16 October, 2020

Gunma Prefecture camp

On Sunday we went on another camping trip, our third and final one for 2020. From here on it gets too cold to comfortably camp without more expensive gear, so even though we've camped in November in the past, we've decided those days are over...and our kids are older and not so interested!

So, we left with our camping buddies around 11.30, after we'd been to church, and got to the campsite around mid afternoon. We drove about 55 km on the expressway, and then over an hour was spent on slow roads, many of them "spaghetti" roads (on the map, looks like someone's thrown noodles down).

Monday we got up late and meandered through the day. The chief theme of our camping is "low key". We generally have no major agenda on the "whole days" we are at a campsite. 

I was talking with Japanese friends about our trip the other day and said that for the days we were away we didn't wear masks (except when buying lunch on the way there and back) and didn't really have to think about COVID at all—although of course it came up in conversation sometimes. My friends were amazed. Camping in more remote places during non-Japanese school-holiday weeks is indeed a great way to escape this pandemic in Japan.

Our house is the blue dot. The green flag in the top left corner is where we've been for longer holidays in the last couple of years (and will be heading there just before Christmas). The yellow star near the middle is where we camped the other two times in 2020. It's only about 50km from the Noguri campsite, but on mountain roads would take at least an hour.

This was our first time to camp in Gunma Prefecture. Our 15th prefecture (see our big camping goal here). The writing down the side of this photo says "Gunma Visitor Toilet". The campsite was very cheap (cost us ¥2,500 for two of us for two nights). The campsite had toilets but no shower. The toilets were in reasonable shape (if a bit smelly on the male side!).

We camped next to a fast-flowing stream called the Nogurisawa River. Not far downstream it merges into the Kanna River, which eventually joins the Tone River which is the second longest river in Japan (322 km, for those who want to know).

I've uploaded the photos straight from my phone and they've appeared randomly! So I'm "going with the flow". A big advantage of this campsite was very cheap wood that we could use in an open fire on the ground. Both of these elements are rare in Japan. The wood was a little damp, however, so a good deal of fire-tending was needed. But later I realised that while playing around with a fire like this, you aren't really thinking about other things. Camping in general is a great way to shut off from the world. We come back from a camping trip feeling like we've taken a true break from the mental load that we carry on a daily basis.

The banks of the stream were steep, so we looked down on it, more than saw it up-close.

The view from behind the fire: very easy on the eyes! This large tarp functions as the "living area" for our camps: it's where we cook and hang out.

Beautiful trees everywhere!

Our camp as we set it up (not much under the tarp at this point). Our spot was a "dead end" so we had no close neighbours, yet it was not a long walk to a tap with running water or the toilets.

Thankful our camping buddies insisted on taking this photo. Good memories! It was the first time we've gone camping without any of our kids. The two we have in Japan decided to stay home/visit with a friend instead of coming. This is the foreshadowing of many more couples-only camping!
Tatsugamino Falls. This is only about a minute walk from our campsite and so it was quite
loud at night!

Moss, moss, everywhere!

Landslide prevention is everywhere in the Japanese countryside. When typhoons come through, the two greatest risks are flooding and landslides.

Sometimes people ask us if we see wild animals while camping. Generally we don't, though this time we saw a lot of domestic cats (or maybe multiple appearances of the same cat?). On the first night we heard a deer "scream" three times. It was eerie. We also had some small critters in camp. Our friends accidentally left two loaves of bread out and they were found. Maybe by something like a squirrel or weasel? There were muddy footprints over a lot of our stuff the next morning.

Fern growing out between two stone steps down to the stream.

We went for a short hike up the mountain. It was a pine forest with very little undergrowth, and steep. Hikes in Japan are rarely moderate affairs, you have to have a bit of mountain goat in you.

A poor attempt to show the mountain rising up behind our tent. Not easy to capture. We truly were in a small valley.

Another couple of photos of Tatsugamino Falls. It isn't a huge tourist site. In fact it's rather remote. For anyone who's been to Japan, saying that we were about an hour from the nearest convenience store will help you understand how relatively remote this is. Interestingly, there was no shrine or other religious elements in evidence. That is also pretty rare at a place like this.

I pulled out my fancy camera for almost the first time since this pandemic began. Found me accessing memories about information like "shutter speed" and "aperture". I didn't end up taking too many photos with it, though—it is still far easier to whip out my iPhone from my  pocket! Still, I think I should make more of an effort to put that fancy camera to work in the months to come!
To add to the flowing water noise, this weir was just downstream from us! If you look carefully, in some of these photos you can see evidence that autumn is on its way. It's a bit more obvious in this next photo.

On our way home, as we wound our way through the mountain valleys, we drove alongside this artificial lake, Kanna Lake, for some time. The green colour was amazing. Alas, because I get travel sick, I was driving, so I didn't get to do much looking!

Part of my view while eating breakfast on the last morning. The sun finally broke through and made the trees even prettier.

Cooking rice and chicken shoulders on the fire. The food/fire/cooking challenge of camping remains one of my favourite parts.

Our "blue" ambient light. This is our plate/utensil camping cupboard. I put an LED light on top and it produced quite a nice effect!

Looking away from the waterfall towards our camp (tents hiding up on the righthand side).

One-man tents! We had quite a number of bikers and others who camped in tiny tents like these.

So, it's a wrap for 2020 and camping. We're now starting to think about our spring camp for next year. We're looking at Ibaraki, which is another prefecture we haven't visited. It is north-east of here and borders the Pacific Ocean just above Chiba Prefecture.

No comments: