A Travellerspoint blog

Aso

the volcano

First shot of the day:

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This woman is getting her shoe repaired.

For todays trip we took the trains to Mt. Aso, and the day seemed to be a day for relaxing and peace. We sat across the isle from one another, and we enjoyed looking out the window, pointing out various things that we could only see from our side, and yes, we slept.

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I kept nodding off, and then in the middle of a huge valley between the mountain ranges, I got a little nervous as we seemed to pass by one large and very impressive looking mountain.

"Sumimasen, demo, Aso Yama, asoko deska?" Excuse me, but is that Mt. Aso over there.
"Hi, so desne." Crap.

I ran over to Joe and explained to him that the amazing mountain we were trying to photograph before was Mt. Aso, and we missed our stop! Well, we would just get off at the next one right? Just then, as we were leaving the collapsed caldera into the forests of the mountains, the train switched to one lane. The pathway through the forest was so narrow, that they couldn't afford to make two rows of tracks, so they instead timed the trains so that there would only be one using the tracks through the mountains at a time. This was very bad, because that meant that even if the next stop was close, there wouldn't be another train going in the opposite direction for quite some time. So much for us getting an early start... again.

So we got of at the next stop, and prepared to wait.
"Iki!" "Go!"
The woman called to me as we got off the train. There was another train right in front of us, and she pointed frantically. "Joe! Movie it!" I called to him as I raced onto the train. The doors closed on his backpack, but we made it on, and we started to head back towards Mt. Aso. This train wasn't supposed to be here, but obviously was the earlier train, stuck at the station, waiting for us to pass through the mountains so it could use the tracks. What luck!
Joe: "Good luck, bad luck, who knows?"
This was one of his favorite stories to quote, about the little man in China who ever time someone told him he was having good luck or bad luck, he would answer "who knows" which would always prove to be right, because seemingly good luck would cause something bad and visa versa.

I thought it was extremely good luck b/c now we were only out less than an hour instead of several, and on a trip like this, the more daylight hours you have to travel, get situated, and move on, the better.

When we got to the city we realized it wasn't much of a city at all, but a small village. There was also one bus station that ran the only bus up to Mt. Aso right next to the train station... convenient. The bus ticket was of course outrageously priced, but we were here, and we were going to do this, so we paid the money, and then decided to get some breakfast while we waited for our tour bus. There was a really neat little log cabin market just down the road where Joe and I went around picking up random locally packaged goods. It was just like shopping in a supermarket, all the items were wrapped in bags or sealed shut in jugs, but at the same time it was all done locally. Locally grown, or baked this morning fresh from down the road, and then packaged right here in town, and now sold in this store. It was the neatest place. We got a pint of milk from local Mt. Aso cows all sealed up nice and stamped with a best if used by date, some really good whole grain bread with the little seeds still inside, and some fruits and veggies. We sat outside in the beautiful Japanese sunlight and made the most delicious sandwiches of my life with the best milk I've ever had. The day was always looking up.

We made it back to the bus with no arguments or tensions, and the ride up the mountain was absolutely lovely.

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Here, after about 15 minutes of driving through the most beautifully colored red wood pine trees we came to our first lookout point. The driver got out and told us that we had 10 minutes to wonder around, in Japanese, and the cutest English. He asked me if I understood, and I told him in Japanese that I understood him, and thanked him for speaking in English to me since my Japanese was so poor. "Nonsense!" he proclaimed in Japanese, then he said a bunch of other crap I didn't understand, but nodded and smiled anyways.

At this lookout point there were several venders selling that bright yellow neon rock that I remembered seeing at my hike back in Taipei, Taiwan. One of the venders was a little, little old man, and he was struggling with his huge wooden sign, so I went over and helped him set it up. He was so pleased and delegated that I came over to help him, and he spoke absolutely perfect English! We talked for almost the whole 10 minute break about Japan, and why I came here, and why he learned English, and what he thought about New York City, and it was amazing for whatever reason. This conversation with this little old man really meant something to me, and I cannot place to this day why it did. But maybe that is the mystery's answer.

