Friday, January 15, 2010

Japan - Day 11

Bright and early we headed for the wharf, to board the ship that will take us to Yakushima island. Nice ship, evidently design to carry hundreds and not just the five cats we were. I guess once you have the concession you are obligated to provide the service, no matter what.

As we were steaming out of the harbor Sakurajima had one last eruption, to say goodbye in style. The harbor is at the end of a very long ria, so for the best part of an hour we could see snow-clad mountains on both sides. It reminded me very much of the inland passages of both Chile and the west coast of Canada.

Breathing in the salty air of the Sea of Japan (or are we in the northernmost corner of the South China Sea?) brought out all my buccaneer ancestry, and I walked back and forth on deck, looking for ships to plunder. I had my heart set on boarding one of the hydrofoils, but man can they move! I bet that they are at least three times faster than our plodding tramp steamer.

We got to Yakushima around noon, and headed for the local youth hostel. The owner was not there, so we had to wait for nearly an hour, and by the time we were done checking in must already have been closer to 2 pm. OK, what to do? Let's take the bikes and go around the island. Well, easier said than done. Like most coastal roads this one does not strictly follow the coast, but goes a bit inland, raising and falling in elevation. After 8 km of such treatment we were bushed. Fortunately we found a Banyan Park that provided both a chance for rest and an excuse to turn around.

Banyans are members of the ficus family, and here they grow in grotesque forms, not unlike the trees that grew near Cacahuamilpa. They also reminded me of the walking trees of Peru. Basically, they drop roots from the side branches, so when these roots reach the ground they take hold and a new trunk grows. After a while the main trunk is surrounded by the trunks of its shoots, and the whole family knots together in the most amazing shapes.

Much huffing and puffing brought us back around 5 pm, in time to make inquiries about taking the bus into the interior of the island. Reportedly the cedar forests are something else, and earned Yakushima the honor of being designated a World Heritage Site.

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