Friday February 13th, 2015 – In the Jungle (Continued)

Early on day two.
Early on day two.

A full night’s rest did me some good. When I woke up, I felt like I was able to function, if a bit… off.

Sadly, it didn’t last. It wasn’t long before my legs were again like wet noodles underneath my body. They just weren’t able to handle the trail + my gear + my 300lb body. What’s worse, it appeared that we wouldn’t be able to make it back in time to catch all of our connections which would allow Mark to go scuba diving off of the island of Yonaguni-jima later.

That one had me really upset. It’s one thing when a failure of mine limits what I get to do. It’s another thing entirely when it affects someone else’s plans. It didn’t matter that I was upset though – my body was having none of it. The hiking was painfully slow and filled with instances of me stumbling, falling, tripping, and bumping into things. I was moving like someone exceedingly drunk because my legs just would not support me and I kept forcing them to do so. I felt pathetic, and I’m certain that I looked worse.

After a while of this, Mark took mercy on me. He took my pack. Sure, it’s true that we weren’t carrying the 50lb frame packs of our yesteryear boy scout hiking trips, but they were still heavy. Mine still had the vast majority of my ‘regular life’ AND the equipment Mark had picked up for me for the purposes of this trek – things like sleeping pad, sleeping bag liner, water bladder, and my cold weather clothes.

The trail was vertical enough to warrant ropes at times.
The trail was vertical enough to warrant ropes at times.

I protested, of course. My pride insisted that I do so, though there really wasn’t any other option. Certainly not if we wanted to get back in any kind of reasonable time. Mark eventually not only took my pack, but soothed my pride enough that I let him. Embarassed doesn’t begin to cover it. My one redeeming physical quality (to me at any rate) is that I’m a big guy and I can carry the big guy’s load of stuff. Only here was living proof that this concept was simply untrue. I was as effective a hiking partner as a four year old. What’s more, I didn’t believe that the bag was really that heavy – that relieving me of it would do that much good.

Here again, I was wrong.

We started to make some good time. Far better time than the previous day, to be sure.

The final trail marker.
The final trail marker.

We eventually found ourselves at the last marker on the trail. That meant a number of things: 1. Cell phone coverage would be nearby (though we still didn’t have any at the close of the trail) 2. Most of our remaining hiking would be downhill – which, while still excruciating to me, was at least possible. 3. There was a chance – a very very slim chance – that we could still make it in time to catch our relevant connections in order for Mark to go scuba diving.

This gave me a burst of… something. I won’t call it strength (that just didn’t exist for me anymore) but something. Mark, in an effort to again ease my wounded pride, gave me back my pack so that when we eventually encountered other humans, they wouldn’t see him with both packs and me with nothing but my gasping for breath and my sweat soaked / mud caked clothes.

Just in the nick of time too. We came upon a group of hikers who looked to be stopped for a meal. While I tried to get some oxygen into my limbs and recover any semblance of composure, Mark started up a conversation. The very cute artsy/hippy/musician chick in the group was (of course) immediately enamored with him. She was taking a gentleman (who looked like a bored businessman) to the airport (which is where we were headed) and offered us a ride.

I followed this conversation because I know like three words in Japanese and because I know Mark well enough to follow tone and gestures and the like. Not because I actually understand all the words. It’s funny, but it’s this ‘tonal listening’ that makes me think I actually could pick up Japanese eventually if I was given enough time. Of course, I’m sure Mark would be well sick of me by that point.

Miho and Mark (with an annoyed O Gi-san in the background)
Miho and Mark (with an annoyed O Gi-san in the background)

At any rate, while Mark and Miho (the musician) were discussing things, a truck pulled up and out hopped an older gentleman who looked… worried. We would quickly find out that folks called him O Gi-san. Gi for grandfather – not gangsta, though somehow, I feel like that would be appropriate too. He wore US Marines camoflage clothes and started to immediately lecture Mark in japanese. There was no debating that tone.

Miho was smirking at us like a big sister might smirk at the little brothers who were catching holy hell from Mom and Dad. It quickly became apparent that we should load our bags into the back of the truck and climb in with them.

Riding back to town.
Riding back to town.

On the ride back to town, Mark filled me in on the details. To summarize, O Gi-san is the owner of the ryokan that we were to stay at the night before. When we didn’t show up, he started searching for us. Then again the next morning. They had been extremely worried about the two gaijin who had gone off into the jungle after being told that they were NOT to camp out in the jungle, and that they were to be to the ryokan before too late because that would worry O Gi-san. Then we never showed.

A police officer showed up as we were driving down the mountain. He exchanged a few words with O Gi-san which we didn’t hear and then proceeded to follow us down the mountain.

I felt like such a complete ass-hole. What’s more, it had started to look like we might make our connections, and if the officer wanted to talk to us for a while? Or, worse, teach us a lesson by popping us into a cell for a few hours or overnight? That would completely hose any chance of Mark getting his scuba trip. I had come to see that as some slight redemption for me being such an incapable ass, and it seemed like it might again be slipping from us.

