Sunday, September 27, 2009

Kyushu adventure - Day 3

Next morning we were up and off again by 9am, this time heading inland towards the bottom Prefecture of Kyushu, Kagoshima. However before we’d gone no more than 5 minutes up the road Nathan decided that he’d investigate the increasing rattling sound coming from the engine... just as well he did as turns out there was not one drop of oil left on the dip-stick... OPPS! We quickly headed for the nearest garage praying the engine wouldn’t seize... shock on the mechanic guy’s face when he saw just how lucky we were said it all!
Once on the move again we decided that seeing as we were that far south we would check out the massive volcano called Sakurajima that the area is famous for. There might have been thousands of other people there at the same time... in the blazing heat... but it was still an amazing place to visit. Sakurajima is a massive active volcano that for some strange reason they have built a city next to. When I say that it’s active that’s exactly what I mean... every day it blows out ash and dust which blankets the city and all the near by towns. Rather than the trees being green they were grey with ash as were all the cars, houses, gardens etc. It’s so active in fact that all along the streets there are little concrete ‘volcano shelters’ just in case it one day erupts again. The school kids even have to walk to school wearing hard hat helmets! It was pretty impressive to see it steaming away and a whole city just operating right next to it without a care in the world... not so sure we would be as happy to live right next to one of Japan’s most active volcanoes!
From there we drove North again up to Kirishima National Park... somewhere Nathan was really looking forward to going. Unfortunately for us it seemed half of Japan was also trying to get there as the traffic was ridiculous! We sat in a traffic jam for about an hour... only moving about 15kms in that time! Once we broke free of the traffic we drove through some stunning scenery of forests and mountain views up towards our campsite. We had no idea it was going to be as popular as it was... thousands of people there! Unlike National Parks back at home this was a hive of activity with tourist shops, huge car parks, tour buses and people milling about everywhere. National Parks in Japan are also different in the fact that they can be made up of land hundreds of kms apart... so this National Park even includes an offshore island. We went straight to the campground in fear we might be out of luck but were lucky enough to get one of the few spots left. The campground was beautiful... in amongst all the trees! We couldn’t get over the number of people there... it’s a really popular place for people to go tramping with a number of walks attracting people from all over Japan.