Friday, August 1, 2014

Small Adventure #33


Back at the beginning of the year, when I stayed in Kirishima as part of the new year holidays, I picked up a small tourist map detailing a hiking route up one of the volcanoes in the area. At the time, I wanted to at least visit the foothills to get a feel for the route, and possibly try coming back during the holiday period to actually do the hike. But, whenever I mentioned the idea, I was told to wait until the weather was warmer. So, I decided that Golden Week would be an acceptable choice, since all of my students would be taking a break then, too. But, as May got closer, people started making other plans for me and I had to wait again.

Now, in the middle of July, I really wanted to get in a long walk, and the next upcoming week-long holiday would be Obon, from Aug. 13-15th. However, towards the end of July some of my friends took me to a restaurant out near Kuchikino, called Futatsu Sumire (Two Violets). Sumire is on a local pilgrimage route that includes 88 Buddhist stone markers, and #81 is in front of the restaurant.  One of my friends pointed out Mount Kanmuri, which is visible from Sumire, as being a good hike. Having a small mountain along a pilgrimage route also sounded like a good day trip.

Soon after, I received an email from a translation company offering me a native check job, doing clean-up on a translation project, that would run from Aug. 4th to the 16th. I need the money so I said "yes", but that would kill any plans I'd have for Obon, However, the one school I teach at gave me my schedule for the week of July 28th, and surprisingly it showed that I'd have July 31st, Thursday, off.

I made a snap judgment and started making plans for doing some kind of hike on the 31st. The problem was in gathering enough information about where the trailheads are, and how accessible they are by train, since I don't have a car. I tried doing google searches on both the mountains in Kirishima, and Kanmuri (which is almost in the opposite direction, much farther west of Kagoshima). The Kirishima mountains are pretty well-documented online, but most of the articles are a couple of years out of date, and only feature 2 or 3 of the main peaks. Kanmuri, on the other hand, is much more obscure. There's nothing on it in English, and most mentions of it in Japanese are just photo blogs by a few older couples that drove to the starting point. In terms of documentation, the bigger volcanoes in Kirishima looked the most promising, but one of them had been spewing rock a couple years ago so the government closed some of the closer trails, and the websites didn't say which ones were still open.

Fortunately, there are two camping supplies stores in Tenmonkan, one in Maruya Gardens, and the other a few blocks away in Tenpara. I ran to Maruya Gardens and spent close to an hour pouring over the mountain hiking books and magazines they had on one small set of shelves. Finally I came to the volumes of books by Yamatokeikokusha (Mountain and Valley Publishing), and vol. 45 was dedicated to Kagoshima prefecture. There's 5 or 6 featured peaks in Kirishima, but most of them are the kinds where you really want to have a walking partner in case you slip on the rocks or something.

Peak #18 is Kanmuri, and it's identified as a non-strenuous 10km (6.5 mile), 4 hour walk. The peak is at an altitude of 725 meters. The good part about the map in the book is that it shows the start point as being at Kobanchaya station, on the main JR train line, a little over an hour west of Kagoshima city. One minus point is that the end of the trail is at a bus stop along the expressway, with no nearby train stations. The buses don't run that often, so the alternative would be to retrace the hike back to Kobanchaya, but as long as I packed enough food and water, and started early enough, I'd easily survive it as a day trip.

The book is expensive, at 1,900 yen (nearly $20 USD), so the next day I went to the Kagoshima prefectural library, and after several minutes of trying to explain what I was looking for, I managed to get the women running the information desk to understand my Japanese. A little later, one of them came back with the Kagoshima Prefecture Mountains book, and allowed me to photocopy the pages on Kanmuri. At this point, it was July 30th, so the next step was to round up supplies and check the train schedules.

I had to go to the grocery store anyway, so I got some extra bread for sandwiches, and a 2-liter bottle of water that I'd throw into the freezer overnight. I'd get cheese and sliced ham, plus some last-minute snack bars at a convenience store in Kobanchaya station. I returned to the apartment, got on internet, and looked up the train schedules. The trains run irregularly out to Satsuma-Sendai, but the best choice would be to get to the main Kagoshima station a bit before 8 AM. That would put me at Kobanchaya about 9:30 AM, and if I walked fast I'd be finished with the route by 1:30-2 PM and able to look for buses. I set aside my hiking clothes for the next day, prepped my supplies, and set my alarm for 7 AM.

All that was left was to wait a couple hours before going to bed.

That's when it started to rain. The weather for the last few days had been good, although the clouds were kind of dark during the afternoon of the 30th. I was hoping they would pass over quickly. Then, the radio announced the approach of typhoon #12. Weather.com showed 12 coming up from Okinawa, and heavy rains predicted for the next 3-4 days.

When my alarm went off Thursday morning, I could hear the rain smashing against the windows, so I didn't even bother getting up. Sigh. Maybe I'll get another chance this Fall.

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