My latest Post.

This view,this beauty
A tear unbidden
Creeps into my eye.

My stay is short
But I shall return to this place
If only my life is long enough.

Such beauty
Gazing upon it
I hope my years are many.

Bokusui Wakayama.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Ujideka - the obsession continues.

Map Location.
   It was just over a week ago that I exited this forest after another great hike, - Ujideka Revisited -  but for one incident. On the penultimate section, when leaving the summit of Mt Takaoyama, the trail-markers became nonexistent and, as a result, I had to do some bush-bashing before re-joining my planned route.
   Today's plan was to return to Takaoyama, discover where I went wrong and, if successful, do some exploring in the area. 
   After my one-hour walk from Kyotanabe station, and through the town of Ide, it was great to step-into my kinda' environment - muddy tracks, dense forest, the serenity, on my own - and make my way to the junction where I had emerged onto the previous week.
    It was about 30-minutes before I reached my junction where four tracks converged. Over the course of the next hour, I would pass-through this section five times before departing the area.
   In the middle of the junction there was this sign, written in Kanji, directing me to Takaoyama. The problem was that the sign didn't point to any particular track, but was pointing between the two most likely tracks that would lead to where I wanted to go so, after a quick check of my map, I came to the conclusion that the track that was the most likely one to take, was the one with the ribbons & tape tied to the trees. WRONG. 
   Instead, it led me to this stone marker, in the middle of nowhere, where the ribbon & tape ceased to exist from this point. Oh well, it was only 10-minutes of my time. As I was returning to the junction, I discovered another track that I decided to check-out. And another dead-end.
   It was now time to see if track-2 got me any closer to my goal. Five minutes in and I discovered another sign. The strange thing with this sign, was that it was located off the track - the track is at the bottom of the above image, behind the sign - and, after some debate, I decided on staying on the track. WRONG AGAIN. Ten minutes on and I reached a junction that seemed familiar and I immediately realized where I was. I had bypassed Takaoyama and was closing-in on Gonzan (also Ushitorayama). So, another u-turn. Partway back I decided to take the risk and headed-off the track and enter the bush in hope of finding my prize.
    And, before I knew-it, there appeared some trail markings which gave me a gut-feeling I was closing-in on Takaoyama. As I made my way I came to realize these were the markings I followed the week before, when I was exiting the summit. And when I took the wrong turn. 

   A few meters on and whala, I had arrived. Unlike my first visit, I stayed longer and checked-out my surroundings - as the summit was covered in dense forest, there weren't any views - and take the usual 'selfie'. 


   I couldn't help notice, as I looked around, at the many signs revealing the fact that I was on the summit of Takaoyama. I counted six in all. The thought crossed my mind to remove one of the signs and re-place it where it would more beneficial - at the junction down below. But decided to leave well enough alone. 
   From here I returned to the junction and an early lunch-break. As time was on my side, I had a close look at my map and decided to explore the 4th track. My map showed this track, after ascending/descending a couple of hills, would emerge onto route-307 and a short bus-ride back to Kyotanabe. WRONG AGAIN.
   About 100-meters in the track came to an abrupt halt, and I stood there looking-into a short but steep gully. As I was in the mood to explore, I descended into the base and followed it out. The gully soon connected with a trickling stream and, a few meters on,  fed-into a more stronger stream. As I scaled along the side of this stream I encountered this short waterfall. It was at about this point I discovered more trail markers and decided to follow them. About half-an-hour further on, I emerged onto a well defined track and immediately burst into raucous laughter. I had completed an almost 360-degree loop and arrived a few hundred meters from the four track junction.
    My course from here would be to return to Kyotanabe by the same route I took to get here.  That was until I happened across another track. This one was well marked and, as I made my way, was treated to some very impressive fungi.
   Throughout the day I was impressed by the many varied types of fungi and where they grew. This has become a new interest for me and I post many images onto my collection of social media pages.
Map Location.
    After some time ascending/descending along the track, I spotted this building hidden amongst the trees. When I emerged onto a sealed lane, route-307 was in front of me and the building was a shrine. The ideal location for another rest-stop, a bite-to-eat and a cafe au-lait. From here it was a one-hour walk to Kyotanabe station, then home and a cold beer.

                                            So, until next time, Sayonara.

   Video of the days outing.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Ujideka Revisited.

