A byte of life from the Land of Sumos and Sushi

Thursday, September 01, 2005

“Does anyone else think that climbing an active volcano might not be the greatest idea ever born?”

After chilling by the cool crystal clear waters of Shikotsu-ko, for a couple of lazy days, it was time to head east, to Daisetsuzan, Hokkaido’s largest national park, situated in the centre of the island.

It was here that I laid eyes on a smouldering, active volcano for the first time ever. It was also here, where we experienced some technical difficulties with the Jeep (well, no road trip story is complete without a breakdown). The hot weather combined with the steep mountainous roads was too much for the Cherokee, and the radiator burst, sending out a plume of steam, and drenching the road in radiator fluid.

Luckily, we had Danny G on board, who was specially selected for this mission, partly due to his mechanical skills. After an hour or so with his head under the bonnet, and various trips to the public toilet for water refills, the radiator was patched up, and we were ready to roll out.

That night we camped at the foot of Tokachidake, an active volcano. I’d heard that active volcanoes existed in Japan, but I was impressed when I actually saw the smoke bellowing out of the creator, and heard the rumbles and hissing emanating from the depths of the earth.

To get a closer look at this beast, we decided upon a hike up to the peak of Tokachidake, which overlooks the fuming creator. Rising early, we quickly stocked up on snacks, (my fodder of choice being Horse Kastu) and we were soon making progress on the barren trail.

The last explosive eruption was in 1988, and its legacy is very obvious today; most of mountain is a bare, Martian landscape, devoid of flora, but displaying a unique and colourful terrain all the same.

As the mighty smoking creator loomed, billowing sulphurous toxins into the atmosphere, we saw a few patches of snow, sheltered in north facing crevices. At the summit we chilled for a while, snapped the mountain of fire and ate lunch, before making our way down. We somehow managed to miss a turn, either that, or more likely the old route no longer exists, so our route back down to earth took a little longer than expected.

However by late afternoon, we were back at the campsite and ready for a much needed onsen. Danny G, who had opted out of the climb, had spent the day sunbathing, so we regrouped and headed to the hot tub to bathe our weary limbs.

COMING SOON: In the final part of the Hokkaido Road Trip series, the crew goes white water rafting with a bunch of Burmese, before catching the long ferry ride back to Fukui, and heading to the bright lights of Tokyo.


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