6 Feb. Tom - "We arrived in Japan on Saturday night (3 Feb)
and since then we have been running around the crowded streets of
Tokyo, and squeezing on to packed trains, trying to sort out our finances,
buy a mobile phone, extend our visas etc! We can`t wait to get all
this stuff out of the way and get started on the walk! we hope to
be setting off by early next week."
Sat 10 Feb.
Tom and Paul took a sailboat to Kagoshima,
in the south of Kyushu. From there, a ferry took them to Yakushima,
a small volcanic island further south of Kagoshima, and the starting
point of their 100-mountain trek.
- "The ferry journey from Tokyo (10-11/2/01) to Miyazaki
was wonderful, I slept, lounged (in the tatami room - room with
mats on floor), had a bath, watched a video (which was rubbish,
but hey), wandered around a bit and the 22hrs were over before I
knew it. From there we got a train to Kagoshima (we split the journey
in the middle, getting off in the middle of nowhere to camp for
the night next to the railway tracks, then back on the train early
next morning). Then we took the ferry to Yakushima to start walking.
The expedition begins
Mon 12 Feb.
Having made it down to the south of Japan over the weekend, Tom
and Paul attempted to climb up to one of the mountain huts on the
first of the mountains, Miya-no-ura-dake, which means 'The-mountain-behind-the-temple'.
They got lost. It rained. They shivered.
first Mountain was Mianouradake, on Yakushima Island where it rains
300 days a year. Needless to say it rained every day we were there.
A lot. Everything, everything was saturated around us and by the
end most things we owned were damp as well. We had got the ferry
over in the afternoon (arriving about 3:00pm) and were met by a
reporter who had read about us in the press release the charity
had sent out! After a quick interview and a picture in the rain
we finally set off walking. At last, after a lot of travelling and
a fairly annoying week in Tokyo (which we have told you about already
- problems with visas etc).
headed confidently into the hills at 4pm, aiming for a Mt hut and
a nice dry place to sleep out of the rain. Should have taken about
three hours. Six hours later we found our way to a car park at the
top of a road that we perhaps should have followed straight off.
We were still 2.7km from the hut and in no mood to try following
the tiny, irregular strips of pink tape that mark the route. The
route we took was recommended in our English guide book and probably
was quickest for those walking from the bottom, but it is now a
route not much used and was very hard to follow in the rain and
lost our way, bush whacked for a bit, Tom dropped his compass into
the river, I almost fell in. We were drenched, and so the not-quite-drenched,
tarmac-ed carpark looked like a carpeted room to us. We pitched
tent on the driest bit we could find, mopped the tent floor (there
was 1cm of water in the tent!), ate noodles and slept.
Miyano Ura Dake climbed (1936m approx.)
Tues 13 Feb.
Take two. Setting off at 7am, they reached the summit at 4pm. It
was snowing up there. On the way back down, Tom's headtorch ran
out of fuel adding a bit of spice to their precarious descent. Touchdown
next morning at 8:00 we were walking towards the hut. In the day
light on a route much more used we found our way quickly to a big
dry free hut. We emptied bags of everything and hung stuff around
the place in a vain attempt to dry things. Had some breakfast and
set off at 10:00am on a reputedly 9hr hike to the summit.
be honest, I felt ill at the prospect. But we had no alternative.
We had to be back at that hut that night if we had any chance of
getting back into town the following morning to catch the ferry
off the island. Also we had told the reporter we were aiming to
be back for that ferry, so pride was at stake! We did not want headlines
like "two Gaijin aiming to climb hyakumeizan get lost on first
the way up we passed some massive ancient cedars which are supposed
to be as old as 2,200 years. We saw a whole load of deer some which
we fed banana chips to, and a few monkeys. There were a few patches
of snow on the way up. We were on the summit, where it was snowing,
in 6hrs, tired and wet, with a long way to get home. Quick proof-photos,
then back on down.
made it to hut number two before dark, not quite halfway down. Shortly
after leaving the hut Tom's head torch went out! (luckily my torch
was still working). By turning it off for a while he could get about
1mins worth of light every now and then. It took ages to get down,
again following tiny bits of pink plastic stuck to random branches,
last hr or so we were following a path that neither of us recognised
from the morning. I had a sinking feeling that we were walking the
way, but Tom was confident, and thankfully he was right.
were back at the hut by 11:30pm, asleep by 12:30 having eaten in
that there was no better way to start the day than a 12km race on
foot to reach the morning ferry back to Kagoshima on mainland Kyushu.
