The exciting saga continues!
Morning came earlier for me the next day than most previous. I couldn't sleep as much as I wanted to because I was just so excited about the climb, which was bearing closer and closer with every passing hour. It was a feeling akin to the night of Christmas Eve. Wondering if there'll be presents under the tree and, if so, what we they be. Will they be everything you hoped for or a build up only met with bland disappointment? I woke up twice that night/morning (since I had gone to bed past midnight) and finally, at 0500 hrs, I said "screw it" and pushed off the blankets of my comfy bedding to rise and greet the day.
Not wanting to waste my chance for enjoying such luxuries, I once again visited New Century Hotel's indoor onsens; this time the first, admittedly better, one, which is situated on the top floor and offers a magnificent view of Fuji-san and Lake Kanaguchiko. Because it was so early in the morning, I was not surprised to find myself alone once again. I even decided to sneak a few pics of the place with my camera, which would have been awkward/impossible otherwise (Sorry, because the steam from the water kept fogging up my camera, this was the best pic I could get).
After a nice, half-an-hour soak, I returned to my room and gazed out of the patio, snapping a few pics for the scrapbooks.
Basking in the authenticity of the atmosphere, I turned off the lights and just sat down, taking everything in as the summer morning breeze wafted in through the open patio door and skimmed over my cooling body. A sense of peace came over me and, before I knew it, it was already 0600hrs. I wanted to stay and what the sun peak over the hills, next to the lake but, I came here on a mission and I couldn't allow myself to be so easily swayed. With a reluctant sigh, I broke the tranquility of the moment and began to dress and pack (for the record, I was in the yukata the hotel had provided, not naked).
At 0615, I was all ready and at the reception desk, checking out. The old man behind the counter, who had also checked me in, processed me out while asking, in halting English, how my stay was. Using universal signs of approval (the Thumbs-Up has almost never let me down in my 7 1/2 years over globe-hopping)
as well as vigorous head nodding, I displayed my endorsement of the hotel. After paying I asked in the man could call a taxi for me. Japanese Luxury Hotels normally have private shuttles for their guest and this one was no different. However, by their schedule (which was conveniently posted on the interior of my room's threshold door
), their route started at 0800. Way too late for me, who had at least 12 hours of mountain climbing ahead of me, by Fuji's website's description. Some people might have tried to insist one special treatment but, as I've said in previous journals, I try to make a GOOD name for Americans out here. People, world-wide already believe us to be self-entitled (which, generally, they're right). So I willingly subjected myself to another $30 cab fee.
Imagine my surprise when the old man tells me to wait a moment, disappears inside the office adjacent to the reception area and reappears with the keys to the hotel's shuttle.
"Where you go," He asked, holding the keys up for me to see "I drive you."
I really hadn't wanted to impose. Being military, following schedules is second nature to me. If someone says lunch will be served from 1100hrs to 1230hrs, I'm not gonna waltz up to the chow line at 1000 and ask for food and expect to get anything other than either a middle finger or an ass-chewing.
But in all my self-consciousness, I had forgotten that hospitality and care for their customers are things that the Japanese practice almost religiously. They thank potential customers who enter stores and restaurants and, even if there isn't a single yen spent, they always bid them a fond farewell as well, thanking them for merely taking the time to visit. They always bag items and treat the customers personally belongings with just as much care as if they were their own. Most places of business have stands where customers can hand umbrellas when it rains and bins that fit under chairs for purses, backpacks and even coats. The amount of quality of customer service almost never differs. You'll be treated the same way at Matsuya (one of my favorite quick-food restaurants, which I shouldn't even get started on cause I could write a whole other journal about how awesome they are) as you would at a high-class, upscale place like The Grand Prince Hotel (the hotel I stayed in during my trip to Kyoto, in June
). People first: that's the Japanese business model, at least as far as I can see.