     Today's course is made-up of six different tracks, four of which I have explored in recent weeks, the other two unexplored territory.
Map Location.
   After a 7km x 75-min' walk from where I alighted my bus, I reached this small tea-plantation on route-62, on the border seperating Ujitawara & Wazuka Towns. For the next 4-hours my surroundings would consist of trees, trees and more trees, with very few view opportunities. 
The tracks are well marked and defined with an assortment of markers ranging from red-colored pegs, tape, and signs hanging from trees.
Map Location.
   Twenty minutes in and my first junction (actually it would have been 15-minutes, but I overshot the junction and had to backtrack). The last, and first, time I came through here, it was from the other direction and, if my memory served me right, most of this next segment would be undulating, but mostly downhill.
   Ten minutes later and I reached this rocky-outcrop. Although I had only been on the track for little under an hour, it had been in fact 2-hours since alighting the bus, and 5-hours since I last had anything to eat or drink. So, as I wasn't in any great rush, this was an ideal location for a banana and some ice-coffee. 

   Throughout  the day I would pass trees with a varying array of fungi, something I have taken a photographic interest in over recent weeks. In the image on the right, if my research is correct, is a member of the Ganoderma  family. 
Map Location.
   Two hours, two junctions, one descent and one ascent (I'm cutting a long story short here) after my rest-stop, I enter into the first of my unexplored tracks. But, before I do, . . . .
. . . . I manage to take-in a couple of vistas of the surrounding area. In the image on the left, I look back at where I have just come from. The hill, I hazard to guess, is about where I had my rest-stop. On the right is Jubusan (632m), famous for the 13-hundred year-old Kontai-ji Temple that lies a few meters below the summit.
   The next segment passes very quickly and, another power-pylon and two junctions later, I arrive at . . . . 
Map Location.

 . . Gonzan, or Ushitorayama, (443.7m) depending on what map you read - both names use the same Kanji characters. Just as I arrive, I can hear the fire-alarm sirens sounding below, heralding 12pm, and time for a well deserved lunch-break.
   I am back in unexplored territory and, from here, things began to turn to custard. The track, that I assumed would be there, was there and, like up to this point, also well marked.
   My next destination was Takaoyama (433m) and, about 15-minutes after leaving Gonzan, I arrived at, what I thought was, my next summit - if my Japanese language skills were better than what they are, I would have realized that this wasn't Takaoyama.
   Moving on I began to notice the track markings began to change - gone were the red-colored pegs, to be replaced with faded and tatty ribbon. But I wasn't panicking (that was about to come, sooner, more than later) when, just a bit further on . . . .
Map Location.
 . . . . I arrive at this clearing and, guess what, yes, Takaoyama (the Kangi characters concurring with what was on my map). From here any markings became few-and-far-between, and eventually nonexistent. 
   After some bush-bashing, I could hear the faint sound of a running stream below me, and so I decided to head for there. I soon emerged at a track which revealed where exactly I was and, not liking where I was, did a u-turn and headed back up the hill and through the bush in search of my planned track. I soon found that track which eventually led me onto another track that I had biked on a couple-of-weeks prior. Phew. 
   Also at this point I could hear the sounds of civilization, in the form of traffic moving along route-307. I had arrived at Ide Town.
Map Location.
   Four-and-a-half hours after entering the forest at route-62, I emerged from the forest to be greeted by the sound of a motor pump-sprayer and farmers spraying their tea crop. From here it was a leisurely stroll through Ide Town, over the Kizugawa River and onto Kyotanabe Station for my train trip home.
   Since completing this hike, my mind has been working overtime with questions such as - Where did I do wrong? Are there other tracks there that I missed? 
   So, in line with my obsessive nature, I plan to return and, on that occasion, commencing from the Ide Town end.   
         Until next time - Sayonara. 

Course Details -

Saturday, March 12, 2016

No Plan/Getting Lost in Ujitawara.

