A&E on the World Heritage Train East 2009 travel blog

Chuzenji house

Yudaki Falls

Yudaki Falls

Van Gogh gold on the plateau

Walkside waterfall

Red leaves over bamboo path

Chuzenji lakeside

Bus stop maple

Chuzenji Falls

Tapestry of trees

It being the busiest time of the year for the Nikko area, I thought it might be a good idea to get an earlier bus up into the mountains. To this end I was up as early as I could get breakfast, and I had just bought my bus ticket to go further up into the mountains when the Tokyo train got in. It was nuts, hundreds of elderly Japanese hikers poured off it and all started running, rucksacks bobbing, half for the bus stop directly outside that station, the other half a short way down the road to where the bus started from. I immediately grasped the urgency of the situation and jogged down the road with the smart people. The bus journey is 90 minutes on a good day on mountain roads, and no-one wanted to stand all the way, never mind not be able to get on the bus at all. Thanks to my quickness of strategic thinking and legs I got a seat, but not everyone else even got on. When we got to the second bus stop where the less cunning had run to, there were already over 100 people in the queue, and not one of them could get on our already jammed bus. As it happened, the bus company put on extra buses, but I did feel smug, although I came to regret this later on the way back down from the mountains.

I took the bus almost as high as you could go. The views on the way up were awesome, great steep mountain sides covered in red and gold trees shining in the sun, I have never seen anything like it, though I couldn't take photos out of the bus window. At times like this one needs a car. We went above this tree line to another level where there were these deciduous pines going yellow, and a plateau of marsh with golden grass. I got off at a small lake with a bad sulphurous smell - my first evidence of vulcanism in this very volcanic country. So for the next several hours I walked back down the mountain, across the marshy plateau and further down the mountain again to Chuzenji Lake, passing a number of waterfalls on the way. Sadly it clouded over by midday and I lost the light for pics, but two of the waterfalls were proper big ones one very photogenic too.

I had a feeling it might be difficult getting back, and it certainly was. Feeling smug with myself for being so clever, I ignored the queue of nearly 200 people at Chuzenji Station and walked around the lake to pick up a throughbus before it got to the crowded station. No such luck. When the bus turned up it was jammed to the rafters, and locals advised going back to the station where there would at least be extra buses. By now the queue was immensely long. The trouble was at least partly that there was only one small narrow road up the mountain, and another small narrow one down, and the two roads met in Chuzenji Village in such a way that a jam on one caused a jam on the other. The road down was at a virtual standstill because of the sheer quantity of cars going back down the mountain after a day out, so as a result the road up was stuck too, so all the extra buses that had been laid on were stuck in this traffic anyway. And for the first time in Japan I was getting cold, it was about 5,000 feet up after all and the sun was setting. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I eventually got on a bus, and had a seat at that. And before it got dark there were even better views on the way down than on the way up. Sadly I don't think there are any proper foopaths that go that way, or they are too long to easily walk, I shall have to do some research tonight.

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