Friday, August 05, 2016
High on Hokkaido VI: High on Hiking
Our booking at the ryokan was inclusive of breakfast. When we got down at 8:00 AM, a tray of eggs, sausages, natto, spinach, bean sprouts and pan-fried salmon was waiting for us. Good, hearty food for a day of physical exertion ahead. At the cafe, we exchanged pleasantries with the Budget Uncle, who had his wife in tow. She had a mang zang face and didn't say much at all. When we told him that we drove, he was quite impressed. He waved us off to do whatever 'young people' did.
Drove to the nearby Toyako Visitors Center to get on the Konpiriyama Crater trail. The sun was shining brightly but the air was relatively cool. For some reason, we were the only ones on the trail with the dandelions and bees. Highlights of the trail was the view of Lake Toya, a crater, a destroyed incinerator, and an abandoned house from the year 2000 eruption. On the way back (it wasn't a loop, so we had to double back), we spotted another fox!
Back at the trail head, we visited more ruins from the year 2000 eruption. Saw an abandoned apartment block that was flooded with debris right up to the second floor. One corner of the building was also scarred by the eruption. Nearby was an inundated onsen. Looking in from the broken windows, one could see the locker room half buried in the ground.
Before our next activity, we quickly grabbed a noodle lunch in town. Shared a bowl of shio ramen and a plate of gyoza. Just as we were finishing up, the small shop was raised by fourteen Singaporeans. One uncle (Uncle 14) chatted us up and shared some of his stories. Sad to hear that he wasn't very 'excited' with Hokkaido so far as he was comparing it to his recent New Zealand trip. Just a few doors away was a souvenir shop and we did some shopping there. More stuff to fill the back seat. It was starting to pile up really. Guess what? We bumped into Uncle 14 again.
More hiking was planned for that afternoon. Drove to the Usuzan Ropeway to hitch a ride up Mount Usu. At the Base Station is Showa Shinzan, a new mountain (volcanic lava dome to be exact) that suddenly appeared after the year 1943 eruption. Surprised to see that tripods are prepared at strategic locations for visitors to get that perfect shot. At the top of the ropeway was an observation point that offered more views of the lake and Showa Shinzan. Coincidentally, Budget Uncle was coming down as we were climbing up the 100+ steps. Glad to see that his mang zhang wife was smiling and more chatty.
As with all observation points, one can only do so much there. Once again, we took the route less traveled and went for the Gin'numa Crater rim trail. Can't believe I actually agreed to descend 575 steps to the crater rim. From the rim, one could view the coast and the steaming crater from a better vantage point. A lonely hike, think we were the only ones in the area. Going down was one thing, but getting back up was killing. If not for the walking sticks, I don't think I would have made it. And the whole area was crawling with furry caterpillars. Definitely an encouragement to climb faster.
On our way back to the ryokan, we visited the flowering apricot orchards. Nothing to shout about compared to flowering cherry trees, but it was something different. By that time, we were already tired and cranky (but we cheered up a bit after eating some juicy strawberries from a local farm). Our legs had enough of exercise for one day. In the evening, once we had rested enough, we took a short, leisurely stroll by the lake to admire some of the public art installations. Around the perimeter of the lake are 58 sculptures by 55 Japanese artists. Made another random dinner choice of sushi but it didn't quite measure up to Genzen Sozai, our yardstick for the trip.
Walked into Select 108, an 'atas' place selling souvenirs and local products at the standard prices. Sat at the lobby of ryokan, sipping craft beer from Select 108 and researching for the following day's activities. For the second night, we watched the fireworks display and went to the hot spring. Think we had too little sushi for dinner because by 10:00 PM we were cooking a pack of instant noodles. I was so out of touch with instant noodles innovation that I was fascinated with the design of the bowl that had an integrated strainer.