Random Observation/Comment #87: Thank you, Chris’ dad, for convincing Chris to bring a head lamp on these escapades. Thank you, Chris, for lending it to me. Thank you, Clemens, for lighting the way for all your new friends. Thank you, newly- found friends, for allowing me to contribute in the penguin huddle. That was an unprecedented way for me to meet new people – freezing our asses off on a mountain.
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of a headlamp. One of my hands held a stick, while the other was used to balance myself on rocks. You’d be surprised how much less tired you’ll be if you alternate the stick-holding hand. The only thing annoying about the head lamp is the inability to look at the people you converse with. At first, your conversation will just put their hand up blocking the light like a vampire avoiding the equivalent levels of third degree burns, but sooner or later, they’ll just say “look at me again and I’ll knock you out with this rock.” As you could imagine, my bad “wandering-gaze” habit became quite useful in this situation.
Isn’t it just awkward to look into the eyes directly of the opposite sex and talk about any topic without breaking that animal bond every 3 seconds? I guess it would be even more awkward for the same sex. Yes, it shows I’m paying attention or not lying, but I get a little uneasy when the person starts staring at me during one of her monologues and licks her lips. Maybe she had dry lips? It makes me (the person paying attention) feel like she’s not even completely invested in her next words. Her distraction instigates my distraction. Get your mind out of the gutter, and finish a coherent sentence, please. To avoid this, I try not to keep more than 5 seconds of constant eye contact. I think I might be putting too much emphasis on what my body language conveys, but I know some people that would say I’m not looking into body language enough.
Anyway, the climb started quite enjoyably with a red moon in the cloudy sky. The city was lightly highlighted through the misty clouds. I stood at the edge of the path completely captivated by its beauty. This was an image only seen through paintings and pictures. I never imagined how much of a difference it would make to actually see the canvas before my eyes. I felt my artist-within smile.
We walked for 5 hours, stopping at every station for a special stamp. The walk started with a camping hike feel through a few woods, but soon transformed into a sandy terrain. The wind blew sand into my eyes and mouth, leaving this gritty, bitter taste in my mouth. I wound up spitting every few minutes and stopping to get sand out of my eyes.
The climb up the mountain follows a zig-zag formation, like a bad NES Donkey Kong map. Every upcoming station is always clearly visible from your current location on the mountain. At first, this view of that light in the cabin was my salvation, a sign of hope, which pushed me to climb a few more steps before stopping for a rest. However, after I was exhausted, the light in the sky was taunting me. No matter how many steps I climbed, those stations still seemed the same size. I felt time sluggishly pass, and I realized how much I missed being horizontal on my bed.
The climb from station 5 to station 8 to the peek sounds like there are 4 or 5 places to stop to rest. In reality, there are at least 20 stations to pass for bathroom breaks or resting stops before reaching the top. I know this because I bought a 200 yen stamp at every single one of these stations (which led me to spend $50 on a walking stick). The major stations provide sleeping arrangements if you pay for them, but I would rather use it for heating. That heating was essential to my survival.
The walks between stations are approximately 45 minutes long, which is about 45 times longer than I wanted to be away from the warm station rooms. It definitely didn’t help that I was wearing shorts. Some website said that shorts would be a good idea because the walk down would be so sunny that I would need multiple layers and applications of sun screen. The shorts may be a good idea on the walk down, but I couldn’t feel my legs for about 7 hours when I was walking to the top in pitch, black darkness. Those hours of numbness were probably really bad for my health. Oh, and if it rained and my socks got wet – wooo, it would have been over – loss of toes and fingers: Inevitable.
Luckily, I still have all of my limbs functioning properly. Aside from the entertaining talk with my new friends, I found this walk torturous. If you want the first-hand experience of a hobbit on a long journey to destroy the “one ring to rule them all,” then climbing Mt. Fuji is your cup of tea. The unlucky ones leave 3-feet tall with hairy feet.
To keep warm, huddle with your friends like penguins in the corner of a cabin. (Aside: Penguins are so smart and cute. I want to put one in my pocket. ) Most cabin stations will tell you to wait outside so you don’t disturb the tourists that sleep before they start their walk to the top at 2AM. But, if you look like gai-jin, you’ll be able to sneak your way in there for a minute of heavenly warmth. They’ll eventually yell at your with some slur of incomprehensible Japanese, in which case, you just point around and speak Spanish or something. After a while, I stopped feeling bad about this because I was so frozen that I would argue in any language to stay there for a few more minutes. If that didn’t work, I just pretended to buy something, like cup-o-noodles, so you can wait inside while the food cooks.
All of my pictures from this “stock market depression” of my life showed me with that same happy smile. I wish I set my camera to burst shots to show the completely numb faces I had before and after that one, 5 second window. Truthfully, the total of 2 minutes of posing for pictures in that 5 hour period was the only time I smiled until 3AM. It wasn’t until a little bit of light hit the horizon, did I actually change my facial expression to some grateful expression welcoming the sun. (By the way, use the walking stick as a tripod to take steady shots of the moon at night – it will probably come out dark and unnoticeable anyway).
~See Lemons Thankful for his limbs