January, 27 th 2019
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It was the first time I created a trail all by myself without any recommendations or tips from the world wide web. I just looked at the map and searched for some peaks in areas I haven’t been before. My choice for Mt. Ponpon was mostly the funny name (ポンポン山), the nice elevation of 679 m and a trail that leads mainly along a small river. I announced this hike as Kansai’s hidden secrets and adventurous trail while knowing we could end up in a fallow land easily. For some reasons I was late in the morning and couldn’t make it to the meeting point in time. It was very nice to see that we have grown a team by now and that everybody knows what to even without me. I met Lee, Sayaka and her friend at the platform and we took the train to Takatsuki where we met Yumi. We couldn’t find Tomal on the platform, but he just jumped into the train and we met him at Takatsuki as well. Things are running. I planned to take the bus and, like in Germany they are kind of unreliable and unflexible, it might be better to use it at the beginning instead being dependent in the end. So the idea. I chose the bus to skip the residential area and to shorten today’s trail, which was already very long. We dropped off at Narai (成合). I couldn’t see on google that every third bus goes even further to the trail’s start (上成合). But waiting for two hours at Takatsuki was no option right now, so we started hiking from Narai. The trail guided us into a forest and we had to climb up. Unfortunately there were only rudiments of the trail at the beginning. And after approximately hundred meters there was no trail anymore. Like monkeys we climbed up the hillside trying to find a way. It was quite dangerous, the hillside was very steep with loose packed soil. We slipped many times. I had lots of doubts and a very bad conscience. If we couldn’t find a trail soon we wouldn’t be able to go anyway today. I was at the end while the girls bravely drove their way through the bushes. Accordingly to google we were still on the right trail. I followed an empty river and it guided me to a pylon standing on top of a quarry. We had a great view of the big artificial hole. It was exactly the motivation we needed. From then on there was a proper trail which guided us through meadows and a narrow forest street. We merged into a road and could see the bus driving by. We could have had waited, but then the adventure was gone… We arrived at 上成合 and surprisingly somebody jumped out of the bus. It was Mat. I was extremely surprised. Mat became a good friend recently and helped me, like Lee, to get new ideas for trails or to helped me out with Japanese. We became a pretty good team. He was very sad when he told me he couldn’t come today. So there he was and for me it is still unexplainable how he managed the timing, because he had no phone and couldn’t know the group’s location. Also we lost a lot of time crawling through the bushes. Happily and altogether we walked through the small village and arrived at the trail’s start. It was locked. Maybe you remember about that horribly typhoon in the beginning of September last year. The pictures how a ship hit Kansai’s airport bridge run all over the world. But there are more damages all around the area. Anyway Japanese are extremely security loving people and a locked trail does not mean it’s not suitable for hiking. I already learned mostly it just means inconvenience (like in Minō). We decided to give them a try and to walk as long as possible. We could turn around anytime. The trail was amazing and exactly how I secretly dreamed of it when I created it on my computer. It guided us along a beautiful river through a fairytale forest. We crossed another barrier and the atmosphere changed. We could see the damages of the typhoon first hand. The old massive trees were broken like toothsticks and criss crossed the little valley. It was a strange atmosphere, we all felt kind of calmness and silence which floods our bodies and souls. A nicely smell of essential oils were in the air while the clear blue sky set a sharp contrast into this scenery. Nature is impressive, these trees looked strong and symbolised strength, but there was something more stronger, more powerful, more destructive. Nature’s other face. I still cannot imagine the power of a typhoon and the face of its destructive nature. With every step the trail got a little bit more snowy and it was a perfect scenery. I could feel how the happiness and excitement flooded my body. Just being here exited me. Two kilometre before summit, there was a junction. The direct trail was heavily blocked by heavy trees, but to me it seemed it would be possible to hike and getting better by time. Tomal and me wanted to give them a try while the others were tired of climbing. So we decided to split and meet at summit. It was a major mistake and I had a very bad feeling to split with the group. I don’t know why, but there is something in me which forces and motivates me to challenge myself. After ten minutes I regretted my decision, but I was too proud and my ego didn’t allowed me to go back. I also knew we wouldn’t be able to catch up anymore. Once I made a decision, I almost never change. This is the reason why some people call me strong, but in some cases it is just stupid. Like today. The further we entered the trail, the more impossible it was to turn back. We followed a little river, which was almost dry. We couldn’t see the trail anymore due to