Wednesday, August 11, 2010

August 8

August 8th
We woke up in Noboribetsu feeling refreshed and ready to explore.  We started off our day with the buffet breakfast in the hotel and gave our key to the front desk before leaving (this is customary in Japanese style hotels).

We walked towards the Hell Valley information centre and obtained an English map with different hikes of Hell Valley on it. We had a cool cone and started out on the first walk which was down into the valley itself along a well manicured path and a wooden bridge out to a bubbling geyser like pool with sulphuric smell and extreme heat emanating from it. Along the way we saw countless colours and sizes of butterflies. There was part of the path roped off because of bee sting danger but even the illustration of this made the bee look harmless as it was smiling even as it revealed its stinger.

We then went on the next hike up to the Oyunuma Lake. Along the path there were steps of wood and a path covered with rubber squares. We saw some ladies “hiking” in high heels. We were not in Kansas anymore. Oyunuma Lake has a surface temperature of 50 degrees Celsius.  We saw the lookout first and then hiked further down to the lake and a close by pond. The heat was radiating off of them and they were linked by a stream with steam coming off. it There were bathrooms at regular intervals and “dust boxes” for garbage to prevent littering. Very organized. There were also trivia placards with facts about the lake and other things for you to guess the answer to with the next sign revealing the correct answer and a new question. In the bamboo filled forest the sound of the cicadas was mesmerizing and there were butterflies all around. It was lush, hot, and humid. We then left the lake area by a different route that took us down the ridge of the mountain with stone figures in several places. We emerged across the street from our hotel.

Our hotel does not serve lunch so we went into town. We had some difficulty locating a place that was open and serving lunch that we could actually get into. We were hot and sweaty. We eventually settled on a strange cabaret type place on the second floor of a building and plunked ourselves down. We had tried to order one of each kind of pizza from the strange menu of “meat sets” and “pizza sets” and other unknown items. We ended up with one small pizza to share. We just ate this and then went across the street for a large ice cream, which was very nice in the heat.

We trundled our way back to the hotel and had an afternoon nap. We then realized that we had a burn from the sun earlier despite the sunscreen and staying in the shade mostly. We realized we must wear hats next time. After our nap we went down to the lobby where there is a seating area billed as a “tea lounge.” In fact in the summer they have ice cold water instead. We looked in the gift shop also and were amazed with the giant beetles for sale as pets and the vacuum packed squid and corn you could buy. They even had samples of corn chocolate. Interesting.

We then went to the restaurant to have our buffet dinner included with the stay. For some reason we were also given two hot pots that had fish and vegetables. Dinner was a delicious variety again and we outdid ourselves.

After dinner it was off to the baths again for an hour. This put us in the right frame of mind to go to sleep.

Descending into the depths of "Hell Valley"

The tatami mat room was very traditional, as were the robes they gave us. Looking relaxed after bathing.

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