   It's been some time since my last 'no plan/getting lost' outing and, as I have been spending some time in the Ujitawara area of late, where best to reacquaint myself with this idea, than amongst the many tea-plantations, hills-&-valleys & forests that make-up this area. So, with scenery as in the above image to look forward to, I was eager to get on the road. It dawned a cold, fine & calm morning and, after an 18km x 1-hour ride, I reached my first junction.
Map Location.
Map Location.
   After spending a few minutes setting-up my cameras, and taking-on energy, in the form of a banana, I was off down my first lane. With scenery like this, one has to concentrate in case a local appears in front of you driving a light truck/van.
   About 1km in and my sealed lane becomes a muddy track - I was conscience of the recent rain and the possibility of getting wet underfoot - when I happened-across this signpost directing me, and other eager outdoors people, to a site further up the trail.
Map Location.
   About a half-kilometer later my track came to an end, heralding my arrival at the Ryuou-no Taki Shrine & Waterfalls (video). I was immediately blown-away with the isolation & serenity of this complex. It wasn't until I saw the vermillion-colored Torii hidden amongst the trees that I realized what I had stumbled-upon.

It didn't take me long to make out where the 'falls were and, after ascending some steps, I arrived at . . . .
. . . . the Shrine itself, nestled midway between two waterfalls, with much moss and vines adding a touch of color & atmosphere to the site. Waterfalls in Japan hold strong spiritual significance and, in many cases an icon of Fudo, the God of Waterfalls, can be found.
   So,  just as I was about to depart this site, I spotted, hidden amongst a rocky outcrop, two religious icons. The gentleman on the left is Fudo, but the one on the right I can't seem to find a name for. It has been suggested it may be Chinese - Taoism.
    After exiting the forest, my next destination was immediately on my right, through a plantation of tea and, a few meters on, my next stop -  this concrete lantern. It seemed a strange place to have this object. 
Map Location.
From here it was another forest track, and another dead-end but, in front of me, I could make out a concrete flood-protection dam, but it was a track to one side that attracted my attention. After scaling a steep/muddy hill I gave-up and returned to my bike. As I was descending  I managed to catch glimpses of the Ujitawara rural countryside below me and, as I did so, wondered if there were any tracks down there for me to explore. There was. My third track of the day was to take me just below where the above image was taken and my first irrigation reservoir of the day. What resembled a faint track, bypassing the reservoir, came to it's conclusion on the trail I had just descended from 5-minutes earlier.
Map Location.
   From here I re-emerged onto route-62, about 100m up the road from where I entered, about an hour earlier. My next track was about 100m down the road. A kilometer up the path I came to a junction where five tracks converged.  
One track was blocked by a truck, so I proceeded straight-ahead, leaving the other two for when I returned (if I returned). This track ended at my second irrigation reservoir of the day and a very nice angler who bade me kiotsukete (take care) as we parted. Oh how I envied this man - sitting here, in the bright/warm sunlight of the day, with a fishing-rod in one hand, and a mug of coffee in the other (the site has been placed on my 'picnic location' book for future reference).
Map Location.
   Returning to the junction my next track, my 5th of the day, was on my immediate right and, after a short ascent, I emerged at a power-pylon (above image). There are thousands of these spread throughout Japan and, those located in isolated places, have access tracks leading to each.
   I was aware, thanks to the online topography map, that there may be a track from here ascending to the ridge-line. So I decided to go for it - bike, bike-shoes and all. The track looked well defined and, five minutes in, I emerged at a clearing that overlooked the reservoir, angler-and-all, that I visited about 10-minutes previous. Looking at the way he was pulling at his fishing-rod, he was about to secure his breakfast for the following day. As I proceeded along the track, my surroundings began to close-in on me, and the going tougher.
    My path was becoming more difficult as I proceeded, with many fallen trees laying-over the small stream I was following and, with the recent rain, traction was becoming impossible.
Map Location.
    I reached a point (in the above image) where to proceed would be nothing short of suicidal. What I was confronted with (in the image on the right) was an almost vertical ascent with no guarantee of the track amounting to anything. So I decided to cut-my-losses and return to the 5-track junction, not before placing this track on my 'must do' list - on that occasion without my bike. Upon my arrival at the junction, track-6 was now blocked by a farmers vehicle, so I took this as an omen and decided to finish my no-plan, getting-lost excursion and head for home and a hot shower.
   Each excursion into the outdoors always provides me with great satisfaction and exhilaration, but none more so than these outings. Because I have no idea what to expect, and what is around the next corner, I always come-away with an appreciation of what we have here on this planet.
   Thank-you for reading this post and, until next time, sayonara.

   Video of the days outing -

   Course details - (I cannot guarantee the accuracy of the map location & course details).