Bruised up and kicked in the guts...
OK so I left off from Sapporo but I did it before my last night which turned out fun. Met some travellers at the Guesthouse, Canadian girl and Japanese fella. So we ended up going for some food, now the Japanese guy spoke only very little English which resulted in a lot of pointing, diagraming and acting...well that's charades huh..so yeah pretty much charades. So this guy is REAL excited and is looking up all these places. We end up at a 90 minute bar/restaurant place, so the deal is you pay for your food but you can drink all you want in the 90 minutes for only 980 yen (currently 12.45 AUD!). So safe to say I got quite drunk (not just free beer, anything). I forgot that I was on anti- biotics for my lip and well when you have an all you can drink there is a sense of urgency to the matter. The food was cool, we got a lot of skewered meats etc and sauces. In the end from what I figured out the guy was from Nagasaki and was in the navy as a pilot for submarine detector airplanes. Oh! I was amazed that the universal rule of 3 seconds IS actually universal (well worldy) , he dropped food and picked it up quoting the rule, he was chuffed it was also the same in Australia (He had never met any foreigners before us).
So I head off to Niseko at 5am having 3 hours sleep in the snowing cold with all my bags...feel what I'm trying to convey here??! Luckily the subway is close, the trip goes smoothly and the new guesthouse I will be staying at will pick me up at the station. The guy that greets me is young with an awkward demeanor wearing a leg brace (I should of noticed this as a sign). Arriving at the house Bongo I am delighted at how picture perfect it all is, the house was built by the father of the family who run the place. Walking in I get more excited by the amazing landscape and mountain views from the window, with warmth and a hint of wood fire in the air I already feel relaxed.
Oh, on the way we stopped at 7-eleven to get myself provisions. I get like bread and jam and some snacks. So I head in and miss the chance to go snowboarding as they are just leaving, but I'm cool to chill as is so cosy feeling. I organize a snowboard and boots the next day and the Guesthouse guy lets me borrow his old pants,goggles and jacket. The other two guys staying are a Spaniard and a Canadian. The Canadian is going to same place and says he will give me a couple lessons etc. We get a lift to the Anappuri ski area by the mother which is great because I have no bearings on where to go. So we arrive, the Canadian sits me down gets me to clip on my board bum on ground (By the way never boarded ever in my life and ski'd once in shitty lake mountain cross country years ago) he proceeds to get me to try and stand and slide down whilst balancing in the like pose of a star jump only standing. Sounds easy huh?! Well I can't even get up halfway before I fall on my arse or jet off to the left (I know the reason why now). I am literally at the area where people just put on their gear and feeling kinda stupid already! The Canadian keeps saying just like your on your skateboard (I mentioned I skateboarded in the past to boast my considerable aptitude for balance sports). The Canadian wants to get on with things it seems and suggests that I would do better to learn up the slope where its less distance to fall (ie a bigger slope angle) and not as much ice. I feebly disagree and we take a gondala up the slope
OK so its been approximately 10 minutes if that. Now we are at the top and this is what greets me.
OK, so I hav'nt even been able to get up above my knees AND THIS IS WHAT GREETS ME!! (GET IT?!) I'm feeling a little un prepared for this, but the ONLY way down is off that what looks to be ...a cliff?!?
So I strap up at the edge and with encouraging words from the Canadian I go for gollllddddd annnd fall, and fall, and fall, and fall, basically... I am doing snow situps whilst sliding forward. The Canadian has already boarded to where the first platform for the open gondalas is far to the left and calling for me to come to him, so I ferociously do more snow sit ups not moving left nor right but just down. Finally he yells "are you going down?" To which I only have one real answer "Yeah!" like it was the plan I had all along deciding not to come over and meet him. So I'm getting hella tired and but I am making progress, I figure out that the foot you put your weight on is the way it will turn (hence why at start I would go left, back foot carries the weight and he was telling me like a skateboard!). So now I'm standing and can slide down star style, then I advance to what I call "leaf drifting in wind style" where star positioned you move side to side.
OK I'm about half way down (oh I tried one of the open lifts up but you have to keep on the board, think usual suspects walk when Kevin Spacey leaves the cop station, that is excactly it ..on snow...with a board on one foot, so you have to slide off right away and of course I fell and made a hell of a racket and decided that even snow situps is cooler than being tangled in the lifts), so I get cocky and start angling more and more forward then spin and slow down, works out pretty well. By the end I'm pretty chuffed with myself and glad I'm at the bottom. I wait for the Canadian as I assume he will meet me at the base and had probably gone up and down a few times already as my escapade took only a mere 2 HOURS!! Haha. At least the view when you fall is nice
So I wait for him for like an an hour wanting to show him my skills from just one trip down. Finally getting bored and thinking I'm just wasting time I decide I will just go up again, that was the last I saw of the Canadian. The second time down was great I stayed up most of the way and even went speeding around a difficult corner from the first time whilst facing the slope like a pro (so to put in perspective I took a half hour to get to the bottom). Because the second go was so good and the day was getting on, I decided to do a third go. Everything was fine but not as sweet as that second time but good enough until the very bottom where I had a wide expanse to me left and thought I would try going the hard side then stopping, well with the board moving ever faster and my difficulty in slowing down on that side. It ended in feet to sky, wrist to ground and with elbow to ribs...and it HURT!