Victorious in the end with... Japanese Rocky?
Victorious in the end with… Japanese Rocky?

I’m happy to say that things worked out in the end though. The cop only followed for a little while then pulled off to take care of something else. O Gi-san gave us a bit more lecturing, but eventually just asked us to pay for our night’s lodging as we’d made the reservation. We gladly did. We retreived the remainder of my crap, loaded up, and walked around the corner to the bus station. Took the bus to the Airport, and caught our plane.

That got us to Yonaguni-jima in time.

We were met at the airport by a grandmotherly woman who came up to me and asked if I was “Mah-ku?” I shook my head an pointed to Mark. A few minutes later we were in her car and en route to the mishuku. I was feeling so relieved by the time that we reached the place, I seriously could have cried.

Our mishuku on Yonaguni-jima.
Our mishuku on Yonaguni-jima.

The mishuku itself was fantastic. We checked in and dropped our stuff off. Mark wanted to go and check in with the scuba folks and get set up for the following day. He asked if I would go with him, and while my legs felt (I mean this sincerely) like jello filled with pain, I went anyway. It was flat paved ground and there was no risk of falling off a mountainside if they gave way, so why not? As long as they would keep moving, I might as well.

Getting ready for bed that night, when I took off my boots, I half expected some sort of cartoon-esque ‘pop’ and for my feet to inflate to three or four times their normal size and turn candy apple red. They didn’t, of course, but I did find that I had the largest blister I’ve ever had under my left foot (I wasn’t even sure it was a blister at first) and that I had managed to damage three toenails enough that I was sure to lose them.

I genuinely didn’t care. We’d made it. Mark could scuba, and I could have a day to recover. I’m not sure my head hit the pillow before I was unconcious.

Side Note – Adding Galleries

Shooting out the side of our chartered boat.
Shooting out the side of our chartered boat.

Mark and I were discussing these posts and he made the argument that there aren’t really enough photo in each post to provide proper context for the posts. I think it’s a good line of thinking.

So, rather than go back through and monkey with the posts themselves, I thought I would try something a little different. I’m leaving the posts as they are, but I will be creating a gallery at the end of each post with additional photos related to that day/those events. In other words: you may want to go back and check out the previous Japan posts.

Thursday February 12th, 2015 – Welcome to the Jungle

Boating down the Japanese Amazon...
Boating down the Japanese Amazon…

Took a chartered boat down the “Japanese Amazon” to the starting point of our hike. Beautiful vistas on either side of lush vegitation and deep jungles greeted us as we passed.

We entered the jungle at a dock built to allow access to tourists. The first portion of the trek was easy and well groomed. We found ourselves confident that we could complete the 8 hour 12 mile hike in the single day allotted. Or perhaps that was only me.

Maryudo Falls
Maryudo Falls

We reached the beautiful Maryudo Falls fairly quickly.

Not long after the waterfall, we found ourselves at the start of the official ‘trail’ through the jungle. We had been warned that the trail would get tougher, but we (again – probably just I here) didn’t pay enough heed to those warnings. The Japanese (in my limited experience) will tell you something is “terribly dangerous!” when the reality is that it’s barely a blip on the danger scale. They have a lot of ‘rules’ in their lives that we westerners wouldn’t even think to pay attention to. Example? There could be no cars for miles, but if the pedestrian crossing sign shows “do not cross”? The Japanese will not cross. That would be terribly dangerous.

A little something at the start of the trail.
A little something at the start of the trail.

It wasn’t long after that where my confidence/cockiness quickly abated. The simple truth? I was way too out of shape to complete the hike in the amount of time provided. Had the whole trek been as well groomed as that early portion, I have no doubt we would have completed the trail in plenty of time.

As it was, we had to spend the night in the jungle.

Mark doing a river crossing.
Mark doing a river crossing.

Which, is ‘illegal’. Because, you guessed it, is ‘terribly dangerous’. Except that, in this case, it really is. The deadly night hunting habu snake, dramatically dropping temperatures the fact that it’s illegal to start a fire, and (really) no clear space to set up camp all make for a potentially disastrous night in the jungle.

I should point out here that I’m really lucky. I have people like Mark in my life. I was… ill prepared. Mark was not. He had done his homework when planning the trip. He had a tent for us. He had sleeping pads for each of us. We had discussed it in advance, and we agreed we should have these things “just in case”, but it was Mark who both started that discussion and eventually purchased the items so that we would have them in time for the trip.

Map showing the trail across Iriomote-jima.
Map showing the trail across Iriomote-jima.

In the end, we settled into our tent for a moderately comfortable night. I was feeling terribly defeated, and my body felt… well, broken honestly. I had reached a point where I didn’t think I could take another step long before we’d stopped. It was an experience I can only assume is like that of a marathon runner – when you simply do not believe that there is enough energy in your body to lift your leg one more time and yet you find yourself continuing to do so – over and over again.

Sleep came upon me very quickly that night.


 

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