Back on the bus we continued towards the smoking monster, and just like out of the Wizard of Oz we began passing through these amazing fields of pink flowers. Joe exclaimed from the other side of the bus, "Rain, are you seeing this?! I've never seen so many pink flowers!" It was beautiful how these flowers were growing out of the rich volcanic soil.

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Then we came to the visitors center where the bus dropped us off. "Last stop!" The driver called, even though there was much more road ahead. But from here you could pay to take the skyline up to the volcano... yeah, guess the busses started stopping here after that was built. But no matter, we simply got out and started walking along the street after the huge group of school kids all dressed in suits or those little dresses that remind me of sailors. But after about 10 minutes of walking, even along the grass next to the road, Joe's feet couldn't take it anymore. He started detouring off the road even further, and then he called up to me "Rain! You've got to see this!" I grudgingly tore through the rocky/ prickly ground in my sandals to this river where lava seemed to once flow. The sand was black and looked like it was still a flowing river. Truly neat. But the terrain was too rugged for me in my sandals, so I left Joe to his rugged running and climbing, while I went back up to the road. "I will meet you at the volcano then" he agreed, and we parted on our separate paths.

My path:

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Then I climbed up to the top of this rook like cylindrical rock building, and I could see out over the whole valley.

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And watch this wind monitor go friggin crazy with the volcano at its back.

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Then I noticed something curios. A little black dot seemingly moving quite quickly up the ridge where I left Joe.

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(Joe fucking with his camera)

Then I headed back down the path to meet Joe.

Joe's path:

He continued up the side of this ridge to get to the precipice looking over the volcano, but from quite a distance away, so don't get too worried.

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We saw each other has he came down the final slope, and I told him that we only had 15 minutes to get back to the bus, and there just wasn't any time for him to go and see the volcano unless he ran all the way there and back. This, is quite a convenient skill to have on a trip with a tight schedule. Luckily for Joe, he preferred running and climbing to walking. I would have preferred to climb the mountain with him, and see the volcano, but I would not be able to do the whole running full speed for 15 minutes after climbing the mountain. So I quickly power walked my way back down to the bus to take us back into town, and Joe started sprinting up the hill to the volcano.

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(Can you tell who had the better camera? I was quite glad he went up to see the volcano for me as well, so now I could have decent pictures.)

When Joe made it to the volcano however, he even got someone to take his picture.

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Yeah, who was missing out now? - Jealousy

When I made it to the visitor center I realized that the bus would be picking us up on the other side from where it dropped us off. This concerned me because I had no way of knowing if I should wait for Joe here, or if he would figure it out too, and would already be down by the bus. Trust him is what he said. So, I went inside the visitor's center and stated browsing through their gift shop. I had a little less than 10 minutes to kill (I walk fast), so I didn't have too much time to look around. Thankfully just as I was about to leave to go on the bus, Joe showed up. I quickly showed him where the vending machine was so he could buy some water, and then we headed out to the bus. On the way we of course got side tracked, and I walked around this shrine for a few minutes while Joe regaled me with tails of his trip. Little did he know, I caught it on tape.

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Then the bus started the engine, and we hurried over to it.

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Back in town we checked to see when the next train was and we had a little over an hour to kill. This gave us time to find a cute little Japanese restaurant and have some dinner.

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I think the waitress was a little amused by us as well because I kept asking "Mizo o onigashimasu" as I showed her our empty pitcher of water. We were both quite tired, and the food we got was delicious but a little salty. I got some sort of wonderment of curry and rice and a sunny side up egg without any frying (later I would discover that this is a form of making poached eggs, and it is my newest fav. way to eat them). Joe was quite jealous and ended up eating a bit more of my dinner than I was happy with, but we did have to start saving money again. We hadn't quite gotten into the swing of not eating again now that we were out of China. We were spending way to much money on food, and we needed to start living like we did back in the states. However, this trip you could see was bearing hard down on the both of us, and Japanese food was just so damn good...

At the train station we discussed (not argued) which way the train we wanted would be traveling (damn driving on the left side of the road countries!), and we finally decided that we should wait for the train on the side with the little black bear statues.

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There, can you see my haircut now? Yeah... we really don't have too many photos of me do we?

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Posted by - Rain 13:30

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