04 December, 2013

Our end-of-November camping trip

Our camping trip last week started off very well. We left about 1, an hour after school finished. There was no complaining, we enjoyed a good portion of the drive without everyone quite happy. We ate our rolls for lunch while driving, in order not to waste too much of the short afternoon (the sun goes down at about 4.30 at the moment).

Halfway there we switched drivers and enjoyed this view of Mt Fuji:
One of the many tunnels on our route.
We set up the camp fairly well, most of the time the boys participated well, but the sun disappeared only an hour after we arrived and before we were totally settled. We finished under lights. The temperature also dipped down to about zero.

Getting dinner was frustrating. I'm not used to cooking with just two heat sources like I do when we're camping. It's something I got used to when we were in Hokkaido, but I'd forgotten that things need to be done a little differently. The most difficult was getting liquid to boil! Our rice was cooked much earlier than the rest of the Japanese curry rice was finished. But oh, it was delicious and so warming once we got it done. We all huddled around the fire to eat and it was a special meal, despite the cold.

Our Japanese camping rice cooker works
a treat!
Yum, Japanese curry rice. 
By the time we'd finished up everything it was 8pm and we were frozen through. We didn't bother to go and have showers, we just piled into bed. I don't think anyone stripped and put their pyjamas on, it was more like, take off the outer layer and replace it with pyjamas. I think I had about six layers on my upper body. I wore a beanie and scarf to bed. After a middle of the night trip to the loo I kept my gloves on in bed until I warmed up a bit.

I read a chapter from the Billabong book I'm reading to everyone, but even that was hard. I had to project my voice to the other end of the tent, through the bedding I was trying to keep on top of me to stay warm. Reading let in too much cold air, so I didn't try to read beyond one chapter, even though it was so early.

It was a disturbed night, aside from feeling the cold, one of our sons woke several times and for some reason determined to be loud. Where's the pump? . . . I need to go to the toilet. . . my tooth just fell out, where do I put it? 

The next morning the first person out at about 7.30 checked the thermometer and it said -4℃! Our iPhones obviously felt the cold too. They knew something was up, but got the message a bit wrong. Some time in a pocket soon fixed that. I tried to dress in my sleeping bag, but it was challenging!

Bacon, eggs, toast, and tinned fruit were our breakfast. Yum!

It took a while to get going, but the boys who weren't on wash-up duty enjoyed the swing and flying fox (?zip line) in the meantime. After that we went down and played our traditional game of park golf. Compared to the immaculate courses we saw in Hokkaido, this one was laughable. There were a lot of trees and most of the course was thickly covered in fallen leaves. It was fun, though. My game was atrocious and I got pretty mad at the boy who was winning, because he completely lacked compassion for those of us less talented. Not that I minded losing, but I did mind his attitude.
A little hard to see, but this was needle ice, all over the
campsite and the park golf course. It added another
interesting obstacle to our golfing!
The view from the swing!
Looking up the hill across the park golf course to
the tenting area. The sky was awesome!
The swing.
Ice needles
We'd had a family discussion about the camping meals early last week and had decided to have our biggest meal at lunch (in the warmest part of the day). That was a good decision! We could enjoy it so much more.

Heading towards sunset.
We had a BBQ, something of a combo Australian/Japanese BBQ. No bread, just meat, baked potatoes, sweet potatoes, and onion. Followed by fruit. Our boys are more and more clamouring for meat in their meals, so this was greeted by much delight! The temperature was probably still in the single digits. But it was just a delight sitting around eating delicious food and taking in our scenic surroundings.

The afternoon saw us complete the second nine holes of the park golf course, after rescuing a ball that got hit into the pond. Ah, the pond. I haven't told you of that joy.
Ground ice/needle ice pushing up the soil
The pond wasn't very pretty, covered in fallen leaves, but the boys loved it. It froze over, overnight, so they spent a lot of time breaking up ice on it with long sticks they found.

The second evening went better. We weren't setting up the tent, and we had a simple dinner planned: tinned soup and toast. Dessert: bananas, marshmallows and chocolate in foil cooked over the fire (or any combination of the above). Tastes like a Creamy Choco Banana Pie without
the pastry!

We then dashed off to a local hot spring (onsen) and got so warm! After that we dashed home and jumped into bed as soon as we could, before all the heat could evaporate. It was much more comfortable than the night before.

But this venture highlighted just how fragile the human body is. We are so dependent on our environment. If it is too hot or too cold we just can't cope. Both David and I couldn't stay in the 40+℃ bath for too long, it made us breathless or gave us heart palpitations. I went into the sauna for a short while and had trouble breathing in there too. But despite being so hot, we couldn't retain that heat and save it for later! So frustrating.

Again we got about 12 hours sleep. A bit more peaceful than the night before, with no one who woke during the night speaking loudly!

Saturday morning we again awoke to awesome scenery. Though it was cold, the surroundings more than made up for the discomfort. As did the fun of "playing"  with a fire.
Breakfast view.
We took our time over our pancake and sausage breakfast. Is it some Americans for whom this is a normal combination? It seems a bit strange to us, but we had left-over sausages that the boys loved cooking and eating.

Then it was pack-up time. It was pretty noticeable by this time that enduring the cold had meant that some of us were just a bit more "needy" than usual. Particularly the younger two. One of them had a very short temper, the other seemed to have something like "brain freeze". He just didn't move/think fast at all.

We finished off with some more swing action and taking in the gorgeous view once more. The sky was an awesome blue colour. That's something that us Aussies miss. We have big cloudless blue skies far more often in Australia than we do here. One boy urged me to take a photo of just sky. Here it is:
But the trip wasn't over yet! There were a few more things to do that the boys counted on:

  • Buy apples from an apple farm. Super cheap—we bought about 7kg of apples for 700 yen or about $7. Usually apples are about 100 yen each in the store, so this was an extraordinary bargain. Now I have to get around to making some apple desserts...
  • Have lunch at a Convenience Store. This is a treat for our kids. They love choosing from all the packaged meals.
  • Dinner at McDonalds.
But to get to the last, we had to drive home. Unfortunately David and I were enticed by the possibility of driving home the scenic route. The additional plus for this route was that it would connect some geographical dots for us: we would drive past the first two campsites we used in Japan (this camp and this memorable one with a cable car for our gear and then we had to hike in).
Our route there, via motorways (and tolls). 2 1/2 hr drive.
Our route home. A little bit longer. A lot more windy.
A lot more traffic at either end of the mountains=a lot slower!
7 hr drive!
The combination of choosing a non-motorway route, plus Saturday afternoon/night traffic, plus numerous stops (lunch, driver change, "I need some fresh air, I feel sick", dinner) meant it took us more than seven hours to get home. To compare, it only took us 2 1/2 hrs to get there on Thursday. 

It wasn't pleasant. This is probably one of the worst things about living in a big city: how difficult it is to get out to experience some nature. And we don't even live in the middle of the huge mess!

However, we made it safely and have the good memories of another camping trip to now take us through the winter.

The saddest thing, though, is that we're not going to have another opportunity to camp in Japan again until mid-2015! We're hoping to borrow some gear, though, when we're in Australia, so that we can experience something of the Australian bush. It would be fun to camp our way down to South Australia, the only state that David and I haven't been to. We'll see if it is too big a dream or if we can manage it.

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