November 25, 2012

Princess Mononicky, pt. I

Read Part II of Princess Mononicky

I can say without hesitation that today was one of most enjoyable days of my life. That said, it began with a bit of terror:

The night before, I pulled out a map at my hostel and started looking for the best trail to hike. I struck up a conversation with a family who was staying in the room next to me and they suggested taking the Kusugawa trail as it was easy enough that it did not require proper hiking gear and also offered some of the best sights on the island. Unfortunately though, the trail began at about 1:30 on the clock and my hostel was at 6 (the island being a circle). And, because the hike took 7-8 hours, it would mean beginning at 8am.

I checked my bus schedule and found I could catch the 7am from my hostel and be dropped off right at the trail head. My second night's hostel was located at 12 o clock, so I wouldn't be able to bring my bags there before the hike, but I figured I'd make something work.

So I rose at 6am, packed my bags, walked to the bus station and had just enough time to pop into the convenience store and grab my breakfast, lunch, and perhaps dinner as well as some hydration for the day: A 2 liter bottle of Pocari Sweat (ion enhanced water) and a bag of salami slices. $5.

If you're doing the math, I'm now down to about $15, and while I had already purchased my hostel for the second night and my return ferry ticket, I still needed to take the bus from my hostel to the trail, which was an hour trip, and hopefully have enough left over for a cup noodle for dinner.

The bus arrived and I sat towards the front in order to keep an eye on the board above the driver, which showed the price of each stop. I counted the change in my pocket and found I had 1663 yen. As we passed each stop, the driver leaned forward and tapped a button which raised the fare. The increments were inconsistent though, so sometimes the price would rise by 20 yen and other times 90 yen. Every time he leaned forward to push his button, my heart sank. Would this be a 20 yen or a 90 yen raise?. I tried to calculate how much the trip to the trail would cost and determined I very well may have to get off early and walk the rest of the way.

The bus travelled up the coast, the price of my fare rose, and I sank deeper and deeper into my seat. I watched as a millipede squirmed across the seat-back in front of me. Each time he began to reach the top, he'd slip and have to start again. He'd squeeze his body together and then slowly push against his hind legs and inch towards the top. The pace was agonizingly slow, but still felt faster than my bus ride. The only thing that seemed to be moving quickly was the price of my fare.

I'm so fucked.

I again counted the change in my pocket. Maybe I missed some? I hadn't, 1663 yen. It was then that I remembered that the entrance to the area of the mountain that I most wanted to see was 300 yen.

I'm so fucked.

I searched the pockets of my jackets to no avail. 1663 yen.

I watched the numbers of the passing stops decrease as my destination grew closer. I checked the fare: 1120 yen.

I think I'm not fucked! We were only 3 stops from the trail and I began to become hopeful. 

Sure enough, as we arrived at stop 37: Kusugawa, the fare read 1290 yen. I had just enough for the bus and the entrance to the park. Dinner? I'd figure that out later.

It was 8am and the sun was trying to poke through the clouds. I had 370 yen in my pocket, some salami, 2 liters of a drink called Pocari Sweat, and an 8 hour hike ahead of me. Oh, and all of my luggage.

The trail began on a residential road which rose through farmland. I realized I would have to hide my clothing bag somewhere and remove my laptop, iPad, electronics and toiletries from my backpack and stash those as well. It was not the ideal plan, but in order to hitchhike to the new hostel, leave my bags, and then hitchhike back very well may take over an hour and I had a schedule to keep.

I passed a group of fenced goats and decided they would serve as protectors of my luggage. I found some bushes, hid my goods, and set out of the trail without looking back. I had lost my luggage once before in the back of a cab in New York and hoped that the Tumi Gods would one again smile down on me and protect my luggage.

It was a stressful morning, but like I said, this was one of the most enjoyable days of my life. Keep reading here to find out why.

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