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Tiffy in a Typhoon
Submitted by Tiffany on 30 October, 2009 - 04:24
Japan seems to have a very safe image as an international travel destination, well, let me put you right in that particular misconception. Danger lurks on every corner...
Since getting here I have been studying the tsunami evacuation sign posts in every town; always handy to know which direction to run in when the tsunami hits.
I've been riding past a worrying number of hot, smoking volcanoes.
And then there are the posters depicting where the safest place is in a building when an earthquake strikes. Note to self, always wear something reasonably decent to sleep in as a friend who was travelling through Central America ran naked out into the street when a big earthquake struck Mexico City in the middle of the night .
However, having focussed on these natural disasters, I had completely overlooked another one that they have....typhoons.
Having taken the ferry across what looked like an innocuous bay but in reality turned out to be a heaving sea of strong swell and waves (clue no.1). I did what all the sensible Japanese people did - lay down on the floor in a tatami matted area and shut my eyes.
We reached the eastern coast leading up to Tokyo, I'm not sure how tropical it is supposed to be here but there were numerous palm trees though they looked a bit bedraggled (clue no.2).
We arrived at a coastal park and decided to camp there, though as we had no idea of the extent of the tide we wisely kept off the beach and set up our tents under the pine trees. The wind started blowing more strongly making it a tricky proposition to erect the tents (clue no.3)
Around midnight very heavy rain started falling (clue no.4).
We got up in the morning and had the not so delightfull task of taking down and putting away the tents in pouring rain.
We rode for several hours through the downpour, enduring the stop/start of Japanese traffic and its never-ending traffic lights. Until at 12.30pm I'd had enough and told Kosta I was going in search of the expressway, I was determined to reach the mountains in day light and this was looking increasingly unlikely. Kosta chose to continue on the coast road while I headed inland to the Tomei Expressway. We would hopefully meet up near Lake Hakone...
The expressway was a joy- hardly any traffic and not having to change gear- since my clutch adjustment bolt snapped in Mongolia I have had to use Arnie Schwarzeneggar type wrist strength every time I want to change gear and after a while my whole arm aches.
I made it to the mountains in record time despite the continuing downpour, and reached a youth hostel where the owner, Yumiko, winced only slightly (Japanese manners taking over in time) as she welcomed me in -I was doing a very good impression of the proverbial drowned rat.
She whisked away to cover her tatami mats with newspaper and thus protect them from the gallons of water that were dripping off me. Full credit to my Hein Gericke jacket and trousers,they may be six years old and had soaked up a swimming pool's worth of water but I was dry underneath.
It was at this point that Yumiko mentioned something about typhoon - now it all made sense, the big waves, the wind, the rain, the bedraggled palm trees, it's typhoon season in Japan and I had spent the whole day riding through one in the vain hope of getting a glimpse of Japan's most famous feature - Mount Fuji. As we don't speak Japanese and had been camping we had completely missed the warnings about it hitting the coast.