Friday, 27 December 2013

Island hopping within a tropical storm

Date: Friday 27th December 2013

MP3 track of the day: Googoo Dolls – Iris

Weather: Very very windy; however the rain had died down.

The plan was to awake around 6am and go for a stroll around the village before anyone else was up. Then I would head back for breakfast before having another stroll and, finally, I would take the ferry back to Ishigaki-jima. However, when I awoke, I heard a pretty large storm battering the building I found myself in. Even so, I still drew open the curtains to make sure and yep, I found my window being bombarded by water and it looked as though the trees were about to take off. I therefore closed the curtains and fell back to sleep.

I awoke again at around 7:30am, noticing that the weather had slightly improved. After having a surprisingly hot shower I went for my breakfast, which was a traditional Japanese breakfast; it was lovely, but I always struggle to eat rice so early in the morning. At breakfast I met the same crowd I'd had dinner with last night. After dinner I did indeed go for a drink and, after they had drunk a few glasses of sake, they seemed to open up. One guy is a university student studying photography; he went to Europe during February of this year to photograph churches among many other things. With him he had a collection of his photos and they were amazing.

After breakfast the rain had completely stopped however, the wind had picked up to, what felt like, gale force winds; I therefore zipped up my coat and, once again, walked around the island taking photos. Within the villages narrow streets, you didn't really feel the breeze as all the houses are close together and, surrounding the village, is a barrier of tall vegetation. It was when I ventured out of the village that I almost got blown back in.

At 10:50am I got back to my accommodation where the owner would give me a lift back to the ferry port. My ferry was at 11:15am and, with this wind, I was a little apprehensive if it would be running at all. I was also very apprehensive whether I would be okay during the trip. I arrived at the ferry port at 11:05am and, five minutes later, my ferry docked. As I saw the passengers disembark, I didn't need to understand Japanese to work out what their gestures meant; the voyage had been rough, very rough. I got on the ferry and braced myself for the worst.

I hardly noticed any difference from my ferry journey yesterday. The boat just crashed through each barrier the sea erected and, in all honestly, it seemed as though the boat wanted more. I docked back at Ishigaki-jima at around midday; I therefore had an hour to grab some lunch, and more food for my two-day stay on Iriomote-jima. With such little time I had no choice but to go back to 'A&W'; this time I ordered the chicken burger with fries, which seemed a lot larger for less money. After, I visited the convenience store I went to yesterday and purchased much of the same. With that done I headed back to the ferry terminal. The weather seemed to be improving all of the time and blue sky could be seen in between the blanket of cloud; half annoyed that this 'blue sky' wasn't around within Taketomi-jima, I was half relieved that it was here at all, as I hoped it would make the journey to Iroimote-jima more bearable (journey time 40 mins). The ferry came in and I boarded; due to the weather many ferries had been cancelled therefore, it was packed; so much so that some people got left behind and had to wait for another ferry. At 1:10pm we departed.

The journey was okay; I sat outside so that I could see the ocean as we skipped over it. At just before 2pm we docked where I switched onto a bus that would take me to Uhara. Usually there are ferries (only 10 minutes longer) which go to Uhara however, due to the weather, the ferry services were cancelled to this northern port and, instead, I found myself dropped off at the southern port with a forty minute bus ride ahead of me. At first I was annoyed with the added half an hour of traveling however, as I thought about it, I realised that this was a good thing. I hadn't rented a car on this island and so this bus ride would allow me to see half the island for free.

As the bus made it's way north I soon realised why my guidebook labelled this as one of Japan's 'last wildernesses'. A part from the road nothing else man-made could be seen. The road hugged the coastline therefore, on one side, coral reef waters with huge rocks could be seen. On the other lay huge mangrove swamps which backed onto a rainforest which crawled up a huge mountain. Though my 'traveler senses' were tingling, I could not think of a way into, what seemed like, an impenetrable world for the single traveler (my guidebook stated that their were trekking tours however, your party had to be at least four strong).

The bus continued along the coast until we arrived in Uhara. I got off the bus, thanked the driver, and proceeded on foot to my accommodation (while in Ishigaki's ferry terminal I tried to phone my accommodation however, the number I have must be wrong as I couldn't connect). It only took ten minutes to arrive at 'Coconut Village' and, that name doesn't really describe it. Personally I would have called it 'one ugly two-story concrete structure, and a shed' but, I suppose, that wouldn't attract business. Glad that I was only staying two nights I walked into said shed to meet a very happy owner. Once I'd filled out the paperwork she showed me to my room which was a single tatami room with an excellent view, no internet connection (in fact when I asked about 'internet' she looked at me as though it was the first time she'd heard the word) but a western toilet. I dropped my stuff off within the room, took a few photos and then went back to the shed.

When I got back the owner had disappeared and in her place stood a father and son looking a little confused. They had checked themselves in and were waiting for someone to show them to their room; I chatted to them and asked them what was there to do around here. After a sharp intake of breathe they gave me three options; hire a car, fish, or trek (if I was in a group of four). This was a bit of a disappointment as they had confirmed what my guidebook had said; at this point the owner returned and added to my misery when she couldn't add any activities to the list. As she was checking the father and son in, I ran the options, plus my current financial state, within my head and realised that hiring a car was the only option (lucky I found my license). I didn't want to waste my only full day here and so, when the owner returned, I asked her to book me a car for tomorrow. With that done (it only cost 4,000 Yen for the day) I had an hour or so before it got dark. I decided to walk into town and take photos along the way.

My first real stop was to perform a bit of 'future anti-getting suck on an island' planning. I went to the local ferry port to inquire about ferries leaving the island and what would happen if the weather remained the same. The lady reassured me that, if this port was closed, a bus would be running to the southern port. I thanked the lady and then left to walk around the 'town' taking photos of everything and anything. The sun was trying to force it's way through the clouds giving me a sky with pockets of light; I tried to use this to make mundane objects interesting through the lens.

At around 5:15pm I decided that I'd walked far enough and that it was time to turn around. I stopped rarely, only to photograph things I'd missed. I returned to my accommodation at around 6pm. I picked up my PC and headed to the 'shed' to write my blog. As I was writing the father and son came in and we chatted for a while. They then ate a beautiful meal lovingly prepared by the hotel staff, whereas I tucked into my 'instant noodle' dish (I could have opted for the meal but it was an extra £12 and I already had food).

Tomorrow, I shall pick up my car at around 9am therefore, tonight, I might finish watching 'Love Actually' before getting an early night.

So until tomorrow folks;

Toodle pip!

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