Saturday, 18 October 2014

Jozankei in Autumn

It's Jozankei in Autumn.
It's gorgeous.

In fact, October 18th - the fall colors are a little past their best. But still - GORGEOUS.

I wrapped up warm for this first non-summer kayaking: wore the drysuit top and a windbreaker, and gloves. Had plenty of warm clothes in the car to change. Not really necessary on a 16 C afternoon. Windy again, but Jozankei is enough in the valley that it doesn't matter.
Just the same course as before. Downstream about 700 m, under the road bridge and round the sandbar islands at the top of the next falls.
Water level jigh and current strong following heavy rain this week.

The road bridge is a popular photo place for drivers. But of course, down below ON the river is best.
The sides of the river had pools of fallen leaves. And in quiet water areas there were underwater leafbars.

The last two photos are spring water trickling down the rock face, with a decoration of leaves and grasses.

Not sure how many more days will be good enough weather to kayak this year. But, if this is my last day. It was wonderful.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Autumn Lake Shikotsu

Autumn on Lake Shikotsu.
Maybe the most perfect day yet.
This is how I pictured kayaking on the lake!
The other times I've been it was so windy that the lake was more like a sea, with waves and rolling water.

This time - perfection.

I went with a friend to the Chitose side of the lake. Recent heavy rains caused landslides and Route 78 from the south of Sapporo was closed. We used Route 16 from Chitose.
First we hiked thru forests above the lake, a bird watching trail with great views and tweeting residents.

Then we drove down just near the split of Route 141 and 276 - where two little side roads lead to Morappu Campsite on the water's edge.
There is a camp site office, ramen restaurant, swan-shaped pedal boats and a beach area with camping. Hard to get the car right near the water, it's a 15? meter walk to the water.


This is a pumice stone...this is volcano country...

And this is how it floats!

Morappu Campsite.

A perfect day.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Bibi River, Tomakomai/Chitose

 Behind noisy New-Chitose Airport....the Bibi River 美々川.

Very nice!

This is off Route 36, about 15 minutes south of Chitose town and the airport. The Bibi River flows south into Utonai Lake, near Tomakomai.
But there it flows thru reeds and trees - and best of all? Tomakomai Water Department has made 3 Canoe Ports off Route 36.
These parking areas with canoe ramps into the water are a great and easy way to access the river.
Now, in late August, the river flow is not so strong and it was possible to come back upstream without bursting muscles.

The Canoe Ports are off the main road on Roads 10, 129 and the road to Uenai Station 植苗駅.

I accessed via the middle Canoe Port - parking for a few 
cars, even a toilet! It's popular with local Canoe Tour companies and their customers. Just next to Route 129, there is even a barbecue restaurant riverside.

Route 129 Canoe Port.

The river is beautiful. About a meter deep and fairly clear. The bottom has lettuce-like weed and grasses, and in this season beautiful yellow water flowers - IN the water and ON the water.
Kind of hard to stop the kayak still enough to take good pictures. It was a learning experience of back paddling etc.

The river is a few kilometers from the airport, so there is sometimes the distant roar of the planes taking off and landing. Depending on the wind direction the routes change. Route 36 is a busy highway, but buried away across the fields, you can hardly hear it.
Birds and insects and wind.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Jozankei - Toyohira River

This peaceful scene, just downstream from the hotels in Jozankei village.
You would never imagine that 10 km downstream the Toyohira River in Sapporo was a raging chocolate-color torrent after a typhoon, with the trees still whipping in the wind.

Finally got to kayak here. Tried a few years ago with friends and a kayak guide, but sudden rain stopped the tour.

This time perfect.

Access: turned off Route 230 just entering the village at the first traffic signals. The road is heading for the back of the Jozankei View Hotel. But you take a sharp right downhill down to the Shiraito Power Plant, go over a narrow road bridge, and then take another sharp right down a gravel road to the riverside and a sandbar and stone parking area.

It is down in the gorge and protected from winds. Amazingly quiet and not windy. Used by local kayak tour companies too. But parking for about 6 cars.

