Monday, September 14, 2009
A Day in Yoshino
My goal is to update this at least once a week in some way. To help that end this* is recycled, but you don't know that.
Last week we drove a few hours to hang around the river that runs through the mountains of South Nara. A beautiful day. The kind that make you wish you'd paid attention in elementary school, when such days stretched out from June into the infinite of summer vacation. A day cloudless and breezy, warm enough to finally ride with the windows down and AC off after three months of Monsoon that just wouldn't give up its suffocatingly hot pervasion. After rounding up essential supplies (i.e. leftover curry I made way too much of, bread--nan being slightly out of my culinary domain, random containers of green[ish] tea, rice balls with grilled salmon a la 7-11, and string cheese) we were off, puzzlement over string cheese notwithstanding.
Arriving at the secret spot Tomoko's brother had exhaustedly delved through untold camping-otaku blogs in order to find, a hidden Eden where the bank was wide and flat and the river was deep enough to swim--a veritable paradise of peace and seclusion, we began to hike down a long switchbacked trail from the village where we parked the car and emerged from a mountain bamboo thicket into the much sought Utopia...only to find that the secret setting was know only to us, the blogger, and at least several hundred other people who were already there. We picked our way through the throng chockablock along the bank and found an untaken spot to spread out among the boulders, horseflies and deafening drone of dancehall reggae. Settled, I looked up through a sweet fog of barbecue smoke and tanning oil vapor at the majestic, though hazy, mountains rising in evergreen from the opposite side of the river into a sky that was, to wantonly rip-off a film of my youth, so blue it hurt my eyes. Or maybe it was just the flaming cord of cigarettes billowing over from our neighboring revelers that caused my tears.
The food was the same as I remembered it was from dinner the past two nights, so no complaints. Plus there was string cheese.
Someone told me once that you should never swim within an hour of eating lest you cramp up and drown, presumably, down. Cub Scouts, mayhaps? Who knows? I might have made it up. Eitherwise (that needs to be a word), I once related that to Tomoko, who in blind faith and abject trust believed me and added the slip of trivia to her vast and encyclopedic fund of hypochondria/nature-paranoia. For her the world is fraught with dangers, vermin, filth and germs in even the most sterile environs, let alone a river that could, for all we knew, be careening murderously through the perhaps fathoms deep gorge before us. Never mind the lazily bobbing inner-tubers drifting most un-NASCAR-like past the rail-thin co-eds wading across an ankle lapping ford! We could DROWN!!! In other words, I had to wait to swim. So, I slathered on some sun screen, started re-reading The Third Policeman, and proceeded to burn the shit out of my feet and ever widening bald spot, where I have woefully forgotten to SPF-ize.
The hour up, we wound our way down the river to a narrow canyon where the water was deep enough to no only swim, but had rocks and cliffs that gleefully beckoned for the jumping off of. The water was crisp and clean flowing turquoise at its deepest, bubbling around rocks and eddying in apses in the escarpments jutting up on both sides. Immediately we climbed onto a large rock that stood in the midst of the opening of the narrows. It was maybe 2 meters tall and bedecked with teens daring each other to jump. Having luckily grown up in the shadow of Waiamea and Laie Point, a mere two meters lacked any sort of fear factor for me, so I stood up and dove in to the current below. I'm sure the sight of a mildly (allow me my euphemisms) out of shape man approaching middle age in his gleaming white and redness piercing the water was the epitome of grace and physical prowess. Feel free to fill in the details with your imagination. My brother-in-law was stunned. He's pretty physically adroit at most things, especially compared to me, who is, as you may be aware to varying degrees, perhaps the clumsiest of person you know. (I once punched myself in my braces filled mouth in 10th grade while describing a fight I seen after some show to Cassy Johnson in Balborona's photo class. Easily one of my coolest moments.) For some reason, my brother-in-law can't swim all that confidently, much less dive.
So I, yes I, was asked to instruct him in the art of no flip, no tuck, no twist, straight boring diving. So, I began my course in Remedial Ornamental Water Entering. The teacher was crap and the student worse, so not much progress was made. He just could not get it. I felt like that was fine. I mean, who really cares if a 30 year old can or can't dive, especially when that person is native to a place with zero coastline. Finally, I was asked to dive from something higher so he could better see what I was doing. Obligingly, I climbed up to a higher spot on a cliff and dove off. Now as I'm sure you know, checking the depth of the water before diving from a new place is a sound and wise thing to do. I, however, am neither sound nor wise, as can now be attested to by the bone deep puncture I was bequeathed by a jagged shallow stone and now sport horrendously on my bandaged left thumb, which I have now smashed wincing against the space bar countless times while writing this just because I care that much.
*Long, Needlessly Embellished Story Warning