A Travellerspoint blog

Shiretoko National Park

(知床国立公園, Shiretoko Kokuritsu Kōen)

Unfortunately today was a cloudy/ rainy day, so most of my pictures were overcast and not too appealing. But you get to see Shiretoko in all its beautiful glory because I looked up most of my shots from the internet or got some off of friends who also visited. I do have a few photos I took myself, and I know I didn't label which Sapporo pictures were mine, but I felt that they all blended so well that it was almost like I was there taking those other photos. But there is a big variety here, so I will label when a photo is mine.

The train ride there (These photos I got off of my friend Zeke who came to couchsurf with June as well):
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Those purple flowers were just everywhere lining the tracks on the way to Shiretoko.

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Almost the entire ride we got to stay on the waterfront, while the car traffic was on the other side of the hill, obscured from our view. (Very lucky)

The bus ride there:
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Here are my first photos of the day:
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I thought the rocks looked like a turtle.

Googled photos:

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Side of the road waterfall:
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Hiking to my first location:
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Furape Cliff:
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In this shot you can see a waterfall with no river feeding it (because the river is underground!)
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View from the other side:
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My photos:
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Here there were deer grazing all the way up to the edge of the cliffs! It was so beautiful and peaceful, I stayed here for maybe 10 minutes, just listening to the rain on my umbrella and watching the seagulls play with the boats in the water, and the deer jumping through the tall grass.

Youtube video someone else took (very long):
2:40 - my 2nd favorite spot in Shiretoko, the Furape Cliffs.

Around the 5 minute mark you'll hear bells jingling. Those bells were sold everywhere for you to put on your bags to frighten away the black bears. Also, if you watch the whole thing, I didn't go on a boat, but I do recognize some of the locations as placed I hiked to.

Hiking back to the main road:

My photos:
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Back to google photos:
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Here is my favorite Shiretoko video (from youtube, since I could not take video myself due to my limited storage space on my phone):

go-ko (five lakes) is my favorite part of Shiretoko.
Also, this video is really good because it looks like it was taken in summer, which was when I was there. I think I may have had a bit more snow on the mountains, but other than that.

Bus group:
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Go-Ko (The Five Lakes):
Entering the trail there were already signs warning of black bears:
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Here is a shot of the main lake out of the five, with it the ripples on the lake from the high winds that were going on that day. So many of these pictures where you get to see the smooth lake are not what I got to see, but you would get large circles of calm, as ripples would blow in her and there around them sometimes, so best of both worlds right?

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Here are some photos I took with my phone:
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Here, I stood for a long time, and was once again inspired to write:

A place where you can watch the great spirit of the wind blow glass into shards of crystalized ice that dance into thousands of twinkling stars before settling into ripples of snow speckled mountains with peeks massaged by soft mist.
~ Vanessa chan

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Back to google photos:

(This appears to be the exact same spot where I stood and jotted down my string of consciousness)
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And all throughout these areas there were walkways built to curb people having to walk through the wetlands, and at the same time preserving them.

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Walking along the paths I found these two old people taking photos of each other. I thought of asking them if they wanted me to take a photo of them, but my Japanese wasn't so good, and the older generations especially had a hard time understanding me. These two looked old, like around 70, so I pegged them at around 90... def. out of my English speaking Japanese age range. But then here we were, at the highest point of the footpath, and the mountains with the lake in front of them, well, it was a shot of a lifetime... "Watashi wa anatagata no shashin o tote ka?" While I said this I pointed at the couple, then make the international sign for clicking a camera in front of one's eye. At first they thought I wanted them to take a photo of me, but I explained to them I didn't have a camera. Then they thought that I wanted them to take a photo of me with them, but I told them that I was just trying to help them be in the picture just the two of them, not for me. Then they finally seemed to understand that here, this lone, lost tourist was trying to help them out in their own country... as amusing as they found this, they seemed grateful. I took their photo, then they felt obliged to talk to me some more, not just move on with their day. The old woman wanted to know where my camera was, and I told her that I lost it in Nagano. "OHHHHHHHH!" she said as she nodded as I explained to her my story in 5 year old Japanese. I told her to not worry though, and that I would be going to pick it up tomorrow. "Sugoi!" she exclaimed in excitement. But then she worried that I wouldn't be able to have any photos of myself here in Shiretoko! What to do!?!? "Ahhh!" she told me, and she set me up to have my photo taken with their camera. "Interneto!" She told me her grandson knew how to use the internet, and he could give me the photo over the internet! She handed me her notebook, and flipped to a blank page. Okay, I thought, what the hell, so I wrote down my name in Japanese Katakana " ヴァネッサ " and then my email address " vanran@gmail.com " This was the best I could come up with.

