Mt Takadake Aso-San (1592m)
Thur 1 Mar.
gullies, tricky climbing, easy slipping, almost caused a mudslide,
ripped clothes and dodgy leg..
began at 1.30pm. Tom`s legs were like "pistons", to quote Paul,
while he began to struggle a little. At the summit they faced horizontal
hail and near freezing temperatures. Their climb was made more difficult
by mud gullies and slippery conditions. Sometimes the only way of
progressing was by grabbing surrounding shubbery and pulling themselves
was a lot quicker - too quick on occasions, with Tom ripping his
gortex jacket. Only slightly peeved though as the repair makes him
look more 'hard core'. Paul picked up an injury on Aso`s descent
to the extent that he couldn't bend his leg. As a result they camped
They washed their clothes and found that by morning they had frozen
Fri 2 Mar.
leg, quick breather and on...
morning Paul was back to his old self, so the early camp might just
have saved them a possible few days of recovery. They push on to
the next mountain.
last: views, bath and shave - the oft-dreamt-of delights of the
Mt Kujo-San (1787m)
Sat 3 Mar.
climbed Kujusan. The views
here were much better, they could finally appreciate the views
that their height gave and so they found the motivation to push
on with relative ease. They had their first bath and shave at a
Mt Onsen resort. They camped at 1100m. It was close to water.
Sun 4 Mar.
A bit of a rest again.
days of well-deserved rest, as they've climbed 3Mts in four days.
spent the entire 1st day confined to tent and sleeping bags due
the mountains in Kyushu are now conquered and now it's northward
to Daisen in Honshu which is reportedly one of Japan's scariest
climbs, with difficult ridges to navigate. It is actually used by
mountaineers as the practice mountain before their Himalayan treks.
It should take about two weeks to walk it there.
walked so far is approx 522km/311miles. 6 of the 100 mountains are
now done and dusted.
the moment they walk between 15km-37km per day, though they believe
they will be pushing nearer 40km per day soon. Paul admits Tom could
do it now and that he is still not 100% there, though he's feeling
confident that they will both be well oiled machines within a week
Mon 5 Mar.
walking, a couple inches of snow, very icy. the guys wrapped up
warm but still found it chilly. This week is about mileage and getting
off of Kyushu asap.
Tues 6 Mar.
Not so wet, and a quiet night
camp in an abandoned hunting lodge. This was perfect shelter from
the rain, and a lot quieter than it would have been if they were
out in the tent, with it reverberating on the tent's canvas.
A path with a mind of its own, a pesky map, and a rather slow-going
and tricky trek.
the day with an initial plan to find their major route within a
brisk half hour trek. Their path however had other ideas as it split
into two. 5 hrs of bushwacking following deer trails and a compass
bearing. The map was leaving a little to be desired, giving incorrect
contours from visible peaks, resulting in them taking bearings off
the wrong hill. Then ended up further east than intended and only
after a further 5 hrs of pushing through bamboo grass that was above
head-height, winding thru close grown trees which caught their equipment
at every step. By the afternoon they finally made it to flat open
Thur 8 Mar.
civilisation, loitering with a tent, and all the dinnner in the
most of the day, sometimes driving right in their path making it
difficult to see. By afternoon they were in Kitakyushu, the main
city before Honsu Island. They loitered until evening so that they
could camp in one of the cities parks. They celebrated their completion
of Kyushu by eating out at a Tabehodi (all-you-can-eat place) and
spent 70 minutes eating various meats, vegetables and rice until
both of them were nicely stuffed. They camped near the sea front.
Fri 9 Mar.
Mobile phone, people running underground, achy joints.
day monopolised by buying a mobile phone. This took three hours,
in which they recieved 3 complimentary sweets, 1 coffee and
3 soft drinks. The lady did her best to describe the basic usage
of the phone. Afterwards they made their crossing from Kyushu to
Honshu via the pedestrian tunnel, where they found people running
laps for exercise, underground to avoid the weather. The afternoon's
trek was a bit of a battle with tiredness and aching shoulders,
legs and feet. That night they found a nice quiet wooded area to
camp and rest up.
Sat 10 Mar.
