Article first published in October 2004's edition of JETFuel

 

Matt G. having fun during the shower climbing experience in Gifu

What a Weekend

(The pun1 is Tom’s fault…)

 

By Adčle Mariette and Tom Westley

 

<konbini2 staff member number one> eeeeh? Look – a gaijin3 in Hachiman!

<konbini staff member number two> arrrrgggghhh!  There are millions of them!

 

Well actually there were only about 20 of Fukui’s finest invading Gifu-ken for two days of watery madness, but you have to feel for the poor souls.

 

After stocking up on some much-needed food, the intrepid adventurers set off in hot pursuit of the Japanese guides, who seemed to be racing away at breakneck speed in a bid to lose so many foreigners.

 

Not put off by this show of speed, the seven gaijin-mobiles (a bit like the Pope-mobile, but with less acceleration and no bullet-proof glass) successfully made it to the Adventure Headquarters.  And this is where the fun really began. 

 

After a bit of hanging around, the adrenaline junkies did a bit more hanging around.  Soon it was time to kit up – an interesting experience where the Japanese organisers tried to squeeze gaijin feet into Japanese shoes, and stop Japanese helmets falling off gaijin heads. 

 

Once the gang were suitably attired, there was just enough time to fit in a bit more waiting before heading down to the rafts. 


After a brief safety demonstration (“migi = right”, “hidari = left”, “if you fall out, climb back in”, “on pain of death, don’t lose the paddle” and other such words of advice), the rafts were launched and the adventurers bobbed off into the distance.

 

Ichi-ni-ichi-ni4, chanted the cox, and several boats found themselves to be going round in circles….

 

Nonetheless, all the boats made it to the first set of rapids, and one at a time disappeared into the foam.  (Ok, ok, so it wasn’t that dramatic). 

 

For about two hours the boats paddled down the river, encountering increasingly more taxing rapids as they went, and throwing each other into the water at the calmer points.  Halfway through the crews pulled up onto a sandy bank for a break (or a fight in the shallows for some) before carrying on to the hardest rapids of all.

 

The excitement of splashing around in the river wasn’t enough for some.  Huge respect to the daredevils Mitch and Adam who jumped off rather a high bridge into the raging torrents!

 

The most difficult part of the whole experience came at the end of the course, when the rafts had to be carried up the bank and hauled on top of the waiting minibuses. 

 

This done, everyone was ready to head back to the promised BBQ and beer, but it soon became apparent that there was nowhere near enough room in the buses.  Piling people on top of each other inside the bus wasn’t enough, so the rest had to make do (ok, ok, so they rather enthusiastically volunteered) with sitting in the rafts – stacked two high - on the roof. 

 

Not soon enough, the adventurers (aka piss-heads) were downing beer and Chu-Hai5 like there was no tomorrow and enjoying a rather tasty BBQ.  Once the drinking games started, there was no going back – the only problem was that the revellers DID have to get back, to the campsite at any rate.

 

As phase one of “let’s get battered” was nearing a close the merry folk of Fukui all transcended space and time to arrive unscathed at the luxury cabin accommodation up in the mountains.  This is in fact an approximation of what actually happened as the parties involved were either too shit-scared or too shit-faced to remember the exact details in the morning.  The general consensus was that it involved the minibus (still with rafts attached), a narrow road with a drop into the abyss and a driver whose bodily fluids had been miraculously converted into 100% proof alcohol – hmmm.

 

By the look of people in the morning, phase two was also a success.  The rumours of an illicit rendezvous or two in the back of the now infamous minibus and of a certain Matt Gilhool re-joining the scouts may or may not be true, and will have to be substantiated at a later date – send pics to the next jet fuel!

 

<konbini staff member number one> Oh look - the gaijin are back…

<konbini staff member number two> arrrrgggghhh!  They have reverted to their true hideous form – look at their green, blue, black and purple skin!

 

Yes, that would be the hoards on a mega munchies mission, having been shoe-horned into wetsuits (with the aid of another beer or two) the next morning.  The reason for that particular choice of apparel, accessorised with a helmet and super-grip shoes, was that the majority of the clan were headed off to have a crack at “Shower Climbing”.

 

None of the participants really had a clue what was in store for them, but once the minibus was rumbling its way up the mountain there was no turning back.  The first challenge was to scramble down a bank from the road to the river.  Everyone reached the beautifully clear water intact and tentatively dipped limbs in to find it rather cold! The small river had obviously put a lot of effort into carving a steep walled valley out of the mountain, which the group duly noted (there was a murmured “ooh, it’s pretty here innit!”) before beginning to ascend, picking a path along the rocks until there was no dry land to cling to. 

 

A free-for-all ensued as the neoprene clad explorers frolicked in the first watery obstacle in their path – a pool with a fairly substantial waterfall feeding it.  Unfortunately this frolicking caused the biggest upset of the trip.  An evil slanting (and cunningly concealed) slab of Japan decided to attack Beth, fracturing her ankle and leaving her in a great deal of pain. 

 

The more subdued main body of people headed on upstream while Beth and one of the guides struggled back up the bank of the valley to the bus.  The daft appearance of the wetsuits was soon forgotten, and their thermal wonders exploited as the snake of survivors dipped in and out of the chilly water.  Pottering on up the gorge it was decided that the breathtaking scenery would be much prettier if it was viewed while whizzing past on a little bit of plastic.  As luck would have it, the guides seemed to be thinking the same as the mob and had lugged a big bag of little bits of plastic up with them.  Forming an orderly queue at the top of a particularly narrow stretch of rapids, one-by-one each member of the party sat on the arse-protector and ran the gauntlet of spiky rocks!

 

A little higher up, an invitingly deep and still pool coupled with an overhanging boulder on its edge could only mean one thing – a flying lesson.  Once all the bird wannabes had conceded defeat after trying their hardest to slip past Newton-san unnoticed, the real climbing began.

 

It seems strange that two or three metres of rock could hold up the crew for longer than any of the torrents before, but the slippery footholds of the cliff managed to cast some of the most determined climbers back into the pool below.  As the nimble and the lucky huddled together for warmth at the top, a rope was employed to haul the rest up to another natural waterslide.

 

While on the way up to the top of the last slide, Adam and Tom found that the flow of the river had created a natural whirlpool, and sat merrily circling with daft grins pinned to their faces – must have been too much fresh air!

 

A twisting track drew level with the river forming a convenient finishing point a little further up.  All that remained was a final trek back down the mountain to say goodbye to the fantastic staff from the rafting centre (and to bid farewell to the friendly bus), before hitting the winding roads to Izumi and the relative safety of the Shi6.

 

----

 

We would like to take this opportunity to say a huge and beastly “Thank you!” to Sarah and all those involved in arranging the trip – when are we going again?!

 

No konbini staff were injured (permanently) in the writing of this document.

 

 

1. What a weekend...Water Weekend (a-hem...yes...well...I didn't get it either...) 

2. Convenience store

3. non-Japanese person (slang for "gaikokujin")

4. "one-two-one-two"

5. a Japanese alco-pop

6. city

 

 

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