Another day on the bus today but it was an interesting one. Slept better than I thought I would on the buckwheat hull pillow but that may have been the couple of red wines I had before turning in. Before leaving Nagano we had to pack a small case for two nights as our large bags are being sent by courier to Kyoto as we will be travelling on the shinkansen to Kyoto and it will be easier without the big bags.
This morning we headed back over our evening route to Matsumoto then headed up to Jigokudani to the Snow Monkey Park. The monkeys in the park are the same Japanese Macaque monkeys (aka. Snow Monkeys) at the Snow Monkey Parks we saw at the zoo on Thursday but these ones are in the wild but, as it is a tourist park, they are quite used to to people being around. These monkeys are famous as they bathe in the hot springs. We were primed for a disappointment as no monkeys had been seen at the pools in the previous three days as there was an abundance of chestnuts in the forest and they had been less inclined to come down to the ponds. We were obviously lucky as when we got there, there we monkeys everywhere. Lots of young babies as well. Our guide believed there were supposed to be over a hundred monkeys in the troop and I reckon most of them were there today. Many were seeking chestnuts but the caretakers were also throwing out grain to supplement their diets and I guess encourage them to return daily for the tourists. All very cute and interesting so you will have to put up with a few photos of them.
Most of the driving today has been in the beautiful rugged mountains. Frequent highlights of tall trees, waterfalls, creeks, and rivers, dams, and short and long tunnels. Another long drive with an expressway stop for lunch eventually ending up in the village of Azumi. Here we transferred into a local bus to take us into the National Park. Now it was time to exercise with a one hour walk through natural forest on a trail that closely followed the course of the Asusa River. Small it may have been at that point but fast flowing with a large volume of crystal clear water. Beautiful way to spend the afternoon even if the knees are telling me different.
With the local bus meeting us at the end of the trail, we were thankful we were on a tour and had our own bus. Being Sunday and fantastic weather, lots of people were in the park and the queue to catch the shuttle bus was probably 500 metres long. Looked worse than our queue for the pandas.
Back on our own bus now as I put this together, we have a 45 minute drive into Takayama for the night. Looking forward to spending time in Takayama tomorrow as I was there in 2009 and I remember it as a very nice place. Tomorrow evening also means the we should be able to catch up with some friends from the Toyama area.
It looks like I have sorted out most of the SPOT issues. Mainly battery problems, serves me right for not putting in a new set. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to locate any Lithium AAAs and so have been using ordinary ones which don't seem to be very good quality. I got 4 hours out of the first set! I've decided to put the map up even though there are quite a few points missing when the batteries fail and when I can't get the signal out due to trees, tunnels, bad positioning in a vehicle but I'm sure you will get the idea. You will find the map here.