Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Hiroshima Weekend

Spent another weekend on the travel-side. This time, Hiroshima.

Here is the breakdown of how that went:

Day 1 (Saturday):

Once we’ve got gas and directions, we leave by about 10. This is a roadtrip, so we caravan because we can’t all fit into one car. We take the expressway, which is like a hella expensive toll road (4750 to get to Hiroshima from our town), but cheaper than taking the Shinkansen (bullet train), especially when we split the cost. The mountain drive is absolutely gorgeous in the bright cool morning sunshine. After a few rest-area stops, caravan-style, we were in Hiroshima.

We arrived in the early afternoon, and quickly made our way to the sake festival outside of town, which is the reason we’ve gone this weekend. It was already in full-swing. We eat our way down the sidewalk (various meats on sticks, fried junk foods, etc.) to the actual sake-sample park, and some people inside are already passed out on the ground. It’s like 4pm or something. We start drinking sake, but I personally take it slow, partly because I don’t love the taste of sake and never have. Partly because, um, it’s like 4pm and I don’t want to be drunk.

There were a lot of foreigners at the festival (surprise?), and it was a beautiful afternoon. Half our group disappeared for a bit, but Jacquel (a girl from our Nashville departing group) turned up, so Heke and I talked to her for a bit. Then I was somehow eating udon by myself (it got chilly, so I grabbed a warm bite) and two Japanese guys invited me to share their table. They turned out to be medical students in Hiroshima, and really nice guys. Heke and I invited them to karaoke with us later, once the festival was over at 9 or so. Eventually we found our compatriots and made our various-states-of-sober way up to the train station. The train ride back was hard, being totally full of loud drunken foreigners. Our Japanese friends ended up having to go home, but they didn’t really fit in with the new group that had formed (our girls plus like four or five Marines). We went to karaoke with the Marines instead.

Day 2 (Sunday):

The next day, we went to Miyajima. Another bright and clear day, this time we spent it traversing the island and taking photos of its famous Tori. The rest of our group opted to take ropeway cars up the mountain, but I declared that I wanted to walk. I wandered around and found what I figured was the trail. Next to it, I found a much smaller trail headed in basically the same direction. So, I figured I’d take the one less travelled by.

It made a difference, but not the kind I was hoping for. I meant to meet my friends on the top (they’d given me a head start.. I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into, even without my.. um.. detour). I walked down the secluded path for quite a while, snapping photos as I went. I remembered JET-L saying the path was next to the water, along the river, and I was near a small stream. Eventually, though, my little path ended. I looked up the mountain and thought, maybe the real path is up there. And even though there isn’t an established way to climb, I could probably make it. I could hear voices above of other hikers on their merry ways.

So I began to climb. Using trees and clawing my way, up and up. I got to where I thought the path must be, and looked up again. Just a bit more, of course. Just a bit more. I clawed my way up farther. Finally, I looked directly up to see a ropeway car passing over my head. The voices were coming from the ropeway above me. The path may or may not be anywhere near me after all. Awesome.

At that point I had no choice but to turn back. Sweaty and dirty as I was, it was about to get worse. Of course going up is strenuous when you are basically arm-over-arming it from tree to tree. But coming down is more or less a barely-controlled ass-slide experience. I got to the “path” I’d been on completely hot, tired, covered in spiderwebs, and dirtier than I think I’ve been since I was like twelve.

Frustrated, I made my way back. I picked up the walking trail again, which was going to be 2.5 kilometers. Whatever, I could do a mile and a half or whatever that was. Then the trail got steeper. And basically became a magical stairway of stone, through an enchanted forest.

I stopped for breaks, mostly to make myself calm the ef down, lest I waste my hiking experience being upset I got lost. I eventually came to the top of Mt. Misen and it was gorgeous.

We shopped our way back to the boat to get back to Hiroshima, indulging in some oysters, leaf-shaped pastry, and beer. There was clubbing on tap that night (after some delicious effing okonomiyaki, Hiroshima-style), but I opted out and became a midnight pumpkin so I could be fresh for our morning plans and the path home.

Day 3 (Monday, Columbus Day, I mean Canadian Thanksgiving, I mean Health and Sports Day?):

I got up earlier than everyone else and went to see this little garden park Heke had been to the day before. It was really sweet, and nice to wander around by myself again, only this time not on a steep incline. I then went to Atomic Bomb Dome and met the rest of the team there after walking around a bit and looking at the Sadako statue and peace park.

It was in general a difficult place to be. Even from my first sight of the dome, I was choked up. I’ll post photos soon, but for now just know that it was upsetting. The Peace Park is equally hard. And the museum. Difficult but important.

The three of us that stayed for the museum, having never been before, grabbed some lunch at a cute cafe and then got off at the wrong stop trying to take a shortcut back to the hotel to meet the others. We got to the cars at about 3:15, and the battery was dead in one. Turns out, the seatbelt had caught in the passenger door, so it hadn’t closed, so the dome light was on while the car was in storage (in this suspension storage unit thing.. kinda weird) for the three days we were in Hiroshima. Totally dead.

But, JET-L had jumper cables. She didn’t know how to use them (no one did, turns out.. no one but me, of course. Can I get a hey-yeah for jumping Jill forty zillion times when it was just the alarm system freaking out?)… but at this point I can positive-positive negative-ground like a pro, so I hooked tiny engine to tiny engine right there on the platform of the car storage unit and within moments, bam, we were on the road.

Not the right one, not at first. We accidentally got on the wrong highway and had to backtrack.. essentially putting us about three and a half hours behind schedule, all told (but this is for museum, lunch, car troubles, and all)… the drive home through the dusky mountains was alright. The sake festival felt like it had been a week before.

And that was my Hiroshima weekend.

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