Hokkaido Summer 2011: Shikotsuko

October 22, 2011 - Shikotsu Kohan, Japan

Our final destination on the summer trip lay on the other side of Hokkaido from the Akan National Park and we were prepared for a long and ardous drive across the island.  In reality it turned out to be quite a fun drive and didn't feel as long as we'd anticipated it would.  The only part that wasn't fun was once we got out of all the stunning natural scenery and found that our sat nav had routed us right through the centre of Chitose (the town where Sapporo airport is located).  It was busy and concrete and highly unenjoyable, especially as we'd covered many many kilometres that day and just had a few more to go until we got to the campsite.  It also started to rain just as we got through the worst of the traffic.

We arrived at the campsite which was right next to the lake and it was grey and drizzling.  We couldn't even see the lake it was so misty.  Luckily the cooking areas were big and covered, so we got the tent up quickly and hung out in the cooking hut.  We headed up to the village, which just consisted of a very nice tourist information centre with great displays about local wildlife and geography and films about the area playing in a cinema room, and a few tourist shops and hotels.

The plan had been to have some chill out time at Shikotsuko before our summer adventure was over and we hadn't really thought about what there was to do in the area.  With bad weather we realised there wasn't much to do and we'd have to make our own entertainment.  We discivered that there were no shops close by, not even a convenience store and we'd have to go back to Chitose if we wanted to do any food shopping.  Luckily we still had bits and pieces left and there was a small shop selling pasta and basic stuff at the campsite.  So we had an uneventful afternoon and evening and hoped for better weather the next day.

We woke up to a better day and realised just how beautiful the lake was.  We headed back to the tourist info place and Ed spotted a go karting track on the information stand.  He convinced me it would be fun and so we headed into Chitose to find it.  When we arrived there was a big group of guys karting and they were really fast and aggressive and I chickened out.  I thought I'd hate it but encouraged Ed to go for it anyway.  He had to wait quite a long time for that group to finish and he got his turn with some families who were much slower and I suddenly thought it looked quite fun and maybe I should've tried it after all - but it was too late and Ed had fun without me.

We'd also picked up a leaflet for an onsen by the lake which looked really beautiful so we headed there.  We went in and I was a bit disappointed as it was quite expensive and was just an old and fairly small indoor bath.  I thought it was strange so I went out and asked the guy at the desk and he told me to go to the end of the car park and I'd find the outdoor onsen.  It was really pretty and right by the lake with great views across it but afterwards I didn't feel all that clean.  Ed hadn't discovered the outdoor bit and was a bit fed up when he came out having only been to the crappy indoor bit.

We spent the rest of the day relaxing, cooking, eating and drinking and enjoying our last night in the tent.

We packed up in the morning and headed out in the car to the most famous spot in the area which was a mossy gorge with many different types of moss and stuff.  It was nice enough but I guess if you're not a moss enthusiast they all look kind of the same.  It was a nice short walk through the forest to get there though an not an unpleasant way to spend the morning.  We went on to the area near the tourist info centre where there was a park with nice views of the lake andas it was a hot and sunny day we relaxed in the shade and enjoyed our last few hours of holiday.

We decided to give the onsen thing one last shot - hoping for a truly great Hokkaido onsen experience.  The one we went to this time was part of a hotel and again advertised indoor and outdoor baths.  It was a lot plusher than the previous one we visited and the indoor baths were beautiful.  The outdoor bath was also very nice with views of the lake, but the water was very hot and I couldn't stay in long.  I was going to just go back to the indoor bath when I noticed a door and corridor leading off so I followed it down a rickety wooden passageway for a good five minutes and it took me down to a really perfect lakeside bath, with much cooler water (still warm and relaxing without turning my skin bright red!) and the natural feeling that the well manicured outdoor bath I'd just been to lacked.  I was really happy I'd found it as it was a great last onsen memory for the trip.

We didn't have a lot of time after that and decided to drop by the campsite on our way out to leave the cans of gas and the barbeque that we had no use for and couldn't really take back to Tokyo with us.  I got such a shock when I went back there - it had transformed from a quiet midweek campsite with maybe 10-15 tents to a city of tents which looked more crushed and crammed than your average music festival campsite.  Tents were literally overlapping there were so many people there - it looked so unpleasant and I was so so glad that we hadn't decided to stay that one more night as it would have been a miserable end to a trip that was all about peace and quiet and escaping the city.

We headed to the airport and sadly handed back the keys to our little car that we'd grown to love over the last 2 weeks and strted looking forward to a night in a real bed...

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