Monday, 24 August 2015

Snap shot: Killer Mosquitoes

Date: Wednesday August 12th 2015

Weather: The morning sky was filled with clouds and then, during the afternoon, the heavens opened which signalled an early finish to the day.

MP3 track of the day: Thriller – Michael Jackson

Now before I go on, I suppose I should explain what 'snap shot' means within the title of this blog. It basically means that this blog will be a shortened version of my usual blogs, due to a variety of reasons. It is, in effect, a 'snap shot' of my trip.


I was quite sad to be leaving my Comfort Inn hotel room as the past two days had been exceptional. I always have mixed feelings when I leave a town, city or area where I have had a superb time. I'm excited to be going somewhere new but, at the same time, I always wonder if it can live up to what I have already witnessed. I was pretty sure that today wouldn't 'live up to' either yesterday or Monday, due to the fact that there was very little to see between where I was currently located – Kitami – and where my next hotel is – Asahikawa. I therefore got ready slowly, had breakfast and checked-out around 9am. Once in the car I planned my route.

Today I would be heading west, to Hokkaido's second largest city. As it was only a two hour drive away, I'd decided to head north first to visit three lakes. This proved to be the worst decision of my entire trip.

As I had no idea about what was to come, I happily headed north towards my first lake. Though, on the map, this lake seemed quite close to Kitami, in reality the drive was quite long. I went past a medium-sized airport where there didn't seem to be any flights either taking off or landing. Eventually I made it to the first lake where views of said lake were difficult to come by and, stopping places were non-existent. With the sky filled with dark grey clouds the photos would have been poor anyway therefore, I moved on.

I wish I'd not found the second lake (named 'notoro-ko'); I wish I'd just driven past the lakes 'scenic spot car park' however, I didn't. I pulled into the car park and, as soon as I'd turned off the engine, the car was plagued with small insects. If I'd taken a closer look, I would have noticed that, these insects were actually mosquitoes however, I was far too busy identifying the lake in my guidebook. Apparently the lake in front of me was quite famous because, every autumn, the long grasses which cover the lake turn red. Every autumn; it was summer therefore the lake looked like most other lakes except, there were huge patches of brown marshland covered with brown grass. I ventured out of my car and took a few photos; I knew that they wouldn't be good however, some part of me wanted proof that I'd visited this lake.

As I drove away the results of my decision started to show. Now, I have no idea what type of mosquito lives in Hokkaido however, all I can say is that there bite is excruciatingly itchy. As I looked at my legs, I noticed that I'd been bitten about five times. Most of my bites were around my ankles and both ankles had become red and swollen. I drove away from the lake as fast as I could.

Once I'd put a bit of breathing space between the lake and I, I stopped the car immediately for three very good reasons. Firstly I went into the boot of my car and opened my bag; inside was a medical kit with some mosquito cream. I instantly felt a little better though, I had to re-apply many doses throughout the day. Secondly, when I had opened my car door at the lake, I noticed that at least four mosquitoes had decided to board. I therefore went systematically through the car and didn't stop until I had at least four dead bodies within my piece of tissue (one of which, I am sure, had bit me during the short car journey). Thirdly, I'd stopped my car because the view wasn't too bad; rolling hills flowed out in front of me ending to form a sharp coastline. Bails of hay were in the fields and the sea was quiet pretty too; sadly though the sky was still grey. Though the sight was lovely, it could not distract me enough to allow for me to forget about my bites. I therefore took some photos and got back in the car before venturing on towards the final like.

I must have paused within the final lakes car park for quite some time. I needed to apply more cream to my bites however, the main reason for the pause was to make sure that this lake wasn't also infested with mosquitoes. It was not. Once the coast was clear I got out of my car and proceeded to the edge of the lake where the view, though not staggering, wasn't ugly either. The lake was currently quiet low and a lot of the lake bed was showing. I cared not; the gentle breeze was soothing my legs and so I stayed for quite a while just looking out.

After about forty minutes the rain came down. I rushed back to my car and, with yesterday being pretty tiring – plus today's attractions being less than impressive – I decided to call an early night. I therefore drove to Asahikawa which took about another hour.

I hit Asahikawa at around 3pm. Though today had been pretty bad, things were looking up. Being Hokkaido's second largest city, Asahikawa was quite big however, it was probably no bigger than the city of Bath within the UK (and no way near as pretty). It did however provide the biggest smile of the day when, as I was getting close to my hotel, a round-a-bout appeared. Now, in Japan round-a-bouts are very uncommon; this is a guess however, I think that there are less than twenty in the whole country. What was even more pleasing was that this one was being used correctly. I put my brain back to 'UK driving mode' and made it safely around this wonderful invention … only to be stopped, three hundred meters later, by a set of traffic lights. Finally I made it to my hotel and parked within their car park, still raving about the round-a-bout. Unlike the Comfort Inn, this hotel was twice as expensive with no free parking and no free breakfast. When I checked-in, I'd been told that I had been 'upgraded' and, if the room I had was indeed an 'upgrade', I'm glad that I hadn't seen the room I'd originally booked. Though bigger than the comfort Inn hotel, this room was old; it had a sofa, TV and a desk however, all looked dated. A part from the front entrance the whole hotel reeked of past glory days and I was glad that I was only spending a night. I put my stuff in my room, freshened up and put more cream on my bites.

As mentioned above, this is Hokkaido's second largest city and yet, there was only one main shopping street. It was a lovely long shopping street; but there was still only one. It was flanked by medium-sized buildings until it made it to the new Asahikawa train station. Now this was a beautiful building. 'L' shape in design, it had a long wing which was a huge shopping centre with three floors. The station itself was tiny however, it served its purpose and was spacious enough. Lots of glass had been used giving the whole area a modern and open feel. In sharp contrast to the size of the station, it's paved area outside was huge and, currently, it housed a small summer beer festival. I had a poke around the station before going into the shopping centre trying to get ideas for suveniors. I left with a few ideas though, none of which had culminated into actually buying anything. I then went to a ramen restaurant for dinner – where all the staff, including waiters, seemed 'retirement age' – before walking back to my hotel.

I love my holidays and treasure each day. I did have fun today however, and I am sure that you will agree, today will not be regarded as one of my best days. Now tomorrow should be another story. Though there is a lot of driving, I shall be heading north to the port town of Wakkanai – Japan's most northern town. Here I will visit the most northern point of Japan. Now that does sound fun!

Toodle Pip!

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