Saturday, March 2, 2013

Erupting volcanoes and near collisions

The next morning, Elaine and I met her coworker Ryan, who rented a car since he has an international drivers license, and drove to Mt. Aso.

We picked up the car early in the morning and headed off.

The morning started off well. We started driving when suddenly Ryan calmly says, "That was almost a collision."

We laughed and he clarified, "It's a problem when the drivers coming in the other direction are looking you in the eye."

Luckily, we did not crash into anyone and we headed to the national park.

Mt. Aso is the largest active volcano in Japan and one of the largest in the world. It's inside one of the biggest calderas in the world (75 miles around).

You can drive up to the crater, which is constantly steaming and apparently occasionally erupts.

So, we drove up to the crater.

When we arrived at the base, the top part of the mountain was closed due to lack of air quality.

We were disappointed and hovered around inside the gift shop. After about 10 minutes, they opened the crater. So, we rushed up to the crater. It was emitting a lot of steam/smoke still, but apparently it was clear enough to approach.

We couldn't get really close to the the crater to see the inside, which is apparently very beautiful 

We walked  up the viewpoint, took lots of pictures, then started walking to the car.

That's when the alarm started and they told everyone to evacuate immediately because the air quality was getting worse, since the crater was emitting a lot of steam/smoke. There were a lot of people running, but we calmly walked to the car.

I remained calm, surprisingly, considering my fear of being on a volcano during an eruption...
 This sign points out that you can't go to the top if you have asthma. I have asthma but I didn't let that stop me. I'm a rebel.
 Notice how the smoke is pretty high...and gets larger as the pictures go on.

I'm wearing Elaine's awesome yellow jacket, since my were in the freezer being de-bedbugged.

My not so awesome hair picture.

My awesome hair picture.

My awesome hair picture closer up.

 Large smoke plume

Larger smoke plume, which did not cause me to have an asthma attack.

We headed down the mountain and decided to walk to the lakes that we could see from the street, which turned out to be more mud than lake.

 The mud was frozen, which was a surprise.

 The ice in the mud was pretty awesome looking though.

 Cuddly Dominion.

 We then headed to lunch, which was delicious as usual.
 This coke looked large, but fit into that tiny cup perfectly.

 We decided to drive around to various areas around the park, which is quite beautiful and large.

We found this field with hay animals and trains.

 And Kumamon, the mascot of Kumamoto. The national park was in Kumamoto Prefecture.

 We then went to a tunnel museum, which we expected just to be a tunnel, but was a tunnel filled with Christmas trees.

The Christmas trees were everywhere in the tunnel.

This seemed a bit weird, since it was February. They're worse than I am when it comes to removing Christmas decorations!

 If you notice, the child in the middle looks extremely annoyed about the picture being taken. Or exhausted.

 They had this fountain, which was really weird.

It was a constant stream of water, which somehow looked like the water was moving up. But, you could disrupt the water by touching it. I put a video here where you can kind of see how it is "moving upward."

After we finished at the tunnel museum, we decided to drive to a canyon nearby.

We had a GPS system, but followed to the signs to the main road, which was different than the way we came. It was a very windy road.

The mirrors that were supposed to guide us around corners were rusted and unclear.

We decided to turn around and go back the way we came when there was ice in the middle of a very curvy mountain road and half the road had collapsed during the mudslides in the summer.

There were drain pipes that were very small and then very large areas where the water had come rushing through and wiped out was very interesting how much more water there was than there normally is.

We then went to the canyon. It was around 5PM at this point, but it was still pretty beautiful. Apparently it's better during the Spring with the flowers and when the water is higher.

The water was SO clear!

They also had waterfalls, which were beautiful.

Here are my shoes, as close to the edge as I dared go.

I have no idea what this is.

The sturdy pathway we were walking on.

Notice that small white thing in the middle of the tree?

That would be toilet paper. Clearly a bird or large squirrel or something stole it from the nearby bathroom and hid it in the trees. There were 2 rolls in the trees...

We then returned to the same restaurant we'd eaten our first meal at in September, because it's so delicious.

I also decided I needed to buy a yellow jacket.

Raw horse again...yikes. But yummm

I woke up early in the morning and headed back to the airport, making it back to Seoul in time for my class.

Japan was warm.

Seoul looked like this when I landed...gray freezing and covered in snow.

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