Sunday, May 10, 2009

Kyushu Road Trip

The beginning of May is Golden Week in Japan. Or a succession of holidays. On Saturday I reset my car odometer to zero and Brad, Dianne, and I set off to the town of Yawatahama to catch the ferry to the island of Kyushu.
My car came on the ferry with us. Our first destination was Mt. Aso, an active volcano in the center of Kyushu. Once we arrived in the Aso area we drove past a sign for Ubuyama camp grounds. We debated making the right turn towards the camp. Dianne chimed in with a certain "yes" and making that turn was, perhaps, one of the better decisions that has been made in my lifetime.

The campground turned out to be abandoned. But a friendly elderly lady came to tell us that we were more than welcomed to stay there. So we did. She told us that it had been abandoned for two years. And assured us that the vicious sounding dogs were in fact cute.

We set up the tent, built a campfire and drank whiskey. We wrote a number of songs next to the camp fire. Perhaps the most memorable being, "Nobody Goes to Shikoku".
It was a perfect evening. Freestyle camp fire songs and whiskey are about all I need to keep me happy.
We emerged from the tent the following morning to play on the bull at the campsite and pack up the car to drive towards one of the largest active volcanoes in the world.

We wanted to walk to the volcano as opposed to drive. I do not think many people walk as we could not find any sort of path. Luckily, the volcanic terrain kept many trees from covering the hills so getting lost while wandering did not seem too likely.
We made it to the summit of some mountain and decided to continue towards the famous crater as opposed to scaling back down the side of the steep hill we pulled ourselves up. By the time we got to the base of the crater it was closed do to the toxic gas that volcanoes emit. A policeman gave us a ride back to our campsite. Though we were unable to make it to the volcano all the citizens of Shikoku were elated to just be outside, surrounded by so much green grass.

Rain hit the tent through the night at our campsite next to Mt. Aso. And the following morning we drove to the crater, just catching a glimpse of it through the rain clouds. With gray clouds in the sky we decided to take a drive further south to Takachiho Gorge.
The gorge was picturesque, but full of Japanese tourists with their cameras.
I payed about $3 to go into the Fresh Water Aquarium. Which was basically the goldfish section of a pet store.
The three of us then came to the decision to drive back to our beloved Ubuyama campsite. After an onsen and supermarket stop I drove in the dark, through the rain to arrive well into the night at the abandoned campground. Only a few minutes after our arrival did the friendly old lady pull up in her car to greet us once again and let us know we were still welcomed.

We woke up to the sound of weed whackers and lawnmowers. We played frisbee in the grass and Dianne and I showed proper appreciation to the egg gift that the friendly old lady had given us upon our first visit.
The last day was spent in the onsen town of Beppu. Despite all the complaining I do about Japan I am certain that Beppu is one of the most special places on earth with it's 400 plus hot springs.

After one of the worst dinning experiences of my life we took the bus to the mud onsen. Sulfuric gas naturally heats the water and mud under your feet. Dianne and I covered ourselves in the smooth gray mud and crawled around like monsters with a Japanese child who we befriended.

After four full days in Kyushu we boarded the ferry back to Shikoku. By the time we arrived in Ikeda I had clocked in just under 900 km on my car.


Jane said...

Will we have time to go to Beppu in June?

Caitlin said...

Unfortunately no. But we will go to Onsens and you will never know the difference ;)