Friday, November 06, 2009
Standing on Top of the World (Almost)
Over 2000 metres on top of the world.
So, it’s supposedly Diwali/Deepavali today, aside from the few texts I received from a few friends (too few indeed, not even from some of the usual suspects - nobody likes me! :(, but then again, I didn't send out any either) and my sister (my parents have yet to learn the fine art of texting) as well as a few of my training buddies (in person), the day was spent in the most unconventional way for what is well known as a traditional holiday with supposedly traditional activities – in my case eating and sleeping (because you would be lacking sleep the few days before as you stay awake to bake cookies and clean the house, etc) We went all the way to Mt Fuji!!
As I might have mentioned earlier, the idea of going to Mt Fuji was not very well received by our trainer. He tried to talk us out of it by saying that you could die there, falling off the cliff, and how cold it would be, etc, but we would not budge. He finally relented (albeit reluctantly) while stating that he’d get us some influenza medicine in case we fell sick!
The journey to Mt Fuji started early as we trooped out of our dorms by 6:45 to be at Hiratsuka station by 7:30 the latest. It was an hour long train ride followed by an almost 3 hour ride by bus to the fifth station of Mt Fuji, the highest the buses would take us before you trekked up the mountain in your own with your backpack and your own two feet. Going up along the way, I tried to recall the geography lessons from the school days about the different types of flora (and here it was in autumn colours which were lovely – the rest of Japan is still green with sunshiny days, although the wind can be quite chilly) you’d see with elevation as you climbed a mountain, but alas! My memory failed me big time.
Finally at around 12:05 pm after a scenic journey (and tons of noise from an American family in the bus with us), we reached the fifth station only to be greeted with teeth chattering cold. Nevertheless, I did manage to catch a glimpse of the mountain peak before it got covered in clouds again.
The Fifth station was filled with souvenir shops which we skipped as we headed straight towards the path which would eventually lead the more adventurous to the peak. After donning on our winter wear (they said the temperatures were about 10C there, but the cold winds made it feel much cooler), we trekked up the pathway, walking into clouds and seeing volcanic ash along the way (Mt. Fuji, or Fuji-san as it is known locally is an extinct volcano which last erupted in the 18th century ) and it’s interesting to make a speculation as to how old a certain particular piece of volcanic rock was. I took one piece as a souvenir.
Overall, it was a one of a kind experience. Later, after our descent (we may have walked about a kilometer one way, mostly on a straight path) we checked out the souvenir shops. I went a bit crazy on the mochis for the familia. Hopefully, it stays fresh until it reaches Malaysia. Ate a delicious sausage with mustard (the Japanese kind which had the same effect that wasabi has)
And then it rained.
The journey down took longer than expected as there was a massive jam. I just realized that we didn’t have lunch and I wasn’t feeling hungry as well then. As we parted with our trainers at the train station, we were told to gather at the same place at eleven-ish the next day for our journey to Nagoya, where the second phase of our training begins.
On the way back, we split into two groups again. Five of us, the 3 Malaysians, Kenny and Dewey (the Indonesian) went back to the dorm because we had plans to go to the barbeque restaurant seeing that it was Deepavali and all. Chu and PY went to Toys’r’us for toys for their kids.
After chucking our heavy bags (winter coats are bloody heavy!), all of us except for Dewey (because he has certain severe food restrictions) headed out to the barbeque place for dinner. They turned us out. So we trooped next door where they served teppanyaki style cooking. It was a bit of an issue as none of us can really read Japanese that well, and we had to ask the waitress to explain what each dish was. With a mixture of my incredibly rusty Japanese and some body language, we managed to order some Okonomiyaki, something I can’t recall the name (edit: Monjayaki) of and some Yaki-soba (mee goreng, if you will – seasoned with what tasted like barbeque sauce) It was a delicious meal in an equally cosy restaurant. The teppanyaki stove gave us tropical people some much needed heat.
It was a lovely day.
PS: I can't seem to get a good flow between the pictures and my words, sadly. From the top left: 1. The view as we walked towards the peak. 2. The peak seen from the 2000 meter level before the clouds ganged in on the mountain. 3. Volcanic rock - probably from the previous eruption 4. The flora along the ride up the mountain 5. Indicator