Monday, November 29, 2010
Going to Fukuoka via Bloemfontein
The first thing I could focus on was the condensation, clinging to the car window. Then it was eyelashes and eyelids as my attention diverted back to the improvised pillow that was once my fluffy jacket. Finally my ears caught up to my eyes and I heard Ducky colorfully curse the town we were in as Roland giggled behind the wheel as is his habit when I spin off into haphazard tirades brought on by the annoyance of the moment. I woke up, sat up and rubbed the hour long nap from my eyes, just in time to hear the ass-end of a narrative called `we are going to run out of petrol in Kusu`. Although I feel I am jumping the gun a bit and since I can barely jump a pavement this does not sound like a very good idea.
It all started, as most ambitious voyages do, with some ink laden leather charts, or in our case google maps. The three musketeers (if the famous frenchies wielded computers instead of swords) spent the night before going to Fukuoka (the main city of Kyushu) scouring the internet for maps with as little Japanese as they could lay siege to. Even so my job as `anything but the navigator` did afford me a front row car seat to the other two giving directions as follows: 30 minutes straight, then a slight left into kanji, then turn into kanji, but only after passing kanji, then kanji should be just opposite the kanji.
We opened the door to the ice planet Hoth and raced to the car, only to drive for 10 minutes before having to turn back for a certain blue eyed boy’s international driver’s license. We had barely broken our previous record when Roland missed a turn and we made it halfway back to Ducky`s pond before hitting the express way with a sonic shattering 80 km/ph. It is odd to think that when we hit 90km that I was traveling at the top speed I had reached in a car in the last four months. We spend a few hours mocking Roland for missing the turn, even though neither one of us had seen the sign, which on our way back turned out not to exist at all.
Due to the fact that I have a bladder akin to that of a pregnant woman carrying twins, we had to stop at a service station on the side of the road. Not only was my cold bum rewarded with an electronically heated toilet seat but I grabbed a bagel and a can of hot coffee at the shoppie next door. Frost had settled all along the road and it made me feel for my inland homeys since Hiji is cold but not yet brittle and white.
Ah, and then there she stood, the bastion of foreign food and libations, the bulk buying 7th wonder of Japan, the Costco. For all the tannies reading this, Costco is the American version of our Macro but even cheaper and when you have been eating plastic with a cheese label pasted on for four months, way more exciting. We filled our trolley (that happened to be half the size and twice the power of our car), with huge bottles of tomato sauce, olives, smash, chips, vitamins and man sized bricks of real gouda and mozzarella. I can`t wait to take my mom there, so I can pretend to protest while she buys me proper food and not just toasties and snacks as she refers to my cooking.
After luring Ducky away from the free apple strudel samples with the promise of real pepperoni pizza at the cafeteria, we paid for our wares and dropped a pizza and Fanta filled Duck off at the Sumo. Roland and I then hijacked (we are proper South Africans after all) her car and hightailed it to a 6 story electronics paradise. This place would give our gadget admiring fathers a good old fashioned endorphin breakdown and we would probably never see either of them ever again. On our exit however Roland and I were educated in the school of crazy expensive parking in Fukuoka when our ticket said 600 yen after our hour and a half visit. We ended up spending 3500yen (R350-ish) just parking at a few different places that day.
Once we located the main mall called Canal city we started our (mostly window) shopping with much vigor but a million levels later and hours of nipping into anime Mecca, Barbie boudoirs` and many fashion houses we became expert in the art of loitering. The trick is to park your patootie on one of the many fancy leather couches in front of a trendy little shop and pretend that the lady trying on her fifteenth bag is a good friend of yours or to sit on the little plastic chairs in the basement and hope that people will assume that somewhere in the huge arcade your kids are running around, being valuable customers.
Then it was time to meet some proper South Africans for some proper Indian food in proper Japan. There was much talk of rugby and SA perspectives shared over cheesy naan bread and spicy curry. Every now and then a stukkie Afrikaans would infiltrate the conversation and as can be expected from 6 Saffers our table was by far the noisiest in the restaurant. Then with some overly dramatic hugs (much to the amusement of some Japanese ladies) we said goodbye and still being in happy South African mode, neglected to put in petrol in the main city for surely there shall be on the road.
Ah ha ha, how we overestimated the closing times of most gas stations. Thankfully after passing thousands of deserted petrol pumps a kind 7/11 worker directed us to the only 24 hour station near the town as the needle hit the bottom of the gauge with a sigh. We made it home and had a fantastic trip which will hopefully be matched by our weekend in Nagasaki in a few days time.
I just had a great chuckle last night when I heard Roland read off his Christmas list to his parents and all that he had asked for was an English GPS.
PS. So by the by Ducky is responsible for the cool new blog picture at the top. Ah it pays to have talented friends.