Friday, October 13, 2006

Deep in Gollum's Cave of Gloom.

Monday dawned bright and clear, a welcome sight after the cold rain of Sunday night. Breakfast was plentiful but dissapointing. After all, I like rice, miso, and salmon, I just don't like them first thing in the morning when I have a splitting headache and would really just prefer some buttermilk pancakes and coffee. Luckily the owner had some pretty powerful headache tabets, she was sure to get through to me the fact that I should not be driving AT ALL after taking one of her little pills. Yeah, me, who hasn't touched a steering wheel in over a year!

Looking at our map of the area Anna and I saw that there was a limestone cave you could visit located on our way back into town. Thinking that this would be a fun diversion we hopped on the bus and hopped off a short drive down the mountain ready to do a little spelunking.

Hmm, except that there was no cave in evidence. We walked over to a man playing with his kids near the bus stop and asked him where the cave was. He looked at the map and started laughing. It turned out that I had totally misread the map, while the cave was attraction # 16, I hadn't noticed that attractions and accomodations used different colors. Due to my foulup we had disembarked near Motel # 16, and the caves were still several miles down the road. Oh and did I mention that the bus runs every hour?

Suddenly our map reader hustled off into the house to fetch his wife, who spoke excellent English. We started chatting and it turned out that her sister had lived in America for 5 years, in Colorado Springs no less! It makes you wonder about that 6 degrees of seperation.

She told us that her husband was going to drive us to the caves, and sure enough he starts piling his totally cute kids into the mini van. We hopped into the back and away we went. This was not the first time some random Japanese person has offered me an unlooked for ride, and it always surprises me just how polite and helpful total strangers can be here.

Adjacent to the cave system was a two story museum that had all sorts of geology/ gemology related displays. Fossils, sculptures, weapons, and models of castles made of pearls! This one is Nagoya Castle. Tacky yet fascinating.

Once we made it inside you could tell you were in a traditional limestone cave. For those not in the know, limestone caves are very much active, stream drivin cave systems. Lots of dripping, slipping, and rushing water. Especially as it had rained the past evening, there was plenty of fresh, and chill, water to supply the cave's stream.

There was no tour, just the opportunity to explore the labyrinth on our own. Most people in the area were probably either at the festival or still in bed, it was about 9 in the morning, so the cave was almost totally empty. The fantastic shapes of the stalagtites and stalagmites were well lit with eerie green and pink lights, and the whole experience was pretty fascinating. Of course I would have appreciated a little bit of English signage, but we were pretty far off the beaten tourist track.

At the end of the cave was a little shrine. And after the shrine was a... gift shop! Plenty of gifts, trinkets, keepsakes, snacks and other assorted bits of junk to spend money on littered the shop. We sped through quickly, jogging down the mountain to make sure we could catch the next bus. We made it by over 15 mintues, which gave me a brief window to call home and brag about my recent adventures.

Next: The Morning Market, Festival and a touch of chicken gyros!

1 comment:

羽之助 said...

Hey, we have caves in Iwate too. Don't know if they're limestone or not, though. And I've been to Shirakawa-go too! It was very ... wet.

Your tale of being driven by a nice family reminds me of the very first time I came to Japan - we had walked down the mountain from our university in search of a grocery store that we were recommended to go to and was surely just down the hill. We were still a two hour walk away, and when we stopped at a bank to ask directions, some couple took pity on us and drove us into the city.

And I notice you've changed your description of yourself to "I'm the Traveling Grant". I always thought that Travelingrant had a double meaning - either Travelin' Grant or the Traveling Rant.