Monday, May 26, 2008

Over the hills and far away

This is where I woke up this morning...

I've been on a bit of a road trip. Decided the weather looked good, so 6am last friday morning saw me head out on the scooter, loaded with camping gear, off to visit my friend Tom, the shakuhachi maker, in Nagano.

Route 299 would take west me over three high passes, before I turned south down Route 152 towards Tom's place. The first pass was the one that took me out of the Chichibu basin, and out of Saitama prefecture and into Gunma. The roads were wide and well maintained, until the beginning of the climb that took me over the second pass, Jukkokutoge, just on 1400m.

This was the view back the way I came, just before the top of the pass. The road was mostly single lane, with some damage in places, and a couple of small repair teams at work. As you can see from the photo, there isnt much out this way but trees and mountains. The road was narrow, but lovely, and the scooter took me up at a steady 30km/h without too much complaint.

I became quite attached to the Route 299 signs, feeling little surges of enthusiasm at the sight of them. As well as indicating that I was on track, each one seemed to promise even more wonderful things than the last. this was especially true of the ones leading up to Mugikusutoge pass, which at 2127m, was the highest point on the trip.

The tree above was up on the pass, which still had a good two feet of snow on it (thankfully not on the road). The bark had this amazing pattern, colour and texture. Anyone know what kind of tree it is? They only seemed to grow right up on the top of the pass. the bark on a lot of them was peeling in layers, like a paperbark tree, but the layers were so fine you could see through them, but still quite strong, unlike paperbark. A bit like wood shavings from a very fine plane.

From there, it was down to civilization again, before heading south up into the mountains again along Route 152, which is the back way to Tom's place, and another wonderful piece of foresty mountain goodness...


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