Wakkanai (稚内市) – Rebun (礼文島)
Yesterday was a train day, today will be ferry day as we got up at 430am to pack up / breakfast / pangsai before we dragged our luggage to the nearby Wakkanai Ferry Terminal for our ride to Rebun island. Like in most Japan citys, they have very nice pedestrian pathway so wheeling our luggages was very easy.
Since it was off-peak season in September, there was not a lot of passengers. We promptly bought our one-way tickets (2,470yen per person) at the counter before posting some postcards with we bought from Asahikawa Station and stamps from Cape Soya Post Office.
We departed at exactly 6.40am, heading off in quite calm seas. Using the on-board free WiFi, we kept an eye on reports of the approaching Typhoon Jebi which is suppose to hit after nightfall.
Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, we opted to keep our baggage outdoors where we had the whole seating area to ourselves. Personally, being outdoors prevented me from getting sea sick but the boat was pretty stable throughout. We did venture inside the indoor seating area which was basically large spaces with tatami mats, there are no seatings (in 2nd class). Everyone had to remove their footwear prior to getting on the tatami and following Japanese style, we arranged our footwear in an outward direction too.
After an hour, the sight of the cone-shaped shy Mount Rishiri (利尻島) came into view over the horizon. Someday will want to climb to the peak :). By now, our faces were so dry from the constant sea wind. lol.
Another 45mins later, our destination of the day – Rebun island came into view on the starboard (right) of the ship. And soon enough, the ferry was slowly gostan-ning and docking on Kafuka port.
We booked Pension Uni for out 2-night stay. Pensions are family-run accommodation in Japan and Uni (sea urchin) is my favorite delicacy in the world. It is located nearby Kafuka port and is walking distance actually but they provide free shuttle service upon your arrival so do inform them (email in English is ok) prior. The oto-san (dad) was waiting for us at the arrival hall.
After a short ride, we quickly left our belongings, grabbed the trail leaflet and headed out for a hike using the Momo-iwa trail (Peach Rock – momo being peach and iwa, rock) which starts just behind our pension. The total hike distance is about 9.3km round trip with 500m of elevation gain. With Typhoon Jebi fast arriving, we did not expect blue skies anymore.
After turning in from the main road, the path turns into a dirt road and with no wind at all, it was pretty hot and humid. We had to peel of layers of clothing coz we were actually sweating a lot.
About 15 minutes later, it got colder with the presence of a mist making visibility just a few meters only. It got worst and worst as we ascended higher. Thank goodness it was only a singular well-marked path.
After 45mins of mild hiking, we reach this area where we can see the mist and the winds howling with speed. We waited for 15mins at this stop hoping that the mist will go away but it seems like it wouldn’t let up. It kept coming and coming blanketing the whole area with white. So we decided to call off the hike as it would be futile in this kind of weather. See the video below :
With a heavy heavy heart, we traced back our trail down the hill. As we were descending, we could finally see how the whole area looked like because we couldn’t see it earlier in the hike. If finally cleared at the lower elevations. It was 30mins of descending already at this point… we thought “we came this far … and it will be a waste if we didn’t finish this hike”.
Just then, two Japanese hikers came bouncing up the trail greeting us a chirpy “Ohaiyo” (Morning!) and happily hiked on up . From then, we decided to u-turn again to fulfill the reason we came to Rebun for. Hike. Ikimasho!!
Up we go again!! By this time, the mist has somewhat cleared abit – exposing beautiful green fields and blue seas – it was simply breathtaking. Although we wished the sun would show up but it was beautiful nonetheless.
It was awesome views after awesome views. This island is indeed magnificent especially viewing with our own eyes. The real beauty can only be captured in our memories.
Throughout the 9km hike, we only encountered about 6 hikers in this social distancing-ready location. Reaching the Motochi Lighthouse starts the slow nice descent to Shiretoko town (not to be mistaken with the other more famous Shiretoko National Park).
We reached the Shiretoko bus stop and waited for awhile. We didn’t have the timetable so we decided to walk along the main road until hopefully a bus will come along. We walked and walked…until we reach the Kafuka town port which is near the pension – not having seen a single bus passing us. Lol.
After nearly 4.5 hours of hiking, we were really famish. Since we were at the port, we went up to the first floor of the Kafuka Ferry terminal for our lunch at Take Chan Sushi. It has canteen type feeling with windows facing the sea.
Using limited Japanese, I asked “osusume wa nan de suka?” おすすめは何ですか (recommendation)? She pointed to the menu of the day which is sashimi with rice… I’ll have it. so hungry d. Elaine had the Isokko Ramen (1,500y) – First time I heard of this ramen.. tak apa, tembak saje.
After the deserving lunch, we made our way back to our hotel for some rest as I heard from locals the typhoon is arriving soon. We stopped by a “department store” for some tit-bits. Only way to wait out a typhoon is more Calbees and Kito-Kato. hahahaha.
We passed by Rebun Itsukushima Shrine but didn’t go up. After the hike, we were not too keen on climbing more stairs liao. Surrender.
After taking our hot water bath, we came down to the communal place for dinner. Pension Uni is the best best best when it comes to serving up culinary magic. I still think they serve the BEST uni I’ve ever tasted in my life. The pension had a full house booking – but one meal left with an empty seat. We chatted awhile with the owners – until suddenly our friend came in for his dinner. The lone ranger from Yokohama hiked the Rebun-rindo (forest) and Rebun-taki (waterfall) trials and miscalculated his timing. lol.
The wind can be heard howling outside with the impending arrival of Typhoon Jebi and it will be the first time in our lives experiencing a typhoon. Tonight we will sleep with beautiful memories and painful legs.