Saturday, 7 April 2018

Autumn Aurora in Japan - Day 13

Hirayu                                                                               Japan

Sunday 16th October 2016

My hopefulness of a pleasant night backfired quite a lot due to the fact I was awake through the night 5 times due to the fact I was freezing cold in my tent. It was clear to me that I didn’t have enough layers of clothing on so it was a lesson learnt. What a great relief it was watching the sunrise gleam through the trees. I eventually changed in my small tent at around 8:30am feeling quite cranky but still loving the fact I was camping in the woods with my cousin. Speaking of which, he was still fast asleep in his tent. With no sign of him waking up anytime soon, I decided to take a wander around the woodland area.

First, I took a walk to the large river nearby and across the small red suspension bridge overlooking the peaceful land around me. Once that was done, I headed back into the dense forest where I encountered a most deadly squirrel but somehow managed to survive its cuteness. By 9am, I headed back to camp to see if there was any sign of life from Craig, there wasn’t. Therefore, I took another wander to the nearby hill area either walking or running up a narrow dirt track carved in the hill deep in the forest. It was truly phenomenal enjoying the peace and beauty of the land by myself, until far up the hill, I encountered a young man with his rucksack. It looked as though he spent the night up the hill without the campsite knowing. Not knowing if he spoke English, a slight nod was all I needed for him to acknowledge me.

Carrying on up the hill, I came to the end of the route as I was welcomed by a very old and big tree surrounded by rope and benches. To be honest, it looked very inviting to climb upon so that is what I did. I easily made it up a quarter of the tree to witness fantastic mountains in the distance. I did wonder though why rope barriers surrounded it. I could have been climbing on the sacred peace tree of heavenly wisdom. I checked the time realising I had been away from camp for a while now so unfortunately, I had to leave the fun behind and make my way back down.

However, this time I took a different steeper route down as I skipped down each step and hole. I realised the route was taking me nearer to the main site house and as I looked down towards it, I could see Craig walking away from it and he was quite startled to see me skipping down the hill. He looked as though he had just woken up and I was right in thinking that. We both returned to the tents with me explaining what I did for the past 2 hours and he couldn’t believe I did that while he was sleeping. We grabbed all our essentials for our planned trip to a place called ‘Shinotaka ropeway’.

With everything set, we made our way to the bus terminal down the road. With ease, we purchased our tickets and waited for the coach by heading into the shop to grab some breakfast and snacks for the journey. We only had to wait for 30-minutes until the bus arrived. Once we climbed aboard it seemed to look like a bus for the elderly with fancy white doilies on each seat. The bus was very quiet too which was a surprise given the fact the ropeway was a very popular area to visit. The journey of course provided us with great views all around us to enjoy for the next 45 minutes until we arrived at the bottom station of the cable car.

We were excited to get going even if the whole place smelt of sulphur from the hot springs. It was quite a big price to pay in order to reach the top and down again but you only live once. We then realised it was going to take two cable cars to get to the top so we made our way into the queue for the first one. For a while, we stood waiting until the cable car slowly came down to us. This was a unique type of cable car as it was a white double decker and we couldn’t wait any longer to get on them.

Everybody clambered on like a tin of sardines just like the trains of Tokyo and then we began to move up. The views were astonishing the higher we went above the tree line upon the hills. It was quite a surprisingly short ride to the mid-section but as soon as we exited the cable car, we wasted no time reaching the next station that would take us to the top. The area in between the first and second station looked quite beautiful with a few people in the area too. We only had to queue up for a short amount of time for this cable car and because we were at the front, we could quickly get to the seats right at the front windows of the cable car.

Moments later with the cable car filled up, we began our ascent to the 2,156 metre height. The views were as expected, spectacular the higher we climbed and it was a true thrill hanging over a deadly drop. Moments later, the end was in sight as we slowed right down at the sight of the top station with dozens of people looking from the metal platform above. We were guided like cattle towards the metal platform above the station by signs and the flow of people heading in the same direction.

