Friday, October 30, 2009

Gumbies MTB

Hi and welcome to our first concerted effort at making a video - we're still not sure why we actually made it, had fun doing it.  Hope you have fun watching it too.


What a nice place though, isn't it?  When the leaves really turn color, it's magical.  This coming weekend the fall colors should be at their height.  We're on our way!

もののけ姫の森 - Princess Mononoke's Forest


Friday, October 23, 2009

Inland seas 内海

The eastern side of Amakusa is characterized by inland seas with small rounded islands covered with lush vegetation. The islands act as a natural wind barrier leaving the water glass smooth on the leeward side. There is a slight similarity to the landscape in Canada's Northern Ontario, where lakes are dotted with small islands.

This interesting 22km tour was made possible by spotting a car at the destination point (Tate Beach).  It weaves a path between small uninhabited islands; landing on any of these is convenient since the shorelines are gentle.  The final 5km crossing of Hachiman Strait rounds out the trip.  The strait is a bit tricky due to rather strong currents and the shipping route - the latter requires an alert approach due to the nearby turning points and because the ships tend to shortcut the official route.  We encountered the freighter, or rather it encountered us, almost a kilometer off route.
A ruined house on stilts in the sea.  It used to be a fisherman's home; an art film (Monshen) was even shot here just before the roof caved in. At low tide, the sea recedes to reveal a small island. Yet this unique and scenic place is destined for a pathetic ending. Elsewhere in the world, it would probably be turned into a restaurant or some such tourist trap, but in Japan, I guess people would rather go to Disney World letting most of the true, fragile beauty of their heritage go to waste.

Heading toward Kuroshima, we pass by the aptly named "Hadaka-se", which means 'naked rocks' in Japanese. Crowning the rocks is a beautiful banyan tree, already leafless in this dry autumn season.

Beginning the final traverse (Hachinoshima, the northernmost point of Kagoshima Prefecture, is in the background).  The ever-present tidal currents have kicked up a bit of chop against the autumn breeze.


No day would be complete without a little excitement. The crossing of the Hachiman is only a mere 5km, but it contains a moderately busy shipping route. As we left Hachino-shima we first had to dodge an onslaught of speed boats, each passing close, perhaps to check us out. Next in the far distance I made out a miniscule white rectangle, which soon grew larger and larger, until we were looking at a freight ship heading straight for us. Perhaps buffeted by the currents, it kept weaving left and right, oblivious to our presence.  It was really hard to decide which way to go to effect an escape, and we changed tactics twice in the final ten minutes. In the end, the ship passed in front of us, but still nearly 1km short of the shipping route proper. We arrived at Tate Beach safely if a little frazzled.  By the way, that's not a giant squid attacking Rick, it's a piece driftwood he is hauling home for the aquarium.  Giant squids are rare in these parts.



Surfing at Takahama

Leanne catching a wave at Takahama.

Nice turn!



Saturday, October 17, 2009

Tokara Day 6-9  トカラ6日目から9日目まで


We continued our tour through the heart of the Tokara Islands. In this region, the Kuroshio could be felt the most, flowing west to east at 3-4 km/h. The weather was generally calm until we reached Kuchino-shima, where 2 days of strong easterly winds had us grounded. We took this time to explore the island and its coral reefs; in the end it was well worth it to remain for a while on this northernmost island of the group. トカラ列島の旅を続けます。この辺では西から東へ流速3-4キロの黒潮の影響が一番強く感じました。口之島に着くまでに天気が安定していたがその後の二日間のやや強い東風のせいで動けなくなりました。この二日間、車を借りて、島を探検したり、珊瑚礁で潜ったりしました。

Lush greenery on Suwanose-jima. Only the southern tip of this island is inhabited (some overly large school buildings are visible in the photo); the rest of the island is a wasteland dominated by an active volcano. 青々とした景色の諏訪瀬島で盆踊りも楽しんだ。島の南側に学校と集落があります。活火山が島の特徴です。

