Last Sunday (yes I know it’s a while ago) I had another day out tramping. It was probably the last day until spring as winter has really set in and the mountains are beginning to look whiter and whiter. I jumped on my scooter at 7am and sped into Beppu, about 40mins by scooter, weaving my way down the middle of the road with hardly a car in sight. I met our crew at the train station and we jumped on a bus and headed up into the hills. Out trip leader had decided it was a ‘late’ start so we couldn’t climb the first mountain, instead we’d get the cable car to the top!
I was a little disappointed but you’ll see how it all worked out. We arrived at the summit, without even breaking a sweat, and started off along the ridge. The plan was to climb 3 mountains that are all linked by one ridge. We started out along the track with relatively good 360 deg views, these mountains are often covered in clouds even on the nicest days so it was very lucky to get some ok views, although within minutes the clouds had rolled in and we were sealed off in our own wee world. The track rolled on with the odd up and down and we passed through some very baron landscapes. Winter had truly removed all of the ‘living’ vegetation and the trees were like bare skeletons. The track finally gave way to a muddy path that in some places made you wonder if it was ever used! We stopped at a beautiful flat area for lunch, it is so interesting seeing what Japanese people eat for lunch, basically whatever they have at home/work comes with them into the hills; bento boxes (Japanese style lunch box with rice and a whole lot of small vegetables and meats....and weird stuff... a lot of it), instant noodles, cans of beer!!, pineapple soaked in brandy!!, dried persimmons, hot coffee, tea or a ginger and caramel drink. My sandwiches looked a little out of place!
The next part of the trip is where things get interesting, the lunch break was quickly forgotten after heading straight up the side of our next mountain, the track didn’t zig zag like expected but instead went directly up. Imagine a slippery slide (like in your back yard) but on a crazy angle. One step up, two down. Finally at the top going down was in much the same fashion except on a knife edge ridge, in places you could stand with your arms out and have them both hanging over the edges! Even with the ropes to assist you it was a very slow, careful and steep descent.
After finally reaching the bottom we had one more summit to climb, luckily only 20minutes away. This bought us out onto a small mountain right behind Beppu with views out over the whole area. This mountain is quite an obvious feature as the whole side gets burnt off every spring in a big festival. So every day you look up and see this yellow/brown slope with no trees and wonder what it’s all about, looking down from the top was pretty cool. We raced to the bottom and headed for the nearest Onsen (hot spring) for a relaxing, naked with other men, bath. Only my second experience naked with other men so I wouldn’t say I’m comfortable with it, the fact I’m white makes me a novelty and it was dam cold!
So all in all we spent 7 ½ hrs tramping and didn’t get to the bottom until after dark. Looking back I’m pleased our leader decided on the cable car otherwise we might still be there!