Hokkaido 4 - Shiretoko
Shiretoko national park is located at the northeastern tip of Hokkaido and is one of the most remote areas in Japan. The nature is intact and most of the park is completely pristine.
There's one drawback though, due to one of the species that are found there. It is best described by this warning, used to introduce a three-day trekking course: "Technical and extremely difficult. If you get injured, hope you can reach the coast and that a boat will locate you before the bears do". Indeed, the Shiretoko park has an important bear population! Therefore, even if the nature is very rich, the risk does not allow to fully enjoy it. I mean, seeing a bear must be an amazing experience...if you manage to stay alive...
Therefore, although there are several hiking trails, most visitors just stick to the usual tourist spots, and this time that's what I did too (not enough time...). If it's not for the bears, wild deers are still nice to watch, and many of them would come very close to the road:
This one, contrary to the others, was not afraid at all:
I then toured the "5 lakes", one of the most famous sight seeing spots out there. Unfortunately the weather was awful and here's the best I could get:
Pretty bad right? Not even close to what can be seen here or here. However the atmosphere is still great and I had that weird feeling of being in the middle of nowhere. There's also a viewing spot that gives a glimpse at the park:
The next morning, I took the first bus to go to Kamui wakka, an amazing natural phenomenon: a long river with a succession of small waterfalls, with naturally hot water! Only a small section is accessible though. It eventually pours into the sea but that part can only be seen from a boat, as on this link.
Now for the "visit": one climbs up along the river and the water, lukewarm at the beginning, gets hotter as one gets closer to the source. It is really incredible, and yet I could only climb the first half, as the other half was closed on that day for safety reasons.
If I was really unlucky about the weather, I got pretty lucky about the number of people. Kamui wakka is a very frequented spot (it is even said to be insane during the summer), but off season and that early in the morning, we were only two. Here are some pictures:
A well deserved bath:
I still felt a little frustrated for missing a lot of the things to do there because of the lack of time, but mostly because of the bad weather. There are many hikes and other remote places to see, it must be really wonderful. Who knows, I might go again some day...