I suited up and set off!

Nishiki Bridge

Maizuru Pool.

It's not far. About 20-25 mins easy paddle downstream. The river is shallow in some places. Steep rocks, some damp with spring water and trees at the water edge. Flowers and insects.
You pass under the red-painted Nishiki road bridge (it's the road up to Sapporo Kokusai Ski area), and then you arrive at Maizuru Pool.
It's the meeting place of the Toyohira River and the Shirai River.
Here there are falls down an embankment, so it's as far as you can go.
Two sandbar islands are strong enough to walk on, and have an interesting collection of colored stones - many are broken in half by the water power.

The Shirai River is shallow, I could only paddle a few meters up it.
Back to the parking area is a harder paddle upstream, but not unpleasant. One section is so shallow it was necessary to get out and drag the kayak a few meters.
I learned quite a lot on this trip: about water power and positioning the kayak. Didn't go anywhere near the Maizuru Pool falls...was scared I'd disappear over them!

Finally back upstream to the parking area. About 1 hour in total with a gentle walk round the sandbars.

I met kayak tour guides waiting for their customers and they told me autumn - October - is glorious here. I can imagine. I'll be back!

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Kayaking II and III

Start a blog. Do nothing more. The Internet is littered with dead-at-birth blogs.

I'm reviving this one.

I actually tried to go kayaking several times in June and July.
But the weather was against me. It was cold and wet and windy for so much of the time.
Oh - and I went on holiday to Brazil for the final weekend of the World Cup.

But no, I really did try. I actually set out twice with the kayak on the roof and then decided to turn back when I saw the local trees holding on to the soil while their tops flapped everywhere.

But finally.

August 3

Trip to Shikotsu Lake. Again.
Same place, the Poropinai Parking area, off the A453 as you drive in from Sapporo. There is a visitor center with food and toilets. Big parking area crowded with fishermen and families. But the other side of the parking area, by an abandoned camp site is calm.

This time I went with a friend and we took turns the go out on the lake.
But it was still windy and the waves were growing up nicely around the kayak. I learned a bit about how to position the kayak in the direction of the wind, how to turn to stay in one position.

Quite hard work. Great views, but not restful....

But already I noticed that as this was my third time loading the kayak on the car etc and driving with it - how much more relaxed I am about it. I can do it quicker and more competently. Getting my routine down. Ropes and all.

Shikotsu is good - but I want to go there when there is no wind and you can paddle in calm waters.
There are other places around the lake where people start from and I'll try those another time.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Kayak Debut!!!

Me. Kayak Debut! Lake Shikotsu, between Chitose and Sapporo. BIG success!!!!!!

Glorious hot weather, but a bit windy today - so I decided that I had to overcome all my worries and nerves and just load it up and go. Or try and go. Even if I just went for a drive locally, with the kayak on the car roof.

The only red thing I could find in my entrance hall - a winter scarf...

It took me about 30 mins to load the kayak, seat down onto the car and strap it down - then tie the cords back and front.
Then to grab all the things I might need:

*  Water shoes
* Dry suit pants (bought finally from MontBell)
* Warm top/shorts/scruffy work trousers/life jacket/towels/change of clothes
* a HAT! .....that hissy tour guide who ordered me to wear a hat last year would be pleased...
* A bag to sling round my neck. Not waterproof...but...
* A blanket to protect the car roof during loading/unloading
* Ground sheet
* More cord...and scissors
* Camera
* LOTS of courage...

My first concern was the car and the kayak. And the wind.
I drove very, very slowly. Kept peering up at the tip of the kayak I can see over the front window. Was it moving?
With the kayak upside down (flatter surface) on the roof rack, it means that the seat well just about fits into the roof carrier I can't push the kayak either forwards or backwards.
Maybe that's good?

I drove at 40 km all the way to Lake Shikotsu. Had to keep pulling over for other cars to pass. Stopped twice to make sure the kayak hadn't shifted. Had visions of the whole car becoming airborne.