Spent the day consuming ramen (noodles) and soaking in onsens (hot
baths) before camping in someone's car park overnight.
After that late night we were then up and walking again at 6:00am
to get back down in time. Route marched down the hill on tarmac
- painful even with poles. Made it to the ferry terminal at 10:10.
The ferry left at 10:20 but we got our seats and saw the reporter.
we got back to Kagoshima we went and had an 'onsen'
(hot bath) and then in the street we bumped into Steve,
American English teacher. We were right outside
his apartment block when he said "hi" to us and asked
us up for a coffee, we left his place after finishing his chilli,
left a load of stuff at his place (boots, crampons, ice-axes, bits
and pieces). After having coffee at Steve's we went to a noodle
bar. The guy who served us had had a guy walking the length of Japan
stop at his restaurant only a month earlier!
Took us one and a half days to get down the coast from Kagoshima
(14-15/2/01), so we took our lunch on the beach and watched
Sakurajima puff away (a volcano across the bay which erupts daily).
Having not quite relaxed enough the day before, Thursday was
spent on the shores of lake Ikeda. Much fun was had by all.
And their clothes became dry.
Fri 16 Feb.
Kaimon. Apparently a 1/4 size replica of Mt Fuji. How did they manage
that? Still, this wee mound posed no problems, nor did the snow
Mt (Mt Kaimon which looks like a 1/4 version of Mt Fuji) was much
easier. Straight up 922m and back down in about 3hrs. 7km walk from
camp by lake Ikeda, which is supposed to have a monster similar
to Nessie, and back for a nice easy day.
the way down we got offered a load of lifts in cars and a few people
recognised us from the newspaper.
Sat 17 Feb.
back to Kagoshima.
took us one and a bit days to get back following an inland route
(17-18/2/01). When we got back to Kagoshima on Sunday we
got stopped by a guy who had seen the newspaper, checked the website
and wanted to give us some money for the charity! He gave us about
Sun 18 Feb.
Rested even more. Went to church. Fried chicken, beer and wine at
found a catholic church, but the service had finished by
the time we got there. So we hung out in a park writing letters,
I wrote a letter, and Tom sewed up his backpack for the third
time, this time with dental floss! So far it has held, and there
is no way he would accept a new bag, although he now has a
Lowe Alpinion of it!).
then headed to Steve's place. When we rang him to say when we would
be passing through town to pick the bag up, he offered us floor
space for the night. Amazing. Now everyone who helps us unexpectedly
we are going to call "Steve". He had invited friends round
for the night we were there and had bought food accordingly. Only
one guy and his girl friend turned up though, but he cooked all
the food anyway - more fried chicken and grease than you could shake
a stick at! and beer and wine!
Mon 19 Feb.
again. It was a two day hike down the peninsular to the next peak,
Tues 20 Feb.
Waterfall. Dreams of hotsprings. An uncomfortable and disturbed
the second day we found a beautiful 20-30m high waterfall where
Tom went for a swim. Then it was all up hill and past many many
onsen (hotspring) resorts. We were walking through an area called
Kirioshima which is stuffed full of hotsprings and so had big hopes
of using at least one of them to ease tired legs. Unfortunately
all springs either had a hotel over the top of them (very expensive),
or were being pumped into a hotel. On the way up the hill we saw
a family of 4-5 wild boar!
camped that night behind a road barrier. It was a bad night as we
had to put our sleeping mats under the tent, (uninflated to protect
them), to protect the tent from punture as we had to sleep on cut
bamboo grass which is spiky! Bad enough but apparently the Road
we were on is a favorite race route for local bikers and hotshots
in fancy cars. We are talking high speeds, racing engines, and lights,
at various times between 1:00am and 4:00am. A weird night.
Mt. Karakunidake (1796m)
Wed 21 Feb.
A little confusion, some stairs, some slag, and a dodgy knee begins
to make itself felt.
next morning we set off confidently for our third Mt. We were aiming
for a Mt track that was even marked on the Rd map we have. I was
expecting a major path and an easy haul up to the first crater lake.
It took us a while to find the trail head. In the end we headed
up the most likely looking thing, thinking that at least we knew
which way to head! We thought we were just heading up a stream,
but half way up we saw a very eroded sign saying 2.7km to the top.
