Well, almost typhoon.
Waiting for Arnaud and Alexandra to finish packing so we could move house today, I chat with a hiker who, earlier, was forced to turn around halfway up Mt Rishiri because the wind was just too strong. I ask him if this wind is normal in Rishiri and he says no, this is the tail-end of a typhoon blowing in from the south. The tail-end of a typhoon?? I’m already reeling in its wake so I shudder at the thought of being caught in one that’s full-blown.
A distressing thought runs through my mind – will it get worse? And if it does, will the ferry be affected? I’ll have to check it out later, after we have settled in at Camp Yuni. I have to be in Wakkanai tomorrow because on the following morning I will be starting my marathon journey home on the first train out of town.
The new campsite is more exposed, with wide flat ledges of varying levels to accommodate tents. It’s all grass here, no goza; and the spectacular top of Mt Rishiri is just visible behind us, piercing the clear blue sky with its sharply tapered peak. In front of us, there is a gap in between the trees and we can see the sea, its choppy surface dotted with the white caps of breaking waves.
We call in at the camp office, pay the 500Y per night fee and proceed to set up camp, picking a spot in the lee of a ledge, close to its wall to try and escape the wind. I spread out my tent on the groundsheet and clip in the poles without any problems.
But, before I can peg it down, the wind turns into a wicked gust and before I know it, my ultralight tent is sailing into the sky. I’m stunned, unable to do anything for a moment, just looking helplessly at the tent flying higher, then floating precariously near the tops of the trees fringing the campsite. But just as suddenly, the wind eases up, and the tent drops like a giant fruit from a tree, into the bushes about 10 metres away.
It is all very funny…if you’re a spectator.
The Denises are very comfortable catching up on their reading and baking themselves in the morning sun, so I make my own way to the ferry terminal.
My fears are confirmed. Ferry services cancelled today.
“Maybe”, the lady smilingly tells me in typical non-commital Japanese fashion. She gives me a telephone number and tells me to call at 7am to see if the ferry is running tomorrow. It’s for the ferry office at Wakkanai. If the wind eases up, the first ferry of the day will set sail at 7:30am or so. If not….
I slolwy ride back to camp a little worried. But I tell myself that I’ve yet to be in a touring-situation that couldn’t be resolved, including those that were out of my control; like this one. So I keep the faith.
Mt Rishiri may be the main draw for hikers but the island can boast of another, more unusual attraction – a partly elevated cycling road. We are in luck. Part of the 20km-long road runs just next to the campsite, with the entry point just a few metres from the campsite entrance. We decide to check it out later in the afternoon when it’s cooler.
But first, lunch…….then a snooze.
After such an impressive ride, nothing less than an hour’s soaking in the hotspring of our favourite onsen will do. By now, of course, I can easily pass off as a Japanese, the way I conduct myself in the age-old ritual of scrubbing, cleaning and soaking in the hotspring. This will be the one pastime I cannot hope to enjoy anywhere else in the world.
Tsunami has wreaked considerable damage to our finances last night, so we agreed that dinner tonight will be a little more subdued, more like Seicomarto dining.
We make our way to town, and our favourite konbini.
Pasta drenched in ready-to-eat sauce, snacks, beer plus an assortment of convenience store delicacies turn out to be quite a fun feast. We dine inside the dark pavilion, with only our headlamps for lighting. All the while, the frigid wind is as blustery as ever. One of its gusts blows off a packet of half-eaten chips, spilling the contents on the floor. Those are very nice chips so Arnaud, who was enjoying it, cooly picks them off the floor and eats them. No waste.
2 am. I wake up to a strangely quiet sensation. I take a peek outside. Silhouetted against the purplish black sky, the trees are still, its leaves fluttering lightly. The wind is no more.
A sleepy ‘yippee’ and I go back to sleep.