Noi6 means "the 6 of us" in Romanian.

We are five, you are the sixth one.

We thank you for joining us in our trip around the world...

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Tateyama Kurope Alpine Route

I don’t know if it’s because Mihai is eager to start the day, or Ioan and I are really tired … Mihai makes our breakfast, makes the beds, gets all of us out the door. While we wait for the taxi to take us to Ogizawa, a baboon walks nonchalantly on the street. Soon enough we find ourselves in a car with lace on seats. Novelty worn, we swivel our heads to take in the view.

First stop: we buy tickets for the whole trip over the mountains (there is a possibility to buy for each stage, if one wants to spend overnight in one location). We could have chosen to send the luggage separately, to wait for us at the end of the trip for a fee, but even in Japan, I find it difficult to part with my things… better safe than sorry.

We take the trolley bus through the Kanden tunnel, that was build when it was decided that Kurobe will have a dam. Then in a malleable human block, we all climb the rest of the 220 steps with the same speed. We emerge in the daylight to this view:

We stay here a lot, after all “We are the first Romanians from Watkins Glen to have come here!”. As always I am impressed by the amount of work and the spirit of those who labored to build such thing. If we would have been here yesterday, we could have seen the “plumes”, the water gushing on the other side of the dam, but now they are closed for winter…It doesn’t matter, we have other things to admire.

From here we take the cable car to Kurobedaira. We stay in line. A man explains to us how extraordinary is this tramcar, and while he does that in Japanese, we try to extrapolate some of that information from the surrounding pictures. The tramcar is here, and we continue to wait, while an elder lady steadily climbs the stairs; when she is installed comfortably, we are allowed to proceed too. 

This picture tells me so much about the respect they have for the elders!

We don’t stop at Kurobedaira, because it has only an alpine garden, and considering the season (late fall for the altitude of 1800 m) there is not much to see. So we press with the ropeway, just two leaning points and a lot of suspended cable in between, to Daikanbo. 

Ioan takes the view in, but continues to try to work on his calculus problems, so he stays close to Mihai, who carries the portable source of internet. The dam lake seems so small from here.

And again a trolley bus, under Tateyama Mountain, to Murodo at 2450 m. There is room only for one until in the middle,with water dripping on the walls, collecting in side trenches it widens so the up-going and down-going trolleys can by-pass each other with timely Japanese precision.  

Murodo is a large place with hotels and onsens, with a volcanic lake Mikurigaike, that we walk around it, the blue sky reflecting in its surface. The trail squeezes between this and Midorigaike, a smaller lake where we have access on its beach. There is a pervasive smell of rotten eggs, one of the reasons for which plenty of trails are closed for the tourists. (A few months ago a volcanic gas explosion killed 40 people and they are not taking any chances). At each viewing point there are people eating with their chopsticks from bentos, feeding the body and the soul. We will eat later, after we retrieve our luggage from the locking boxes, on some snowy rocks, while a man was shoveling snow from the path with a huge shovel, putting his whole weigh behind the cart-like handle.

Fumaroles and closed trails that lead to locked up hotels.

On the shore of Midorigaike, where some kind of mosquitoes were flying.

You can eat whelk on the grill here or some other food prepared with whelk (shell on they are the size of a man's hand)

Everything is recycled here!

From here we take the bus to go downwards to Bijodaira. We’re first and we pick the best seats, we take videos and pictures and enjoy the whole process. On the road, workers are taking out the short wooden poles that prevent people stepping over the alpine ground, replacing them with tall slender, red and white striped rods that will measure the 4 to 7 meters snow height  during wintertime (sometimes the snow is 20 meters high).

At some point the driver stops to show us something, I presume the sea, because he speaks only in Japanese, later to see a cedar with a circumference of 920 cm and a height of 23 meters (it was written on the sign) and in the end, from afar, the Shomyo Falls. When we started downwards there was almost no vegetation, and now we see the trees growing around us, red and yellow deciduous ceding place to green cedars.

At Bijodaira we take the cable car to Tateyama, and from there a train that stops in every station. The train stations are so old, so rusty, so full of charm. They serve the people who live in the country side, where there are so many persimmon-trees, I would love to eat all of their fruits.

Imagine our shock to arrive in Toyama in a super modern train station, where everything is spick and span. While I stay in line to make reservations for the train to Takayama (just to find out that the train runs without reservations) Mihai buys some croissants filled with…not nutela …yes, bean paste! These will keep our stomachs from rumbling in discontent.

In Takayama we easily find our hostel where we are quickly informed of the rules of the house and after that we are invited to the monthly party (once a month the hostel serves dinner in a buffet-style and socializes with their guests). Soon enough the entry hall is transformed, there is a lot of food, from plain rice, nori (seaweed sheets) to pram, pickled plum, fermented bean and other traditional Japanese choices. We each make our own onigiri (rice wrapped in nori with a filling, doused with soy sauce) and some of us wash it down with mulled wine with cloves and fresh apples. Our party fellows come from Spain, China, Israel and Oregon. We all talk about what we saw, impart our knowledge about those places and ask questions about where we want to go. Kanpai! Cheers!

To help digestion we take a stroll through the sleepy streets of Takayama, buy some food for the next day and return to our minuscule room, to sleep like logs.

He never sleeps!

Today we traveled over and under the Japanese Alps…it was marvelous!

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