Friday, August 7, 2015

Day 19 - Stunning Mother Nature

As we were quite exhausted from two days of mountain hiking - not for the lenght or difficulty of the hikes (that was modest), but for the warmth and high humidity - we decided to have a more relaxed day today. So we drove to the so called Fruit Garden and passed by a huge, locally famous Banyan tree on our way (some persons for comparison). I was impressed by the fact that a plant is so smart to build up its own struts, so that it can grow very large without breaking.

While air roots of smaller trees are still flexible and loose, the older trees' roots pierce into the ground and grow solid and resistent to finally serve as struts.
Yakushima's fruit garden is not really prepared for foreign tourists. All signposts along the road are in Japanese only, and as the staff realized that we only speak very, very little Japanese, they phoned someone. After a short while Mr Iwakawa himself greeted us, the owner of this huge garden. Speaking some mix of Japanese and English, he walked us through his garden for some 15mins with pride. Provided with the names and origins of many plants, we could enjoy this walk and his love for exotic plants very much. It is said that the garden hosts about 1600 different kinds of plants. Most of them were importet from other countries like India, Madagaskar or Australia. We saw litchi trees, huge mango trees, water lilies, different kinds of beans and ginger, and all kinds of everything. The main thing for me was, however, to see this elderly man presenting his plants with so much pride. He even mentioned sometimes when he planted certain trees... This made me happy.

After leaving the Fruit Garden, we had our picknick lunch (yes, onigiri) at the Oko-no-taki (Oko Waterfall). The dot on the left side is me, as a comparison for the size of this waterfall (88m high). When we first went there, we were - except of an elderly couple - the only visitors. Since the base of the waterfall seems to be the only place on the island with natural air condition, we went there again on our way back in the afternoon - but at that time all the tour buses had arrived and it wasn't such a great pleasure. I enjoyed sitting on that rock for a long time, looking down at the green-blue pond and enjoying the cool mist.
When I climbed my way to the far left, I got kind of wet, and my glasses were dashed with water drops. As soon as you go back to the path, unfortunately, you begin to sweat again... So let's stand in the cool breeze, in the end you'll be wet either way.

Broken umbrella, I know.

I never thought that it ever could be too hot for a swim. As we visited the beach by low tide, we were looking for some coral pieces between these lava formations and it felt like more than sauna. Even the water was like bathtub temperature. So we walked around a little and discovered many tide pools of different sizes, filled with hundreds of different coloured corals! Even fishies were swimming, and crabbies hiding, and seastars chilling in their holes (yes, they crawled back into some lava holes, so that you couldn't see all their arms). However, we really had to return after a while, to get back to our air conditionned rental car. Too hot for a swim!

Our amazing dinner of tonight deserves some extra lines! If our host wasn't such a great amazing fisherman, he could have been killed this afternoon, according to our hostess! If you had felt these teeth, you would have believed her immediately. As she told us, this so called Needle Fish likes shiny things very much, like bracelets, necklaces or rings... Very dangerous for beach swimmers, and exactly that's the reason, probably, why you should only swim in fenced off areas. This fish can easily pierce  a hole through a surf board. So lucky that he isn't dangerous anymore, now. We very much enjoyed eating him in sashimi pieces. By the way: wasabi, although quite common in Japanese cuisine, is originally used to override an old fish's smell. For really fresh fish (a few hours old) like the one that was served to us, wasabi is quite inappropriate. We would have missed however a little wasabi with the needle fish sashimi. The force of habit...  

As if it wouldn't be enough for today, we tried turtle watching for the first time. Again, this was a Japanese exercise with no-one speaking or understanding any English. So, after arriving close to a sand beach around 21:00, we waited in the dark for around 20 minutes, quite unsure about what is going to happen and whether something will happen at all. Suddenly the little crowd of about 15 visitors was invited to follow a naturalist onto the beach in the light of a torchlight. At the other end of the beach, a turtle's nest was marked with a sand circle. So the small group stood around the nest, where a torch was put on a stick to simulate the moonlight (turle babies only hatch at fullmoon). So this could maybe last for hours, we thought. But what appeared to be a little dark stone at first sight, suddenly moved a little. So we could watch two tiny little turtles crawling out of the sand and finding their way to the sea. I cannot believe I was part of that breathtaking moment. Fortunately the naturalist immediately turned off his torch, when the turtle babies reached the sea, because otherwise we could have seen a saddening and uncomfortable happening... You'll never know. Let's hope, one of them will return in 30 years to this beach to lay its eggs for a next generation!

And if it wouldn't be enough after this touching experience, after returning to our pension we laid down on a secluded road to watch the night sky. Since fortunately most of the vapour had vanished, we were able to see the milky way and some constellations. I am very thankful for this amazing day!

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