To the Top and Then the Hardest Part

Trip Start Aug 11, 2010
Trip End Sep 02, 2010

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Where I stayed
Tokyo International Hostel

Flag of Japan  , Kanto,
Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Not long
after the crunchy couple left, one of the hut staff came by and tapped me:  it was dawn. 
And so it was – I could see the sun come up through the haze surrounding
the station hut.  I wasn’t very hungry
but figured I should eat something so I ate some walnuts and apricots and
started out.

There were a
lot of stations, even an 8 station. 
They seemed never-ending.  The
trail was steeper and even though I didn’t usually get out of breath, I was very
fatigued – like the last bit up the volcano in Chile.  My hut was at 3100 meters.  I wasn’t really feeling any altitude sickness
except for a little nausea maybe.

Finally I
was at the 9th station.  I had
bought a walking stick wannabe to get branded but there were no facilities at
all at this 9th station. 
Nada.  So I continued.  At this point I think it was only 900 meters
to the top.  Slowly, slowly step by step –
I felt like the climbers on Everest.  I
was at the 400 meter mark and could see the top and a few zigzags of trail to
get to it.  There had been switchbacks
pretty much all the way up from the 6th station.  I got to the 10th station, used
the toilet for 500 yen because I didn’t have the 400 yen in change for the box and then headed
to the little torii gate on one side of the crater.  It was 9 am.  I went a backwards way and so I had to scrabble
up rocks with the help of one of the older gentlemen who were sitting up
there.  The fog had not yet covered the
crater so it was a pretty amazing view! 
You really couldn’t see down the mountain because of the clouds.  There was thunder booming occasionally
throughout the day.  One of the gentlemen
had a daughter with a green card living in Chicago.  The other took my photo after I warmed up my
battery with the armpit trick.  I got
some bits of lava for Jane, a new bottle of water and my 10th
station brand and headed down by 9:30 am..

At first the
going was good.  I was zipping along down
the little scree – now I know why many of the Japanese hikers were wearing
gaiters.  Oh, now on the fashion
scene:  Tights or leggings, especially
the athletic ones; baggy shorts, the gaiters, a few layers of shirts,
definitely a floppy hat, maybe a towel around the neck.  One young man had on pink suede hiking boots,
pink print tights and pink shorts – pale pink, not bright pink.  Most people had pristine packs- I didn’t see
any grubby old ones.  One older man had
creased pants.  Women were similarly
dressed.  One young woman had a short
denim skirt instead of shorts.  Oh, and lots of people were wearing white gloves too.

I don’t know
when it started, but my body began to betray me.  My legs got wobbly, especially the right
one.  I depended on my poles for
support.  My right knee started to buckle
and my left to hurt with each step down. 
I inched along—thinking it was going to be a long, long day—the gravel
trail.  I had tried to pay attention and
stick to the Yoshida trail.  At first I
took a short detour on a bulldozer path, but rejoined the trail.  Then somehow I got off again so that I
remained on the bulldozer trail and missed all the stations coming down.  Perhaps the steady incline down with the
loose gravel added to my misery.  On the
other trail there would have been changes in the type of trail:  steps, rocks mostly and then some loose
gravel too.

In any case,
I don’t think I have ever felt so physically miserable—except  prolonged vomiting.  So I continued to inch along wincing as I
went.  One more zigzag, another
zigzag.  I will skip all the rest of the
anxiety and misery—or almost all.  I got
to the end!  This might be more of a
triumph than getting to the top—it should have been easier.  But, of course, it wasn’t the end because it
was the wrong trail and I needed to get to the bus stop.  And I had also lost the ticket for the first
leg of my bus trip.  I stopped some
people – heaven only knows what I tried to tell them or what they understood
from what I was saying but  a kind
gentleman and his wife offered to help me. 
So they took me in tow and rather quickly --the wife was sweet and realized
I wasn’t going very fast so she alerted her husband.  He kindly took my day pack and told me not to
worry we can go slowly.  I thought they
were going to give me a ride but they were walking back to the bus stop area as
well.  He said it was only 20 min but I
asked if it were 20 min at my pace.  He
said it was (but he lied).  I was
somewhat distracted by their presence and so I managed to endure the walk as
far as the road at which point the kind gentleman flagged down a truck and we
all got into the truck bed and were driven right up to the bus stop area.  Here the kind gentleman negotiated about my
ticket.  I had to repay the part I lost
but had flexibility on when to use it.  I
had originally left a lot of time in case it took me a long time to get up and
down Fuji.  I thanked these lovely
people, offered to treat them but they probably wanted to make up for all that
lost time and promptly left..

Now I went
about my errands:  got my Fuji postcards,
got my brand, bought a water and a coke (cheaper at the 5th station)
and I was ready to catch the bus.  I got
to the bus stop 15 min before it was scheduled to leave but there was a long
line.  I moved up thinking they would cut
off people once all the seats were taken but instead I got on without a seat so
I had to stand the whole way down to the bottom ….and it seemed like an awfully
long ride.   At the bottom, I changed my
ticket to an earlier time and got a seat. 
Hallelujah again!  Standing on the bus hadn't really helped my worst knee.  Got a taxi to
the hostel…this driver did not use his GPS but found it anyway.  He parked on the side so I didn’t recognize it
so the poor man ran all around verifying that it was correct…with the meter
turned off. 

Fuji was not
a cheap day trip.  Not in dollars or in
effort but it was glorious to be at the top and see the crater and see the
sunrise earlier and be a part of the huge human drama of the climb.


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