Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Classic Overnight Bus Journey

I have been on many overnight bus journeys in my travels, and last night was another. I have crossed the Baluchistan Desert from Pakistan to Iran overnight, which is perhaps my most memorable for good and bad reasons. Bad - Hot beyond belief and very little sleep, the Good, nay AMAZING - waking up at 5am as the sun rose to stop in the middle of the desert for a break. Stunning. Those photos are sadly lost :(

One bad thing that is constant with me on overnight bus trips is the lack of sleep. I swear I can sleep better on day journeys!
Yesterday I spent my time with a fellow English Teacher and good friend to my wife and I whilst we lived in Ichinoseki, Maxime. I checked out of the Toyoko Inn in Ichinoseki by 10am and got my car, which had been 'parked' in one of these amazing car parks that stack cars via a mechanical lift in a tall but not so wide building. Sorry that the picture looks a bit translucent!

I spent the day eating too well and at the Ichinoseki SuperSports Park, where you can play tennis, or on the play equipment and there's a track and field ground as well as a baseball stadium. After a delicious and meaty dinner, Maxime took my wife and I to the East Exit of the train station where the buses leave from.

After posing for a picture, I got talking to a nice guy who was with a group - possibly a couple of families it seemed, taking the bus to Tokyo Disneyland. They were actually heading down on the night bus, Disneyland opens at 8am, they would spend the day there and then catch the overnight bus back to Ichinoseki without spending a night in Tokyo! I joked that they'd sleep through all the rides. I probably would!

So we slowly got onto the bus and moved on out. Ichinoseki, suddenly, was in the past. The first few hours (the bus left at 9.15pm) were a bit torturous. The lights stayed on, not a problem for some people though who fell asleep instantly! I will always admire the ability of Japanese people to fall asleep at the drop of a hat pretty much anywhere, any time. The heater also was up just too much, and before I knew it I was just in a T-shirt! (don't panic, and trousers!)

We made our first toilet stop. The bus would stop, on average, every couple of hours for a toilet break at the expressway stops which had toilets, restaurants, vending machines and enough spots for a lot of vehicles. I saw a lot of trucks stopped with curtains drawn as the driver got some sleep. As is the custom in Japan, the drivers would keep running the engines which I thought was a bit strange... and wasteful...

The bus stops also have these stamps which are really popular in Japan. The ink kind which tell you where you've been, so I took one and then another to discover they are all the same! The night wore on, and after Sendai the lights went out and the heater was turned down a couple of notches, and for the journey I probably managed 3 hours sleep which I guess is better than nothing at all!
Trucks asleep at the toilet stop.

We pulled into Tokyo just after 6AM. It's been windy all day, and nice and warm. In fact, a week ago Ichinoseki had snow and sub-zero temperatures as I had my going-away dinner, but for since Monday has been sunny and over 16 degrees, which for Inchinoseki is unseasonably warm for March! LOL. Here in Yokohama, well, it was about 18 today and would have been pleasant but for the wind. Didn't matter so much I slept a good portion of the day and am still in a daze as I write!
And... Tokyo at last!

It was a long train ride of an hour to Shin-Sugita, near my wife's parents' house where we will be staying in Yokohama. My bag must have been 30kgs and boy was it tough to drag around! But, we had made it safely and in one piece, and it seems the Iwate story is over now! Stay tuned for more from the blogsphere.

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