Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Trek to Kumotori-san(45th Highest Mountain in Zapan..Applause..)

Its 2230 on a cool Wednesday nite, but its not what I plan to blog about.
A couple of weekends ago, 26th and 27th of May, we peeps decided to catch up on a long pending trek, which we had to postpone for various reasons in the past...
A 20% chance of rains were pretty good odds and we took the train out of Higashimatsuyama to Yorii on Tobu Tojo at 0700. We changed over to the Chichibu Line and got off at Mitsumineguchi. The plan was for a two day trek, so we were pretty loaded up with the ubiquitous MTR Bisi Bele Baths and Palak Paneers along with a clutch of boiled eggs.
We did not take the Lonely Planet Route, where we came across the trek in the first place.

A slight digression from the subject at hand...
Speaking of Lonely Planet, I cant but wonder at the genius that conjured up the whole idea of the travel guide in the first place. I would place it in the forefront of ideas that have changed the way we travel. "Recommended by Lonely Planet" has become the Travel Industry's equivalent of Michelin Stars. I am pretty sure that if a funny Lonely Planet scribe were to conjure up a story claiming that the island of Bora Jora has this wonderful culture, where if the visitor to the famous Wooden Bridge, stands in the middle of the bridge and takes his shirt off, twirls it 3 times over his head and screams "Jiklatoobooga, ilikeyourmoogamooga", the local girls living in the huts near the bridge would troop out and dance the Giligga Dance in their handcrafted coconut shell bras. You can be sure as hell, that the first few visitors will be met with weird stares for their rendition of "Jiklatoobooga, ilikeyourmoogamooga" at the first bridge in sight, but soon the locals will learn about their famous culture which by now would have got pages written about in travel sites ,all of which ofcourse, will be "Recommended by Lonely Planet" and they will build a new Famous Wooden Bridge(the direction to which will be signboarded every 300mts all the way from the aiport),and the huts and will import Coconut Bras from Hawaii, and dance the Giligga Dance..
As to how does one dance the Giligga in Coconut Bras,I leave it to your fertile imaginations....

Getting back to the subject at hand. We had to take the 0850 bus from Mitsumine-guchi Sta. to Owa, where we were to be whisked up 1000 mts by the Cable Car.A conversation with the Bus Driver in my stone age Japanese, indicated that something bad had happened to the cable car in question.
We got off at Owa at 0905 and started looking for the trail in the one horse town. An old lady from the nearby store told us that the trail upto the final destination of the cable car was 3km and would take us 2 hours,since well...something bad had happened to the cable car.
So we started the trudge, and after a not so long time, we arrived at a Waterfall, where we stopped for a much needed break. Not to say that we hadnt taken breaks before that,but this was a pretty big break.
We moved on and at around 1145, we reached the Top of the cable car station, where decided to launch into our lunches. A gaggle of girls of mixed nationalities were climbing down and looked positively lost. One Oriental looking lady, gingerly came up to us, with a "Sumimasen". I was ready to reply with my most polished "Hain", when she "Can you speak English"ed us...They were relieved that we could as much as we were relieved that they could. They just wanted to know how long it took to descend.
We moved butt, after lunch into the Mistumine Jinja grounds, in and around which we shutterbugged in all and sundry poses.
We then commenced the 10.3 km to the top of Kumotori peak. Just outta the grounds, I had my first encounter with wild life in Japan. Maybe "encounter with wildlife" is a hyper dramatic term to use, but yeah, I did see my first snake in the wild in Japan. It was sitting in the shade beside the trail, when I caught its rustle.
The climb was pretty smooth for the first couple of kilometers. Soon, we encountered the first steep inclines, which I so hate climbing for long intervals because of what they end up doing to my lungs and knees. This stretch was inclines all the way up. After bout the first 1/3 we did get to run down a pretty steep decline, and then it was all the way up again. There are some points along the route with superb views of the valley. We had to break for another grub break,where we cleaned up the rest of the eggs with pepper and salt.
We trekked and we trekked,and we trekked more, but every trail marker indicated,we'd covered 500mts, when it looked like we'd done a good couple of kilometers.
We finally came upon our first sight of habitation, a dilapidated rundown wutever, which we assumed to be the mountain hut, we'd booked. Gentle tapping, followed by violent tapping on the windows confirmed that we had to move on. Another 500mts up the hill, we finally came a bunch of tents, which confirmed that we had made it to the Kumotori-sanso camp grounds.

Its close to dusk when we walked in to the Mountain hut, where we had reserved a room the previous night. It might be spring down in Tokyo, but up in the hills at 2000mts, its bloody cold this time of the year, and I was gallivanting the slopes in my Woodland Sandals,which made for some pretty sensationless toes.I caught up on some reading,after chatting(again in Stone Age japanese) with our nearly 60 year old roommate. We were the only people below 30 in the goddamn place.We had tasteless Soba with Tofu for dinner, for which we paid 1000yen. The room cost 5000Yen. We shared it with three other people.
We got up at 0415 to catch the sunrise.The whole camp was awake and running,by the time we moved out shivering in my chuddies and sandals. We had a breakfast with a couple of Japanese girls from Tokyo and a bunch of old ladies from wherever old ladies who climb hills at 60 come from. The breakfast was certainly not going to be the high point of the day. We moved out at 0600 for the peak still "a short climb away"(once again, a quote from the Lonely Planet). We had not yet warmed up and it was bloody goddamn windy. The trudge was slow and painful.
We finally made it to the peak and took some Edmund Hillary/Tenzing Norgay style snaps on the peak(2017mts) and went to check the free mountain hut, where we could camp if we had sleeping bags. We were loafing around the hut,when a elderly Japanese gentleman mumbled something is Japanese. Unable to catch him, we mumbled our apologies in equally incoherent mumbles,when with a blustery Aussie accent, he went "That's a bloody awfully long way to climb up". The bloke was climbing with a 25 kg backpack.For the unitiated, that a bloody big bag..and as he sermoned "Only a bloody bastard would carry a 25 kg bag up this bloody hill"
We clicked some snaps and went into the hut, where we met a couple of Japanese ladies, we had seen in the hut the previous night. They were friends from Tokyo and Yokohama and one lady has visited Rajasthan and Nepal.We chatted for some more time, when the Aussie-Japanese came up and told Arjun who was outside, to click a snap of his on the peak to show his wife. He apparently peeped in and commented to Arjun, "Lazy Bastards, still here chattin up the gals"
The down hill climb is a long one, but not too difficult, we finished the Bisi bele baths at 1100 and then reached a village from where we walked another 30 min to the bus stop and figured that the next bus was a long time away and we walked another 3km to the main road. Point is, we walked a long long way...Around 20 km is my guess...

We took the bus back into Okutama city, and then back into Tokyo,for dinner at our usual weekend haunt,the South Indian restaurant.

The trek is moderately difficult, but the views esp. on the way down make up for all the aching joints.

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