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Week 2 1/2 to 3 - Our rainy reality!

Our decision to start in Hokkaido in July was based on the weatherman's tip. Unlike the rest of Japan, Hokkaido it seemed had no rainy season. If we left in July, we would be able to enjoy the blue skies and cooler temperatures while the rest of the country wallowed in the sticky beginnings of summer, made even worse by the daily deluge of the 'tsuyu'. It appeared like a foolproof plan. After all, the weatherman is never wrong is he?

With the first week under our belt, the reality of the day to day grind had set in, and so it seemed had the rain! It was no longer a matter of if it would rain, but when. We had come ready with our weatherproof gear, but there were some things that no amount of planning could prepare us for. How would our stilts handle the drenchings? How would we handle the drenchings ourselves? Our rule was to walk regardless of the weather. Rest days would be determined more by what we wanted to see or what we wanted to do in a certain place. But as the rain continued to follow us, our resolves started to crumble as did our faith in our weatherman that we had so eagerly wanted to believe.

We knew nothing of the road that we were travelling except that, on the map, it snaked its way from the coast through what looked to be an assortment of dairy farms that stretched as far as tthe computer screen would allow. For the first time we would be off the sea and in, what we hoped, would be the green rolling hills of the Hokkaido that filled our imaginations when planning this trip. After a few kilometers, it was obvious that we had found our dairy farms. The smell of raw, freshly dumped cow manure was overpowering in the soggy surrounds and seemed to invade our every sense. With our hands occupied with the job of maneuvering the stilts, we were left open and at the mercy of the prevailing winds and their frighteningly powerful bovine baggage! The sight of those green rolling hills may have been enough to distract us from our predicament, but with 3 metre tall snow shields lining our way, it was to be a sight that would remain in our imaginations. As we dodged potholes big enough to swallow a cow, our conversations were limited to curses at either the cows and their smells or at the ever worsening weather.

Our stilts were beginning to suffer too under the strain. While bamboo is known for its strength and durability, we were slowly finding out that it was also very good at absorbing the rain. The footrests which are the nuts and bolts of our stilt's construction, were slowly being strangled by the two metres of wire that fastened them to the bamboo poles. In order to take every opportunity to dry them, we took shelter as often as we could in the bus huts that line Hokkaido's country roads. While most were built to be cosy refuges in the harsh throws of the winter months, the ones we had access to along these roads seemed to be the ones everyone had forgotten about, except for the menacing looking spiders that hung from spindly webs across the seats. It is amazing however that when you take away all the comforts of life, the most important things become the simplest of things, like shelter from the rain. As such, we were happy to share space with our beady eyed friends, as long as they were happy to stay in their spindly webs.

From Teshio to Rumoi, a total of 140kms over 1 and a half weeks, we had one week and 3 days of rain, we had to fix our stilts a total of 5 times, we met probably 100 menacing spiders hanging from spindly webs (none of which were tempted to broaden their diets to include us thankfully), we cursed the weather enough times to be barred from heaven for all eternity, and after all of the promise shown by the map beforehand, we saw absolutely no cows!

After the beauty of the week before, our second was a reality check that showed us the other side of the challenge and that taught us the meaning of the Japanese term 'Gaman' or to grin and bare it. There would be more days like these, but they would be outweighed by the people we were to meet along the way!

posted by Mick and Miki Tan @ 5:06 PM,


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