Back to Japan this post, folks: freezing Hokkaido and the beginning of my ill-fated and immediately disastrous attempt to walk the length of Japan from top to bottom in 2008 (my friend Chris was down in the tropical south, walking north).
When I started this blog in early 2011, I was in a between-adventures lull, just back from three amazing months in Switzerland which also saw the rapid disintegration of my relationship with a woman there.
Back in Brisbane, I was broke, broken-up and, if not broken down (2,000 miles on the PCT had immediately preceded Switzerland), at least in need of a good rest.
I wasn’t going anywhere, so in my blog I dipped liberally and randomly into former glories and embarrassments in Japan, America, Tasmania and of course Switzerland. My goal was to keep several strands going at once…but soon I was walking again (a thousand miles just around my neighbourhood, for example) and once I got to Korea I could barely keep up with my excursions here…
But I need another break from Korea. Let’s revisit Hokkaido as I dig out my journal entries from that ill-fated mission.
Day 6, Monday April 7, 2008
Glad I decided to stay. Got my washing done, shaved my head, made a trip across the river to a big ¥100 shop and a supermarket. Asking for directions to a chemist, a lady came up and told me to follow her, led me down some back lanes, wished me “Genki de” [“Take care of yourself”] and deposited me at a chemist.
A young salesman sold me a knee brace –- really a sock-like bandage that I didn’t expect to work — and I managed to explain the walk in Japanese, gave him a meishi [business card with our trip details in Japanese]; he returned the favour with a bunch of energy powder things, wished me “Ganbatte” [“Hang in there”].
Unfortunately I had to go back there later [to return the brace] as I got hold of a real knee brace at another store. This raised my spirits immensely, as did a phone call with [girlfriend down in Nagoya] Mika. Another cheap konbini [convenience store] meal and I packed up ready for an early start in the morning.
Chris texted me once today –- trouble with his MSR stove and maybe returning to Kagoshima. Then another one this evening, reporting a guy killed by a bear in Hokkaido: a 50-year-old fellow in Hokuto, near Hakodate, killed while collecting wild edible plants.
Hunters shot the bear. That gave me the chills.
Up at 5:00 tomorrow and down the road again –- or up the road. Nakafurano, Kamifurano and on towards Biei. Knee willing.
Day 7, Tuesday April 8, 2008
A Few Km Short of Biei
What a wonderful day today was, the best of the walk so far, and one of the best ever. My leg functioned well all day, most of it without any pain. It started to hurt late in the afternoon but that was after a long day.
I hope I can keep the severe pain at bay; the poor limb is not going to get much respite, but for the first half of the day, anyway, I was very strict about taking hourly breaks and resting at the first hint of pain.
I got going just before 6:00. I was in such a good mood thanks to the lack of pain and just because I was moving again, the day went by in a blur of happiness.
I went up through Nakafurano, wine and lavender country and hundreds of plastic greenhouses –- melons and pumpkins among other vegetables.
Just before Kamifurano I took a sort of side-loop that was part of a road walking course called the Oka No Michi (“Hill Walk”) that I’d never heard of; it took me through some beautiful country, farmland with wide, empty pastures, bare fields, wind-breaks, very European or North American.
In one hour I passed only a single car -– I hardly saw anybody anywhere. Spectacular backdrop of Tokachi-Dake, Furano-Dake and the south part of Daisetsuzan slightly marred by the haze but still stunning.
I really couldn’t believe I was in Japan. Lots of really run-down houses and barns patched together with scraps of wood and iron –- it really reminded me of poor parts of the American South.
I came at last to the end of that quiet, deserted rural valley beyond Senbo Touge. A couple of female hippy types pulled over in a van to ask if I was okay. A short conversation ensued about destinations, routes, I gave them a couple of meishi, and they drove back into the woods.
Passed a few signs for cafes and things, hand-painted, rustic-ethnic. Biei is supposed to be ‘artistic’. Should be a good place to linger this morning.
I’m camped in a good spot in a windbreak of pines on a ridge high above the road, with the occasional rattle of a train down on the other side. Hung a good bear bag last night –- spied two brazen foxes on the road and in a field yesterday, so must watch out for them as well…
~ And that’s all the Goat wrote