Monday, August 08, 2016
High on Hokkaido VII: From Crater to City
On the last day in Lake Toya, I automatically woke up at 3:30 AM! Since I was already up, I dragged myself out of the futon to catch the sunrise. Unfortunately for us, the weather was too misty for a good view. We gave it another thirty minutes before going back to sleep. Three and half hours later, the serenity of the lake was broken by the voice of an elderly gentleman singing "To-yaaaaaa, To-yaaaaaa... " over the lake's PA system. More effective than my alarm.
Ate our morning meal downstairs and checked out soon after. One more crater trail to finish before leaving Lake Toya-- the Nishiyama Crater Promenade. The trail head happens to be where the Konpiriyama trail ends and the area was as deserted as it was yesterday. A lone park ranger waved us in while the trees rustled wildly around us. Seemed that the weather was changing. Like the day before, we were the only visitors on the trail. The Nishiyama trail is a boardwalk, hence easier to do. Along the way we saw the abandoned road that was devastated by the year 2000 eruption. One could see graben zones, places where pressure from the earth create ripples on the surface. Saw more abandoned houses, bisected roads and old biscuit factory. But the creepiest scene was at the end of the trail, where a kindergarten is located.
Disaster hit when the kindergarten was preparing for the new intake. Decorations can be seen in the rusted buses and scarred buildings. The playground is marred with twisted metal where stones were showered down from the volcano. It was so still as we walked around the kindergarten, looking through the broken windows. Only the sounds of rustling grass and zinc roofing twisting in the wind. I was half expecting zombies to lurch out of the building, looking for brain sashimi.
Back at the trail head, we bought a gravel-grilled egg for a guy that we thought was cute. Strange that he was grilling so many eggs but we were the only people for hours. I was worried that the eggs might have been on sale for days. But when we cracked open the egg, the white was still a little runny, and it tasted great with a little sprinkling of salt. With that we wrapped up our itinerary for Toyako.
On our way out of Toyako-Onsen, we managed to make a few stops to admire a few more sculptures around Lake Toya.
Continued our journey to Hakodate (the third biggest city in Hokkaido) which is 180 KM away. KH made an unscheduled stop at Ōnuma Quasi-National Park (such a mouthful). Didn't know what to do there, but we knew we had to eat. Saw something that looked like a restaurant and slid open the screen door. An old man sat at the counter with a lit cigarette and a frown on his face. We were about to back out when his wife jumped out to welcome us in. The greasy kitchen reminded me of shops back home. Very rural, very authentic. KH ordered a katsu-don while I went for zaru soba, something on the opposite end. The portions were huge and the prices cheap. KH was very satisfied with the pork.
We drove out in search of the Onuma Park entrance only to realize that it was just a stone's throw away from the restaurant. We doubled back and parked at the restaurant to avoid paying for parking. Wakakaka. The Onuma Park is a lake park made up of several islands inter-connected by bridges. Quite a romantic place to go boating, just watch out for the giant mozzies. And we were in luck that the Azaleas were in full bloom and at the entrance, a pavilion draped with Wisteria. We did the island hopping trail and came out to share a cone of Yubari melon ice cream.
Immediately knew when we reached Hakodate because the roads became wider and a whole lot of intersections came our way. Much more stressful to drive in the city with all its busy traffic, streetcars, pedestrians and hook turns. Found Hotel Chocolat easy enough but we were a bit apprehensive about where to park. Fortunately for us, the staff monitor their CCTVs and noticed our presence outside. A front desk staff quickly came out to get our luggage and direct us to the parking lift. But before she allowed us in, she checked our car dimensions. She declared that the height of the Toyota Ractis exceeded their maximum, so she offered us open air parking instead. I didn't need to reverse out as they had a spin table that rotated the car for me. Cool.
The hotel booking was the cheapest in our entire trip, so KH was a little concerned about the quality. Thankfully, those fears were unfounded. The front desk staff was very helpful and helped us get our bearings. In the evening, we walked to the Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse quarter of Hakodate. The weather in the city was noticeably colder than Lake Toya. The old red brick warehouses around the bay were converted to restaurants and shopping galleries. There's also a one-stop seafood market if you don't want to go to the traditional market. We didn't get to see much of the shops because their closing time was at 6:00 PM.
We munched on a baguette with lotus root and duck before deciding on dinner. My dear KH was craving for both grilled fish and sushi, so we hunted for a restaurant that fulfilled both criterion. I had sushi while he had grilled Atka mackerel.
After a few days of abstinence at Lake Toya, we were able to resume our sex life since there was an attached bathroom. I had been edging him for a couple of days so our need was great. Lol.