Bonsoir ladies and gentlemen. Seems I am rather lax at updating this thing-my bad.
Having to go back to Japan land to remember what happened a few weeks ago! Myself and Becki managed to drag our hungover and sleep deprived selves onto the plane from Tokyo to Sapporo where we promptly passed out. All was dreamy until we came to land, when literally 5 foot from touch down the plane flew back into the sky-it was very james bond esc, and we obviously thought we were going to die. Alas, at attempt two we touched (rather bumpily) down, accompanied with pep talking from myself the whole way about how common double landing situations were (:O)-perhaps I've found my calling in life as a therapist. After our landing fiasco, we were thoroughly dehydrated and miserable, but Sapporo airport came to rescue. It is my favourite airport I ever went too—it has like 4 stories with multiple shops, a mini version of Cadbury's world, a shop that sells baked goods and the very important starbucks. We spent 3 hours basking in coffee delight, then got ourselves onto a bus to find where we were staying. Once we found ourselves in our apartment, which was a bit out of town, we removed our rucksacks, sat down and achieved absolutely nothing, apart from walking 50 metres round the corner for a ramen. All in all a successful day :P
Day two in Hokkaido we woke up feeling fresh and unhungover-great stuff. Mission one was to pick up the car-all fine until we realised that the ''english'' sat nav we had paid for, actually only worked if you typed in the place you wanted to go to in Japanese-most ridiculous system ever and totally useless. Have you ever tried to match a Japanese word to its symbol?? Effectively impossible. Try then explaining to Japanese people that know about 20 english words that you want your money back for the s*** sat nav they just sold you—30 minutes of my life I'll never get back. Once that palava was dealt with, we realised we didn't actually have a map—thank god for GPS on my phone-it has a blue dot that tells you where you on the map so we basically found our way around japan following the blue dot. Amen to the blue dot.
Journey one was north to a town I don't remember the name of, ashiwahaka or something of the like…a 2.5 hour journey that took us through the mountains-it was a super beautiful drive-there are a couple of national parks in the north of japan -all are very scenic with lakes and mountains akin to the lake district-only they were covered in snow-who knew it snows so much in Japan? We had some lols trying to park the car in the hotel as they have these car parks where the cars are stored in like a ferris wheel system, so you have to park on a metal disc, then the disc turns 90 degrees and you drive in to the conveyor belt, then your car disappears into the obis of the ferris wheel. The Japanese man controlling the car park must have thought we were complete idiots as we couldn't work out how to reverse the car, how to park the car, and when we came to pick up the car, we couldn't remember which ferris wheel we had parked in.
That afternoon we drove about ten minutes out of town to a ski resort and hiked up a ski run for a few hours. We saw a woodpecker and a stag so we were very excited—I uploaded a pic of the stag you can just about make it out if you look closely! We had a nice dinner that evening, where a local Japanese couple sitting on the table next to us ordered all our food-They were pretty pissed so we were wondering what on earth we would be fed but it was delish, fish, chicken skewers and some salads-Job done!
Next day we drove very north to the edge of Shiretoko national park….it was again a really nice drive-on the way we passed the sea of okhotsk, so we could see Siberia from the waters edge-see pics--it was bloody freezing and the place looked derelict. We also drove through a nature reserve before finding where we were staying….a village 30 min drive from the national park. The place was like a camping ground come hostel and it looked allright online, but when we first rocked up, we could only see two sheds-one that had a sign for biker boys, and one for biker girls. There was no one around, so we explored our lodgings. It was seriously gross, smelt mingin, there was crap everywhere and it was dirty…. did I mention Japan was the cleanest place I've ever been? Slightly in shock, we decided to drive to the town to work out our options, and it was only when we turned the car around we realised that the place we were staying was actually behind the bloody biker accommodation. It was essentially a five star palace compared to where we thought we were staying, a big log cabin with a hot spring shower and bath. Kudos to the biker boys and girls staying in that place.
Anyhows, we dumped our stuff and headed out to try tackle a mountain close by. Fail number one when we realised how much snow there is in Hokkaido—literally we came in the worst season possible as there was snow everywhere and 10ft snow drifts!! Along with having lots of national parks, Hokkaido is also home to a large population of Higuma bears….a descendent of the Grizzly. I was petrified of the bears and there are signs everywhere saying ''beware of the bear''. The Japanesse all walk with bear bells ...essentially a bell attached to your rucksack to alert the bears your coming-most annoying thing ever. We didn't have a bear bell, so I fashioned one out of a metal tin and shoved some coins in it, then continually shook it up the hill…..I think Becki was potentially ready to feed me to the bears if we saw one cos the tin was dead annoying. Our Mt Rasu mission rapidly came to an end because we kept getting hit with snow drifts and the peaceful noises were being destroyed by my tin. Being the sensible doctors that we are, we turned back and went to the coast. This tuned out to be a grand idea as it was free of people, free of bears, but present with great views (pis), two sea eagles and a sunset!! Awesome!!
That evening we went to a Japanese indoor BBQ-really cool you get to cook your own meat on a grill at your table. Unfortunately, no one spoke English in the restaurant, so we had to kind of point at the menu as to what we wanted to order. We were literally saved by the bell, because after 10 minutes of pointing, the first waiter gave up and brought someone else over, who knew a few words of English. Turns out we had actually ordered beef tongue. I think the looks on our face said it all. Our beef, lamb and mushroom was delicious thank you very much, and was very much devoid of animal entrails.
