Through the Dark Wood to see the Giant (Day 213)
A whole day trekking for Tim through the dark wood to see the Giant, just a 4 hour one for me.
A better night’s sleep and we woke to damp air, but no rain. Cars had already arrived with the trekkers making an early start. After breakfast, we finally got going just before 7am (that’s early for us!) and at the last moment, Tim suggested we took umbrellas. We were in Shiratani Unsuikyo Ravine, part of Yakushima’s Natural Recreation Forest, which covers 424 hectares and an area of natural beauty, known for its great cedar trees, some dating between 2 – 7 thousand years old. We started off on a manmade crazy-pathed pathway which soon became a steep slope, changing to wooden steps, then to huge boulders, being careful not to slide. There were a few trails to choose from. Tim was doing the epic 10 hours round trip taking him to the top of Mount Miyanoura, the highest mountain here, to see the Jomon-Sugi Cedar tree, considered to be the largest Yakusugi cedar in the world, and pass the famous Wilson stump. I was only doing the first two hours with him, then turning back. Four hours is enough for me. We crossed over the Hiyuotoshi Swing Bridge and took a few photos of the waterfall gushing down. I decided not to take any photos until my journey back, I was already conscious that my slow pace was lengthening the time of Tim’s journey. We soon got into the forest with granite rocks, tree roots and streams to climb over. The terrain was a bit harder than I predicted yet the scenery was wonderful. Majestic trees creating a dark canopy with lush moss and ferns carpeting the floor. The odd sound of birds and an occasional butterfly reminding us it was indeed summertime despite the dampness. The rain had arrived and so I alternated using my umbrella as a much-needed walking stick and cover. We needed to cross the ever-rising river three times and as I knew I was going to be returning on my own, I insisted on going over them unassisted. Balancing precariously on each rock, I managed it. There was something in the back of my mind though, I was surprised that we had to cross the river so many times. We had been walking for some time, my right knee was starting to twinge. It’s such a nuisance – I have to be careful with it as when it weakens, the kneecap gets stuck out of place – to say it is painful is an understatement. There was a steep descent coming up and as I knew that the final part of my journey was a steep ascent, I threw my hat in and said it was time I turned back. And I am so glad I did. Tim checked on the map to see exactly how much further I had to go (I think he thought that perhaps I could complete the intended course) and in true Reed style, we realised we had gone the wrong way! It turned out that we had walked only an additional 30 minutes. We retraced our steps, or should I say scramble, scaled over the rocks, traversed the river and got back to where we had made our mistake. Just then a young Japanese couple turned up. They looked at the map, the same as we had done and started walking the way we had returned from. We called them and checked which trail they were following. It was lucky we were there, as they were just about to make the same mistake as us! There you go, we’re not the only ones that go the wrong way – we just seem to do it quite often though! I decided to say sayōnara to Tim, hoping to see him at about 5pm and made my way back to Bongo. It was a delightful trek back, I took my time, stopped to take some photos of the magical trees and foliage with the light peeking through. The journey seemed a lot easier this time around. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself beforehand, very conscious of the time and concerned for Tim, even though I know he will be like a mountain goat when he is on his own and will be cavorting up those rocks.
I returned to Bongo the van just in time as the heavens opened. Changing my clothes, I sat, warm and cosy, on my own apart from a persistent mosquito who attacked my eyebrow and ended up with a worse fate than me. I hope Tim isn’t getting too wet. It is amazing how time can move fast and slow. I have now been here for 4 hours, so Tim should be well on his way back now. The time has flown by, reading, writing, and a bit of Sudoku (I do love a Sudoku – can be a bit addictive at times). And it is fun watching people returning to their cars looking exhilarated and tired or just arriving, getting excited and taking photos of each other. I wonder if they notice me here, spying on them? Tim arrived back at 4:40pm feeling tired and not as wet as I thought he would be – the umbrella saved the day. It rained virtually all the way; well, we have come to Japan in the rainy season to the wettest place in Japan! After saying goodbye to me this morning, Tim carried on his journey with the terrain remained the same, going up and over. He came across a massive boulder hanging over the track that he had to walk under. It looks quite precarious hanging there from the photo. Halfway up along the trail was a railway line that was used to move logs down to the nearby town. This did make the trek a little bit easier on the old legs. It was then replaced by wooden steps, which was used to preserve the track, where Tim saw the biggest toad ever! Eventually, he got to one of the highlights, Wilson’s stump, the remains of a giant cedar tree – it did look as if it had a big finger pointing upwards! After thousands of years, one of these old cedar trees may die and collapse. As the dead tree rots, it produces fertile soil which saplings are able to grow in. Once they have grown into sizable trees, these are then harvested for lumber and then a third generation tree may grow out of the stump. So the generations of cedar trees continue in this area. Near to the top of Mount Miyanoura Tim met 3 young guys, two were wearing flip-flops and one was barefooted. Were they mad? Oh the foolishness of youth, don’t you think. They scurried past Tim, however, he caught up with them at the top. (The Hare and the Tortoise springs to mind). And at the top, there in front was the giant Cedar tree, not the best view though, the cloud had decided to descend. And it was then time for Tim to descend as well. All those granite rocks and wooden steps were hard on the old knees so by the time he got back to the car, his right knee was playing up. I think he is in sympathy with me. As Tim was shattered we went for an Onsen on our journey down to Miyanoura. We had to wait for 20 minutes until the proprietor got it ready for us. We walked in. Oh dear, not what we are accustomed to from the two we visited with Jan and Simon. I remember Jan telling me not to expect them all to be so wonderful. There were no towels or hairdryer, the mats have seen better days; I didn’t want to walk on them as my feet would have got dirtier. On a plus note, the Onsen bath was boiling hot, just what Tim’s weary legs needed. Onto the Supermarket for some salad, avocado and smoked salmon – not your typical Japanese food, hey ho, we wanted something quick that we could eat in Bongo the van. Next was to find somewhere to sleep. There are specific parking spots with very clean toilet facilities, most being on the main roadside that circles the island, but there are a few off the beaten track. The maps aren’t at ordinance survey level, it is hard to see where on the map things are, a vague idea within a mile radius! After driving for 40 minutes during which the sun had set, we arrived at a place with a big “P” sign and toilets. I had no idea if this was one of the parking spots but it will have to do. I wonder if it is?