We’ve arrived at the lakeside town of Kawaguchiko with one goal in mind – to climb Mount Fuji (Fuji-san in Japanese), the most climbed mountain in the world.
“A wise man climbs Fuji once. A fool climbs it twice” says the Japanese proverb.
Trouble is Typhoon Noru is crossing Japan, bringing storms and torrential downpours. When we reached our hostel, we were dripping wet, with Mount Fuji nowhere to be seen.
However, we are promised better weather Wednesday night/ Thursday morning, so we are now in preparation mode. We have hired poles and headlamps, and stocked up on lots of lovely biscuits and bars. But with the climb described as serious, tough, and difficult, the key thing is to get some rest. Nine months of travelling are taking their toll and we are worried we won’t have the energy, or the knees, to make it to the top. Hence, we are enjoying a rare day of having our feet up.
Wish us luck.
At 3776m, Mount Fuji is Japan’s highest mountain, but fortunately for us, today’s tourist climbers start from a station 2305m high, and get some rest in mountain huts before the sunrise summit push. We’ve been warned, because of the crowds and the commercialisation of the mountain, this is the package-holiday version of mountain climbing.
We love climbing up mountains – we always have done. So as soon as the winds dropped and the path up Uluru reopened, we were quickly through the gate.
But we acknowledged this is not what the owners of the land – the Anangu Aboriginals – wanted us to do. For them Uluru is sacred. And it has to be said, they are asking us very nicely to respect their hospitality; the signs say “Please don’t climb”.
It took us just over an hour of hard climbing up the 60 degree slope, helped by a simple chain, to reach the summit marker. A Japanese lad climbing up with us, turned to Roger and said “Isn’t your wife strong?”.
When he left, we had the top to ourselves. Totally glorious, and the best place to see the rock’s huge footprint, its endlessly contorted features and its isolation in a sea of barren flatness.
So if the owners of the land don’t want us to climb up Uluru, why is the path still open? Apparently, it’s all to do with the tourist dollar and opposition from white Australians who see the rock as theirs as well. One Aussie told us, “It belongs to all Australians not just the Aboriginals. They didn’t build it”. But a young Australian actress, even though we were tourists, was very disappointed we had walked up.
Respect (or disrespect), guilt, belief, wonder – there’s a lot to this climb.
Before the long journey south into the real Outback, we are spending a few nights at the frontier town of Katherine.
About 350 km south of Darwin, the “must do” here is the spectacular gorge in the Nitmiluk National Park. With no buses, we hitched both-ways the 30 km from our hostel; a first for us on this gap year, and we enjoyed two fascinating conversations as a result. One about Aboriginals (we’ll turn to this subject in a future post) and one about air-conditioning, fishing and school holidays.
For most tourists, the Gorge is seen from the comfort of a cruise boat. For us, it was a six hour, 17 km trail walk through the bush.
We love the randomness of travelling. If we hadn’t popped into the store to buy some water, if we hadn’t asked about some walks to do, if the shopkeeper hadn’t produced a photocopy of some walks…..
So using the above hand-drawn map, produced by a lady who simply wanted to share her love of walking in the area, we enjoyed going up into the bush north of Lake Tinarro. Starting at the Scout Camp, we climbed steeply up the Torpedo Bay Walk, and after 45 mins reached ‘the best lookout’.
A big thanks to the nameless lady who drew the map. Without it, we would never had enjoyed looking out across the Atherton Tablelands.
It got us thinking, how everyone can make a difference in the place they love. What could we do to help visitors to our town?
We wanted a restful afternoon, but then Hilary suggested walking from our hostel out to Diamond Head. Someone on TripAdvisor had stated it was “only a twenty minute walk from Waikiki Beach”, so we set off at 2pm in the heat of the day. An hour later we were asking people the way, and we finally staggered, awash with sweat, into the crater (through a road tunnel) at 4.15pm.
“Now you’ve got the steep climb to the summit” said the cheery Park Warden, as we paid for our entrance tickets. “That’ll be the easy part!” Hilary replied, with some feeling. The trail to the summit was built in 1908 as part of the US Army’s defence system. It includes wrought-iron spiral staircases, narrow tunnels, and observation bunkers. Great fun. It was a long way up but the views down to the many surfers and across the whole of Honolulu were worth it.
Readers will be glad to know that we managed to get a bus back.
The Hosmer Grove campsite at the entrance to Haleakala State Park gave us a great base to see the sunset from the highest point of Maui. At just over 10,000 feet, we were well above the clouds, and the wind was strong and very cold.
Then the next morning we returned to do just a bit of the long, hot trek into the massive cavernous depths of the crater. Hilary was keen to reach one of the mini craters within the larger crater – but the path kept turning the other way, so she gave up.
If you plan to do this Note the regulations changed earlier this year. Whilst you don’t need a permit to drive up to see the sunset from Haleakala, you will need one to head up for the sunrise.
From our Prairie Creek campsite, the hike through primary Redwoods to Fern Canyon was recommended.
We were surrounded by a timeless scene, alone amongst trees that started their quest for light when the Chinese invented gunpowder. Also colossal fallen Redwoods providing a thriving habitat for new trees, bushes and insects.
Fern Canyon itself slightly disappointed. With fern-covered sides it was certainly pretty unique, but in an intimate rather than grand way.
Some of you may recognise it from Jurassic Park 2.
Staggering rock faces. A trail that winds up through them. Views across the desert valley to the snow-capped Cascade Mountains. We loved trekking in this State Park just north of Bend in Central Oregon.
Gosh how spoilt is America for amazing landscapes? The locals may flock here, but us Europeans – with only a few weeks in the States – would tend to give Oregon a miss.
This is heaven for rock-climbers. Famous climbs all over the place, include the Monkey Face (below right), which has one of the toughest free routes in the world rated at 5.14c. We spoke to one youngster physically and mentally preparing for his attempt in the Fall.