27 November, 2011

Camping adventure number three

Yesterday we arrived back from our third camping adventure in Japan. Our third in five months. As I guessed back here, it was different from the previous two, merely because of the season.
Breathtaking mountains
Autumn leaves

We set off directly after school finished. It was a bit of a stressful start, but once we got going we had a good trip. Smooth traffic and once we'd left the city the scenery was gorgeous.

We made the trip in only 2 1/2 hours and began setting up our tent not long after 3pm. You could tell it was the fourth time we'd done it, it went much smoother. Aided greatly by the ground beneath our site. Unlike our previous two camp sites, this one was grassed and without large rocks under the surface. A dream for pegging out. Additionally the boys knew what was coming up and so were generally very helpful.

As you can see from the photo, we were the only residents on the first night and for most of the next day too. The boys loved these grassy slopes (yes, they are grass, brown grass). They ran all over the place, had fun with the soccer ball and generally created their own fun. The first time we went camping back in July they hid inside the tent as soon as it went up and at every other opportunity. This time they treated the whole campsite as their own backyard and had a great time. I loved seeing their creative play.

This photo was taken from a high perch above the campsite. In the morning it was the sunniest spot. It also had the best view of the mountains across the valley. This was the boys' big discovery and they could often be seen up there sitting on their camp chairs enjoying the serenity. These things I treasure in my mother's soul.

The first night the boys weren't dressed warmly enough. They hadn't really comprehended how cold it would be and I'd given up trying. Therefore by about 6.30pm they all ended up in bed fully clothed — actually with as many layers as they could manage. It was terribly cold so we decided to ditch the idea of showers. After the boys warmed up and we'd cleaned up after dinner we invited to them come out and look at the stars. Wow, what a treat for city kids. We ran around in the dark for a while and then they dashed back into bed.

David and I ended up in bed before 8pm too. First time that has ever happened in our family! It therefore turned into a very long night. I struggled to go to sleep. I wasn't really cold but the wind howled in the tree tops and occasionally dipped down and bothered our tarp. Thankfully the whole structure held, but even though I spent more than 10 hours in bed, I didn't actually get a lot of sleep before midnight.

Three boys getting warm in bed with their books.
 We were all awake before 6.30, even though the sun hadn't reached our campsite yet. And it was still cold! I lent the camera to our 12 y.o. who had a great time taking photos before breakfast. And indeed the view was magnificent at that time of the morning.

Friday was fun. We started with a small walk around the campsite, including back to the spot where we'd seen Mt Fuji as we drove up to the campsite the day before.

David playing park golf.

Mt Fuji, only about 50km away.
Then we hired some Park Golf gear and headed down to the campsite's course. It is a game that was invented in Hokkaido (northern island of Japan) in 1983 (so says Wikipedia) and it very popular up there. We didn't know that there were courses down here in Honshu, but it was one of the attractions for a cooler weather camping trip. It is a very simple game, something between golf and mini golf. It proved to be great fun for our whole family. We spent about four hours doing an 18 hole course, with a lunch break in the middle. (Each hole was about 30-40m.)

After some afternoon tea and a spot of cricket, we headed off to the onsen (Japanese hot spring bath). Wow, that was nice. The bath was about 40-44 degrees Celcius and really warmed us to the core.

Heidi, the book was made into an anime series in 1974 and is still very popular here in Japan and apparently in a number of other non-English speaking countries.

After the onsen we paid a short visit to a local tourist attraction (that was free because we were staying at the camp site, and we got a discount on the onsen too!). Heidi's Village is an intriguing place. Not all that interesting except that they had a large illumination festival. So many lights! But very cold and dinner was waiting to be cooked back at camp, so we had to run off fairly quickly.

Yummy dinner, but almost no one (including myself who had a headache by then) appreciated it. Being so cold, it was hard to get food served at an appropriate temperature. It seemed to go from searing hot to cold in under three minutes!

And the boys were in bed without complaint before 7.30 again. In contrast to our warmer-weather camping, mum and dad didn't hang around enjoying the evening on our camping chairs either. We dove into bed as soon as possible too. This time, though, I was so tired I dropped off fairly quickly.

During the night, though, I woke up to the sound of running water. Like someone had left a tap on, except we had no taps near us. I quickly figured out that someone, for some unknown reason, had turned the water on up the hill to fill up the pond at the bottom of the hill. The drain ran right past our tent and it made a very annoying sound, especially when one was already cold.

The next day we had several new neighbours, a few of whom had put up their tents after dark the night before. It was even colder than the day before, possibly because the wind had died down. Several of our towels were frozen stiff on the line. We found out a few hours later as we left the park that it had been -2 that morning. I reckon it was about that when we were eating breakfast. The tea towels were not frozen when we first got up, but were by the end of breakfast. A bit chilly for my liking.

We were all sick of being so cold and so to pack up and head home was a relief. Even though it meant leaving the beauty of the mountainside behind in exchange for the crowded city. We have our memories and our photos. We also have the satisfaction in knowing that we survived.

On the last morning, at one point, I went up to the sunny part of the campsite where our boys were very sensibly hanging out. One of them said, "Next time we come here we should put our tent on one of these high sites to get the sun." I like that attitude — 'next time we come'. Don't know when it will be, maybe next November, but I do know that I'd like to go there again.

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