21 August, 2013

Our Hokkaido Adventure Days 17 & 18

Out to the east of Hokkaido now. The islands
you can see here are owned by Russia (but
contested by Japan). The Peninsula is a World
Natural Heritage Site. It's remote
and has limited public access.
Wednesday 10th July
Abashiri to Odaito via Shiretoko Peninsula and Shibetsu

We’d been watching the weather forecasts carefully, but dropped our guard on Wednesday. Just as we began breakfast at about 7, the rain began and looked set to continue most of the day. For the first time we had to pack up camp in the rain (thankfully it wasn’t too heavy). In hindsight, it was a good thing to experience, because now we know how to manage it without getting everything too wet.

We drove east, then north, part-way up the Shiretoko peninsula, across the mountain pass (about 700m high) and back down to the sea. Unfortunately the fog closed in and we couldn’t see the high, snow-covered mountains either side of us. We could see the unmelted snow beside the road, though! The mountains in this area are around 1,500m high.

I bought an English Park Guide with great photos and information. As I browse through it now, I wish we could have spent more time in this remote corner of Japan.
View of the highway from our lunch table.
A rare motorhome (though we saw more of them in rural
Hokkaido than we've ever seen in Honshu).

We stopped for lunch at Rausu, a fishing village famous for its seafood. At the road-side stop there were some magnificent crabs being sold. We enjoyed a lovely slow lunch, lounging at low Japanese-style tables and watched the rain and fog roll by outside.

More Doctor Fish
We were aware that the later we delayed our arrival at our next campsite, the more likely it would be that the rain would be gone, so we took our time driving on Wednesday. 

We were encouraged to let these fish
(sturgeon) nibble our fingers
We stopped at Shibetsu’s Salmon Aquarium, which turned out to be very informative. They had more doctor fish, as well as some other unusual looking fish. We also learned more about salmon fishing and saw models of the complicated nets they use. That was useful
The sturgeon had odd looking snouts.
information to have when we went driving the next day. The aquarium had several “can touch” pools, including a place you could pick up star fish, hermit crabs and other shell fish and fish, which the boys enjoyed thoroughly.

As we pulled up at the campsite we found this deer,
the only deer we saw the whole trip. My new camera
amazed me by taking this single shot at quite a distance.
Then we drove to Nakashibetsu for more food and found my favourite food store from our Hokkaido Days: Big House.

Arrival at the campsite at 5pm, was a little late, but we rushed through our set-up and did pretty well. This was the 6th time we’d done this in under 14 days, so we’re getting good.

Inside the tent in the wee hours of the morning.
We were very close to the seashore, and were looking for shade to keep us out of the morning sun, particularly, so we set up behind a stand of trees. 

Unfortunately we encountered extreme lighting. It is strange to me that Japanese campsites seem bent on lighting up their campsites too much at night-time. It felt almost like daylight in our tent. 

Thursday 11th July
Notsuke Peninsula and Odaito

Thursday was another rest day. We drove out along the Notsuke Penninsula, a 28km sand spit. It was an interesting drive, looking back at the mountains on Shiretoko that we could now, ironically see, at a distance, but couldn’t when we were close to them the day before. We could also see the Russian islands.

A map of the Notsuke Peninsula. Again, we couldn't drive
all the way along.
The peninsula includes wetlands, where we enjoyed a short walk while searching for various flowers and the best blooms to photograph. At a rest stop we found some icecream for a treat. David and I enjoyed a flavoured sauce on our ice cream that was supposed to have been made from a local flower. It tasted and looked something like Apricot Jam.

Thursday afternoon we lounged around in and around the campsite. I read for a while and then, to my surprise I slept for a couple of hours. We wandered a little on the nearby beach, though it wasn’t a nice beach and we weren’t tempted to swim or even paddle.
The beach on the peninsula. Swimmers weren't welcome.

I love this photo.
This a photo of a great photo!
Our campsite by the sea. There were lots of insects.
This campsite's facilities weren't quite so great. Here are the
toilets. The showers were 100 yen for five minutes (but no
clock, so you just had to do your best) and quite nice. They
were up in the main reception building as usual.
The sky over the ocean on our last evening.
Check out these lights at 3am. They look even worse here
because fog had rolled in. You can see the tarp we draped
over the end of our tent, this gave us some relief from the

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