But for this July three-day, I was on the ball months in advance. I figured it would be a big weekend for the folks at HappyRaft and really wanted to get in that river in July, not September, because my only other experience there was awesome saving the one factor of the (relative) cold.
That part of Shikoku, down by the Oboke and Koboke, near the Yoshino River, right about the smack dab middle of the island, is unlike any place I've ever seen before. I went white water rafting for the first time in Tennessee, and the second time in Shikoku, and I liked Shikoku way better. It may be because I was more comfortable then (with the idea of rafting), or ready to see the landscape around me with more awe-infused eyes... Or it may have been that the whole atmosphere was different, the cliffs and the guides from Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, the fellow boat-mates from Japan. Rafting is a team effort and it helps to have a good team. Japanese folks are pretty good at teamwork, you know?
Everyone in that valley that we encountered seemed relaxed and laid back. The homes and businesses were almost all built clinging to the sides of the mountains, as there was no real flat valley area to speak of. Going to the grocery store requires you to just take what is available (which may not be enough meat for your group for that night) because it's a little mom n' pop place. Everything down there feels older, most lost somehow, like if you went down there without a cell phone, no one would ever find you again.
It's perfect for a vacation. Back home, there's an apartment to sort, sift, pack, and clean. There are Last Lessons to conduct and all kinds of paperwork to begin or continue or finish. There are speeches to think about and write, there are books to read and just.. a lot of stuff to do. Even more (haha, yeah) than normal. But when you're in the middle of Shikoku, where it takes twenty minutes to zig-zag your way up to whatever small cabin you happen to inhabit, when you're under the sun on the turquoise water, when you're neck deep in the ice cold canyon creek.. it's like all that stuff doesn't exist. When we're cooking dinner in our cabin, drinking our beers, it's like.. you forget that this is the last weekend we're going to do this kind of thing together, maybe ever. It's like you're so far away that nothing matters.
So you get back, and yeah it's all still there. It's all still waiting for you. The endtimes are still upon us. And now you're three days closer to the deadline, and no closer to done. And all you may have to show for it is a sunburn, a digicard full of photos, and the memory of mountains vastly different from these, a valley much steeper and deeper and wilder than this one full of mundane Shire-like idyll.
But that's kind of what vacation is.
Tales from the road, Day 1:
|All five of us in our massive van.|
|Carl expresses his feelings about our first stop: the Sapporo Winery Okayama|
|Sam has the driver sticker despite his position in the backseat.|
|The long bridge|
|Last minute decision to stop at Kompirasan, home of one of the biggest ships/seafaring shrines|
|The approach to Kompirasan|
|We note that everyone coming down from this shrine looks like they have been on a log flume. We hope there is a log flume but expectations are low.|
|A very cute dog.|
Tales from the River, Day 2:
|Morning view from our Wada Hideaway|
|Way better than a log flume.|
|This is not the highest rock jump|
|THIS is the highest rock jump.|
|This is what we look like after|
Tales from the canyon, Day 3:
|The way home|
|Complete with little origami on the dash that we picked up at some tollbooth or other|
|And this is how we all feel at the end.|