Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Day 7: Astounding Asahidake

The next morning, Mount Asahidake beckoned.  We woke up reasonably early and rushed downstairs to check the noticeboard downstairs for updates on the weather situation.  Was the ropeway open?  It was!

Breakfast was a buffet.

I stuck to my guns - a Japanese breakfast or nothing!

close-up - some grilled salmon, lots of pickled vegetables, pickled cod roe

HM was plenty excited that there was yogurt, with blueberries no less

I didn't ignore the "western" options entirely

cornflakes - always good

After breakfast, we headed out for our big adventure.

the visitors' centre we visited the day before

All the guidebooks and websites had said that the trail at the upper ropeway station was an easy one.  We imagined a nicely laid out path, with benches and signage, but the sight of snow just outside our hotel the day before had given us pause.

Our adventure for the day started with a ride up the ropeway.

whoa coniferous forests

omg snow!

the ropeway

At the upper ropeway station, we were greeted by an enthusiastic ranger and given a briefing.  Of course, not being Japanese, we were given an English Language brochure to read instead.

a quick intro to Mount Asahidake, Hokkaido's highest peak

Then the ranger brought all of us into the next room and showed us where we could change into rubber boots ala Phua Chu Kang.  Rubber boots!  We did as told, and then proceeded outside to discover that we had been sorely mistaken to imagine a path of any sort.

er, there's a trail here somewhere...

one last look at civilisation

Off we went, treading gingerly at first, then with greater confidence.  Needless to say, just when I was getting the hang of it,  with great inevitability, I fell over, my foot going right through a loosely packed mound of snow and my butt landing on the wet snow.

Once I got over that novel experience, there was much to look at and enjoy.  The landscape was dramatic and varied.

Mount Asahidake

snow fields, rather than fields of flowers

phew, a clear patch!

hey, birdwatchers

they were obviously waiting for something to appear

For a brief moment, there was a flash of brown, which even HM and I could see without benefit of optical equipment, and the lenses swivelled in unison and into action.

so that's what they were looking for

It was tempting to stop and stare, but we had a walk to complete.

impressive displays of weather 

crystal green lakes

reappearing in the spring

Interspersed between the snow fields were the early alpine flowers.

flowers revealed

rhododendron aureum

pink alpine azalea

It didn't take long for us to be reminded that we were at the mercy of fickle Mother Nature.  Looking ahead, we could see...

aiee, a white-out!

we wondered if we too would need to traverse that great white expanse

But first we had to admire Jigoku-dani, or Hell's Valley, with its belching fumaroles.

And then there we were, no, not the summit, but the highest point of that trail.

1665m above sea level

good to know that there were emergency huts

Then it was our turn to walk across that snow field, in somewhat hazy conditions.

following others

All in all, the walk took maybe a little more than an hour and ended sooner than we would have liked, even though there were a couple of moments where us city slickers were a tad apprehensive.

Back at the ropeway station, we had ourselves a snack as we recounted the thrill of the walk.  We felt brave and adventurous, or at least I did!

hot coffee and some pastries

Looking out the window, we could see that the weather had miraculously cleared up.  The sun was out in full force, so we decided to go round the trail again.

towards Mount Asahidake one more time

This time we chanced across some wildlife...

siberian rubythroat

this lil fella scampered across my path, sat up and then scooted off before I could even say, "Look, there's a..."

By this time, there were more people enjoying the sights and sounds of this little corner of Daisetsuzan National Park.

a little pause in life's journey

people from all walks of life, bare-legged and otherwise

Then it was time to say goodbye to Mount Asahidake.

one last look

then it was back on the ropeway

looking down at cross-country terrain

The LP guide had recommended a ramen shop at one of the other hotels,  and so we went in search of some lunch.  With the sun out and clear skies, the little village was a pretty sight indeed.

we could still see the top of Mt Asahidake

Alas, the ramen shop was no more.  A sign on the door proclaimed that the chef/owner had retired the December before.  We wandered back to our hotel, the Asahidake Bearmonte, to see if the restaurant was open.  It was not.  So what to do next?  The ropeway station did have a snack bar...

the ropeway station

There, we had ourselves...

emomochi aka potato mochi

vegetable korokke

and another milk-flavoured ice cream

Temporarily sated, we did some shopping at the ropeway station's souvenir shop, we bought some small trinkets and...

scallop flavoured potato chips

This would serve as a snack later.  Then we wandered around the short trails around our hotel.

too bad many parts were still covered in snow

Without the appropriate footwear, there were only so many places we could go to.

how thoughtful, a boardwalk

So back to the hotel we went.  From the hotel's convenience store, we bought...

sesame genmaicha

instant noodles, duck flavour no less.  yay!

Together with the Jagabee, those made for a handy second lunch/early tea.  That tided us over till dinner.

In the meantime, HM was content to relax in our rather pleasant room but I was restless and itching to spend more time outdoors, and so I popped out for a pre-dinner walk.

white wagtail

white wagtail

a grey wagtail standing on the rock

the weather started looking ominous again

Dinner that night was once again the buffet.

the same spread, more or less

roast beef, and good roast beef at that

we were each served a plate of this - s salad with prawns and smoked salmon

a Japanese selection

the Japanese make the lightest sponges!

Sadly, our Hokkaido adventure was drawing to a close. We would be flying out the next day, to return to Tokyo.  On our last night in Hokkaido, we took a long bath.  The day-trippers were gone, the baths were nice and quiet, perfect for a contemplative bath before bedtime.

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