Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Rebun Tō

Distance travelled: 16.047 km

The idea go to Rebun island, was much a matter of "well, I`m up here anyway". Part of a national park, the island is a two hour ferry ride west of Wakkanai. In port, the ferry was greeted by a barefoot Japanese hippie type, frantically waving the Youth Hostels banner, and screaming Okaerinasai! (Welcome home) - pretty much exactly how Lonely Planet described it would be. It hadnt quite prepared me for what was to come though!

Inside the minibus, i was told to forget about my intelligence, culture and shame, before i ever sat foot on the Youth Hostels property, rather odd request i thought. But when they rolled out the Pink carpet (rather than a red one), and i was told to scream Tadaima! when i opened the door, I realized I was up for something out of the ordinary - when my scream was returned by the whole Youth Hostel screaming Okaerinasai! while banging a odd variety of musical instruments, and giving a deep bow on all four, I was sure this was going to be an interesting experience!

I barely had time to eat, and chat with the 4 (lovely! :-) girls, I would be doing the "infamous" 8 hour trek with, before the 4 crazy crazy staff members, came shouting through the hostel, with a guitar, singing "MEETINGU! MEETINGU!" on so it was on to the first meeting! The meeting generally consisted of ALOT of singing, dancing, practical jokes about the neighboring island, and a bit of information about the Island, once i got over my shyness it was loads of fun! and i was so exhausted by 22 that I didn't mind the early lights out one bit.

Next morning, at 4.30!!! me and "my flowers" as they referred to themselves, set out on the locally world famous hachijikankoosu or The Eight hour course, for a 30 km hiking from the Northern tip of the island back to the Youth Hostel in the southern end, and after an hour or so of cold crap weather, the rest of the hike was absolutely stunning! cool people, beautiful sea and a wonderful scenery, not to mention the explosion of Alpine flowers covering whole island - but look at the pictures, instead of me yapping!

Rebun-to National Park

When we returned at 6 in the afternoon, rather exhausted, the staff had climbed the roof, and was frantically waiving a Japanese flag, while screaming their lungs out with welcome home song, and next morning when we walked for the ferry, the goodbye song and screams could be heard long after we lost sight of the Hostel.

I had a little lump on my throat, as the ferry departed, and the rest of staff, held a goodbye ceremony at the port, again singing and dancing their (and our) hearts out, to the great bewilderment of the rest of the passengers.

I can not stress this enough, if you're ever in Hokkaido, or even Japan, you quite simply have to go there! it was one of the best travel experiences I've ever had! And hopefully ill meet up with some of the girls in Sapporo and Nikko respectively, to revisit the feeling, and maybe some of the songs!


- Stefan

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