Wednesday, 24 October 2007

It's All About The Drive

Got back from a roadtrip with Ken Gor a week ago... just gonna stick a coupla extracts up from me diary... gets a bit sappy and the writing style is more direct coz its mainly a log to myself, but yea... shaddup. =P

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Our cowboy-half-cocked roadtrip started out with a stopoff at Iwaki where we ate at this crazy sushi place that served really good sushi... including one that had a piece of beef on top - the hamburger sushi. Seriously. Then it was on to Sendai where we had a quick drink and went to a small club for a bit of dancing madness. All very random stuff. After that we went to Akiu Waterfalls just coz we read about it in the Lonely Planet that Shireen gave me. We parked the car at the Falls and basically slept in the car for the night. The next morning I woke first and walked to take a look to see what the falls really looked like in the daytime. Tell ya what - nothing like a waterfall to really wake you up. And the cool thing was coz we slept there - we were the first people there and it was completely empty so we were just larking about on the rocks taking the whole place like our giant playground - it was great!

After the Falls we headed off to Morioka where we had read (also in the Lonely Planet) about the Wanking... I mean Wanko Soba... a crazy place where they keep feeding you Soba noodles until you have to physically block them from putting any more noodles in your bowl. Its essentially a game and at the end they count how many bowls you finished... and if you get more than 100 - then you get a prize! Hehe... ;) Then after that we continued up to our final stop of the day Towadako Lake... a supposedly really gorgeous lake on the border of Aomori and Akita prefectures - the most northern prefectures in Japan... Kinda crazy that we've already made it here in 2 days of driving... Tomorrow we'll be heading off to Akita and stuff... and then it'll be 2 days to get back down to Tokyo side.

The funny thing about this roadtrip is that despite the fact that we're doing quite a bit of sightseeing and have already visited quite a few places... the truth is this is not the focus of the holiday for neither me nor Ken... one of the reasons why we went through so much extra doolalling to get just the right car is coz we both know how important that would be for our trip. We're both Driving Nuts. We were part of the original Lonely Drivers back in England and so what this trip is really about is the driving. The bits in between the destinations.

And coz we're taking turns driving - the arguments we're having aren't about route directions or journey times... they're always about how who gets to drive on the bendiest and most loopy mountain passes and who gets the long boring straightaways. We love our car so much that we've christened her Marissa the MX5... (^_^) ...we also have Nigel the GPS... without which a lot of a the side roads we have taken would not be possible... even if he does sometimes try to take us on roads that don't exist... (¬_¬)

This roadtrip just wouldn't be the same without them. Even you, Nigel. ;)

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I almost forgot to mention - on the way to Towadako Lake we drove through a bunch of apple orchards and at one point we had to stop off for a toilet break. While we were in the carpark a completely random old lady walks up to us with a pair of apples and then a coupla minutes later... comes back with a coupla apple pasties too... I love asian old people, always looking out for the random young peoples out there. (^_^)

The drive around the Lake was absolutely insane, the town itself was pretty boring, everything was already shut at 6pm so we went for a lap around the lake. And by god what a crazy road it was, edgeside drops and hairpins that dive into the thickest woods. Half the track wasn't even in the gps system but it was still fun as hell. After that we were pretty knackered out and slept in the car to wake for the sunrise over the lake. Was pretty nice.

The next day, we drove to the companion lake to Towadako, called Lake Tazawako... the legend between those two lakes is pretty interesting... if I can find it on the internet I'll post it up. This was even more beautiful than the first lake - more so because the drive there was simply amazing as well. We drove in the mountain valleys and the whole time we had lovely winding roads and breathtaking scenery to soak up. Probably one of the better drives out of the whole trip.

After the two lakes, we trekked west towards the bulgy bit of Japan called Oga, kinda like the Lake District of England, this was a pretty interesting place too with its strange demon statues and loadsa onsen places. We went to the aquarium there just to be touristy and then I took Ken to his very first hot spring! Nothing bonds two men better than stripping and taking a bath together with a bunch of other old naked men. Oga was pretty amazing too.

Then that night we went to Akita city which is supposedly famous for its beautiful women... turns out that you can only see them if you pay 3000yen. Heh!

After Akita we trekked it down through Yamagata past this crazy ramen town and spent the night in Nikko. Especially notable coz the restaurant we went to, called Ki Kou first we met a coupla fellow Brits and chatted to them for a bit. Then the owners of the restaurant, a lovely couple called Zenshiro and Tamako started chatting to us and actually kept us past closing time, gave us a free bottle of sochu too! Was kinda cool, chatting using just Japanese, bits of broken England as well as a touch of Korean as well... this must be how Newton feels when he's chatting using multiple languages... only on a more basic kiddy level. =D

That night we did our second onsen of the trip.

And then we saved the best for last... since Nikko is next to Gunma... and we heard that a certain road called Irohazaka was between here and Gunma, we knew we had to search out and drive the Initial D roads. They were calling out to us! So at 4am the next day, after a rainy night we went out for the final day and headed towards Lake Chuzenji... which is reached via a road called the "Irohazaka Windy Road"... and hell yea... all I can say is... the game is VERY accuarate, and the real life drive is VERY thrilling. After Iroha we plugged in our final destination of the trip: The Holy Grail: Mount Haruna... aka Mount Akina... the drive there was pretty amazing too. But when we finally got there, we could not believe that we were actually driving the roads that we had been watching and reading about for the past 7yrs. It was really something out of a dream.

Probably a once in a lifetime experience and definitely something we're not gonna forget for a long long loooooooooooooooooooooong time.

We also went to the lake at the top and had lunch and actually saw a real AE86 driving around there. That was pretty cool.

It was the perfect end to our roadtrip.
I couldn't have hoped for a better sequence of events that would lead up to that moment.

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