Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Mysterious Waters of Touya-ko & Vengeful Cars

31st October, 2003 - We stayed the night at Sun Palace , one of the larger family-friendly onsen that faces onto the lake. Actually, one of the good things about Touya-ko is that every night there's fireworks on the lakes... fairly decent fireworks as well. The onsen is good too - but a modern style. Lots to do, and lots to eat.

Actually the onsens are fairly new here... they only discovered the hot springs around 1910. We were lucky they did; even if Touya-ko is a bit touristy nowadays.

The lake, as mentioned before is actually sitting in the residual of a giant volcano that had destroyed itself in a distant eruption. Indeed it's the third largest such caldera lake in Japan. At 180m deep, it's also one of the scariest. It's so deep, ice doesn't form on it in winter. The lake itself is about 43 km around, and about 9-11 km wide.

Youtei-zan stands off in the distance, looking more and more like Fuji-san.

But I wasn't the only witness to this view.

And not being a fisherman, I don't know if these make good eating or not - but there were a lot of them. Apparently the mineral rich water isn't that plentiful with life...

Actually, after we had finished up with our last trip to the onsen, packed the car and headed out on our way to Noboribetsu, we made a very quick stop at a convenience store just outside of Touya-ko. T-chan was in the car waiting for me whilst I went in to buy some food/drink for the drive. As I came out, I decided to take one last photo of Showa Shinzan from a different angle... T-chan and her Sera were parked just below the frame of the photo below.
Remember- Sera's have gull-wing doors (very cool, unless for whatever reason the car starts rolling backward and the door closes by itself - due to gravity - and catches your finger in it). As I approached the car, I noticed T-chan was yelling something at me... I just casually assumed she was telling me to hurry up and finish taking photos. I didn't realise till later that she was yelling because she was just about to faint. I realised something was wrong (I'm not that quick out of the blocks), and opened the Sera doors. Her finger (which had been stuck in the door whilst she was desperately holding her foot on the brake) was now about 4mm thick... about the thickness of her finger bone. I don't have photos of that moment...unfortunately... but it was a shocking thing to happen on our romantic getaway...

Suddenly I was feeling very vulnerable as T-chan was really in a lot of pain; we were a long way from home; and my Japanese is shockingly bad. What to do?

After perhaps 20 mins in the convenience store trying to restore some life to her finger, T-chan bravely said that she could go on. As long as I drove her car. Her car is a manual - I drive automatics. Her car is possessed with a vengeful spirit... the road to Noboribetsu is long and windy. Halfway along, we came across signs warning of dangerous conditions ahead due to slippery surface. T-chan started worrying more about my driving than her finger. That was a good sign. Wasn't it?

Thankfully there aren't many times you need to stop (hill starting was not my strong point). The Sera was having her revenge, as this was literally the last day that T-chan would drive it.

The drive to Noboribetsu was beautiful, but we weren't able to easily enjoy it. T-chan was tenderly reviving her poor fingers (at least there were still 5 of them, and a whole spare hand as well). Meanwhile I was bare-knuckle driving the Sera for my life. Half wanting to hurry up to get to our destination - half trying to do my best impression of "Driving Miss Daisy".

There was some breath-taking scenery along the way. You can just make out Touya-ko in the distance. Thank god for cameras... but to hell with the person who invented gull-wing doors! We would soon be getting a closer look at hell... but that's still to come...

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