So, I graciously accepted the old man's offer and we both stepped outside. Once more, he told me to wait as he walked over to the shuttle and drove in front of the hotel. I decided to go and snag that lake-side pic of Fuji that I posted a few weeks ago while he do so. The drive was nice and quiet, just how I like my early morning commutes, and I leaned my head against the window as we sped along the side of the lake. After a short while, we were past the hills enough and I saw the waking sun's rays shimmering brightly among the ripples of the lake's water. Fifteen minutes later, I was back at Kanaguchiko Station, which I came through the night prior (for all you guys who forgot from my previous journal). Remembering my manners, I bowed deeply and used and said "Domo Arigato Gozaimasu" (yeah, I know the grammar of how I typed that is off
), which is the super formal way of thanking someone. I had hoped it showed just how much I appreciated the way the old man broke away from the rules of the hotel just to get me my own personal ride. Things like this don't normally happen without me having to ask, so I was feeling REALLY good at this point. Giddy is the closest word I can think of right now to describe it, I guess. He nodded and smiled before waving and driving away.
After watching the shuttle disappear, with a sharp inhale/exhale, I gripped the straps of my backpack and resumed my journey... For all of five minutes.
By my phone, it was a few minutes after 0700. The earliest train arriving at Kanaguchiko Station wasn't gonna show up until 0900.
"Well damn," I said to myself, succumbing to a bad habit I've possessed since I was twelve, "I could'a stay at the hotel longer." I would have rather spent the two extra hours soaking in some nice, warm water than standing in the cool, almost cold, morning air. I sucked at my teeth before sighing. "Too late now, I guess..."
An unexpected, two hour wait. I needed a new objective in the mean time. Fortunately my stomach provided diversion. Can't very well go mountain climbing on an empty stomach, now can you? ...Well, I mean, yeah you can
but people say it's not the best idea. So I decided to listen to those faceless "people" of vary intelligence and education that day... Expect the station's restaurants were closed too, so I didn't.
Now, to some, this would have been a disheartening discovery but, to me, someone who laughed our loud when Alex yelled "FUCK BREAKFAST!" (I wonder how many people will get that reference if I don't give them a hint...),
It wasn't ever something worth snuffing at. Food would have to wait. Ironically, I do better when I'm hungry. It brings out more primal senses and dulls me to pain a tad. I learned that when I first started weightlifting. Natural instincts surface in lieu of luxuries, which makes physical activities easier for some. If I'm hungry, my body tells me its time to hunt and prepares my body for a challenge. Now, obviously, I'm a far cry from my ancestors, who had to hunt wild, dangerous animals in order to get their daily beagle and coffee but, I attest that I do preform better when hungry.
Anyways, so no food for Zerro. Next objective: WAITING. DunDunDUUUUN!
To be honest, I don't really know what I was doing at that point. After the guy at the ticket counter told me, in better English than the old man from the hotel, told about the train schedule and my subsequent discovery of no breaky, I just sorta started pacing along the front of the train station. I had come out thinking that I'd be in constant motion, so I didn't have anything of my entertainment items particularly handy and I didn't want to unload to get them. Unloading means pulling properly placed things out of my backpack and strewing them along a bench or atop a newspaper stand while searching for that one thing I want, then putting everything back, more often than not, incorrectly which takes time, throws off my balance (even a inch in the wrong direction can have consequences during long hikes or treks, believe you me
) and hinders other people. In my opinion, when you set out for something, what you have on hand and easily accessible is what you have. Nothing else exists at that point (which is why the first-aid kit is ALWAYS easy to grab. So are the condoms for that matter~ ...Okay okay, guess I'm not fooling anyone with THAT joke).
I was in the middle of my fifth or six pass when suddenly, like a beacon from the heavens, a man steps in my path, extending his hand as he smiles. "Hey, I'm Drew."
Now, if this had been the States, I would have been extremely weary of a total stranger walking up to me like this but, this is Japan, which allowed be to do what I did next, which was firmly grasping the man's hand, "Hey I'm [censored], nice to meet you."
"You climbing Fuji too," Drew asked as with both considered one another.
I noted the 'too' in his question and had almost immediately knew where this conversation was headed. Just like the previous evening, when I met the three fellow sailors in the station before Otsuki.
"Yes I am. All the way to the top!"
"Awesome! Would you like to split a taxi with us? It comes to about $40 and should get us there in less than an hour."
If Luck were a lady, at that point I would have married her cause she's more faithful than my Ex.
