Camping with Anthony: Day 1

We started our camping trip last week, May 1st, heading out at about 11am for what should have been about a 3.5 hour drive. Unfortunately, there was some kind of parade that caused the road I happen to have taken to be intermittently closed, turning roads in eastern Kyoto into a parking lot. It took 20 minutes to go half a mile. Not a good start.

Having gotten past that, I thought things would be smooth sailing, but quickly ran into heavy traffic again. I took some side streets and eventually got through the city. What should have been 15 or 20 minutes had taken an hour, and the bulk of the trip lay before us.

At this point, just as we're starting to move freely – I kid you not – comes the first “Are we there yet?” from Anthony. It was not his last.

Once I got out of the city and onto the Kyoto Tanba Expressway, traffic was eerily light, and we made excellent time. Despite having stopped once to eat, we arrived to the campsite at about 3:30.

One thing that I noticed during the drive was that the price of gas was higher than it had been recently. Premium gas was running at $6.40/gallon, while it had been only $4.84 for much of the previous month. A “temporary” gas tax created in the 70s that had been extended ever since was allowed to expire last month in what as best I can tell was muscle-flexing by some minority politicians. Of course, in Japan as anywhere, the phrase “temporary tax” is a euphemism for “permanent tax that we're trying to slide in there under the radar” because once it's been levied, “temporary” or not, that income stream becomes a vested right in the eyes of the politician.

Anyway, I guess ruling party got around to reinstating the tax, and thus the price of gas went up just in time for Golden Week, perhaps the busiest travel week of the year.

So, we arrived at the Kotobikihama Kakezuki Campground and looked for a spot.

We'll Put the Tent Here -- Kotobikihama, Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl,
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR @ 32 mm — 1/160 sec, f/4, ISO 500 — map & image datanearby photos
We'll Put the Tent Here

I had bought the tent the day before, so lugged it from the car and opened it up the first time where I intended to erect it. It was huge. Some of the poles, when put together, were 17.5 feet long. It turns out that the spot I picked was just large enough for the tent, but didn't really allow enough room around the tent for me to put it up. It was a challenge, to say the least.

I was also shocked at how much pollen came off the pine trees if you brushed against them. Huge clouds of yellow erupted with every little movement, quickly coating everything in a layer of yellow dust. And as I found out later, the “yellow dust” was not the least bit water soluble, which made for an even bigger mess when it got wet. At least neither of us were allergic.

Checking Out the Inside -- Kotobikihama, Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl,
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR @ 32 mm — 1/30 sec, f/4.2, ISO 500 — map & image datanearby photos
Checking Out the Inside

My only prior experience with camping is a couple of two-week long trips 15 or so years ago, bringing a tent and whatever else I could carry on my small motorcycle (a Honda CBR250RR), riding around the back roads of Honshu (Japan's main island). I would be sure to stop by a convenience store each afternoon to pick up dinner, then ride into the mountains and find an old overgrown access road (there are plenty left over from the copious dam construction that permeates Japan), and take that further into the wilderness. I'd try to find a flat spot, and set up camp for the evening.

The campground for the current trip was much less “wild”. It cost $30/night (plus $10/day for parking, so a one-night stay is $50!), but they provide bathrooms, cold running water, a place to dispose of trash, and vending machines with cold drinks. There's no hot shower, but one can be had by making a 10-minute walk down to the neighboring beach, to what amounts to a stand-alone coin-operated shower standing at the edge of a big parking lot, with the size, shape, and general décor of a porta potty.

All in all, not very rough.

So after having set up the tent, Anthony and I took a short drive to the nearest town to find a convenience store, and on the way back as we passed the porta-potty showers, we came over a rise and was greeted with what turned out to be the nicest sunset of the whole trip.

Sunset, Day 1 -- Kotobikihama, Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl,
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR @ 170 mm — 1/100 sec, f/5.6, ISO 500 — map & image datanearby photos
Sunset, Day 1

As it came into view, even five-year-old Anthony exclaimed “wow.” It wasn't particularly spectacular – no huge fireworks of color – but it was nice and a wonderful subtle color permeated the scene.

After returning to our tent, we set up our chairs next to each other and had our first camping meal together, a not-very-good convenience-store bento (boxed lunch). I then pulled out my tripod and took the shot shown at the top of previous post.

We went to bed soon after...

Continued here...

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