Oops, wrong place to camp.
interrupted as it seems thay camped right in the middle of prime
deer hunting ground. No shots fired, though the guys had seen plenty
of deer the night before.
Sun 11 Mar.
sums up the completion of the first part of the expedition, and
Ben, the third member of the expedition, describes his thoughts
on the trek, waiting, and finally leaving to join the others.
- "The walk is going well, the weather has been interesting. Some
days we're sunbathing in shorts and t-shirts, the next we're wrapped
up in every bit of clothing walking through a storm! Our bodies
are OK. Paul has 5-56 blisters and a sore knee and ankle but they
are getting better. I'm OK, but my ruck sack has broken in 4 places
already! [This is one of the few bits of equipment that was not
donated - see publicity
section]. We have completed the first stage of the walk having climbed
all 6 of the Hyakumeizan in Kyushu and crossed from Kyushu to Honshu.
We have been walking for 4 weeks and completed 722km (451 miles)
as of 11th March. We have been amazed by the beauty of Kyushu and
the generosity of its people and are looking forward to seeing the
rest of Japan."
Ben - "For over a year, as a team, we have worked to organise this
charitable expedition. Only now as it is almost time for me to go
and join Paul and Tom do I feel like I really know what I am letting
myself in for. I am not a good organiser, the fact that I am about
to leave university with a degree is surprising enough but walking
straight into this… it is largely thanks to the skilled organisation
by Tom and Paul. The four weeks since the lads left the UK have
been long in terms of wanting to be with them, yet so short when
considering the volume of course work I have had to do.
week to go now, I am waiting for the rest of our equipment to arrive
from our sponsors, and attending talks and parties and photo shoots,
and the whole time I just want to get started. I want to stop thinking
about how hard this is going to be and just experience it.
a contact in college I am being put in touch with someone in Croatia
who has suffered because of landmines, I want to speak to them and
gain a personal understanding of how very wrong the use of mines
say that I am angry and upset about the landmine crisis is not nearly
accurate enough. My involvement in this expedition goes far beyond
feeling sorry for certain unfortunate people. I am filled with compassion
and my energy seems to flow from that. But my motivation to do something,
and to succeed at doing it stems from the reality that every one
of us should be able to see: that it is the sad and shameful fact
that there are still landmines in the ground.
is not only wrong but sick as well, Sir Paul McCartney appeals for
us all to imagine we have been in a war. “The war has ended and
peace is declared. Yet as you drive to work, bullets are still flying.
You take your child for a walk and snipers are still firing from
the trees. We would all find this totally unacceptable. But this
is exactly the same as landmines being left behind."
have asked myself: How many times have I seen an appeal for a charity
in need on TV? How often have I heard about people suffering in
foreign countries due to war and famine? How many times have I been
moved by the plight of these people, thought that I might want to
help, and done nothing?
have chosen to do this trek and support Adopt-A-Minefield(UK)™ quite
simply because it goes directly to the heart of the problem, it
removes the landmines that kill and maim innocent people. It provides
the opportunity for human beings to go back to making their life,
and it helps provide the support needed by landmine survivors.
will not let myself slip back into that apathy that lets me glance
over the problems of other human beings, I will not let the loss
and destruction of life be something that is acceptable because
it is inevitable. I have never had to face a war nor deal with the
effects it has had on life after it has finished, but I am human.
I am the same as that child in Cambodia and that man in Croatia,
even though they are suffering in ways I find difficult to comprehend.
logical progression from caring is doing, and doing can make a difference
that improves one person’s life and saves another’s.
one sense it doesn’t matter that I am doing this trek or that it
is for the Adopt-A-Minefield Charity, what really matters is if
I take what time, skill, and love that I have and use it to the
best of my ability. It just so happens that for the next nine months
I will be trying to be the best I can be for God and for the people
who are at such risk from mines."
Day 29 - 2.5km
had two options today...we could continue forwards with approx.
