Sunday, July 29, 2007

Wrapping up and taking off

Hitting the road tomorrow. Bit of a chaotic mess getting everything squared away with cancellation of service contracts, the move, inspection, and -- for me -- marking school papers even after my last day was done. I was prepared for it to be bittersweet, but honestly, the past month has seen so much trouble, and so much of it unnecessary, that it can't be. Leaving is simply sweet.

So tomorrow we fly out of Centrair to Bangkok and spend at least four days there. We've been planning on heading to Laos at that point, after we find ourselves some Typhoid vaccine (none here in Japan) but have been playing with the idea of taking a sharp turn and heading for Malaysia instead. Funny, that would mirror my trip years ago, when I found myself studying Laotian, with a slowly expiring visa in my passport, looking north but heading south...

Time for a bit of sleep, then a trip to the post office, and off we go.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

So we're climbing this


Not part-way up. To the top, starting from about halfway up.

Normally this would not be a problem. It is supposed to be challenging, but do-able. However, this year has seen far more snow than usual, and for the first time ever, the summit was going to be closed, until a workcrew managed to dig a passage to the top. Must have been some labour at high altitude.

From the Asahi Shimbun -- Fuji-san work crewFrom the Asahi Shimbun -- Fuji-san work crew

So, we've gone and bought ourselves walking sticks, cotton gloves with rubber grip, bottled water, electrolyte packs, a headlamp for Jules, chocolate, spare batteries, whistles, LED lights, and rain gear. Tomorrow is supposed to be clear, but the forecast for Saturday is "100% chance of precipitation". As Julie points out, as long as that doesn't mean at 12:01AM, we might be alright. We are hiking through the night, hoping to summit for sunrise. If not, we can still catch it on the Yoshida Guchi trail. It has been raining, though, and that means ice, so we're going to go slowly and cautiously.

Yoshida Guchi Trail, Fuji-san

At 3776 metres, this is not as high as I have been. Annapurna Base Camp, at 4130 metres, was higher. (Annapurna itself climbs to 8091 metres, making it the world's tenth-tallest) Of course, I got altitude sickness on Annapurna, but I'm not being driven by a half-mad German climber this time. (Julie is French-Canadian)

During our recovery we hope to explore the nearby region, including the infamous forest Aokigahara and some interesting caves. About these, Wikipedia has this to say:

The caverns found in the Aokigahara forest contain ice even during summer. Legends tell of monsters, ghosts, and goblins haunting the forest, adding to its sinister reputation. Furthermore, Aokigahara Jukai (The Sea of Trees) is the top suicide area in Japan; the spirits of those who kill themselves there are said to be cursed to forever haunt the area. Over 78 bodies have been discovered in 2002 alone, prompting officials to put up signs prohibiting suicide in the forest.

Excellent. Julie's been bugging me to go camping! Actually, there's an old rumour that compasses do not work in that forest. While it's apparently been disproven, may as well see for ourselves. Though it's the caves that are the real draw for me.

OK, will update with pictures on the return. Gambarimasu!