I knew I'd hurt myself but not how bad untill later, as my primary and growing concern was, where was I and how do I get back to my warm cosy cottage!?!? I was still holding on to the hope that the Canadian was looking for me so I made myself visible at key points. You know, its ironic...the one time I want to be recognizable and my red jacket mixes in with all the other bright colours (makes sense if you read last entry)! It is dark now and everyone is leaving there is no foreign help desk place at all, I have no idea of the cottage address, have no phone or anything. I start contemplating walking (it would of been wrong choice) but I manage after a while mind you to find a bus timetable, but fortune does'nt come easy... it's in another language. I finally find a map with bus routes and some how piece together where I need to be and point to the place on my map to see if it stops there to the bus driver, he tells me no and my hearts drops. Looking at the map again I'm pretty sure that he does go past and it is dark and snowing so i try pointing again, he emphasizes no (the no movement seems to be the deal or no deal sign) and points like a half inch up the street. Bloody hell, I just want to get closer not be dropped off at the doorstep!!
Finally I arrive back at the driveway to the cottage. I envision everyone frantic with worry because I have not come back and most likely the Canadian has already (having to explain why he ditched me all alone ). This did not seem to be the case at all, to my disappointment as Yohei (the son and staff member if you will running the place) has friends over and is having a party for new years eve with some traditional Japanese moochi making, which is heated rice then put into a tree trunk with a bowl carved in the top and beaten with a big wooden hammer to a pulp. By the way I did'nt mention that the first night I helped bring up the trunk from a snowed over barn with a friend of Yohei's named Passion, he was more of a game show host than a person...it was one of the hardest things I have done in a while, it was some serious Rocky 4 training in the snowy woods stuff! I felt obliged as the son was injured from a ski accident (the sign earlier!). Well I drank and ate moochi, spoke with locals, got more drunk with the father communicating through music, he loves jazz and Bossa Nova.
I had a go of doing the hammer and the funny thing is that when I do something hard, you know like a karate chop I can say "hai"sometimes. So essentially I was yelling "Yes!Yes!" with each whack of the hammer, that's bad enough I know. But then they are all saying something to me so I recognised they were helping me out and giving me the right word to yell when i smack the rice, so I start yelling it with gusto which makes them all crack up and I laugh. Yohei comes over and I quickly as him what it means and he tells me "Sound with no meaning"! ha :p
I woke up at still dark early with REALLY SORE RIBS, complaining and grumbling I mope around and decide not to snowboard today. Drinks again and more moochi that night. I get hardly any sleep, I mention to staff on many occasions that I feel badly hurt and maybe have cracked/broken ribs. I'm met with blank stares and ahh OK's. I ask for English speaking doctors they say maybe in kutchan the next town but nothing else is done. I'm in the middle if nowhere and obviously not going to get any sympathy/help here. I still have one night and am not enjoying it at the place as the son is like having a guard in a two bedroom cell, he is obviously bored and will just sit in the room where I'd like to sit also but I would have to have awkward conversation. The place is new and he obviously is not sure if he's doing the right thing, there is no TV, no food, nothing really to do but lie on my bed in pain. So after some deliberation I realise it is quite early as I have not slept much and will just leave a day early. I say my goodbye and have to write a good thing about the guesthouse on paper and take a picture with the message held up (oh I forgot to mention that by the second day I had got a virus and was now erratically coughing which you could understand is not the ideal time when you have potentially cracked ribs). So I'm holding up this bogus writing of how great it is here because I just want to get the hell out. Finally I get a lift to the station say my goodbyes, but not without photo ops. I'm seriously sick in the snow on an outside platform with cracked ribs lugging around a full 75 litre backpack and two other bags, but things could be worse..I could be still at the guesthouse.
Finally after A LOT of pain I get to Sapporo and lugg the bags through the length of one large shopping mall to the taxis, I find where I have the address to the hostel but its in English and he does'nt know where to go. I look back toward the large shopping mall/major station and could feel the wall crumbling. Dutifully I trudge back. Now I have not been wearing the backpack, I can only lift it a little and kind of kick it forward till it hurts to much then rinse and repeat (oh, add in fits of coughing). I decide I cannot do it any longer so I see lockers and go to put in my bag, the cost is 700 yen, it only accepts 100yen coins...I have 6.
So again I trudge pretty much dragging it and coughing, I spy a little bit smaller locker and its 600 yen, I put it in and now without the backpack I can make better progress as I'm worried that the information desk will close and I'm not sure exactly where it is, quickly I store it and walk around the corner....there is the information centre...figures. So i proceed to the desk. Now I may of failed to explain the mask on faces thing in Japan. Yes it is for smog for some, but for a lot it can be for if they are sick and do not want to spread germ to potentially millions of people. So they are very germ aware and I have been getting dirty looks the whole way on trains etc and this lady is getting me at my worst just come from the cold and crouched over grimacing with weary no sleep eyes.
My first words are just a garble of mucas, I'm pretty sure she instinctivly took a step back. Anyhow by some awesome chance she had a brochure in Kanji for my hostel! So i get to the hostel finally, its about 8pm. I'm running on fumes and check in quickly, I explain my situation and why I am late and why I booked a day early. OMG I get sympathy and concern (The owners at this hostel have been great, I can't explain and is a great hostel too - INO'S Place in Sapporo), I mention doctors and she she has nearly already got me in emergency but I'm to tired and I need food then bed (feeling tired yet? I'm not finished). So i have to go up make the bed, unpack get dressed for snow again go out find food, decided pizza will be the easiest. Wait forever to get my pizza (ramen in no time, pizza like 40mins). I drop by the quickmart and get some cough lollies (I cough and point to my throat with the mentos flip movement). Eat then go to bed. People are in and out talking leaving the light on and generally being assholes, I try my cough lollies to find out it's gum. After an hour I mope down and ask if there are any single rooms, there is! So I change everything over, get into bed and finally sleep.
I'm now writing on the second day and trying to rest my ribs and get rid of the virus, I've shopped and got food and some what I think is pain killers and virus medicine and holed in for combat. So who knows where it goes from here, see if it repairs or not and I need to head back...
Oh, and lastly I am finally updating the "Culture Shock" entry with pictures, check em out.