35km to cover or we could walk a meagre 2.5km and spend the day
in a top ten Japanese beauty spot, eat incredible food and take
a bath in a hotel rated the 11th best in Japan.
latter option was just too tempting. Dean, an Aussi, and his Japanese
wife Miho worked in the hotel and had spotted us walking, and asked
if we were ok. They often go Antique hunting and, for helping them
move a large piece of furniture, they gave us a day to remember.
highlight was that Penny Beaton, who had been so helpful 2 weeks
before, called to say that the charity's Japanese
bank account was open and that she's now working on visa extensions.
A very comfortable evening followed, sleeping indoors on squishy
Tuesday 13th March
Day 30 - 26km
had been bothered by an ever increasing one on my finger and Dean
and Miho sorted it out, so by mid morning we were heading for the
SW coast of Honshu. Tom cooked tea over a camp fire as we had forgotten
to buy fuel in yesterday's excitement.
Wednesday 14th March
Day 31 - 40km
The BIG 4-OH!!!!!!
finally hit walking 40km in a day, and it only took a month. The
day was always about distance. The usual routine is a strong morning
walk. A short break at about 11am and then lunch between 1 and 2pm.
1 hour for lunch. Walk until 6pm. Shorty break and then walk until
tired or we find an appropriate place to camp. Tom is usually 50m
ahead because of our natural walking speeds. Team moral is still
Thursday 15th March
Day 32 - 38km
day by the sea.
headed for an onsen marked on the map only to find the hotel closed
at 2pm. No real excitement today. It drizzled all day, felt a bit
like home. Went shopping. We try to shop for everyday for a day
or so ahead to keep our packs light, but we still can't resist a
bargain if we see it! The day ended without the expected bath, but
a we were able to catch the sunset over the ocean as we camp on
Friday 16th March
Day 33 - 39km
about a donut?
continued up the coast this morning. Highlights: lunch on a private
beach with cormorants for company, filming our shopping trip and
going to Mister Donut for a break. Tried to learn some Japanese
from the Minidisc but found it mentally exhausting!
Saturday 17th March
Day 34 - 20km
you stay my house.
had planned to do 28km today but at 3:45pm it started to drizzle
and me and my pack felt all clunky - that day before rest day feeling.
Suddenly Tom was stopped by a Japanese man. He had seen us the day
before and had been looking for us for most of the day. Hideki and
Mari's generosity was sometimes totally overbearing. They took us
to an onsen, fed us sushi and sake, talked about mountains he'd
climbed as a younger man. Then came 2 games of bowling and 3 HOURS
of Karaoke. I sang four of my first ever Karaoke songs while Tom
banged out a few Stones and Beatles numbers. We retired at 3:30am!
Sunday 18th March
Day 35 - 14km
Another rest day, and Ben sets off
leaving, Mari and Hideki gave us food for the trip, and sight seeing
to a Mt Fuji lookalike. Just a routine day after but such warmth
will be hard to forget in a hurry.
Ben - "Mum, Dad and my bro took me to Heathrow to wave me off.
Mild drama in the airport met us there, as I do not have a visa,
nor any idea about how we are dealing with any visa problems, but
the nice young man at Korean Air didn't charge me for excess baggage.
My dad and brother cruised around on a trolley filming everything
that moved and in fact a lot of stuff that didnt - like toilets!
Andy (my bro) has always had a thing about toilets. They will be
on the plane for 11 hours. I thought about no one thing in particular.
I was not really excited. This has taken over a year to organise
and now I was actually on the final stretch of waiting to join the
lads and I was struggling to smile. Even the take off and landing
produced no more than a glance from under a lethargic eyelid. I
was overwhelmed by the most difficult goodbye ever.
best friend at college was diagnosed terminally ill at Christmas,
and I had known since then that when I said goodbye to leave for
Japan that it would be the last goodbye. I had been unable to find
the words to express how I wished that things were different, that
I wanted to be there, but 'I love you' is all I could manage. One
thing becomes clear, I am not here to enjoy my self. if I was I
would be staying home with my friend, I am here to attempt a trek
not done before and to help a cause that could save a lot of lives."
Monday 19th March
Day 36 - 42.5km
Welcome to hotel Tomato. Ben meets Thom, and then the rest of Tokyo
in a train carriage.
to Matsue read the signs, and we had 2 and a half days to get there
for our rendevous with Ben. We were followed for an hour by a campaign
van announcing coming elections over a grating Tannoy. The afternoon
was fast paced as we moved through a sleepy fishing village. I was
getting tired and hungry and mind-bending boredom was setting in.
