9 days in…
Leaving Nagasaki behind us, we collected our Kyushu rail passes and boarded our first carriage, ready for 5 days of train hopping. Day 1, destination Beppu, famous for it’s Onsen – hot volcanic springs. It was a joy relaxing at 40°C; although there was of course the initial British awkwardness of being completely starkers before going in! Then a trip around the Jigoku (also known as the “hells” as they’re boiling pools of mud) and the public foot baths for refreshing your tired and achy feet after a hard day sightseeing.
Tearing ourselves away from the Onsen, we hopped back on the train to Miyazaki where I had the best bowl of Champon so far for dinner; it’s a type of Ramen dish (Japanese noodle soup), actually a speciality of Nagasaki but this was delicious! The next morning we explored the local park which had the curious Haniwa (used to decorate ancient tombs), before making our way back to the station for our next train.
By now, it wasn’t just the hot springs that were steaming, I was being driven mad by my bank. After getting a new account specifically for the trip (it didn’t have any charges for cash or payments abroad), I couldn’t get any cash out from the ATM, I was fuming! Turns out I wasn’t using the right cash machine. So top tip from me when abroad with a visa card, use this website to find your nearest cash machine or which bank’s cash machines you can use:
Back to the rail pass, next stop was Kirishima; a volcanic area. Reading the information about the area and realising it sounded just the place Mike would love, we decided to stay for 2 nights and fit in a bit of hiking. One of the volcanoes; Mt Shinmoedake erupted in 2011 and there’s a 2 km exclusion limit around it for hikers. Thankfully for Mike, Mt. Shinmoedake isn’t the highest peak, it’s Mt. Karakunidake. Our first full day in Kirishima was really wet, we got the bus up to the Ebino Highlands and after a walk round some of the crater filled lakes and looking like we’d gone for a swim rather than a walk, we retreated to our hostel and relaxed in the Onsen.
Our final day with the rail pass and we were greeted with lovely sunshine, after checking out the village shrine, we hopped on the bus back up into the hills. We were off to walk up Mt. Karakunidake (1700 m), as we were getting the train straight after we took our stuff, carefully repacked so we could stash one bag behind a tree at the bottom. We didn’t have the smooth start we hoped as I left my water bottle on the first bus, cue mini panic, would I have enough water for the day? Mike would be fine, as he barely drinks water when hiking, as Pinto will testify to! However the bus driver saved the day and drove to meet our next bus to give us the bottle back! It was a beautiful walk, we skirted round Onami pond (another crater lake) on the way up and the views from the top were amazing, such an improvement on the previous days weather!
After some carefully planned and timed bus and train connections it was back to the station for our final journey with the rail pass; destination Kagoshima and time for a couple of days relaxing in the city and planning our next adventure.