Sunday, April 19, 2015

Teshikaga/Kushiro: 28th Feb 2015

We woke up not because of the alarm clock, but due to hearing the strong howling wind outside our windows and yes, everywhere was heavy snow. Snowstorm was still continuing strong. It was the first time I thought snow could be a danger. Mostly because in Singapore, we do not experience snow and we find snow to be a beautiful season. Of course it is, but too much of something always bring along danger!

We packed up and quickly checked out. Today, Takashi-san was not there to receive us. Instead, his colleague, whom I had forgotten her name, met up at the lobby. The vehicle she came by to pick us was not as big as previous days. But Takashi-san told us that she is a professional driver.

We struggled moving our luggage to the van as the snow had reached to our kneecap level. Praying for the best, we steadily moved ourselves and our barangs up the van.. Hoping to set off. But, something happened! The van could not move or budge at all due to the heavy snow. This lady driver could only speak Japanese and minimal English. In fact, I was trying my best to understand what she meant whenever she said something. I could see she was also frustrated with the snow. We helped her out by shoving the ice beneath the wheels away..and some of the guys helped to push the van. It was a real challenge!

Finally, we got some help from the hotel too. I remembered we spent 1.5hours just in the snow, hoping to move the van. At the end when we finally reached the main road where snow level is much lower, our van could finally move and we were all elated with joy! Initially, we planned to visit Lake Kussharo again but with the weather like that, it was impossible. So, to avoid any delays in boarding our plane, we decided to make our way to Kushiro Airport.

I must say this lady driver is indeed a professional, not just in driving, but also in wild-life spotting! She told us not to worry, we should reach Kushiro Airport on time. She even tried to suggest some places we could visit as it was still very early. But, this worrisome bunch of Singaporeans cant wait to reach the airport haha..

Along the way, she suddenly drove to a small road and told us to get down but keep quiet. Initially, I wasnt sure what she meant and what was the purpose. Then, she mentioned owl in japanese.. I was surprised and stunned as she pointed out Ural Owls resting in the tree holes at a protected area. This was simply an unexpected discovery! Although the slope to reach the area was quite steep, we managed our way and took many photos of this beautiful Ural Owl. What luck!!

After that, we made our way back to the van and then, our female driver spotted another young Sika deer along the roadside. None of us spotted the deer. And I felt the deer was giving us a smile to say Sayonara just before we left Hokkaido! I would never forget this scene!

As there was still time and we were appraoching Kushiro Airport, I made a suggestion to have a brief stop at Kushiro Washo market for some seafood quick brunch! Since all of us did not have any breakfast earlier on.. In Kushiro, the main attraction is really this market, which offers the best seafood as compared to Sapporo and other parts of Hokkaido. It works in a way, you buy a bowl of rice according to the amount you want, then you visit other stores and buy sashimi to place it on top of your rice. And there are benches for you to rest and have a meal! I got some crab legs from hairy crab and snow crab. They were really fresh! I wished I had visited Kani Honten at Sapporo but due to lack of time, I didnt :( Leave it for the next trip then!

My mini-crab feast

Busy day at Washo Market

 So after a short 30min at the market, we set off for Kushiro Airport which is about 20min drive away. Bade farewell to the female driver and I said O-tsukaresamadeshita to her! It meant thank you for her hard work. I could not have imagined what will happen if we did not get away from the heavy snowstorm-laden road! It was indeed a wonderful trip with an adventurous moment putting an end note to our stay in Hokkaido. A 1h flight to Tokyo, and we left the mountaineous Hokkaido with huge spans of winter landscape to an urbanised Tokyo! All seen from the plane window.

And I said farewell to the rest of the photographers who would be continuing their journey to Nagano to see the snow monkeys. It was an amazing trip! Adventure! Wildlife! Discoveries! Onsen! Gourmet! You name it, we did it! As a team :) I really look forward to visit Hokkaido during the summer season in the near future! Probably to areas like Furano, Biei where picturesque landscapes have often captivated my eyes when I read brochures related to these places. Hope to catch Takashi-san again as my guide in future trips to Hokkaido!

In any case, if anyone is keen to engage Takashi-san as your tour driver in Hokkaido, you may contact him via the details below. It's tough to find Japanese drivers in Hokkaido who can also speak English and Im glad to know him through this trip :).Also, thank you for C.S.Ling Photography for helping to coordinate this trip.

Japanese Guide: Mr Takashi Miura

Wildlife Photography Trip Organizer
By C.S Ling Photography

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