Sunday, November 11, 2007

hitching and one last hike: the winter is coming!

Last weekend (Saturday November 9th), some fallen leaves didn't stop us from getting out for a smaller scale hike this weekend.

On Saturday morning, four of us biked to the highway that heads south out of town, and picked a hitch-hiking spot.

Hitch-hiking is not illegal and, as soon as they get you in their car, people are extremely polite and friendly and talkative, happy to converse in broken Janglish. They will often go out of their way to drop you right at your destination, like when we were driven off the highway straight to the door of an onsen the other week. Or like when my friend had someone drive him to a small town called Tomakomai: it was only an hour out of the driver's way, after all.
In any case, Saturday morning, one friend and I were picked up after approximately a minute. The driver was very friendly and chatty the whole 45 minutes.

At the trailhead for Eniwa-dake, my well-prepared friend Ito brewed some tea while we waited for our friends. For whatever reason, they weren't so lucky and after about an hour they still hadn't hitched. We had to hike without them.

(It turned out Okay for them though, because they ended up going to Jozankei and having a nice soak in an onsen.)

The forest was a barren and pained brown and the sky a churning grey, but the hike on the way up still afforded us a beautiful view of this lake Shikotsuko.

As we climbed, the temperature dropped and we entered a thick cloud hugging the top of the mountain. It was blustery and cold. But we both had big smiles on our faces to see our first snow of a season that promises much more to come.

Though it was chilly and the view was obstructed, the peak still provided a heightened sense of grandeur, peace, and connectedness to nature.

After the hike, we walked a few kilometres to a beautiful onsen with an outdoor bath that immediately overlooked the lake. The air was quiet, the setting spectacular, and the water just the right temperature to please the muscles and warm a chilled body. You have to go to one of these little onsens to really appreciate them. Maybe when I come back to Canada I will try start an onsen craze - though people might not take too kindly to me showing up naked randomly in their hot tubs.

After the onsen, despite it being dark and rainy, we were picked up by a car in no more than five or ten minutes. The driver was cheerful and more than happy to chat with us for the drive back to town. He was just returning from a Soba Festival, which is a hobby of his when he's not busy being a salary-man, so he wrapped some fresh soba noodles up and gave us each a gift! Did I mention how many incredibly kind people there are here?

We got back in town and had dinner at a 'gaijin' bar, owned and populated by foreigners. I don't know how to say this without seeming racist, but I can't say I miss being surrounded by caucasians. People's faces are like any other scenery around us, beautiful when varied, and I am thoroughly enjoying the change of scenery since I came to Japan.

After dinner we went to a fellow ALT's birthday party, which just about brought the house down, before heading out to a techno-house mix-typish music bar (i know nothing about music) with fricken laser beams shooting around people's heads.

The bars here don't seem to close, but we caught a taxi home around 4 or so, thus ending a jam-packed but well-balanced Saturday.

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