Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Temple, beach, mountain, mountain.

Hello friends, it's been a long two days but before I sleep I must blog, I guess. LOL. Today I drove a long long way to find myself in Nagano-ken, in a town called Hakuba. However today's blog is about yesterday's adventure, which left me tired with two of the sorest calves I could imagine. That's the sort that are part of my legs, not baby cows!
At Zenpo-ji.
 First, as the rain gently fell, I drove out to Zenpo-ji, a temple a few kilometres from Tsuruoka. It was a very nice temple, there was only one other person visiting, worth a look for sure. It had a five-storied pagoda like all good temples complexes must have in Japan! Lovely little garden (above). The temple dates from the 10th century. Opposite is an interesting long abandoned train station with an old engine inside, not going anywhere. Totally overgrown with so many trees, I expect it's been at least 20 years since it's been in use. After seeing so many temples, I must admit to finding that more interesting...
 I drove along the coast. Not a hot day, mid-twenties, a bit of rain about, I stopped at the beach to take a couple of photos, the first time I have seen the Sea of Japan and the West Coast. Quite a violent looking sea, but the opposite side to the Tohoku coast of just a couple of posts again.

 I also noticed these big concrete things. You can see them in the ocean they seem to form some sort of wave blocks. Not sure if they are meant as tsunami blocks - they would have little effect I think on a serious Tsunami, however, the waves seem to always be crashing heavily all the time so I presume they prove rather effective.

Torii Gate, Yudono-san.
 Then it was time to head back up to the mountains. I headed to the third of the three holy peaks, Mt Yudono. This one is the mountain of rebirth, and at around 1500 metres is the second biggest of the mountains. I took a wrong turn and went half-way up a different mountain. Yes, the lots of wrong turns on this journey, navigating Japan is not easy. However, eventually I found my way up this toll road for a few kilometres. Considering we pay to use it, they could occasionally repair the road...
I arrived at the Torii gate where it was bus or foot power from then on in up the mountain. I new I wasn't going to get to the peak, but I looked at the map and saw there is a section where people climb ladders attached to the rocks. I wanted to see that, about three quarters of the way up.
 Up! Yes up and up and up! I went up the road. Then up some steps, down some steps to a little temple where people were getting blessed. From there it was a small, rocky path. I kept on, I had been climbing for over an hour. I finally reached the waterfall above. Amazing. A damn up the mountain, letting the water pour through a gap in the middle. Amazing because the path was only good for one walking person, but this stone wall was two metres thick. How the hell had they made it?
From there the path got worse, it was basically a creek. I had sneakers on and was worried about coming down, too easy to re-injure my ankle. Not good footwear for serious hiking. The previous day I had been warned by the man at the information centre that there would be snow here. Well it seemed unlikely, it all seemed dry - apart from the rover and creek of course. When I returned to the bottom I looked at the map to find I must have only been a couple of hundred metres away from those ladders! But in fairness I was climbing over steep wet rocks. Probably the right choice. No-one else on that part of the trail if I did hurt myself.
 I picked up an American guy at the car park who had run out of money and needed a ride into Tsuruoka. He'd hiked across the three mountains. He said it was very difficult. We stopped at this nice lake on the drive down.
 It was getting late, but I made a push for the second (and third for me) Mountain, Gas-san. At over 1900 metres it's the tallest if the three, and it represents Death. Maybe not the one to finish on. The drive up was hairy to say the least. Winding road for about 20 kilometres I was thinking about turning back. But finally I arrived at 'Station Eight' where there's toilets, a building and a few vending machines where drinks are three times the normal cost.
The hitchhiker I had picked up said there was a boardwalk circuit there that would take about an hour, so I decided to the do that. Plenty of vegetation, but only at waist height, and there was snow there much to my surprise. It felt about 18 degrees up there. It was the most pleasant of the three mountains, I wished I had the time to climb to the peak, but it was over two hours from Station Eight. The weather switched and changed about six times in the one hour I'd been there, and I was warned not to go by the lady at my Guesthouse as it would be raining,
Gate at Zenpo-ji
The drive down was much easier than up. Poor car sounded far more healthy too. Hardly any traffic on the road, none at all on the way down. Another day of adventure! Boy were my calves in pain! So that was that, a night of sleep would take me to... today....

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