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The Daily Mumble August 2002 Archive
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August 2002 Highlights:  solo night volcano climb, You know you've been in one place too long when..., drag queens , hot air ballooning, the Rat Race, eplilepsy and I: update, a Wednesday Mumble, "White Water" rafting, the ultimate Big Boy's Toy, Republic of Potato...

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Thursday 1st August 2002 - 20:35(GMT+9) Niseko, Japan

I was hoping to give the August edition of The Daily Mumble a kick start, with a great story of a victorious expedition to the peak of the island of Hokkaido. Funny how things never quite go to plan...

Click here for a web gallery of Niseko that I put together for Niseko Tourist Information Association

Yotei San (Mt. Yotei) stands tall and proud in the south-western corner of Hokkaido, begging to be climbed. With but four weeks left in Japan, yesterday I decided that the time had come to conquer it's lofty heights.

My boss told me that most people climb 9/10ths of the way up in the early evening (usually setting out at 7pm), sleep in the mountain hut from 11pm to 3am, and then get up in order to reach the summit for the 4am sunrise.

So it was that a little later than scheduled (10.30pm) I set out, alone, with a small torch (flashlight), plenty of chocolate and three litres of bottled water.

I've never been so scared in my life! With most of Yotei San being coated in a dense forest, there was no natural light. It was very quiet too, except for the constant breaking of twigs by the monsters that were ceaselessly creeping up on me from all directions. At one point I got very scared and tried to phone my girlfriend for comfort and reassurance - alas! There was no signal!

The path that I took must have been marked out many years ago, before the invention of the zigzag. It was so steep, and literally followed a straight course from the bottom to the top. After two-and-a-half hours of non-stop climbing, I finally broke out into the open scrubland. Boy was I glad to have survived the forest - perhaps the monsters were put off eating me by the stink of the sweat that had been gushing from my every pore.

It was 1.15am when I reached the mountain hut. Having checked in and payed my 800yen, I stripped off my sodden clothes and settled down to grab 90 minutes shut-eye in my cosy sleeping bag, with the zip that doesn't do up, it was definitely not like staying in a blackpool hotel but you take what you can get.

Two cold hours later I forced my legs back to work, and set out on the final hike to the summit, which I reached within 25 minutes.

The view was... misty. Foggy. Couldn't see a damn thing! Hhhmm. What does one do having reached the top of a volcano? Walk around the crator I guess - so that's just what did. It was pretty treacherous going. The rim was very narrow in places, with a drop on either side that could easily be classed as lethal. As I made my way around to the East, so the cloud began to lift, offering a brief view of the lake in the crator to my left, and the western coast of Hokkaido to my right (apparantly). It was during this brief spell of "good" weather that I took a couple of photos:

The big white spot isn't the moon.
It's rain on the lens
Me looking victorious...
("Where's the cable-car down?")

Shortly after these photos were taken the weather really took a turn for the worse, with the wind picking up and rain simply pouring down. As I continued to circumnavigate the top in a bid to find my way down, I was shocked to come across a party of 12-year-old children being forced onward by some mad grandad. He reminded me of my father when I was a child, "never let the elements beat you!" A couple of minutes later I found the other half of his group sheltering behind a large rock and shouting across the crator, telling him that they refused to go any further. I hope that they made it down safely. (I'm not saying that my dad ever did that sort of thing with his children when he was teaching. He left that sort of thing for the family holiday).

It was 4.30am when I finally turned my back on the crator and began my descent. I felt like I was wearing a wetsuit. Initially I took it very slowly, but after 30 minutes I gave up on caution and began to hop, skip and jump down the trail. I made record time, completing the 10 stages in just over 90 minutes, as opposed to the three hours as stated in the guide books. The mud was so thick towards the base, but I took great pleasure in squelching around in it all as I was already so wet and dirty.

Boy was I glad when I reached a tarmac road! A further 40 minutes of walking along that brought me to a local railway station, from where I planned to take the next train to Niseko. It was whilst I sat in the waiting room that I got talking to a very friendly old lady, who could hardly believe that I'd just got back from the peak of Yotei. It wasn't long before she and her son had brewed up a nice pot of tea, which they served along with bread, cakes and rice.

Being typically Japanese, they then brought me home. Boy was I glad to step into a nice hot bath.

That's the last time that I climb a volcano without checking the weather forcast first!

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Thursday 1st August 2002 - 20:55(GMT+9) Niseko, Japan

I'm really glad that I've managed to stay in touch with all-but-one of the folks who were in my class at school (all eight of them that is!).

Marc Cove is currently in Canada, and has been sending me regular updates on the various adventures that he's been having whilst working with Frontier's Foundation. The change in his spirits since he went out there last month is quite remarkable, and I hope that he continues to enjoy and learn from the bizarre situations that he finds himself in.