As soon as we felt the air at our faces, we were struck with astonishment at the 180-degree view of Japanese Alps and autumn valleys, clear blue sky and a surprisingly warm temperature of 7 degrees. It was funny as most people were wrapped up because of the called where as Craig and I had our t-shirts on. We spent a very long time at the top admiring each detail of this magnificent Japanese land before making our way back to the cable car for the mid-section.

It was quite enjoyable descending as much as the ascent but it sharp ended when we came out. The middle area was busier than before but to me, it was great watching on at the vibe of the area as people were enjoying the blazing sun and for a good reason. The place was full because there was a small café, restaurant, shop, food stalls and a small onsen channel for feet. We had a good browse around the area but only came out with a beautiful ice cream each. I really wanted to place my feet in the onsen channel so I headed over as Craig sat at a nearby table enjoying his ice cream.

Off went my shoes and socks and as soon as I plunged my feet into the water, I was blessed with the feeling of warmth and comfort. I could have sat there all day and Craig noticed this as he soon joined me; he loved the whole experience too. We sat talking, laughing and sometimes staying quiet enjoying the peace.

We could also hear music coming from speakers spread out across the area; we soon realised it came from a man who astonishingly had 13 keyboards to play by himself. He was called ‘Izanagi’ and it amazed us all at the fact he played such breathtaking music with 13 keyboards. It truly sounded therapeutic given the area we were in too.

With our feet wrinkled by the water, it was time to get out and air-dry our feet that was a wonder of its own sitting in the sun. With our shoes back on, we headed away from the onsen walking further down the pathway witnessing yet another precious sight of the Japanese Alps to the west. A short walk brought us to the cable cars again for the last descent to the bottom.

We made the most of the descent down as this was the last we would experience these beautiful Alps in this area. It was over when we stepped off the cable car and out of the station where we awaited pick up from our bus. We sat for a long time waiting for the bus, so long that the flies in the area began to pester us a lot, plus the fact the cold air would begin to linger. 50-minutes went by until finally the bus arrived as we climbed aboard straight away. The journey to Hirayu onsen felt quite quick knowing the distance it would take.

A while went by until we pulled up at the bus terminal making our way around the shops collecting snacks and presents. Once we got our snacks, we decided to try the eggs that were boiling in the hot spring water outside the shop. It tasted delicious even though it wasn’t thoroughly boiled. With everything collected, we headed back to camp hoping all our belongings were still there which of course they were. Due to our frozen night, we decided to head to the site house and buy everything we needed to keep warm. We came out with firelighters and kindling and we were eager to get back and begin our night of creating fire. We also began to gather as much dry wood as possible before we began the process.

It was hard as there was hardly any dry wood. Tissue and paper were placed and so we began the long effort of fire making. Times the flame would die out but we didn’t give up, which was great as the wood began to burn efficiently. Adding more sticks and blowing gently at the fire slowly built the flames up but still it wasn’t enough to keep going. It didn’t help the situation when the smoke would billow in our eyes stinging them. We decided to head down to the site house to grab a few packs of kindling. It worked and the flames began to roar with orange beauty on a cold evening. It was true when people stated that a sight of fire boosted morale when camping. It was truly a great feeling standing around the fire eating our food whilst adding a few sticks and wood now and again.

As cliché as it sounded, it was a great time to reflect on our trip so far and wondering what was still to come. We really enjoyed watching the orange glow of embers burning bright at the base constantly feeling the heat. We spent a very long time laughing and talking the night away too but times we would sit in silence. The fire must have attracting some creatures of the night as now and again, we could hear quite a bit of rustling in the bushes that were surrounding us not at all sure what it was. Whatever it was, it was too scared to come any closer to the fire that now looked like a small portal to hell itself.

A long time had passed until we realised it was getting quite late and then unfortunately, we felt drips on our faces; rain. We placed the last of the kindling on the fire and made our way to the tents hoping for a better night’s sleep even though the rain would make it quite difficult. To be honest it was very nice to be warm, smelling of smoke and dry in my tent hoping it would be like that in the morning but then the rain became a lot heavier.
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