Boiling Hells, landslides, typhoons and volcanoes


The luck that has held for so long – steering away typhoons, clearing landslides on roads and rail and keeping the weather sweet – finally ran out in the world’s largest volcanic crater/caldera.
We actually got to Mount Aso thanks to the single track branch line from Kumamoto being reopened.
The damage from last month’s storms, floods and landslides had been repaired so that trains could run but a lot more work was being done on the roads and rivers.
Our bus from Aso Station was able to run us up to a fantastic viewing point on the caldera’s northern rim.
The caldera – formed by 300,000 years of eruptions – is 128km in circumference and the Daikanbo Lookout a young shaver of a peak at 90,000 years old.
Looking back to the middle of the caldera we could see the five mountains of Aso – including Naka-dake, still smoking and active.
This was our target after the bus took us back via two magnificent shrines including the Aso-ninja where superb drinking water bubbles up from countless springs after filtering through the volcanic rocks.
We filled an empty water bottle for the journey ahead for free – eat your heart out Volvic.
However, back at the station we found that the cable car to the crater top was closed because fumes coming out were too toxic.
So it was back on the rattler to Kumamoto instead of ascending our very own Mount Doom.
We would make useless hobbits.
Back in Fukuoka it was a night for sitting at the counter of a basic indoor Yatai place and having a selection of Yakatori skewers with different kinds of meats grilled on them, chopped raw cabbage, rice and cold beer.
Today – our last full one on Kyushu island – we hope to catch some geothermal action after a 2 hour train trip to Beppu on the opposite coast.
Our target here is the cheerfully name Boiling Hells – hope they do postcards so I can send a few wish you were here’s.
These are hot springs pumping out 100million litres if hot water a day – hot stuff!
And they were too – all eight of them – just like Dante’s inferno.
Blue ones, white ones, red ones and mud ones – all coloured by the underlying mud or rocks.
As they emerged above ground the areas around them – apart from the regularly spouting geyser – had acquired an odd mix of facilities.
One had a collection of crocodiles, another an aquarium and yet another a mini-zoo of animals including an elephant, hippo, monkeys, peacocks, llamas and pink flamingoes.
Not sure about welfare issues, cage sizes etc. Will have to check.
The hot foot spas were amazingly refreshing after the walk and getting used to the heat.
Did not try the Onsen baths (naked and mixed or unmixed) or the mud or sand baths.
However, they use the boiling hit water and steam for everything from heating to cooking.
They even let you buy your own ingredients and cook your own meal.
I showed my culinary skills by cooking three hard-boiled eggs in the dream,
Even tried eating them with chopsticks – until Anna pointed out everyone else (all Japanese) were just picking them up and getting stuck in.
Starting to ‘Run For Home’ (as Lindisfarne used to sing) with the Shinkansen to Osaka en route to Tokyo Narita Airport.
Debating what to cram in over the weekend – apart from giving our pink Port Vale third choice tops at the Osaka Cerezo – the Flaming Pinks – home match on Saturday night.

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