Monday, 26 July 2010

PostHeaderIcon Kureigu Hanta's Big Day Out

Nakaoi Valley is one of the strangest places I've been to in Japan.

School has finally finished for the summer holidays so I had nothing to do at work last week.  I've taken advantage of this time to get out of my office as much as I could.  Still, I was still at my desk a few days last week which isn't too bad as there is air conditioning and I can read wikipedia.  The American guy who I work with is meant to be a "Coordinator of International Relations" but instead has changed his duties to staying in his house all day playing video games when he's meant to be in work.  To be fair... he did come in once last week at 3:30am for about an hour or so.  By work I mean he proceeded to eat a bag full of Japanese fast food from the supermarket.  My boss doesn't notice at all so I'm left  trying to maintain a degree of professionalism in the face of such unofficial holiday.  I've took the middle route which is to use my overtime holiday liberally and take a few days off.  Still, last week I spent my time driving to the city for Japanese lessons and getting a new visa in my passport.  Since I got my new car I've been enjoying driving about Kochi in the sunshine listening to music.  Therefore, I planned on finding one of the many waterfalls scattered throughout the prefecture.  One of my friends here is very into such things along with abandoned theme parks and the like.  Such things interested me as well but I'm quite lazy and he looks like a Viking.  Nevertheless, I checked a google map he made and noticed he had marked one not too far from the city.  I had to get back in time to meet Naomi so I couldn't go on a longer expedition.  Therefore, I drove north-west from the city and headed to Nakaoi Valley.  I was expecting a beautiful waterfall that I could take a swim in but things turned out a bit different from my optimistic imagination.
Jurassic Park 2 was actually filmed in Kochi.
This suspension bridge had the most rust I have ever seen in my life.
 A traditional thatched house was in the town.  I've only seen one before and it was partly a museum.

I drove along a river for half an hour before I took a smaller road up into the mountains.  Once again my iPhone proved to be the most useful thing in the world as I got lost and managed to remember the map before I lost the signal.  The road got increasingly narrower and I had to avoid the occasional old person as they just walk out anywhere without the least bit of attention.  I don't think they've fully acknowledged that such things as cars exist yet.  Eventually I reached a car park and assumed that the waterfall would be close.  There were a surprisingly high number of other cars there and so the initial sense of having wandered into a time warp began to subside.  This apparent abundance of other day tourists meant that I sought out a toilet to change into my swimming gear.  I found a concrete bunker around the corner.  It was covered in vegetation and so I prepared myself for the company of some insects.  I stuck my head in the men's door and saw two mukade roaming along the far fall.  I wasn't surprised in the slightest and quickly changed half inside the toilet.  No innocent Japanese children should have to witness my hairy arse.
A possible swimming location despite the collapsed and rusting walkway.

I ventured down the path where I passed a man sweeping some leaves and another with a massive camera.  The strange thing was that neither of them glanced up at me as is the case every day where ever I venture.  I was expecting everyone to stare because I really was in the countryside and was dressed for a trip to the beach.  I wasn't exactly sure where I should be heading as there were streams and rivers in every direction.  I approached a collection of houses that turned out to be the remains of some economy bubble tourist trap.  A lot of the buildings had obviously been left to rot but they looked like they could have opened at any minute.  It's strange to see a deserted place that is covered in tourist signs, shops and restaurants.  However, this area was like a miniature version of other such abandoned resorts.  There were some tiny ponds, bridges and picnic tables that wouldn't look out of place in a reasonably sized garden back home.  As I was trying to listen for the crashing of water in the distance, a man drove past me in a golf cart.  There was a teddy bear in the passenger seat.  I followed the path he took and passed a topless old man who was cooling himself with a fan.
I ventured passed two empty houses and what appeared to be a retirement home of some description.  I finally came to something that resembled a waterfall despite it looking quite hard to access.  The rocks had a number of dodgy looking bamboo ladders as you may be able to see in the picture above.  I decided that I was too hot and sweaty to not have a swim so I dumped my bag at the bottom of the first ladder and began my assent.  The sunshine must have been getting to me because the ladders were far from secure and was head was frequently going through leaves covered in spider web.  The trees soon vanished but the new problem that faced me was the increasing reality that I was climbing a dodgy ladder above some dangerous rocks. As I reached the top the ladders were replaced with a flimsy rope bolted onto the rock.  I didn't trust it so tried my hand at a little bit of amateur rock climbing.  As I collapsed onto the side of the rock and slowly inched my way over to the lovely, cool water... my sunglasses fell off my head and crashed down a gap in the rocks.  It was at this point that I thought to myself in a calm and collected manner "What the fuck am I doing?  I'm in the middle of a deserted village of the damned clinging to a rock".  This train of thought only intensified when my right foot began to slide off a moss covered part of the rock.  I handled the situation like Indiana Jones himself as I made a small yelp and quickly pulled myself up as my legs flailed about like a cow with BSE.  My endeavours were rewarded when I stopped to admire the top section of the waterfall.  The rest of it was fast flowing over some steep rocks but above that was totally different.  The waterfall crashed down into a flat circled pool of water a few inches deep.  In the centre of this was a massive vertical rock that looked like it could be at Stonehenge... there was even some caves.  It looked exactly like an area you'd find in a water park or crazy gold course in a holiday resort.  It was magnificent.  I sat there for a few minutes and had a brief look in the caves but I had to keep reminding myself to be careful because I'm scared of nature.  The solitude began to frighten me and so I made my way down from my own private pool.  I'm pleased to say I handled the descend very well.  I'm sure you were all hoping to read another tale of my possible death... where my corpse would be left for months before another foreign tourist came for a swim.  Who else do you think all those cars belonged to?
On the way out a monkey in a cage jumped at me.  I've never noticed how much like people they look.  The eyes and teeth are identical.  I wanted to set him free but I was worried he would scratch my eyes out and eat my ears.


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About Me

I am a 24 year old Scotsman currently teaching English to Japanese schoolchildren. I live in a small town on the east coast of Kochi prefecture.