Sunday, 24 August 2008

We're only here for the beards

Following the many responses to previous entries, this post has been given a guidance rating; it contains direct references to ridiculous ginger neck-beard that most people should find disturbing.

The Japanese leg of the expedition has always had a strange status in our plans, since it`s the only country we are visiting solely for logistical reasons. As the expedition has gone on though, its status has risen as we`ve dreamed of the food, the unique culture, and crucially because of the silly agreement we made in Kazakhstan not to shave until we reached Japanese soil.

Well, we made it, and the clippers were unpacked very swiftly, but in what future historians will call the great shaving disaster of 2008, they didn`t work on Japanese voltage. Hair levels in northern Japan remained dangerously elevated.

This additional trauma may have helped focus our minds on our goal though - we needed to get to Nagoya in four days, the main highways are expensive toll roads and Japan is a deceptively long country. So we drove. It`s a testament to just how much amazing stuff we`ve seen that on a drive through half of Japan we didn`t get particularly excited by much of the scenery. There are beautiful forested mountains running all the way down the spine of the islands, but there is so much human impact: concrete retainers to stop landslides, concrete barriers off the coast, and of course towns clinging to every inhabitable spot. It`s a product of necessity, with such a high-density population living on islands at such risk from typhoons and earthquakes, but the impression is of a country fighting nature rather than living with it.

We found a good beach to camp on one night and spent a few hours playing in the sea, but apart from that and a little bit of car maintenance (we’ve worn down the rear brake pads and made a bit of a mess of one of the discs) we didn’t pause for long anywhere. It would have been nice to explore a bit, but it rained for most of the journey so we didn’t mind being in the car!

We arrived in Nagoya on schedule, and with the timing we seem to be blessed with were whisked straight to Obon celebrations (one of the main Japanese festivals). We chatted to our host Steve and his family, then delighted the locals with our attempts at traditional dance!

The next day we finally fulfilled our dreams and proudly rejoined the civilised world of beardlessness. Pete seemed to lose half his head! We`re currently being put up by Steve and enjoying his amazing hospitality while we arrange the shipping and make plans for Canada, as well as addressing the sorry state of our budget! It seems a very different expedition to much of what went before, and we`re facing new challenges; it`s exciting!

- David

Playing on the iPod: `Don’t let the Man Get You Down’ by Fatboy Slim

Photos to follow shortly...