I weighed my options, which took all of a second. Two hour wait just
for the train to arrive then the subsequent time needed to travel to wherever the hell else I needed to go or spend forty bucks and jump in a cabs with a stranger who possibly wants a climbing buddy as well. Uh Bob, I'll take 'Option B" please.
Now, Option B is NOT always a good idea. In fact, I'm truly blessed that it worked out as well as it did. To be fair, I AM a tall, still semi-muscular guy who just so happened to be wearing a military-themed shirt that day, so maybe things weren't as shady as I describe them but, if this had been anyone else, in any other place besides Japan, I might have ended up on the 6 o'clock news: "Man's body is discovered in the woods; his face and genitals: missing".
The Powers At Be had my back that day though and I followed Drew and was some acquainted with his friend and neighbor, Ethan. Now it was time for introductions and the whole spill. I nonchalantly told them who I was, that I'm a sailor station in Yokosuka, that I wanted to climb Fuji before the end of Climbing Season and that I've served for eight years (I tend to round up just to avoid that whole "and a half" nonsense). Thinking I would be the most impressive gambler at the table, I was taken by surprise. Drew was a plastic surgeon from Florida and Ethan was an commercial airline pilot from Denver who flew for Delta (I am seriously not making this up. God, life totally IS stranger than fiction). They both own neighboring vacation homes on a harbor in Florida and decided to climb Fuji, get this, on a whim. Drew apparently wanted to go and invited Ethan, who apparently agreed.
My small ego was crushed. All I had ever done of my own volition was join the Navy out of high school. Somewhere I heard a taunting voice yelling "LAAAAAME" at the top of its lungs. It was probably all in my head.
Drew and Ethan were totally American. It was obvious to me that, even with such amazing lives (as one could assume from the conversations between the two about house parties, lobster-based cookouts and the fact that they own VACATION HOMES IN FLORIDA), they didn't leave the US often enough to understand that our customs make us out to look like pretentious assholes to the rest of the world. Fortunately, we're in Japan (Japan-Ex-Machina *ding*)
, so the people didn't take apparent offense to their somewhat boorish mannerisms. Now, don't get me wrong, these guys were GREAT guys! In the States, I would have been happy to be in their company. They were funny, charming even, despite the fact that they were both well into their forties and kept referencing pop-culture moguls from the 80s. They also sang "Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto" which was... yeah...
Anyways, during the cab ride up to the beginning of the Yoshida Trail, we talked and answered each other's questions while eating the hot Seven-Eleven food that Drew had snagged while we were looking for a taxi earlier. Boiled eggs and Daikon Radish, the breakfast of champions. Like Drew predicted, the ride was about 40 minutes and we piled out at the 5th Trail Head (I think... Was never too sure about what to call it, really. Here's a link to the website www.fujiyama-navi.jp/fujitozan…
Drew and Ethan, much like the other guys I met, where equipped with all the bells and whistles. Drew especially, who had two layers of water-proof clothing on. I, on the other hand, had stupidly decided to grab gear at the shop at the beginning of the trail. Ideally, it was so that I'd have souvenirs specifically from this event in my life, however, I would soon come to realize that the stuff they were selling was only meant for the best of conditions. Regardless, I geared up and bought my walking stick. I mention the stick because, as per tradition, as you ascend Fuji and visit the rest-stations situated among its craggy face, you're supposed to have special little symbols "stamped" onto it, which serves as a testament to your dedication and commitment. Really they heat a metal thingy and brand your stave which, in my opinion, is a lot better than ink.
With about ten bottles of water between the three of us, Drew, Ethan and I began the climb.
I paused at this sign. "Bullet Climbers"; people who ignore the importance of a good night's rest to rush up to the submit before sunrise. At that point I began wondering if Leader and his crew made it up okay. I had to push that aside though, as I needed to focus on my own climb foremost.
Ethan embraces the rainbow. Also, yes, that IS a double rainbow.
I hoped you guys enjoyed those wonderful pics of an amazing climb because, just as in reality, they come to an abrupt end. From this point on, the weather decides "Hey, Zerro, FUCK YOU!"
[End of Part 2]