3 mountains in 3 days. What a way to rid oneself of cabin fever after a week of relentless rain. Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and go, regardless of what the low pressure system may have in store.
Up through the jungle to Mt. Omoto, Okinawa’s highest peak. Despite the trail being officially off limits to hikers, I run into two other groups defying the Do Not Enter signs. Here on Ishigaki Island the locals have a more relaxed approach to rule abiding.
Into thick cloud and strong winds. No use sticking around here, so back down the peak I trudged. Losing traction in one section proved costly, as the track sent me completely airborne and onto my rear end. After bouncing off a few rocks, I cleaned the exposed flesh on my palms and attended to the laceration on my right buttocks. Omoto was not letting me off easy.
Back in town, I longed for a rest day but to no avail, as a local mountaineer lent me her Okinawa hiking guidebook and up into the jungle I swam, through the swollen stream and into a forest of bamboo grass to the summit of Maetake.
The path, barely 30cm across, involved an awkward slouch coupled with an uncomfortable hacking motion with both arms. Reaching the high point, I climbed a boulder, stretched the camera as high as my extended arm would allow, and fired away, hoping something would come out.
When would this crazy weather end? The forecast showed a stationary front positioned directly over the Yaeyama archipelago. A winter rainy season perhaps?
Day 3, and no choice but to head up another peak. Fatigue set in quite early, as I slothed my way through ankle-deep mud, doubling the allocated map times. At least the views were unobstructed this time around, and the rain held off until I had safely hitched a ride back into town.
The next morning, I awoke to a rare sight: sunshine! I raced on the foldable bicycle to the nearest beach, hoping to catch Ishigaki’s emerald green sheen before the next squall hit.
The trials and tribulations of Okinawa’s second largest island. I still had two more peaks on my Ishigaki list, but a change of scenery was in order. On to Iriomote island, Japan’s final frontier.