Hideki and Mari appeared bearing gifts of whisky.
decided to spend one more night together and Hideki said he knew
a place where we could stay. They were so insistent that we stay
in this hotel and than go to see a temple that there was no refusal
past my own personal fatigue.
- "I have been travelling for over 24 hours all together, sweating
into the same clothes and trying to no avail to make friends with
people who have no idea what I am saying. So you can imagine my
delight at meeting Thom (our resident updates correspondent) at
the airport in Tokyo. Thom lives in the suburbs and picked a tired
and stinkin' scouser up and then helped him carry ridiculously sized
baggage onto ridiculously packed trains that would be a death trap
in Liverpool. But in Tokyo people enter a different world on the
train. After squashing into every conceivable nook, three more people
climb on and we all hang like Rhesus monkeys, with no one saying
a word, not even to the scouser who's armpit is wedged in the face
of the woman who might actually be asleep! Food and sleep followed."
Tuesday 20th March
Day 37 - 31km
Temples and tea, and Ben makes contact.
awoke to find we had stayed in a "Love Hotel". These are reasonably
cheap places which require no human contact when booking. Some rooms
are themed and they are very common, as many families still live
in very small apartments and this allows couples their privacy.
The night was a little uncomfortable.
9am we had eaten 3 bowls of Soba (cold noodles), been shown around
wooden shinto temple (click here to see pictures from the visit
to the temple), bought more food and left with Mari in tears. Their
generosity will stay with us both for a very long time indeed. Bowled
over by their warmth, we were invited in for tea and snacks from
a salary man we passed in the street later that day. It kind of
takes your breath away.
slept that evening on benches by the beach, as shining the torch
had revealed plenty of action from the resident sand lice, though
none got in our hair.
- "Contact with the boys who are now nearing Matsue where I
will meet them tomorrow. So good to hear the voices of my companions
at last. Finally I think I am starting to get excited. Only one
long train journey left until we tackle the 7th mountain Deisen.
Apparently the true summit is suffering from a severe bout of falling
apart ness... very dangerous = exciting. It is time to get fit and
catch up with Tom and Paul"
Wednesday 21st March
Day 38 - 15km
the magic number - the team is complete.
had called the night before and announced his arrival on Japanese
was collected by Thom James, our man and resident reporter in Tokyo.
arrived in Matsue early and made use of Mister Donut's bottomless
coffee cups. So much so that when Ben arrived at the train station
I was a little shakey from the caffeine. That or because the biggest
the trip had just happened. Ben was here
and the team of three was finally complete! Interesting times ahead
with team dynamics, but it's a challenge we are all looking forward
then met Trena (or Trenta as we for no real reason called her).
She helped us before the trip sending info, and her friend Meg gave
us lodgings for the night. That night we all went out for curry
and gave a certain bottle of whisky as a present to Meg.
Thursday 22nd March
Day 39 - 15km
had organised a radio interview with a Tokyo station (J-wave). This
left team leader Tom on the phone from 6:30am explaining what we
were doing to the nation's capital. We re-organised the packs, sent
the excess back to Thom in Tokyo, and continued toward Daisen, a
good strong afternoon's walk. We got tired and found some flat land
owned by a sweet old lady who was happy for us to stay and even
gave us dessert that evening!
Friday 23rd March
Day 40 - 34km
Lovely lady, Horrid hill
kindness of the lady reminded Ben of his mother and a tear crept
from his eye as we ate the breakfast of 3 boiled eggs each and packed
the lunch she had made us.
was in view and it looked amazing. We were thankful for the winter
gear that we had packed. The only down side was the steep trek to
reach its base. We camped in a village park that night, very tired
Mt Daisen (1729m)
Saturday 24th March
Day 41 - 13km
a challenging climb and an earthquake.
early morning start put us on the summit within the hour. Beautiful
weather and views. The ridge had been knife edge stuff in places
and it was a really challenging climb in every sense. A challenge
and a pleasure.
whole mountain shook at one point as it felt the shock from the
earthquake (6.9 on the Richter scale) that hit Hiroshima. We were
fine and it was an awe inspiring feeling. We had fun glissading
on the descent and got a little lost but still made it back in time
to the tent to have a lazy tea.
best Mountain day to date...BRILLIANT!.
