.

Daisen was in view and it looked amazing. We were thankful for the winter gear that we had packed. The only down side was the steep trek to reach its base. We camped in a village park that night, very tired indeed.

Mt Daisen (1729m)
Saturday 24th March
Day 41 - 13km

The peak of Mt. Daisen
click here to see the view from the summit

Daisen, a challenging climb and an earthquake.

An early morning start put us on the summit within the hour. Beautiful weather and views. The ridge had been knife edge stuff in places and it was a really challenging climb in every sense. A challenge and a pleasure.

The whole mountain shook at one point as it felt the shock from the earthquake (6.9 on the Richter scale) that hit Hiroshima. We were fine and it was an awe inspiring feeling. We had fun glissading on the descent and got a little lost but still made it back in time to the tent to have a lazy tea.

The best Mountain day to date...BRILLIANT!.

Sunday 25th March
Day 42

The day was spent eating snoozing, chatting and relaxing. Had a chance to wash some clothes and, while me and Tom dozed, Ben went for a 5km trek to burn some energy. A very calm day.

Monday 26th March
Day 43 - 40km

Mr Noboru Uda and his motheritsa too koldo tua campu

20km down the round and Daisen still dominated the horizon. The initial morning's walk was peaceful as we walked alone on a road partially closed by snowfall. This continued throughout the day until mid-evening when we decided to set camp. Suddenly Paul and I saw Tom talking to a motorist. The driver's name was Uda and he insisted that it was too cold to camp out and that he would arrange a hotel room for us. "No room at the inn", or anywhere, as places were being repaired after earthquake damage. So he invited us into his home, fed us, gave us a hot bath (not literally) and a bed. what stunning generosity!!!

Tuesday 27th March
Day 44 - 35.5km

newspaper man

Uda`s mother made us breakfast this morning before we set out for Kurosaka. After a few hour's trek and a supply stop we were surprised to see Uda, who had found us to check if we were walking the right way. We were, though I wondered if I would have such consideration for strangers. On this same subject, Totaru had seen us earlier that day and, not long after Uda had left, had caught up and given us hot coffe, fruit and an ENGLISH neswpaper. We set up camp on a local running track and finished the evening discussing the kindness of strangers, life and faith. Though this quickly changed to the subject of girlfriends!

Wednesday 28th March
Day 45 - 33.5km

fishy on a little dishy

A hasty start to the morning as we are told off for sleeping on the running track. Another day of solid walking, though we found a great fishing spot. A quick dip and then Tom pulls out his fly fishing stuff and proceeds to bring home the bacon...or in this case 6 inches of fish. By the mid evening walk I suddenly realise the slight pain in my hip has become anything but slightly painful, and I was very grateful to the guys, who set up camp and made us a yummy fish supper.

Thursday 29th March
Day 46 - 35.5km


A 7.30am start is greeted with cold wind and drizzle that, by lunch, drives us under a low bridge to cook our noodles. I bang my head twice, and the anger, plus the pain, along with that of my hip and feet makes me think that I'm losing the mind game of staying positive today. The highlight of the day was finding 2 kilos of chicken for a bargain price. I nominate myself as the evening's chef and quickly after wished I'd kept schtum. 3 hours later we are nicely stuffed with protein. The second highlight was sharing the tent with Tom for the first time!

Friday 30th March
Day 47 - 30km

We are not the bogs.

A snowy start to the morn quickly moved on to a bright day that made walking easier. Cormorants and Kites flew around looking for breakfast while I again start complaining about Japanese toilets. You see, I like to sit on my enamel throne in comfort, not squat like I'm hiding from wild pygmies. At some point today we all complained about our sore feet...they are not a pretty sight. We set up on a dam, and Tom and I ask about getting water from a seemingly grumpy guy who tells us wild dogs roam these parts in packs. As we eat our second meal of chicken we are thankful that, despite the rain that came, no naughty mutts decide to join us for tea. This evening...soggy but satisfied.

Saturday 31st March
Day 48 - 30km

Very nice, but the bridge is over there!

Grumpy guy and grumpy guy's wife turn up before we break camp and, instead of giving us the expected telling off, he gives us coffee in a can and a Danish each. I guess he's like that Grumpy from Snow White!?! The walking starts slow, despite good weather, as we begin our trek, island hopping from Honshu to Shikoku. The paths are really windy and it sometimes seems we are getting further from the bridge, despite the attractive surroundings. Paul always finds the most polite yet pointed ways of summing up a situation that stinks. By the end of the day the pain in my feet, and especially my hip, brings tears into my eyes. We set up camp still on the second island in a line of five, before Shikoku, but I'm thankful to have made it through today, for tomorrow is a rest day!

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