The following day took us into the national park, which again was the worst timed trip ever as the place was covered in snow. It seemed impossible for us to hike without eskimo outfits and pick axes, so we had a wonder around the famous five lakes then drove over a big pass through the national park to get to the other side of the peninsula. It was an incredible drive through mountains which were covered in snow, and on the way down we went into an onsen. It smelt absolutely gross of eggs as it was a sulphur onsen, but we peskily put on our bikinis (it was freezing) and bounded towards the onsen. It was so so hot-like it must have been 70 degrees. I dipped my legs in and withdrew them looking like a lobster, so sort of sprinkled a bit of water on my body instead. We justifiably abandoned the onsen in aide of avoiding shedding of the skin, but then as we were getting changed, this little Japanese woman rocked up, stripped off and submerged herself into the scorching onsen for like ten minutes. Kudos to her. Her skin didn't even change colour. Jaw dropping moment for myself and becki who were sporting the boiled look.
We reached the other side of the peninsula and decided to walk up the coast. It was again deserted…but so cool---we could see the mountain ridge and the sea so it was perfect, and the route was rocky so a bit wobbly at times. On our trip along the coast we saw a fox—see pics, sea eagles, and we saw a pod of sea lions!! Literally 20 m off the shore…it was so cool they were just chilling in the sea. I was obviously delighted. Along with delight, I was also acutely aware that we were traipsing in bear territory-they feed down by the shore apparently. Despite this, I'd bought a bear bell in lieu of the tin shaking incident, so I was feeling pretty bear safe as the stupid bell was going like the clappers. So there we were, the sun was shining, we had walked for like 2 hours, and we were essentially David Attenborough on a nature tour. We were feeling pretty great about ourselves. This came to an abrupt halt, when out of no-where we heard this massive roar. We looked at one another and were like ''s***-bear''. I started ringing my bell like I was auditioning for a musical ensemble, and then whipped out my rape alarm and set that off too. Absolutely ridiculous. After like 20 minutes of s***ting it, we realised the roar was actually the sea lions. #headhitswall. Safe to say we turned back shortly after that and went and got a ramen.
The next day we had to travel again as we were staying somewhere else….We went to a lake called lake Akan and went on a nature trail walk, which was in a forest surrounding the lake. We saw lots of wildlife and trees so all good and we lolled a lot at the Japanese signs…''beware of falling twigs'' I think they meant branches. Then we drove a few miles down the road and were super lucky to pick up a trail that led into a forest and up to a mountain. It was pissing down with rain, so we were glad of the tree cover. We hiked through the forest following little red signs, and it came out onto a few different lakes as the trail went on….All was going swimmingly until we got quite high up…there were some snow drifts, so you would find your leg disappearing into the obis of the snow. It was then that we realised we were in bear territory. After our bear fiasco the day before, turns out I'd left my bear bell in the car. After freaking out for like 5 mins I made Becki go in front for a bit as basically I was scared of the bears. After about another 5 minutes, Becki stopped and was like whats that….?? There was a big dark bear shape in the distance-life was clearly over and we were going to get eaten. To try to defend us from the bears I broke into song, and started clapping, and singing crap beats to try tell it we were human. If you have ever heard me sing, I reckon I could warn off pretty much anything and anyone. After 5 mins of being petrified (it was probably more like 1 minute), we realised the bear was actually a tree trunk. We turned back after that. This time our substitute bear bell was a house playlist on my phone--I serenaded the forest the whole way down, until two birds flew in front of us like 200 m from the car and we both screamed like small children. That would have certainly scared the bears off.
After our bear escapades we had an hour drive to the place we were staying….the middle of nowhere in the middle of Hokkaido. We were staying in an air bnb, which took a few false turns to find as it was in a town that had approximately one shop and 20 houses. We were staying with a Japanese guy called Yossy, who liked star shapes and meditation and was definitely at one with nature and life. We got given rice tea when we got there…which was actually kind of gross…rice tea-aids digestion apparently, the gesture was lovely, but give us a pg tips any day. Anyhow's, he was cooking us dinner, so he was like do you want to go an onsen? We were like hell yes. He took us literally a 2 minute walk from his house, to this outside onsen, that was adjacent to a massive lake, that was surrounded by mountains. It was seriously beautiful. It was a good temperature, and it was deserted so we had the place to ourselves. We got treated with an amazing sunset, dancing swallows and some swans. Bliss. The pics don't do it justice. We went back to have dinner, with a bottle of red wine, and we were fed a vegan feast that was super nice and cost like 4 pound. Win win. After dinner, Yossy sent us outside to look at the sky. It was completely full of stars-incredible, then I saw a shooting star, so it was essentially a storybook of a day. Brilliant.
On our final day in Hokkaido we drove south to see the Japanese cranes….again worst time of the year as none of them were there. We were expecting hundreds of cranes, and we saw a few on the drive in, just chilling in the grass at the side of the road, but when we got to the crane conservation centre we were told it was mating season and the cranes were completely hidden in the moor….hashtag wish we took a pic of the cranes at the side of the road. On our drive back to Sapporo, we decided to stop off at bear mountain, a conservation centre for the bears, and FACE OUR FEAR. They were enormous…Like huge. Picture explains it all. I'm glad we saw them behind glass, and at the end of our trip, as I don't think I would have left the car throughout our Hokkaido expedition.
We dropped the car off in Sapporo and went to our hotel. We were staying two nights in Sapporo, and we essentially went to bed on the first night, and then stayed in bed for 20 hours. I left for like half an hour to get coffee and baked goods then went back to bed. Totally legit. In the evening, we went out to a park in Sapporo, and we were lucky enough to catch the blossom in bloom-absolutely beautiful. We hiked up to the top of a mountain and got a great view over the city before heading down for dinner.
After our week in Hokkaido, we had a flight to Osaka, and whilst there we explored Kyoto and Kobe. Kobe was the final destination for Becki, and the start of solo travel for myself, so I will update you with these lols later on.
Missing you all lots, and sending all of my love xxxxxxxxxxx