Billy Salisbury, who's been based in Singapore for the last couple of years is another regular correspondant. Only last week he sent me a link to his latest photo album, featuring pics taken on his trip around Cambodia. I really enjoyed them - it's not often that I look through a whole album of over 100 photos online, but I couldn't help it!

I always smile at how much Billy reminds me of myself. Sometimes I feel like it's me who writes the emails that he sends! Billy's photos can be found at . His main homepage can be found at

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Saturday 3rd August 2002 - 14:10(GMT+9) Niseko, Japan

Learning a new language is a funny old business. Today I discovered that the Japanese word "kanazuchi", meaning "hammer" also means "non-swimmer". hhmm. I can see the connection...

I'm going to see Moby in Milan in November. Now that Kae (my girlfriend) has managed to get an apartment for us there I should definately be stationed in the city for a couple of months this autumn.

I am REALLY looking forward to being there (but I am living for today as well, honest!!!)

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Sunday 4th August 2002 - 13:42(GMT+9) Niseko, Japan

You know you've been in one place too long when...

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Saturday 10th August 2002 - 14:09(GMT+9) Niseko, Japan

As you may have noticed, my little sister is getting married soon (21st September).

The wedding will be a fairly small affair, so I thought it would be nice to create an online album featuring all the photos and gossip from the big day, so that others can join in with the celebrations.

And then I had another idea.

I'd like to gather messages from Jessie and Danny's friends and relatives around the world, and include them in the site. That way, it would become a gift from many people to two people - a gift that will never fade.

If you know Jessie or Danny, please visit and help me out. It won't take much of your time but it will mean a lot to Jessie and Danny.

The website will remain online for quite a long time, so you will able to see all the photos, and messages from other well wishers.

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Sunday 11th August 2002 - 23:05(GMT+9) Niseko, Japan

We had 60 university students stay this week for 3 nights. Chaos! Still, we kept on smiling as we knew that their bill would top £5,700!

They partied hard every night, consuming over £1500 worth of beer and snacks. It took me 6 trips today in the Milky House power shovel (mini digger thing) to take the rubbish to the collection point 30 seconds down the road today. I haven't slept much as the main drinking-game room is right next to mine - they only passed out at about 5am.

Although we'd provided enough futons and beds for them all, in the mornings we'd find bodies everywhere - a few of them even chose to take over the loft!

Last night, the first year lads had to put on a performance for the others. It's remarkable how feminine Japanese men are...

Heah honey...

At first glance I was fooled. I think (s)he's pretty cute. There's more like him/her in my photo album.

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Thursday 15th August 2002 - 13:32(GMT+9) Niseko, Japan

Ever since I was a wee toddler I've wanted to go up in a hot air balloon - yesterday my dream came true.

Daisuke (friend and colleague) and I were up at 6am for the launch. Our destination was 200 km East - conditions were perfect with a light breeze and a sunny outlook.

"We're going up there"
"Up there?"

Our initial anxiety soon dispersed once we took off, despite Daisuke's hair almost melting under the heat of the burner.

It was only when we'd risen 40 metres that we realised that we'd forgotten the knife.

Oh well, no trip East then. It was kind of lucky actually as I then remembered that I was due to start work at 7am.

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Thursday 15th August 2002 - 15:02(GMT+9) Niseko, Japan

Have you heard what I think about the Rat Race? Click here for more...

Participation is purely optional you know...

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Friday 16th August 2002 - 13:29(GMT+9) Niseko, Japan

13 days...

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Friday 16th August 2002 - 13:43(GMT+9) Niseko, Japan

It's now eight years since I first took medication for epilepsy.

It changed my life forever; the horrendous side effects resulted in me undergoing a complete personality change for a couple of months. I left college half way through my first-year exams as a result of that and generally felt angry with everyone and everything.

Eight years ago I had to take 2g of Epilim (Sodium Valproate) every morning. If I failed to do so there was a much greater chance that I'd have a seizure. Since then, I've gradually cut back, and finally, last week when lowering my daily dosage from 500mg to 200mg, I reached a goal I've been aiming for for a long time.

Have I still got epilepsy? I don't know. I don't think I have actually, but I'm not ready to quit the drugs yet. Maybe when I've settled down with Kaechan in Tokyo again, maybe then I'll quit.

Still, I feel really good to have reached this point in dealing with what was at first seemed to be a huge obstacle in life, but turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

There's more about how Epilepsy changed my life in About the Tame: Epilepsy & I.

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Wednesday 21st August 2002 - 22:43(GMT+9) Niseko, Japan

Until this morning it had been a 7am/7.30am start for me every single day since July 31st (due to the Japanese holiday season), so today I really enjoyed my lie-in. It's probably the last one I'll have at Milky House - I leave for Italy via Tokyo next Thursday.

