Thursday, July 30, 2009

Waterfall Tour

Amami Oshima is all mountains. With 120 inches of rain a year, that means waterfalls! There must be waterfalls everywhere, but finding them is the hard part. There are a couple on the tourist maps, and I've found a couple on my own. A foreign guy who lives here has a blog and he gave me directions to some pretty spectacular waterfalls that I wouldn't have found otherwise.

My bike, Bandit. It's kind of rusty, has a bald front tire and doesn't shift really well, but it's transportation. I'm borrowing it for the second year in a row from Masami's cousin. It's hard to even find a parking space for it here, as we have to vie with the neighbors for every inch of space. If visitors come, they just park in the middle of the street, blocking "traffic," not that there is much.

The bike is a crotch rocket, and really uncomfortable. My hands get numb after 15 minutes, followed by the rest of my body. Here's a typical gravel road, just mud and rocks really, and a streambed when it rains. I try to avoid these, but paved roads just peter out on you. The paved ones in the mountains are all covered in leaves and have moss growing on them anyway. I thought rolled on stones gathered no moss ...

This is a nice one, Funangyo Falls. A huge waterfall. Same as the one at the top.

This is one I found riding my bike around years ago. It's a good swimming hole.

This one, Tangyo Falls, is near Santaro. You actually have to hike up a streambed and swim to get to it. I had my camera in three plastic bags and tied around my head. I still dropped it a couple of times, but it was ok. I forgot my underwater camera case, but couldn't miss out on this one.

View from under the falls. Great swimming hole on this blazing hot day.

Shinsui Park near Yuwan was an amazing shady refuge on a brutally hot day. There was a whole series of cascades over a stretch of the river.

This Hyan Coral Snake was a nice bonus. It was the first time I'd seen one of these.

One of the bigger cascades.

Its twin, on the other side of a big rock.

Working my way downstream.

One more.

This place is so lush, with epiphytes and moss growing all over everything.

I stopped at the Forest Polis, a camping and nature observation area, on the way back. I don't know what the name is supposed to mean. Is is supposed to be the Forest Police, the way people pronounce it, like the nature cops, or is it Forestopolis, like a metropolis of forest creatures? They have some artificial wetlands there, where I always hope to find the elusive wetland birds. The only one I've ever seen here is the moorhen, which I can see in Chico any time. They do have a nice assortment of dragonflies, though.

Neon beauty.

These little fish were cleaning my feet for me.

Decaying tourist infrastructure, built for those hypothetical tourists. This is supposed to be some kind of waterplay area, all moldy and overgrown. This place was new when I came a few years ago, extensive boardwalks which had rotted through a couple of years later. The jungle reclaims things quickly. I like places like this, and there are a lot of them on this island. They have that ghost town type feel. There was nobody at all in the whole park when I visited.
One waterfall that is on the tourist map, Materiya. I'd been here a few times before, but it looked paltry next to the others.

Finally, I saw a bird! But it's dead. There are a lot of crows around, and I imagine they are a pest to farmers. Still, it seems a little barbaric to hang them on sticks like this, and I doubt it's an effective deterrent at all.

Monday, July 27, 2009

More Wild Amami

View from one of many observation towers.

MSNBC has called Amami Oshima the Galapagos of Japan. Maybe that says more about Japan than it says about Amami, but there are some spectacularly beautiful places, and some plants and animals you can find almost nowhere else. Most of these pictures were taken at the Amami Nature Observation Forest in Tatsugo. It's a developed park, with trails, ponds, and three (!) observation towers, all being delightfully reclaimed by nature. One of those tourist developments for hypothetical tourists.
Fungi love Amami. They average about 120 inches of rain a year here, compared to about 24 in Chico.

The Lidth's Jay is one of those species that can only be found on this island and a neighboring one. I ususally only get a glimpse of them as they fly over, but I got to watch this one for about 15 minutes.

You have to carry a spider stick as you walk a lot of trails, or you'll be eating spider webs, or worse, spiders. Nothing poisonous, I'm told.

Striped spiders.

And spotted spiders.

Big shiny beetles. They were dive bombing us all night at uncle's barbecue.

We saw at least three of these Green Snakes. This one was talking to us. Picture by Theo.
Lizard with tiny legs.

Dragonflies love the decaying artificial ponds.
As do the sword-tailed newts.

Strangler fig taking over another tree.

Spider with babies emerging from the egg sac.
Crab in the mangroves.
Planted flowers.

Around Town: Slices of Amami Life

A few pictures for no good reason.

Here's a mural they set up at the cultural center for the eclipse (non)event.

Kids painted designs on half of it. It was neat watching it develop over the course of a few days.

Tearing down a warehouse on the waterfront. The junkyard is gone from the downtown port, too. Urban renewal?

Amami siesta. Wild cats napping in the shade. This place is crawling with them. In our neighborhood, they sleep in the middle of the road.
The home for little crippled trees. They are all recipients of the tree organ donor program, which I don't think is voluntary.

Nice flowers at the park.

A thorny tree (exotic).
Shopping around town. A t-shirt for your precocious toddler.
You can try, but you can't beat love.

Keep on hoping. Doesn't sound like a very pleasant story to me.

Good place for a boat. The Japanese Noah's?

Geckos roaming the city at night.

Theo has lost three teeth while we've been here. Too much soda?
Masami's and Theo's favorite place to eat. You cook your own meat over an open flame. Looks like a lawsuit waiting to happen. I can't imagine seeing this in America.

Line 'em up.

Notice the squid setting on the microwave. I think it just dehydrates them so that they can't crawl off your plate.
A public service poster on the wall of the kitchen, demonstrating how to cook. Masami and her mother take it far too literally. Scary stuff!