mandag den 23. juli 2007

Thurssday Oct. 26 - Motorcycle Cops, Surfers, Falcons And Monkeys

Monkeys, Surfers, Kamikaze Pilots and An Annoyed Tourist.

On my way down for breakfast I meet Graeme, a British motorcyclist who has chosen to see Japan by train. The English-fix is home, and a man whose internet address starts with ‘Z13’ can’t be half bad to talk to. He’s had them since he was nineteen, he says. (For non-motorcyclists: The 1300 cc Kawasaki Z1300 is for motorcycles what psychopath boxer Mike Tyson is for The Noble Art of Self Defense). I tell him about the Iwashita Collection and a kamikaze museum further down on Kyushu, as it seems he’ll follow my tracks with some days’ delay. He for his part recommends I go see the part of Osaka, which apparently inspired Ridley Scott to make the movie Blade Runner the way he did.

And then on south, along the coast, five hours of stunningly beautiful road, snaking and curving its way up and down, with green hills to the right and The Pacific on its left. It just goes on. More and more types of palm trees, eventually cacti as well. I’ve run out of superlatives, so just take my word for that it is the most beautiful road I’ve ever ridden, save for a few select ones in the USA. Here and there I see surfer dudes and dudettes, easy to spot when yet another surfboard flies high in the air, while a wave knocks its owner under the surface.

Two motorcycle cops going the opposite direction impress me a great deal, first by how fast they turn and catch up with me. And then by one of them insisting he use my camera to take a picture of me and his colleague, for my vacation album. Actually I got all my documents out – doctor’s statement, copy of same, translation of same, passport, regular driver’s license, international driver’s license, insurance papers – so they had as many things as possibly to deal with. But as usual there are no problems, so I could have saved myself all the paranoia about this back home.

Dozens of falcons can be seen flying in the updraft from the ocean, and suddenly some monkeys run across the road. I stop to take pictures, but too late, as they are even more shy than Japan’s other primates. Then I take my lunch break at an old Shinto shrine, and walk hundreds of uneven stone steps down to the temple, complete with monks (or priests, f*** should I know) and a bunch of good luck charms etc. for sale. From the jungle next to the walkway there are all kinds of birds screaming, just like in a jungle movie.

Actually I don’t care all that much for temples and shrines, except maybe that I can appreciate their architectural qualities (and in this respect Kyushu does otherwise not impress much), but fortunately this place has a bit extra to offer: I follow the locals’ example by putting money in wooden boxes here and there, bow in front of the shrine and clap my hands twice, and eventually throw some rocks down into a hole in a large rock down by the ocean. The former helps fulfilling one’s wishes, and the latter puts the turbo on that first wish, and hey – you just try to prove that it does NOT work. On the other hand I was so intent on doing the ritual properly and hit the hole in the rock, that I clean forgot to actually make a wish, so in any case the money is wasted.

Five hours later, at the very bottom tip of the island, the road turns really narrow, winding it’s way up and up until – aaargh! – the outermost part has slid down into the ocean a couple of hundred meters below. I could easily tip-toe me and the Nimbus along on the remaining bit, but the roadblock is so effective, that anyone short of a mountain climber would have a hard time getting past. I hate backtracking, but since I now have enjoyed the sight over the ocean on the way up, the ride down is done to the pleasant sound of the forward foot pegs scraping in every turn. Along the way a falcon flies right over me, 5-6 meters up, with a dead rodent in its claws, and a bit later another bunch of monkeys cross the road ahead of me.

A couple of hours getting pleasantly lost on some very minor mountain roads, a regular road takes me to a ferry to Kagoshima, where I drive around for ¾ of an hour trying to locate a small hotel from the Lonely Planet guide. The hotel foyer smells like if a tomcat comes by regularly, its shoes of and on every time you enter or leave, but it is cheap, very Japanese interior with tamami mats and neon light, and thus has a bit more personality than many of the other ryokans – business hotels – I’ve stayed in so far. And like John Travolta says in ‘Pulp Fiction’; “Personality goes a long way”.

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