I sat at the computer till 2 o'clock in the morning jotting down notes. I was wide awake. As the notes piled up I started to wonder if I was planning way too much. But what difference would it make? 4 hours of sleep later and I was waking to the jarring sound of the alarm. 6:34 stared me in the face with giant red numbers. Yes, it was time to get up. A clothes change, a gear check, and I headed out into the hazy morning air. I glanced back at my scrawled notes. They weren't the most detailed but I hoped they wouldn't fail me. When I get to a fork in the road that tells me nothing more than some obscure hamlet is one direction and other route doesn't offer a much different option, having that information is useful. No matter how many times I try to remember a road number it always changes in my mind. It could be rather annoying but for how many times this has happened, I've always figured things out. So the moral of the story is that I could just continue my bad habits and never end up bad situation. Well, that is just preposterous thinking on my part. We wouldn't have any of that today. I turned off the main road and followed along a deep river valley.
Sometimes there are shallows. Sometimes there are deep water holes where you could do 50 feet jumps and sink safely into the emerald depths. Once long ago I stopped at a bridge running across this river. I had the terrible impulse to throw my car keys into the river. My hand was clutched on the keys in my pocket. I can't say if it was a real thought or not. I had to release my hand just in case. It was too absurd to entertain such thoughts. I walked back to the car and safely put my key in the ignition that day. Since then there have not been any similar impulses nor were there any on this day.
I still haven't figured out how nature created that uncanny heart shape. I stared at it for about 5 minutes calculating how the water currents from the heavy waterfall in the back must have been responsible. I can't really say for sure though. There was a railing that nobody would have gone past to go down there so I don't think humans were capable. I had gone to this fall before but I didn't know that the real fall is much higher up. It is one of two falls in the entire area that are over 100 meters tall. I tried to take a path next to this tiny basin but it ended at a group of silent bee hives. I walked back to the car only to finally see some obscure path with a rusty railing hidden off to the side. Up and up the windy path went. Eventually the path started to become non existent and was marked by haphazardly pink ribbons tied to large tree trunks and insignificant shrubs. It was perplexing and frustrating. It never occurred to me at the time that the waterfall was over 100 meters tall so when I got to a much smaller fall I thought I had reached the destination.
My notes had already failed me. I didn't know it at the time anyway so no big deal. It was much easier to see the poorly placed ribbons on the way back. Whoever put them up must have done it in reverse. But where had I come to? The trees tend to disorient me. It is like groggily looking out of your eyes after waking up. I shook my head a few times and wiped the sweat off my brow. Things came back into focus. It was time to get out of the wet forest.
My shoes were soaked after walking down that stairway. It was more like a waterfall with stairs underneath because of all the rain from the previous two days. I really should have prepared more appropriately. I didn't bring any extra shoes or socks except for some flip flops. Oh prune feet aren't so bad as long as you aren't walking on them all day long. The ratio of driving to walking was lopsided. I had no problems.
We can let the mockers talk. They know nothing of the wonders of rock and water. The path to Kisaki Hole had several quaint flights of metal stairs. I enjoy narrow flights of steep stairs because they were somehow wedged into a tight or precarious place. The ingenuity, or often lack thereof, impresses me. I hate to think who had to carry all the materials though. That drives me insane. Infrastructure in the middle of nature. At least Japan is good at that so I can feel crazy all the time. The path dead ended at a little cage that was rather disappointing. The steep and wet cliff sides nearby were no wise thing to approach. I had lots of time but not enough to properly make a path to the lower part of the fall. Into the memory bank it went.
My gasoline didn't appear to be too empty by the time I made it back to some civilization. It was only momentarily though. I grabbed carrots and bananas that were slowly going the route of rot. They were half price and I was being too thrifty. When I paired this with a loaf of bread and some steak pastrami slices it made for quite the mediocre lunch. That's what I get for buying the half price goods. I figured my car would make it across the mountains with enough time to find a gas station in the near future so I continued on my merry way. The valley in this area was very peaceful in the spring sunshine. Various greenery was coming back to life along the roaring stream. I sped around hair pin turns while listening to eclectic chip tune music. In other words, music no one really cares to listen to but me. I stopped for lunch along the road at what was supposedly a waterfall. An obvious park had been constructed on the tiny hillside with a incoherent layout of paths. I sat under a gazebo and slapped my makeshift lunch together. The jar of pickles that had been living in my car the past day was better than all of it at the end of the day.
