Thursday, October 14, 2010
It is almost the weekend again and I'm now sitting down to write about last weekend. Where does my time go? For some reason I cant remember half the weekend though. It must have been so trivial that my brain pruned those packets of information while I was sleeping. I don't have to write about them then, so good. Monday was another holiday so things fell perfectly into place.
The weather was acting like a spoiled child who cries on Friday and Saturday so it was impossible to go anywhere. It was pretty nice though to spend time around home. On Sunday it was really nice out but I didn't know it was going to be like that according to the forecast. I spent most of the day planning an attack on a mountain I had my eyes set on.
On Sunday at about 4pm I left my place and set out to fill up my car with gas. I should have done it earlier because the local gas station was closed and so was the one a few kilometers down the road. I had to drive about 8 or 9km out of my way just to acquire some gas. If I hadn't found gas I would have gone back home, screamed into a pillow, and then eaten some cookies. I got a later start than I wanted to because I intended to get to the mountain before it got dark so I could check out where the trail was. Well not only was it later than I planned but the drive took forever. Route 40 is a windy road with blind curves and numerous switchbacks. By the time I was in the vicinity of the mountain it was starting to turn into a horror movie scene. No blood or guts but just thick fog and clouds covering the road. When I finally made it to the parking lot and I could hardly tell where to park because it was pretty dark and fog infested. Much to my surprise there were a couple other cars hanging out. If you haven't figured out by now I was planning to sleep in my car so I could climb the mountain and see the sun rise. I guess only the true mountain warriors spend the night and hike before sun rise. I had to remind myself several times that I was in my car, in Japan, up on a mountain, spending the night. It was a very eerie and quiet night to myself. Much of the time I laid with my eyes closed pondering how far the universe reaches while I waited for my body to enter sleep mode. I didn't sleep the best but it was sufficient. It's better than driving that route 40 in the morning while it's still dark.
At 4:30am on Monday I got up and prepared myself for the hike up to the top. Upon waking up I was greeted with a glorious starry sky. Perfectly clear. When I set out at 4:45 I stopped for awhile to gaze at the stars. When I get a tripod (sometime soon maybe?) I will take some long exposure pictures. But in all honesty you need to get out of wherever your light soaked pollution area is and see the wonder of stars. I was moving at a pretty fast pace up the trail with my trusty flashlight in hand and few minutes in and I realized that I should never drink blended milk and coffee drinks before physical exertion again. It's like the one time I ate yogurt before a football workout as a freshman in high school. I never did that again. I'm sure I could feel the yogurt curdling in my stomach. I actually ended up being just fine but for a few moments I wasn't sure if I would be doing an air prayer to the porcelain god or not.
Before I knew it I had reached what I thought was the top. There were a couple other of people, men, armed with cameras and tripods as if they were going to wage a war with the landscape on photographic terms. I stayed there for about a half hour or more waiting for the sun to rise. I got a handful of shots as the sky was bleeding into morning.
But as I said I thought it was the top of the mountain. Well it is the top of the smaller peak. I didn't realize this till the sun was almost up and in order to compensate I ran up the rest of the trail to capture some shots at the highest point. I was a bit late but still took pictures as the sun came up. It was wonderful regardless of the pictures I took. I could see the red hues on the Pacific Ocean and the duller blues on the Inland Sea of Japan. The black shadows of the mountains and thin clouds mixed with pockets of sun gave off a mystic feeling. The illumination of Mount Ishizuchi was equally splendid. It was invigorating to sit at the top and take in the morning sun. One of the more interesting and beautiful aspects of the mountain is the meadow like short bamboo growing all over the hillsides.
I took some time for a small breakfast of an apple and some dried meat and then headed back down to the lower peak.
By now the masses of casual day hikers were flocking the mountain trails like ants and sugar. I met some hikers from Himeji (city west of Kobe on the main island Honshu). As with most random Japanese people I meet in the middle of nowhere they always mention my Japanese is good. If you haven't remembered you can say thank you in Japanese and convince a Japanese person you are fluent. A bit sarcastic there but with a shred of truth. Before I said anything I was standing around taking pictures and was thinking what they might be thinking to see the random foreigner up on a mountain in Shikoku. You can fill in the blanks because my imagination just broke. The hikers moved on and I met another older man from the nearby prefecture Ehime. We talked about the scenery and nice mountains. I could understand almost everything he said which not only is good for comprehension but makes me feel not so useless with spoken Japanese. At one point he asked me about Natsume Soseki, who is a famous Japanese writer. I was a bit confused why he suddenly brought up the writer but Soseki taught at a school in the man's town so he was connecting to the two. Soseki is one of the authors all Japanese know much like a J.D. Salinger in America. But he is only famous for not doing interviews, right? Okay so two different people entirely but you get the point. The man also informed me that stars were beautiful around 2am. So he was randomly up at 2am? Better. He was out taking pictures of stars at 2am on another mountain and was continuing his hiking where I was at. Talk about a true mountain soldier. He is more amazing than I. Yet, it isn't a contest so it was good company.
I bid him farewell 10 minutes later and descended the mountain. I kind of forgot to tell you how tall the mountain is and all those technical elements. But I don't want to ruin the shroud of mountain man-ness I have been creating for myself lately. So while the mountain is 1,896 meters tall I don't know the vertical distance ascended. Lets just say it was easier than the first mountain a couple weeks back.
Alas I'm already damaging myself so just fend for yourselves please
Head over to my flickr page for the rest of the pictures.
Frozen in time at 7:53 PM