A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: SamuelGriffiths

Climbing Mount Takao

Written in the 3rd Person.

sunny 34 °C

The sweat patches on the front of Sam’s shirt were starting to resemble a grinning face. He could feel a bead of sweat dribbling down his chin, undoubtedly with the intention of selflessly sacrificing itself to the abstract work of art that was beginning to take shape on his torso. Which it did. They had stopped for a moment on the steep upward climb through the forest path. After wandering aimlessly round the car park of a nearby block of apartments they had found the path leading upwards to what they hoped would be the summit of the mountain.
“I’m not sure this is the right way.”
One or other of them had said, then a minute later another one of them(who hadn’t been listening ) said it again. However they knew a large group of Japanese students was closing in on them and unless they wanted to walk up the path as a party of 10 they had better keep walking whether it was the right way or not.

It was at this point that the indeterminate route before them began to slope steeply upwards and the sweating began in earnest. In England this kind of perspiration would have been impossible to achieve without the assistance of a steam room, several thick jumpers and an extremely spicy curry. Smiling Japanese hikers in good boots and expensive looking backpacks passed them by with cheerful greetings and quick bobbing bows(their downward course being naturally conducive to a good bow). After the 13th one Sam ignored them. Not merely out of a sense of injustice at their relative trajectories but to avoid flicking sweat at them when he attempted a bow of his own.
“And to think”(he thought) “Only half an hour ago we were swapping nostalgic stories of childhood camping trips. Wasn’t much talk of sweating then.”

They had stopped again when Hamish spied a knotted vine and spoke up.
“ Look at that just like one of Tarzan’s”
Advancing toward it like a wily hunter on his unsuspecting prey, his sense of preparation was almost palpable. While his eyes remained fixed on the vine, with all the gymnastic potential that it signified, he seemed to resolutely ignore the hundred foot drop that hung beneath the vine like a bad beard on a dreadlocked bongo player.
“Best not Hamish”
No one could say who’d said it but it had been said. In any case Tarzan traded in his swinging freedom for more endless trudging. After walking a while Vic looked around, a look of puzzlement creeping over her features.
“Where’s Jane?”
She said ,as if she too had a been possessed by Tarzan. A faint voice drifted up the path
“Go on without meeeeee, I’ll only slow you doooowwnn”
But the bond of any group far from home counts for a lot and they decided to wait. Not once did it cross their minds that this meant they could have a rest without admitting they were tired too. As Jane (slowly) made her way towards them they sprang to their feet and strode up the path.
“Come on Jane, not far now!”
The three spoke as one receding into the distance.

They’d been told that somewhere near the summit there was a beer garden. As the relentless heat made the flora and fauna around them shimmer and undulate the thought of a cold beer began to obsess them. They were explorers searching for the liquid mines of King Solomon, prospectors of refreshment, they were THIRSTY . They came to a set of steps and climbed up and up and up into the burning light where beer might be.
“This doesn’t look like a beer garden to me”
And actually it didn’t look at all like a beer garden. There was no beer and no garden. English people rarely do anything unless there’s a drink involved somewhere(see bike rides, picnics, football matches, the theatre, the opera and weddings.) There was however a toilet with a cold running tap and a vending machine with ice-cream which ,for now, would have to do.

The ground levelled off a bit here and before long they came to a huge deserted temple or crypt with pictures of the life of The (or a) Buddha set out around it. Statues stood milling round not unlike embarrassed early guests at a houseparty. As if to set the seal of this image on them, forlorn looking cans of unpronounceable Japanese fizzy drink had been placed before them, evidently offerings. Fly’s crawled over them but Sam couldn’t help thinking if he was a god he’d be glad of any drink in this heat.

It was at this point hysteria set in. They raced each other up stone Temple steps. Japanese students raced up after them evidently sensing a trend being set. Long curved paths made a girdle round the mountain’s middle, swaying drunkenly from side to side. Huge Temple Guardians in Golden Armour looked down fiercely on every passerby, no bouncer was ever so intimidating. Tengu spirit statues with giant weapons also glowered at the visitors. One had a dragonfly sat on the tip of his sword, who was kind enough to pose for a few photographs. Mystical rings were hit with sticks, huge marble holes were crawled through and little fountains of holy water bubbled happily in the background. The place had the feel of a spiritual funfair. Beautiful brightly coloured buildings with dragon shaped pillars, little religious statues half hidden in the bushes and busy stalls only added to the impression.

At length they came to the summit and even the fabled beer garden. The heat haze meant the nearby mountains were little more than vast indistinct shapes but still the view took their breath away. The city of Hachioji sat far below them it’s white buildings looking newly built and mirroring the clouds that floated lazily above them.

After narrowly escaping the extortionately priced beer and a cyclical conversation with a gnomic looking Japanese gentleman
(In Japanese
JPGM: You are English Teachers?
EP: No we are actors.
JPGM: Ahhhh English Teachers ey?
EP: No actors.
JPGM:Oh excuse me, I understand now, Eng....
Repeat ad naseum)
they hopped on a cable car and rode back to the bottom of the mountain where they slid their pounding feet into a nearby footspa.
Looking down Sam realised the face on his shirt had disappeared at some point though he could not say when. As if to replace it he felt a the beginnings of a great big grin work it’s way into his cheeks. It didn’t seem to be in any rush to leave.

Posted by SamuelGriffiths 19:52 Archived in Japan Comments (1)

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