#017 – AWAGA-YAMA
Luck brought us there. Or was it bad luck? Certainly we weren’t heading for a hill high on our must see list. Our KINKAN challenge was all too often stalling at the ‘Where to go next stage’. We’d sit for hours in front of the computer comparing mountains on our hitlist and end up making no firm decisions as a result.
I made a lucky dip – at one point I had a dart board but I’d chucked it – so I made a lucky dip. The Kid had the honours and he pulled Awaga-yama. A 900 metre mountain out in Hyogo Prefecture, named in honour of a mystical millet bearing deer who came down off the mountain in olden times and proceeded to instruct the locals on how to cultivate said crop.
Overhead, paragliders soared in gunk laden skies. Pollen, pollution, Gobi Desert dust. And don’t forget PM2.5 – the latest buzzword/buzznumber – some firecracker shit that drifts in from China apparently. Finger pointing at the neighbours has never been so handy. Keeps the natives from dwelling too much on the Fukushima fuck up, with its leaky, radioactive waters and holes in the walls big enough for snakes and rats to get in and out of. Before the meltdown they just used the doors.
Lost in the Hyogo inaka. How the hell does one lose sight of a 900 odd metre mountain poking out of the rice paddies? The Missus was executing a ten point turn between field, tree, rock and metal plate that threatened to slice open the rental car’s front right tyre. I was on edge. Not for the first time that morning on the long drive out of Kyoto. I’m a crap passenger. Ever since I took a ride in a car that thought it was Christmas wrapping for a telephone pole. Luckily The Missus had her hands full of steering wheel otherwise they may well have been full of my neck as I wheezed, grimaced and groaned alongside her, offering up such nuggets of encouragement as: “What the hell are you doing?” and “Christ we’ll all end up drowning in a fucking rice paddy the way we’re going.” The Kid rode in the backseat, silently, smart enough to know when to keep his mouth shut.
A leathery faced old farmer pointed us in the right direction and we were Awaga-yama bound once more, headed for the ‘docomo Road’. It’s the easiest route up the hill, a snaking strip of concrete and blacktop that allows service vehicles access to the gaggle of unsightly antennae gracing the otherwise graceful mountain’s summit. Unfortunately a rather imposing gate, chained and padlocked, halted our four wheeled progress up the mountain.
It was time to walk. The Kid whined. He was in no mood, despite the promise of a castle trip at the end of the day. I was in no mood for his mood and The Missus was not over the moon about being marooned amidst our moodiness either．We walked our ways out of it. Kissed and made up before the summit and snacked beneath the gaze of half a dozen humming antennae.
Mountain 17 under our belts and back at the car, we strapped up for a hair raising run down the lower reaches of the docomo Road in our little silver Toyota. She’s the last of the late brakers The Missus is and off Awaga she had me groaning and wincing enough to make any midwife prick up her ears in expectation. And I tell you what, I nearly gave birth on a few of the switchbacks on the way down.
Before turning for home we ventured to the nearby Takeda Castle. A hilltop ruin surprisingly more popular than we expected as we ground to a halt in a queue of vehicles threatening to extend our day out into the evening. The Kid snored in the backseat as we sat and wondered if the old joint was really worth the trouble. It was. Though the car park was chockers on that Sunday afternoon, once up strolling around the old foundations the sightseers spread out…or maybe they’d fallen off the ramparts into the forest below.
There were no barricades up there and kids roamed freely, fearlessly poking their heads over the edges and staring down into the treetops and valleys beyond. You know they might munch on a few whales here and there and their and the pollies might ruffle feathers when they hang out at those shrines but at least the place hasn’t turned into a nanny state run by bleeding hearts just yet. The Australian version of that joint would’ve been swathed in safety barricades or even fenced off altogether.
It was the woman on the bicycle coming out of the Kyoto night that was the last straw. The Missus hit the brakes. Camera flew out of my lap and I bellowed like I was losing a baby. The rider didn’t bat an eyelid, vanished into the darkness. We were already on edge. Late returning the car due to an expressway traffic snarl and my longing for a soft cream, the Toyota lady was keeping the office open so we could return the vehicle that night, instead of the following morning. We hit every red light through town. I muttered and swore under my breath.
“That’s it,” The Missus bellowed back. “No more! I’m not driving anymore! Get a license and drive yourself. I’ve had enough.”
Contrite, I shut-up. At least until I found out the damn woman at the rental joint charged us the overnight rate and the return of the car that evening was more for her convenience than anything else. Off I went again cussing at the moon and stars and everything beneath them…..
What a day.