And finally - one hour later. I cruised down into the beautiful volcanic crater with Lake Shikotsu at the bottom.
Off Route 453 is the Poropinai parking area, camping ground and tourist center.
Parking appeared to be free and the place was packed with fishermen and their families, big camper vans/station wagons - with trailers and boats - all lined up by the water.
I parked near the entrance and just walked to check it all out. Wasn't sure of the rules or etiquette - how close to the water is ok? Is it ok to launch a kayak near fishing boats?

After finding a possible clear spot at the far end of the parking area, I returned to the car and found a middle aged couple (plus big dog!) just coming back from kayaking and loading their car...just meters away.
Decided to follow their lead and debut from right where I was.

Unload. Snap paddle together, put on shorts, cap, life jacket and water shoes. Tooooo hot to think about wet suit.
Smiled at the couple - as if this is just another day kayaking for me and NOT a nervous debut...hauled up the kayak and marched down to the water.

Wonderful!!!!! That second I pushed off the beach area and felt the kayak start to float, the water ahead of me blue, the sky blue...the wind.
Joy. Pure joy.
Like the first 5 m of skiiing every year. As you push off and remember why you love the sport.

I stayed out for about 45 mins. Just getting the feel of the kayak. The balance, the seat, the paddles. Quite windy.
I just gently paddled down the fishing boat line to the quieter old camp site beach beyond, just fiddled around a bit. Looked thru the clear water at rocks and tree trunks. Looked at the view.
THIS is why I've been doing all the stressy stuff about car and kayak and clothes and car rack.

Came back to the car park and decided to call the 45 mins enough for a debut. Need to save energy and focus for loading the kayak correctly back on the car and driving home safely.

Trip home was given extra spice: by an almost empty gasoline tank :-(
In my excitement about the kayak I'd forgotten to fill the tank and had the icon and flashing light giving me terrors.
LUCKILY - the return road is 70% downhill, so I coasted the slopes out of gear and forgot totally about the original fear concerning the stability of the kayak. Just getting to a gas station and freewheeling as much as possible was my main aim.

Did it.
And: called in at the Suzuki dealer to show them that - YES! This small, new model car can carry a kayak. I even gave the salesman a picture....and he and the manager came out in the parking area to marvel at how a small car CAN think big.

Home to celebrate and enjoy first sunburn of this year.

Yippeeee!!! Kayaking in Hokkaido has started.
Watch this space.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014


I guess every sport has them.
The stuff you need to wear. Should wear. Must wear. Is just cool to wear.

It's hard for a beginner to know WHAT to wear.
And as you contemplate all the options the idea of the simple kayaking in a peaceful place seems to get further and further out of reach.

I'm a skier, until now, so I know what I need. I have a bag of stuff - the boots, masks, gloves and socks. When the weather is good I just grab the bag and head for the mountains - and I know what combination of clothes will keep me warm without making me look too dorky.

Kayaking? A whole new world!

The guy who sold me the old kayak included an old life jacket. So that was one item off the list.

After that?

I've bought: a yellow rubbery shirt, some rubbery little shoes and some stretchy, fleecy tights.
I think the last one is maybe a mistake. Although the guy in the shop seemed to say they were fine for kayaking.
I'm very confused by the Wet/Dry suit choice. Do I need a Wet Suit to keep out the water? Or a Dry Suit to keep me dry? Many of the things I looked at in shops seemed okay for deep sea diving, and not really suitable for a quiet paddle on a lake...with a few seconds of standing in water when getting into and out of the kayak.
And the prices were kind of crazy. I've already got a top part, so I'm only looking for the bottoms.
I've kind of haunted the local outdoor outfitters shops locally and looked at a lot of stuff. Found some friendly shop staff. But still a bit confused.

So this morning I was standing in my shower, wearing these fleecy warm pants...and looking down at them thinking: "these seem kind of wet and heavy to wear on a lake in a boat".
I think I bought a dud. They'll be fine for skiing though - nice and snug under ski wear :-)

But I am dreaming of the day when all of this is second nature to me.
GREAT weather! Load the kayak on the car, grab my bag of clothes and head to the water....

Not there yet. Water debut.....when?