Sunday 25th March
day was spent eating snoozing, chatting and relaxing. Had a chance
to wash some clothes and, while me and Tom dozed, Ben went for a
5km trek to burn some energy. A very calm day.
Monday 26th March
Day 43 - 40km
too koldo tua campu
down the round and Daisen still dominated the horizon. The initial
morning's walk was peaceful as we walked alone on a road partially
closed by snowfall. This continued throughout the day until mid-evening
when we decided to set camp. Suddenly Paul and I saw Tom talking
to a motorist. The driver's name was Uda and he insisted that it
was too cold to camp out and that he would arrange a hotel room
for us. "No room at the inn", or anywhere, as places were being
repaired after earthquake damage. So he invited us into his home,
fed us, gave us a hot bath (not literally) and a bed. what stunning
Tuesday 27th March
Day 44 - 35.5km
mother made us breakfast this morning before we set out for Kurosaka.
After a few hour's trek and a supply stop we were surprised to see
Uda, who had found us to check if we were walking the right way.
We were, though I wondered if I would have such consideration for
strangers. On this same subject, Totaru had seen us earlier that
day and, not long after Uda had left, had caught up and given us
hot coffe, fruit and an ENGLISH neswpaper. We set up camp on a local
running track and finished the evening discussing the kindness of
strangers, life and faith. Though this quickly changed to the subject
Wednesday 28th March
Day 45 - 33.5km
fishy on a little dishy
hasty start to the morning as we are told off for sleeping on the
running track. Another day of solid walking, though we found a great
fishing spot. A quick dip and then Tom pulls out his fly fishing
stuff and proceeds to bring home the bacon...or in this case 6 inches
of fish. By the mid evening walk I suddenly realise the slight pain
in my hip has become anything but slightly painful, and I was very
grateful to the guys, who set up camp and made us a yummy fish supper.
Thursday 29th March
Day 46 - 35.5km
7.30am start is greeted with cold wind and drizzle that, by lunch,
drives us under a low bridge to cook our noodles. I bang my head
twice, and the anger, plus the pain, along with that of my hip and
feet makes me think that I'm losing the mind game of staying positive
today. The highlight of the day was finding 2 kilos of chicken for
a bargain price. I nominate myself as the evening's chef and quickly
after wished I'd kept schtum. 3 hours later we are nicely stuffed
with protein. The second highlight was sharing the tent with Tom
for the first time!
Friday 30th March
Day 47 - 30km
We are not amused...by the bogs.
snowy start to the morn quickly moved on to a bright day that made
walking easier. Cormorants and Kites flew around looking for breakfast
while I again start complaining about Japanese toilets. You see,
I like to sit on my enamel throne in comfort, not squat like I'm
hiding from wild pygmies. At some point today we all complained
about our sore feet...they are not a pretty sight. We set up on
a dam, and Tom and I ask about getting water from a seemingly grumpy
guy who tells us wild dogs roam these parts in packs. As we eat
our second meal of chicken we are thankful that, despite the rain
that came, no naughty mutts decide to join us for tea. This evening...soggy
Saturday 31st March
Day 48 - 30km
Very nice, but the bridge is over there!
guy and grumpy guy's wife turn up before we break camp and, instead
of giving us the expected telling off, he gives us coffee in a can
and a Danish each. I guess he's like that Grumpy from Snow White!?!
The walking starts slow, despite good weather, as we begin our trek,
island hopping from Honshu to Shikoku. The paths are really windy
and it sometimes seems we are getting further from the bridge, despite
the attractive surroundings. Paul always finds the most polite yet
pointed ways of summing up a situation that stinks. By the end of
the day the pain in my feet, and especially my hip, brings tears
into my eyes. We set up camp still on the second island in a line
of five, before Shikoku, but I'm thankful to have made it through
today, for tomorrow is a rest day!