No, I never ended up getting these photos V.V;
But it was a shot in the dark anyways.

I seemed to be making some sense to the woman, that, or she was just really good at humoring me. The old man didn't seem to be able to follow my conversation, or just wasn't interested, so I thought I should let him get back to his tour at least (typical man and woman behavior in Japan). "Saionara" I said, letting them go after an overly long conversation. I had no more Japanese in my back pocket, I was spent. Then, as I stared into the mountains in my solitude, enjoying the absolutely breathtaking feel and look of it all, I herd someone speaking English. "Excuse me," Normally I wouldn't turn around to someone saying that from so far away, but who else could this person be talking to? I turned around, and on the other side of the observation deck was a tall Japanese kid, probably in his early 20's, and his mother seemed to be pushing him forward to converse with me. "Yes?" "Are you lost?" I thought he might tag on "little girl" at the end of it, but luckily, he did not. "Ie-eh" I said, no I was not, "Ushinawa arimasen desu" "My mom wanted me to talk to you and make sure you were okay, she saw you talking to the older couple before, and she thought you might need help." I explained to him what I was actually doing, and then he translated to his mother. "Oh!" she exclaimed, and seemed very happy. But then her worried face came back. She spoke very fast to her son, and I couldn't follow. "She wants to know if you are here alone." "Yes, I am." I left it at that. This seemed unacceptable to her. "How did you get here?" I wanted to say by eagle, but they were being very nice and concerned for me, so I told them that I took the bus and the train. "Far!" she said in Japanese. "Abashiri" When I told her this, she got really excited. "Really?" It turned out that they were from Abashiri too! She insisted that she drive me all the way home, but I told them that I really couldn't impose. "She wants to know where you are going next, and how you plan to get there." I showed them the waterfall that my buss passed when I first arrived, and I said that I wanted to go back there and take a look around before heading back to the train station. It was going to cost me another bus ticket, but I had decided it was worth it while I was still in Japan to pay to see the places I wanted to see. Basically her next words were that they would drive me to that waterfall, and that was that. I told her thank you, and then the 4 of us continued walking the trails together until we had seen as much of the 5 lakes as we could.

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We didn't get to see all of the 5 lakes because the path to the 2 other lakes was closed off due to bears, so rather than making a full circle we had to turn back at one point and head back through the lakes we already passed.

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After this hike the family I met took me into the gift shop and the father bought all 4 of us soft serve strawberry ice cream cones ^_^*

Heading home:
This was where I was going to have the family drop me off, but the waterfall area was closed because of heavy water flow from all the rain they were getting (yeah, I know), so they apologized over and over to me, and said now they really had to drive me all the way home, because I wasn't going to get to see the Oshinkoshin Falls! (Still got to drive almost right against them, so I saw, I just didn't get to hike).

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(By the way, that is the same waterfall from the side of the road that was at the start of this trip, only this picture depicts what the waterfall looked like when I was there a bit better.)

On the way back the scenery wasn't as good, but I got to have a really cool conversation with the son. Then, halfway home we got to move to the front as the father and son were switching drivers, so they forced me to move to shotgun so we could continue talking. He lived in Australia for a few years, knowing no English when he started classes there, and then gradually picked it up. We talked a lot about what it is like there as I was heading there next. In Australia he was one of the chemical engineers at a firework plant that made Japanese fireworks. He said that one night the owner's wife and kid were closing up late, and there was a fire... luckily they got out just before the fire alarm went off, and shortly after that all the fireworks started blowing apart the building! They were very lucky to be heading out just before the place went all to hell.

He told me that someone caught it on youtube, and that I should look it up:

At our bathroom break the mom looked around the gift shop and kept holding things up to me for her to buy for me. "Thank you, but I have too much to carry!" I had her son translate that everything I had I had to carry everyday, so I couldn't get any souvenirs. She settled for buying me a drink from one of Japan's many vending machines.

In Abashiri they dropped me off practically at June's front door to her apartment complex, and wasn't going to be satisfied until they saw June get me, but thankfully their son convinced them that I would be alright, and we parted with plenty of daylight for me to explore this small costal town at the top of Japan. The only thing north of us were the islands that Japan lost to Russia (one of the reasons Japan likes America, common enemy).

Here is the last video of Shiretoko, now I went in summer, so the ice scenes weren't there:

Posted by - Rain 17:59

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i love your poem vanessa! very beautiful. very deep. like you! p.s. it rained here almost everyday for March and April, and May, and now it just decided, ok, Summer. so, it's been over 90 for a week. wow!

by georgi r

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