徳島冒険:一本乗りと滝 – Tokushima Adventure: Log Riding & Waterfalls

Way back in February, at the JET Mid Year Conference, was a guy who came to speak.  He talked a bit about his time in Japan and also talked about a number of the things he had done in his 20+ years over here.  One of the items in his slide show was a log riding activity that he did every year.  It looked to me like quite an interesting experience so I followed up with him after the presentation to get his contact details.  Fast forward to the summer, and Saad, Ryan and myself were cruising down toward the rural hamlet of Naka.

As with any proper road trip, we got ourselves in the right mindset by grabbing breakfast at the McDonald’s before getting underway.  The drive was only 100 kilometers, but as our route took us over and through some incredible mountains.  The roads were slow and indirect.  We had to snake up and down some insane topography on narrow roads that convoluted enough to make us feel ill.  My trying to careen though this track as fast as possible was indeed not helping.  Portions of the drive though were among the most beautiful sights I ever seen, and certainly the finest road I ever coursed in Japan (perhaps second only the Taroko Gorge in Taiwan).

So many folds of earth.  No camera could ever do this view justice
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We carried on along this crazy road a bit further, and about a half hour from our destination we saw some incredible step falls.  There was a beautiful view out over over a rocky gorge.  With the sun shining brightly, one of the things captivating us so was the crystal clear water cascading and pooling.  Desperate to get ourselves over there, we scanned and then found a path leading to a picnic spot with a nice view.  This still wasn’t good enough, so we shuffled down the hill to where we could enter the water.

These main falls were dwarfed by perspective, and the pools were behind

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We were amazed at what was before us.  The way the rocks had been carved out reminded me so much of swimming in the wadis in Oman.  We first of all couldn’t believe that such a place existed here, and then rued having not known about it sooner.  Well, we were here now and for just a limited time.  We had left an hour earlier than necessary, giving us some time to play.

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There was one particularly large pool of the refreshing water, so we all jumped in.  At the back of the pool was an eave where water streamed from the lip and trickled down into the main basin.  Just around the corner was a decent waterfall crashing down from above.  We were able to slip behind the flow of the water which was quite unique, it isn’t often you can sit behind a water fall.

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As we moved from one area to another, we found a great place where we would be able to do some jumping into the pools.  It was probably only about 5 or 6 meters high, but the area we had to hit with our landing was narrow.  Having checked the depth of it beforehand, Ryan and Saad were the first to go.  Then of course, myself.  I’ve jumped from higher places, but it was still a bit of a rush and excellent for a part of the trip that was completely unplanned.

Some driving, some jumping, and just a bit of log action

There was another pool that looked incredible, but there was no easy way to climb back up from there.  While it would be a great jump, indeed it would be a one way path.  We decided that we had to get going  if we were going to make it on time to our final destination.  I was really hoping to jump of the main falls, which would have been at least 50 feet but we reasoned that we could catch it on the way back home.  Unfortunately by the end of the day, the sun had left us and the air cooled, so we just decided to drive past them.

After some more scenic driving, we arrived at the town of Naka, where we navigated down to the riverbed and met Mark, the guy who spoke at our conference.  We had to pay 1000 yen for insurance but that was no bother, and once we had our equipment sorted we were good to go.  Mark gave us a bit of an explanation but generally I would say that this was a trial and error scenario.  There was a lot of error.

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This town has a long history of logging and before the river was dammed, the logs would be floated all the way down to Tokushima City.  These had to be guided down the river of course, and this was done by people simply standing atop the logs and using a bamboo pole for balance.  The pole was not use as in tightrope walking, but rather to spank the water which offered balance to the rider.  As simple as it sounded, these logs were not large and spun easily beneath our feet.

Good photo, considering I fell off almost immediately

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Along with about 50 other people, we spent two hours in the intermittent rain trying to get this to work.  Saad’s interest in surfing perhaps played into his marginally superior balance, but really we were all terrible.  We walked down to where the rapids were to see the best people conquering them.  Now that we could appreciate how difficult it is to stand upon these logs at all, we were all very impressed at these old men.  In the video I took Mark fell, but he had made it other times.

After a bit, we were all logged out and decided to take a break.  The guys there were quick to offer us some beers and spuds.  Both tasted fantastic.  They were also prepping everyone some food, which on this day was udon.  Normally I wouldn’t be too excited about this noodle dish since it is a Kagawa staple I’ve eaten far too much of, but on this occasion they were adding all sorts of toppings that I was excited to try out.  They added some shredded plants, and another call myouga, which had quite a strong taste.  The completed dish came out earthy, and definitely not as good as just the noodles and broth alone would have been.

Watermelon too!  Who even pays for all this?  I love Japan.

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We thanked our hosts and concluded our day by winding back the way we came.  This day trip was everything we were hoping for and more, and it was great that we were able to fit it in just before we left.  What I will miss about Japan especially are all these opportunities to do random things, activities that I would never be able to do at home.  I am sure that wherever I wind up, I am going to make better use of my free time than I ever did before living here.  Life is too short to sleep in and sit around the house; there are logs to be ridden and cliffs to be jumped out there waiting, somewhere.

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