It still surprises me how many people are parked (and sleeping) at the michi-no-ekis (Road Station). I guess it is quite convenient (there are nice/clean bathrooms) and it is free. Though, it still feels weird to be parked in a carpark with so many other people sleeping there too.
It was a morning of seeing friends; firstly we went back to our friends place for a quick breakfast and to discuss places to visit along our journey, then Risa met up with an old high-school friend and his wife.
Today was a relatively easy driving day, so it we took our time and relaxed. The morning started quite overcast, but the clouds were starting to burn off as we approached Shiretoko (luckily). It was a nice drive, (roughly) following the coastline. It’s still summer vacation for Honshu residents (and it was Sunday for Hokkaido residents), so there was quite a lot of people travelling on the same road. It’s been quite impressive seeing the number of people touring on bicycles, I’ve spoken to a few people who are currently riding their way around Hokkaido (and I really feel for them every time we are driving into a fierce headwind).
Utoro is the access town for the west coast of Shiretoko, which is native Hokkaido people (Ainu) dialect for ‘end of the world’. It’s regarded as the most ‘wild’ place in Japan, and seeing as though half of the park is shut due to dangers of roaming bears, I’d say it’s pretty wild. Currently, there are two main attractions that are accessible to tourists (via the use of a shuttle bus); Shiretoko-go-ko (Shiretoko five lakes), of which three, four and five are shut due to bear activity, and Kamui-wakka-yu-no-taki (God’s water hot-water waterfall).
We popped into the tourist information center, grabbed a copy of the bus timetable, then realised we’d have to rush to make the next bus. We caught the shuttle bus (¥1180) first to the five lakes, then to the hot-water waterfall.
The five lakes were CROWDED! I knew that it was going to be (Sunday, summer vacation, etc etc), but I didn’t realise that it was going to be this crowded. We marched single file along the boardwalk, waiting in turn to take the same photos (the one of lake one is almost identical to the one that everyone takes…). It was pretty, but the fact that we had to rush (to make the next bus, and to stay ahead of the massive tour groups) really detracted from the beauty. Plus, the mountains had their heads in the clouds…
Next up, Kamuiwakka yunotaki. The five lakes are accessible to the public (though, you have to pay for parking), but Kamuiwakka yunotaki is only accessible by the shuttle bus. There is a man guarding the entrance! It’s a long/slow drive, but it’s beautiful. You could get a sense of the untouched wilderness out here. No powerlines! Shiretoko is famed for wildlife (deer/bears), and while we didn’t see any bears, we certainly had our fill of deer. They were everywhere! Grazing on the side of the road, walking on the road, chilling out in the forest.
Kamuiwakka was fun, you could take your shoes off, and walk up the waterfall towards the source of the hot-water (though, not all the way, as there is risk of falling rocks). Where we entered the water, it wasn’t that hot (though, it was obvious it wasn’t cold). As we walked further up the waterfall, it progressively became warmer. They say that at the source it’s about 70˚, but where we were allowed to walk to was about 30˚, which is still pretty amazing for a waterfall. There were quite a few pools that you were able to bathe in, however, the water is very acidic, and isn’t really great for your skin, so even though we had clothes that we could bathe in, we didn’t. Standing in it was enough for us (and the itchy/dry feeling afterwards reminded us how acidic it was).
Our friends in Abashiri had recommended a fish-n-chips shop in Utoro, so with the sights that were available to us finished with, we headed there for a snack. It was described to us as, “right next to Godzilla rock”, and for once, the rock really resembles Godzilla! I know I’m generally easily impressed, but I loved it! It’d be rad if sometimes they had fireworks/flames coming from his mouth… Anyway, the fish-n-chips shop was quite good, very satisfied. Though, as we still had food left over from last nights BBQ (my eyes are always bigger than my stomach), we headed to somewhere nice where we could watch the sun set, and enjoy our meal.
We’d considered driving to the east side of the peninsular to Rausu, where an ALT friend lives, but it was dark (and we were tired), so we gave in to the lures of the michi-no-eki, and slept amongst the sea of vans/RVs. At least most people here are quiet/respectful, so sleeping isn’t a problem.
今日は、知床観光！ 出発前に友達の家でシャワーを使わせてもらい、（Thanks June!!）朝食をすませ、いざ出発！の前に、高校時代の友人の小泉君と奥様とたぶん３、４年ぶりに再会！ ３０分ほどの予定が積もる話に花が咲き〜の気づけば1時間ほど話し込んでしまった☆ 楽しかったね！貴重な時間をありがとう☆
二時間ほどで到着。どんより曇り空も晴れていい感じの天気に♪ まずは、道の駅内にある案内所で情報収集。現在は、マイカー規制が行なわれている為、一般車が入れるのは、知床自然センターまで。そこから知床湖やカムイワッカの湯の滝へ行くにはシャトルバスが必要。そして熊出没や、落石の危険などなどで実際に歩けそうなのは、知床一、二湖とカムイワッカの湯の滝のみ。 ということで自然センターまで車を走らせ、駐車。チケットを購入し（往復１１８０円）シャトルバスに乗車。
４０分ほどで一、二湖を１周しカムイワッカの湯行きのシャトルバスへ。いつもながら知床の鹿の多さには、驚かされる。最初は、あ！鹿だ〜！！かわい〜！！ ってな感じだけど、すぐにもう あ、またいた。てな感じになる。ニュースでもやってたけど、世界遺産に登録されてからは、とくに個体数が増えすぎて貴重な草花や木も枯らし、殺してしまってなかなか頭を悩ませているラシイ。 本州の人達には、キツネも珍しいので突然車を止めてキツネだー！！！って大騒ぎしている。 ま、私も本州に行って桃が木になってるのを見たらすごい！！桃が木になってる〜！って大騒ぎするけどね。はは
カムイワッカの湯の滝は、思ったよりも大興奮！滝。なんだけど、本当に温泉がながれてるの！ 色は、黄色がかったオロナミンCみたいな色で、温度は、３０度くらい。強酸性らしい。たしかにちょっとペッとしてみると酸っぱかった。 クロックスのお陰でひょいひょい登れたけど、湯の滝登り足袋なるものが、どこかの売店で売っているらしくそれを履いている人もいた。おもしろい。 いくつか滝壺はあったけど、足をつけてるだけでも強酸性ってことでちょっとピリピリしたので、入浴は、しませんでした〜 落石の恐れってことで一、二の滝までしか行けなかったのが残念。五の滝は、７０度近い原泉が流れているんだって！