A semi-abandoned airfield on Suwanose-jima is the only one of its kind in Tokara. It was built during an ill-fated effort to build a resort here, and stands as a monument to the wastefullness of the Japanese headlong construction effort.トカラ列島諏訪瀬島で殆ど使われてない唯一の空港。

As we departed the martian landscape of Suwanose's coast, we were surprised by a sudden, loud explosion. Looking back, we noticed a mushroom cloud of volcanic ash. The volcano had erupted again, but it probably did not faze the inhabitants. 諏訪瀬島の火星のような風景から出発する時突然火山は噴火しました。

Approaching the spectacular south coast of Kuchino shima we were entertained by the ever-curious boobies flying overhead. 口之島に横断途中頭上に鳥の群れが!

Prior to our trip, we studied many maps, brochures, and internet sites in order to familiarize ourselves with the islands topography and special features, But we never expected to find such a spectacular coastline. You need a boat to see it, and even the photographers don't seem to bother to go. 立派な自然な海岸が意外でした。宝物でしょう!

It's an elephant! ゾウだぞう。

tidal race2
This is the tidal race off the northern tip of the island. Instead of heading off into this hairy mess, we decided to wait out the windy weather.北端からタイドルラピドを眺めに行きます。しばらくこの島で探検しようと決めた。

We spent two days on this beautiful island waiting out some windy weather. We managed to rent a car and explore the whole island. In the the afternoons we swam in the sea. Waiting never felt so good. 風があったので口之島で二日間待った。のんびりでドライブしたり素潜りしたりしました。待つ時間より楽しい時間を過ごした。


流れに乗って平瀬海水浴場から岬まで流されながら素潜りを、毎日何回か繰り返ししました。周りを見ると亀があちこち泳いでいた。In the sea, we found a diving paradise. Starting at Hirase swimming area, we drifted along a couple of kilometers on the current to the cape at the northern tip of the island, then stroll back along the road and go again. While we were diving we saw numerous sea turtles and other sizeable creatures; we've never seen such density of sealife anywhere else.

da dum... da dum... dadumdadumdadumdaDUM DADADEDUM! Shark! Actually, I had to tail this one (pardon the pun) for about 20 minutes to get a decent picture. Sharks are generally pretty shy creatures. ジョ――ズ!!!サメも結構いました。

island girls
We found internet access at the local school. While checking the weather, we made friends with some of the teachers. On each of the Tokaras, there are literally more teachers than students. The population is continuing to decrease, and the future of these schools is in jeopardy. In any case, our new friends had never been snorkeling. We decided to meet them after work and take them out for a few hours. They donned our life jackets and away we went. They were extatic to see the sea turtles. It is always nice to share beautiful experiences with fun people. That night we partied it up over dinner and drinks. ネットで天気予報をチェックする為、学校の方へ向かった。トカラの学校はどこでも先生が生徒より多いです。子供の人数がものすごく少なく成っている。先生たちと仲良くなって、シュノーケリングを経験させると、海亀をたくさん見たから皆喜びました。


Friday, October 02, 2009


One of the better kayak tours in Amakusa.  The map was made by overlaying a satellite image with the sea chart, and finally our GPS track on top.

We spent a Sunday introducing this wonderful place to some friends.

集めた貝の刺身パーティになりました。Today, the lunch menu was various types of shells, along with sandwiches, rice balls and sliced tomatoes.

最近大ヶ瀬で素潜りを楽しんでいる。地図では海中公園と書いてあるが、それはいったいどう言う意味か分からない。週末では各岩に釣り人がいるし、釣り船も多いです。海中公園をこれからもっと保護しないといけないと思います。Recently we have been visiting Ogase, a beautiful set of rocks about a kilometer off the Amakusa coast and ostensibly a protected area. It is sanctuary to sea birds, dolphins, sea turtles, sharks and a large variety of subtropical fish and coral. However, the protection only exists on paper: the area is heavily exploited by sport fishermen who, by being willing to pay $60 for a round-trip ticket, create a lucrative niche for opportunistic locals with boats.  Money talks.





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