Suddenly my makeshift scribbling of notes wasn't a failure after all. To this point it had been more than useful actually. I just feel it's proper to chide them so I do a better job in the future. My eye caught an insignificant sign that said something about mulberry river valley (the name in Japanese). I turned off and followed the road in excitement as it ascended upwards. I went past some abodes that were well in tact but unfortunately lonely and sad even in the bright sunshine. The road abruptly ended and turned to gravel. Well my notes had said to follow the forestry road after all. I wasn't surprised. I opted to walk the road instead of taking my trusty vehicle over the unknown road. Mud hardly exists so I never worry about getting stuck. It's the uneven undulations of the road from massive dump trucks that worry me. After a pretty short but sweat inducing walk, I made it to a valley overlook. There was some hogwash sign about watersheds but that's only because I couldn't be bothered to read it.
So far away but the sheer drop was beautiful.
Enough time passed for me to feel content and there was still much more distance to cover. A lizard scampered up the mossy rocks and rustled some leaves. These lizards frighten me. My first thought is always snake. That is more than likely a good thing and definitely proved to be true later in the day. I walked back down the short distance to the car and saw an old man pulling up in a car. I wanted to yell hello at him but my presence seemed to be too odd for his comfort. Maybe he hardly noticed me anyway. He was more worried about turning his little car around on the extremely narrow road. It just so happened I had taken up the only legitimate spot one could turn around on. He managed it quite well without me moving. I felt bad for a moment and then quickly forgot until now.
I still had a long way to go to get across the mountains. I set my sights and raised my speed to a more adequate level. In no time I was driving through an eerie and long one way tunnel which carried me into the neighboring prefecture. I came out in one of the most expansive sugi forests I can remember. The road was littered with branch and needle debris. It was dreadfully awful. Sometimes it was hard to distinguish the road properly. Sometimes it turned into gravel. I winced in frustration hoping that I wouldn't be forced to traverse bad forest roads. Luckily the gravel portions were rare and randomly infrequent. I sighed in relief when I made it out of the sugi forest. It took a decent amount of time to reach a main road and my fuel light had come on. I didn't pay it attention because I was going down hills and it lies to me in that situation. I passed a one pump gas stand and fought with all my might to make myself stop but I was too prideful. Hopefully that pride wouldn't come back to haunt me later in the evening.
Where in the world was I? I was getting closer to my planned destination from the very beginning. I painfully researched the directions of how to reach what looked like an amazing waterfall. The directions mentioned a tiny shack of a power plant that looked like a house. The word was that one should follow the intake pipe leading into the back of this house. Supposedly if one went up along the side of this pipe they would come to an old water canal. I saw the pipe on my first look but thought there had to be another because it didn't look like a picture I saw. I went along a nearby stream and came to a dead end. I went back and decided to follow the pipe and see where it went. Sure enough, after walking up 10 meters the pipe gave way to much longer section that ascended the entire hillside. I quickly scrambled up the side of the pipe along a worn path. Just as I began to lay my foot down for a final push past a steep section I jumped back. A three to four feet long rat snake was crossing my path. I felt the adrenaline tingle in my spine and face. It was enough time to see that it wasn't a mamushi, a member of the pit viper family, also known as a venomous snake. I finally reached the top of the pipe and saw the water canal. There was a chain draped low to the ground between two poles practically welcoming me in. I can only guess the nearby sign said enter at your own free will, at least that is what I would tell the police if they were to ask me. I swiftly followed the tight concrete path next to the canal in earnest.
The canal abruptly ended at a concrete intake. Those yellow rubber ropes probably make you feel safe. If you were to slip you would probably go through or under the rope into a deep water hole. I'm sure you wouldn't get hurt that badly but you would have to walk all the way back up to see the waterfall up ahead. That would just be terribly annoying. I have to say that I was really looking forward to the waterfall. After the entire day of driving and exploring I was ready. However, I'm not sure that I was prepared to see what lie before me.
The atmosphere in this hillside cleft was a drastic shift from everything surrounding it. The flow of water was was thundering loud. It was surreal to be standing at the bottom. In fact, the waterfall looked so beautiful it seemed to be fake.
The spray swirled around the basin in gusts of wind. It was hard to find a spot not reeling from the mist. But by far one of the best falls I've ever seen. My entire trip was more than worth it for this fall alone. I walked back along the canal ecstatic. I had planned to check some other spots along the road but I didn't want to be unimpressed so I headed onward. I stopped to eat at a Chinese restaurant once I got outside the mountains. After the meal, the lady who had served me asked where I was from. I told her where I was from in Japan as if it was more natural for her to understand that. She looked at me with confusion on her face and I corrected what I said. "I'm from America," I said and she asked back, "Where is the first place you told me? Is that near America?" I then realized, most of us don't have any clue what exists beyond the confines of our jobs, school, cities, and lives. I wished I could convey to her what I had seen a few short hours earlier but, alas, she was never looking anyway. Not many of us are.