We were on the path - the path just wasn't the chosen route up the
hill (yet again we find that route). We
made it up to the first crater in fairly good time, though after
a bit of bush waking.
second half of the walk was up much more well used tracks - in fact
the last 1.1km was wooden steps! They make for easy walking but
are hard on the legs and backside. We are going to have legs of
steel. For the third time there was mist on the top,
not allowing us any views.
hill was a bit of a volcanic slag heap, especially on the way down.
My knee hurt to straighten it at all, which made it very hard-going
getting down. It was then downhill for hours on tarmac, heading
towards a town in the valley that never seemed to get any closer.
by the river, washing and fishing.
next day we took a small mountain trail over some mountains to avoid
some big tunnels on the main road. This track took us along a beautiful
river where we washed our clothes and got washed (very cold) and
Tom tried a spot of fishing
but didn't catch anything.
Mountain passes and appreciation of Japanese road-building.
next two days took us over some high mountain passes (1000m+) which
were really tiring. The bends in the Rds (the Japanese are incredible
road builders - they can put a road anywhere) certainly reduce the
gradient, but make it take ages to get anywhere.
Sun 25 Feb.
Another English teacher - a chance meeting, a second rest day, access
to the internet (hence these updates), and thoughts on the journey
Sunday we are actually staying at another English teacher's house.
We are now at a little village by a dam in the middle of wooded
on our second rest day.
She is someone we bumped into unexpectedly, and someone who was
in Tom's class at School! A Christian as well - how amazing is that!?
We were just walking into a town looking for a food shop, when a
girl pulled up in her car and said "hello". It was amazing
enough to see a 'Gaijin' (foreigner), as we are in the middle of
nowhere in the mountains, but when Tom shouted out "Penny,
its Tom!" I almost fell over. We stayed here last night, are
chilling out today and will stay here tonight as well. It is beautiful.
And she has internet access.
have had some really special moments so far. Meeting Steve, the
sunset over Lake Ikeda, the views on the way up Mt Kaimon, seeing
the wild boar, swimming in the rivers, meeting Penny, getting given
a bag of food by a couple who lived a house next to where we camped,
getting given the money for the charity by a complete stranger,
having a group of 30 school kids run along the schools gates shouting
"Gambete!!" (keep going!) as we walked past ...
is by far the stronger member of this team. I realise now that over
his lifetime he has done immesurably more long-distance walking
and it is making a difference. My legs still lack strength, but
then so do Tom's a bit, what I am really stuggling with is the mind
game, keeping going and thinking of things to think about while
walking. Tom seems pretty sorted in the head game department.
My Scarpa trainers are perhaps half a size too small for wearing
decent hiking socks, a fact I didn't work out until I had about
3 decent blisters in various places on each foot. I spend my time
now in the Bridgedale coolmax liners, unfortunately I only brought
one pair to this beginning section as I was expecting to use hiking
socks. I am washing them whenever possible but they are still pretty
smelly and I do not think they will last much longer. My blisters
are calming down. My right ankle is sore but fine when strapped
up. My right knee hurts in various degrees depending on the amount
I have to bend it and how tired I am. I am fairly sure I will be
able to walk through both. Tom is in fine fettle although for the
past two days has been walking at about my speed as he has been
carrying more than his fair share of food!
am the one who nearly always asks for breaks first, and I am the
one who usually needs to stop first at the end of the day. I did
say however that I would need a good couple of weeks at least to
break myself in. Tom was fairly certain we could hit 40km straight
off - the nutter! I think really my knee and ankle are because we
didn't really give ourselves decent recovery time after the Yakushima
nightmare three days - well that is what I like to think.
last week has been very humbling for me, I am not used to being
the one holding up progress, or hobbling down Mts. This rest day
has been wonderful though. Penny meeting us in the Rd must have
had God's hand on it. The pain of walking is quickly forgotten.
It is always possible to get started the next morning no matter
how much pain was experienced the next day, I am sure that this
is in answer to all those praying for us."
Mt. Sobo (1757m)
Wed 28 Feb.
lose each other, find each other and make a quick ascent.
was a trial as it was shrowded in cloud, ice covered tracks and
thick bamboo grass. They briefly lost each other, something for
which they now have a contingency plan in case of future hiccups.
However, still got to the top in under 2hrs. 30km that day which
set them up well for Mt Aso-San.