Today saw that change occur in my thinking and feeling. The change that always happens shortly before you leave a place that has been your home for a while. I no longer "live here". No, now I'm "leaving here". My mind has begun its journey, eight days ahead of my physical body.

I brought the change about myself, by removing the large sheets of paper covered in Japanese words from the walls, folding them up and putting them with my other valubles ready to be packed.

I phoned NTT DoCoMo to find out how to cancel my mobile phone contract. I asked my friend to contact my ISP to do the same there. I've begun to copy my hours of this summer's Audio Diaries from MD to CD for longevity, and decided which envelopes to take with me and which to leave here. Sorting one's collection of different sized envelopes is an important part of leaving home.

My journey back to the UK will be broken into three parts.

The first is the getting from here to Tokyo (see my maps). I've ruled out public transport due to the prohibitive cost. Instead, I'm going to hitch-hike. I'll leave here on August 29th - my flight departs from Tokyo on the 2nd of September. That gives me about 4 days to get down their.

The second leg of the journey is Tokyo to Roma via Taipei. I didn't know where Taipei was until yesterday when I searched the internet and discovered that it's in northern Taiwan, which is off the coast of mainland China south-west of Japan. From Roma I'll take a train to Milano, where I'll stay with Kae for about 11 days.

The third leg of the journey is Milano to London with Kae on September 14th - then by car from London to Hereford.

You have no idea how much I'm looking forward to seeing my girlfriend again. I always thought that long-distance relationships must be tough - I've been so lonely these past 4 months and I mean to never do it again. On average we have spoken every other day. The mobile phone is a fantastic invention, yet on the other hand it's so frustrating. Some messages just can't be got across with words alone.

I'm nervous about seeing Kae again. She's nervous about seeing me. There's always the chance that we won't work together - we have both changed quite a bit this summer... it's been difficult. Nervous and excited. The power of Loneliness should never be underestimated.

hhhmm, I'd better go to bed. We've got a bunch of 15-year-olds staying tonight. Breakfast's served at 7am so it's a 6.20am start for me. I'm tired. I want to sleep. I love sleep. These days it's my best friend. Well, actually, perhaps my best friend is my red sleeping bag. I'm thirsty though. All I've got in my room is rice-wine. I can't hack alcohol these days.

I must tell you about the rafting - it was great fun. Oh, and then there's that helicopter photo... I've had enough of html and all that today. I spent three hours this morning entering the file names of photos into the random-photo javascript file, you know, that photo that changes everytime you go to .

This really is all a mumble.

Oyasumi (Good night).

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Thursday 22nd August 2002 - 13:02(GMT+9) Niseko, Japan

It were a right laff!

Regular subscribers to The Daily Mumble will remember that I went rafting back in early July, having consumed a large quantity of alcohol.

Tuesday saw me back on the river, this time completely sober, and with friends to make it all the more fun. Opposite me at the front is Daisuke, my partner in Milky-House-cleaning, and the chap being hit in the face by my paddle is the owner's son. Our guide sitting at the back is Yohei, who I know pretty well as he was our dishwasher for a couple of weeks earlier this month. He's much better at steering a boat than he is at dishwashing.

Thanks to the typhoon that parked itself over Niseko, the river was pretty high to match our spirits. In our group there were four boats meaning that all of those childish "how wet can you get the others" games were played to exhaustion. I'd borrowed a waterproof digicam from a friend, although unfortunately the battery packed up 10 minutes down stream. Still, I did manage to take one shot just after I was thrown into the river by Yohei for being too noisy.

The biscuits were good once we got back to base. Tea was a bit cheap though. Scott (the founder/owner/manager of Scott Adventure Services or "SAS") tried to persuade me to return to Hokkaido in the winter to do some work on his website. No thanks. Nothing will keep me away from my girlfriend! Anyhow, I've heard enough stories about his style of (mis)management to know when to run the other way.

There's a few more photos in my August 2002 album.

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Thursday 22nd August 2002 - 13:35(GMT+9) Niseko, Japan

I have every intention of becoming fluent in Japanese over the next five years.

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Thursday 22nd August 2002 - 13:36(GMT+9) Niseko, Japan

The Ultimate Big Boys Toy. The Ultimate Crop Sprayer. I want one.

(The fact that I haven't got any crops to spray is beside the point. I want one.)

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Thursday 22nd August 2002 - 14:30(GMT+9) Niseko, Japan

Looking at a large map of this area on a billboard yesterday I discovered that I've been living in the Republic of Potato for the past 4 months without even knowing it. It's marked as literally being right beside Milky House.

Does that mean that potatoes are allowed to vote or what?

Potatoes Unite

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Friday 23rd August 2002 - 13:35(GMT+9) Niseko, Japan

I'm going offline for a couple of weeks now, as I make my way to the UK via Italy. Bye bye.

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The Daily Mumble August 2002 Archive

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