the heavy damages. It was crazy and stupid to continue. It came out that Tomal was a strong and experienced hiker, which was essential for this situation. Sometimes we made better progress followed by situations we thought now it would be impossible to continue. We fighted for every single meter. It was only 1.2 km to summit. Half way I got more and more worried and kind of fear raised in me. Maybe, it was anger about my own stupidity. I realised more and more that is no fun anymore. The cold was also an invisibly, but real danger. If something would have happened right now, we had a serious problem and time was running against us. There was no service since we met Mat in the little village. I fell three times and landed like a turtle on my back, unable to get up within all this mess of fallen trees. I usually laugh about it and usually I fell easily while nothing happens. This time it made me angry about my own body. I needed to trust him now. No time for this kind of jokes. Shortly before summit it got even worst and we had to balance on big slippery trees. My gps also told me that we were far away from the original trail. Could we climb to summit from here? There was I feeling inside me I exactly had one time before in my life. When I was in Italy with Roman for climbing in the end of October, we did a multi pitch climb and arrived summit unprepared in darkness and did not now anything about the way back. In absolute darkness we crawled down the steep and slippery path of fallen leaves and in the end it turn out it was a Via Ferrata. Anyway since this day I’m thinking about fear. In both situations I got calm and had the strong feeling about leaving the situation as soon as possible, mixed with some desperate. We found a small trail and stairs in the end which ended up again, but I could find the small clean hikers path and jumped onto it. We made it. I was relieved. Less than 100 m until summit. I shouted for the others. No answers. While jumping on the official trail I got service immediately and called Lee. With him on the phone I arrived the view point on summit. It was amazing. I could see the snowy peak and had a great 360° view of Kansai. Yes, this place is defiantly one of Kansai’s hidden secrets. Unfortunately Lee told me they gave up 2 km before summit and headed back to Shimamoto station according to the trail I created. I was really sad and disappointed to be unable to share this moment with the group. They were supposed to be here. And instead of feeling good after climbing this struggling mountain I felt rather than a looser. The price for being here was leaving the group and doing my own things and follow my egoism felt quite wrong. Anyway, together with Tomal I took some nice pictures and enjoyed for a moment the summit. We couldn’t last there very long, it was getting cold. When we climbed down the group sent me a picture and told me the way was blocked and they had to go back the way they came from. Then I lost connection again. This was a catastrophe. It meant we were dependent of the bus and it was very likely that the last one came around 5 pm. It was already after 4 pm and this time panic grabbed me. It seemed even more stupid to have left the group. Within a group problems solve way easier. It was going to get dark and cold, the way to the village was quite long, the last bus maybe gone and we were on top of a mountain which no service and no ability to speak proper Japanese. Well done. I explained Tomal the situation and started running. I ran on this small snowy, slippery and steep path down. The velocity increased and the trail became a tunnel. I had to trust every step and my body. One wrong step would had severe consequences. Another feeling came up very quickly. Fun. Running down this mountain on this small path was pure fun. I realised I was doing trail running right now. I couldn’t see Tomal anymore, but I knew he must be very close. If he got in trouble I would be able to hear him. A junction. I recognised the trail, we were around 5 km from bus station. Maybe we could manage it in time. And suddenly I saw people. It was impossible to distinguish if it was our group or somebody else, but I was happy anyway. I run even faster and yes, I could see Lee. It was the group! It seemed to be impossible, but we made it to catch up. They were as surprised and happy as me. Tomal appeared only moments later. I cannot describe how happy and released I was. We were united again and I would never ever split again. We finally took our group picture and went on. It was still 4 km to bus station and we still had no idea if we missed the last bus or not. It was almost dark when we arrived at the station and luckily the next bus was coming within the next half an hour. There was also a very last bus at half past nine, which would had rescued us, but definitely would be very inconvenient. Happy End. We decided to go together for dinner together in Takatsuki. It was a place to eat chicken and for the first time I ate raw chicken. Why do people eat raw chicken? Because it is delicious! As usual we got different plates and shared them altogether. I wondered that everybody of today’s hike was joining. We spent
there around three hours, eating, drinking and making plans for next adventures. We just became friends and I felt deeply satisfied. Extremely tired I crawled into my futon and I had kind of the same feeling I had when I joined the Düsseldorf hikes for the first times. Deeply happiness and I felt asleep with a big smile.