Day 13 – 10.04: Through Hell and boiling mud pools

So I woke up to a weird, awful, infernal noise that made me want to murder someone. I was just about ready to start beating up my laptop before I realised that it was the table clock that I had put to wake me up on 6:00. I closed it and started procrastinating instead of doing what I was supposed to: planning and finishing, or rather, starting the previous day’s entry. Hours went by and suddenly the clock was 9:00.

I had done some research on what I should do, but what I had had in mind previously – visiting the islands on the north western end of Hokkaido (北海道) – was just not possible at that point; the train that goes that far leaves thrice a day and takes five hours to get there. So I trashed the idea. I finally got off my lazy bum and did some research on the locales on the way back to the main island, and found Noboribetsu (登別) to be an ideal place; it had scenery AND a place called Hell’s Valley (地獄谷) a walking distance away. Having decided on that, I checked out of the hotel, but found out that it was raining.

My plans to see a couple of places in Sapporo (札幌) were not very ideal with rain and a chilly weather, so I just decided to do a quick walk around before going to the station; The walk was done with fairly fast.

On the station, I remembered that I had actually eating nothing since the night prior, so I went to find something cheap and fast. I noticed something interesting during my search; a full squid for some 400 yen – yes, please. I got my full squid, grilled it, ate it, and got on my train. The train ride, as usual, was just passing out until I reached my destination.

On the station, I reserved myself a ticket for the final train leaving for Aomori (青森) – a six hour night train. After this I started looking at the map to confirm where I was going, double checked the local map and departed for the mountains – noticing a severe lack of rain that I had experienced an hour northwards. Just before leaving the town, I was met by an elderly Japanese man.

The man spoke to me with a very, VERY thick accent – I could not understand nine out of ten words he said. I apologised for not understanding him, and after a little more chatting, he wished me well. I walked on for an hour before stopping to buy a couple of fish egg rice balls for a snack. Offtopic: I should find those fish sperm sacks that everyone keeps warning me about – those have to be an experience and a half to eat. After eating my snack, I moved on.

While walking, I saw a horse farm called “Utopia”. I took some pictures of some of the horses before moving on. Some walking later, I was met with a “walking path ends” sign.

The sign got me confused for a little bit, making me consider taking the next bus from the bus station closest to the , but then I thought that it would be a brilliantly stupid idea to take a detour to SEE if I could enter the Hell’s Valley (地獄谷). So I started walking by the road side.

On my way there, I was met with amazing sights, including that of a ruined, abandoned Chinese style set of buildings – maybe they were once a hotel or something? I kept moving on, getting slower and slower as time went on and the mountain road kept climbing upwards. I also stopped listening to music at some point due to getting paranoid over the possibility of there being bears; I think I saw some bear paw marks in the snow at one point. The random rustling of the bushes on the sides of the road really didn’t help my paranoia.

After what felt like an eternity, I saw a sign telling me that I could enter the Noboribetsu Onsen (登別温泉), and through that, to Hell’s Valley (地獄谷). In the end, I was so glad of my decision for a pointlessly long detour. It all went downhill from there – literally.

The moment I saw this felt amazing

The moment I saw this felt amazing

As I descended with the curvy, ever thinning mountain road, I kept seeing signs claiming that the area was an animal preservation zone and hearing some rustling from the bushes to my left – I kept on moving at a brisk pace. Thankfully whatever was rustling the bushes, be it wind or whatever, wouldn’t be bothering me any more; my left side had started turning in to an impassable cliff. To my right I saw the most wonderful view – my destination.

I got down all the way until the start of the nature trail, seeing a few other tourists around. As I went on, I was met with a natural foot bath. I had to pass it, because if I stopped now, I wouldn’t be able to continue. I moved on to find a close-to-boiling mud geyser. The sulphur and other noxious gasses had been there before, but now they were properly assaulting my senses; the gasses still were still nowhere near as bad as a lot of people had let on, though. I moved on to find the volcanic Oyunuma Lake (大湯沼) and Mt. Hiyori (日和山) that fuelled it. After having spent enough time being astonished by the awesomeness of it all, I moved on to see the Hell’s Valley (地獄谷).

The nature path towards the valley had signs on the local vegetation and a set of quiz signs with bits of info about the area; I unfortunately started at the wrong end of the quiz set, seeing all of the answers before I saw the questions. I finally reached the valley itself.

The view was quite interesting with the whole valley having natural steam vents and black and white dunes of rock in it. I don’t feel that my words nor the pictures are enough to wholly capture the atmosphere – I mean, there’s no smell of sulphur in any kind of digital media (for better or for worse) – so if you have the chance to do so, visit one of these kinds of locations. With my curiousity satisfied, I headed out to look for a bus that would take me back: I had to go through an army of Chinese tourists before I could see the buses.

I approached one of the stopped, open buses and asked the driver if he could talk English; he, of course, said that it wasn’t anywhere near his strong point, so I just talked with him in Japanese. I asked if his bus was going back to the town, and when he said that it was not, I asked if he knew any others that would. He told me that it was unlikely that any of the buses parked around here would go there. I thanked him for his time and started looking for a local bus stop.

Having walked through the town, I was starting to get worried that I would have to walk back, maybe even through the devious mountain road path that I had taken to get there – an unpleasant option. I started running forwards to make sure that I wouldn’t miss any buses stopping at bus stops, but I couldn’t find any. Defeated, I just walked along the roadside, eventually reaching the road that had not had a walking path. Being too tired to really care at this point, I kept on walking, this time in the water / sewage ditch of the narrow road built on to the side of the cliff.

I kept on walking and saw the bus driven by the man I had stopped to talk to pass me by. I kept on moving and eventually I reached the walking path signs, finally able to continue on a walk path. The sight of the bus that had just passed me, stopped, by the side of the road with emergency lights on confused me a little. When I walked closer, the familiar man walked out and pointed in to the bus, following this up with some words to confirm my suspicions – he had stopped there to wait for me. I got in to the bus and sat on to the seat that he had lifted for me.

He confirmed that I was really going to the town, and we were on our way after he chuckled at my clear lack of sanity, saying out the word “walking” in English. We talked a little bit about the usual: where am I from; where did I come from; where I was going; etc. Soon enough, we reached a spot close enough to the station and he dropped me off there. I thanked him and he just waved it off, telling me to take care before leaving. I was still awestruck by the kindness of this man when I fetched myself some dinner from the Seven Eleven before heading back to the station.

The best bus driver leaving

The best bus driver leaving

It was still over three hours until my train would arrive, so I had a good bunch of time to work on the diary entries that I had missed or felt I could add to. While waiting, I went to get some snacks and breakfast for after the following train ride. A painstaking wait later, I found myself entering the blue sleeper train.

The car I got in to surprised me: I had expected seats that could be put to a sleeping position, but what I got was quite different, quite Spartan; it was just a few centimetres high flat platform with a blanket and a pillow waiting for you. I stuffed my things in to the small area that was reserved for me and started sleeping.

This is where the thirteenth day ended.

 

Withdrew: 0,000

Spent: 2,862

Remaining cash: 38,474

No chance to count money.

Breakdown:

Breakfast – 0,819

VM – 0,160

Coin locker – 0,300

Sunkus snacks – 0,356

Supper – 0,627

Snacks for night – 0,600

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