Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Epps are BACK...for good...for now...

At least that's what we tell everyone when they ask us, "so, are you back for good?" HA. Like we'll ever be anywhere "for good." Crazy people who think you can tie us down! I laugh loudly in all of your faces! HA! HA! HA!
(sorry - mild burst of insanity - happens more often since I've been back in the large, huge, empty land of vast skies and green spaces)
So, Joanne did the absolute unthinkable and updated her blog. DAMN. Means I've gotta finally update ours. I promised to first finish off our final days in Japan before continuing on with our lives in Canada, and I intend to fulfill that promise. So get ready for the ride - I know you've all missed living vicariously through us. haha.

So after the coast, we headed up through Kochi to the Iya Valley region. In our guide, it said something about this being "one of Japan's three most unknown areas". Right. Well clearly the book was written BEFORE all the major tourist developments came into place. We went to our first stop, the overrated かずらばし, or "vine bridges," and were greeted by a MASSIVE overpriced parking complex completed just in time for the Golden Week rush. (We opted for parking on the side of the road... works every time!)
Admittedly, the bridges were kind of fun. They are made of vines (with not so cleverly disguised steel cable supports) in the samurai tradition. I guess back then the bridges were made of vines so they could easily be hacked down in case the enemy was in pursuit. As opposed to the present day purpose of mere shits and giggles. (yes, I've worked a long time to fit that into a blog entry.)

Probably our best experience in this leg of the trip was climbing Mount Tsurugi. One wonderful (and really funny) thing about hiking mountains in Japan is that you are often provided with the option of taking a chairlift partway up or down the mountain. We took the option gladly. We never claimed we were hardcore, folks.

Using the chairlift, the hike became a lot more bearable, although it was still pretty rough going on the way up. But once we got to the top... WOW! It was so cool, cause it was quite flat on top. Little boardwalks had been built to various lookout points to protect the vegetation. And the views were spectacular. You can see from where this hiking group is coming from that you can walk along the mountain top to the next ridge. We were limited in time that day, so it'll have to wait for next time... :)



Oh, and check out this tree. We saw it on the hike up. I like it.

Finally, I have to show you some こいのぼり、koi nobori, or carp flags. These flags are put up all over Japan for Children's day. Wikipedia tells me that "Traditionally, the Japanese associate carp with boys because of the strength associated with carp that swim upstream." And the flags are in honour of boys born and in hope that they'll grow up big and strong. Since Children's day is May 5th, we got to enjoy watching these flags during the entirety of our 5-week trip.

While we were in the Iya Valley region, we took a boat tour through the Obokke and Kobokke Gorges. Again, more amazing rock formations. These koi nobori were strung just above where we boarded the boat. I have to admit, I bought my own little koi nobori craft just in case we ever have occasion to celebrate the birth of our own wee one... ;)