Monday, November 15, 2004

How I Walked 35 Kilometres to Take a Bath Part the Third: In the Forest of the Night

Tiger, tiger, burning bright,
In the forest of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

—by William Blake

Once at the hot spring I stayed in for two hours, chatting with various people, including a Japanese ex-backpacker and a couple of civilian salesmen from the American airbase. By the time I set out for home it was dark, and getting pretty cold to boot. For those of you who have often felt overwhelmed by a thirty-minute drive home from an onsen imagine, if you will, replacing that thirty-minute drive with a three-and-a-half hour, 17.3 kilometre hike over the hills and through the woods in the dark.

. . . with a blister. To make matters worse, I wasn’t able to fill my water bottle because the only restaurant had just closed. An hour into my return journey over the pass the dehydrating effect of sitting in hot water for two hours began to take its toll and I started to stagger a little. Then, the blessed tinkling of running water! I followed the sound to the embankment on the side of the road and tore away the dead leaves. Sure enough, it was cold, pure runoff from the overshadowing peak and I thankfully pressed my lips against the rock. No lions, no tigers, nor even the actually plausible bears came out to maul me, but I had the doohickey scared out of me a number of times by Japanese antelope (kamoshika) bounding out of my way at the last moment.

Imagine running into these little devils at night when you’re worried about bears. Plus, their eyes glow in the dark like cats’ eyes. Apparently kamoshika are considered to be "living fossils."

Home at last! I felt like Esau returned from the hill country, and barely had enough energy to heat this can of Indonesian “red curry” that the ex-backpacker had given me before crashing into bed.