Archives for posts with tag: hiking

Again we woke up about 5:30am.  My injured foot was really painful. I wasn’t sure if the tenderness was from it being crushed or from a developing infection but this had to be the last day of the hunt. However, I managed to convince my partner to allow me to continue searching for a few more hours before packing up and trying to get back to civilization.

When we got to the river, the water had receded further and was much more clear. Apparently the storm from the first day of the trip had impeded our search to a greater extent than we had realized.

We decided to go back upstream, noodling for the cryptic critters. I really felt miserable but I still had to smile a bit when we came across the toad we’d met the day before, in a still zen-like manner, sitting on the same in rock in the same position we last saw it in.

By 8:45 I became a bit nauseous and felt like I had a fever. It was definitely time to quit and try to find some medical treatment. Very reluctantly I began heading back to the tent.

At 9:24am, when we were about 1 minute from the camp site, right at the point we would be exiting the river, I saw it as my partner walked right past it. It wasn’t under a rock nor was it in a shadowy pool. It looked like a flabby brown infant as it was crawling right out in the open and straight towards me! I momentarily thought I was hallucinating.  Finally, Andrias japonicus!

BOOYA! Andrias japonicus: The Japanese Giant Salamander

After directing my partner’s attention to it and some unintelligible happy yelling on her part, we sat and observed it for the next half hour as we basked in its cryptobranchid-ey awesomeness until it got swept out of sight by the current. I’d wanted to see one of these critters in-situ ever since I was 10 years old. The locals’ previous discouragement and repeatedly telling us it couldn’t be done made this find all the more sweet.*

Time for a post-giant-salamander-finding nap, then it's time to seek proper medical treatment.

*about 35% as sweet as an epic otter-skin tunic

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Very few things can make me manage a smile at 6AM. Giant Salamander is hunting one such thing.

We got up at about 5:30AM and immediately resumed searching for Giant Salamanders. The river was noticeably lower and a bit more clear than it was the previous day.  Apparently it had been swollen from the torrential storm that hit the area a few days prior. We searched downstream of the site for about 3 hours before returning to the tent to eat a breakfast consisting of anpan, oranges, dried-meat, green-tea and coca-cola.

On the forest floor near the tent, we found Cynops pyrrhogaster Japanese Fire-Newt/イモーリ(Imoori). As a child, I had seen these many times in pet-stores and in Innai we had seen a few splattered on the road, but seeing a live one in-situ brought me the amount of joy roughly equivalent to consuming a bucket of KFC.

Cynops pyrrhogaster: About $5.00 a pop in pet-stores but awesome nonetheless.

We returned to the river by 9:00AM and resumed the search. Continuing upstream, we came across a huge Bufo japonicus Japanese Toad/ヒキがエル(Hikigaeru) sitting on a boulder in a zen-like manner. This was easily the largest B.japonicus I’d ever seen firsthand.

Bufo japonicus, the Japanese toad

Bufo japonicus

While I was climbing up a small waterfall, a boulder dislodged and rolled backwards carrying me with it. In that instant, I wondered whether I was about to be pinned under water or have my head cracked open on a rock. The answer was neither. When it stopped, it was on top of my legs, but I had been spared of having any crushed bones thanks to a gap in the rocks. I heard my partner yell “Oh my God! I’ll never get that off you!” I sat up and, with  panic-induced andrenaline-fueled idiot-strength, pushed the thing off of myself. My already-injured foot had taken the worst of it; it was bleeding a bit and it was obviously going to have some major bruising, but I could still walk on it.

About 5pm, we walked (limped in my case) back to Innai. Our first purpose was to find a bus stop and check the bus schedule because, planning ahead, it was pretty clear I  wouldn’t be able to make the approx. 30km walk back to the train station in Usa in a timely manner. The second purpose was to get more junk food from the liquor store.  However, after locating the bus stop, we found that that there would be no buses running in Innai for the next several days because they don’t operate when the local schools are closed. But on the bright side, we bought some bologna at the liquor store; bologna always makes traumatic near-crippling events better.

This is pretty much what 90% of my day consisted of.

melanistic Elaphe quadrivirgata

melanistic Elaphe quadrivirgata 20 seconds away from an ass-kicking

As we continued to walk from the village of Innai to the site, what happened next was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. We spotted a melanistic 4-lined Japanese Rat Snake E.quadrivirgata /カラスヘビ(Karasuhebi) by a ditch that was apparently flooded by the storm from the previous day. Upon seeing us, the snake slid into the water.  After a few seconds, it emerged and approached us as we stood still. It seemed either unusually bold or very hungry (or both). As it investigated my shoe, a Tiger-keelback R.tigrinus/ ヤマカガシ(Yamakagashi) began moving towards us as well (I think it may have been chasing a frog). The E.quadrivirgata immediately turned and faced the Yamakagashi.

karasuhebi versus yamakagashi

Karasuhebi versus Yamakagashi

I will not describe what happened next in detail since an account of the event is currently in press in a herpetological journal, but I will say the encounter ended badly for the E.quadrivirgata.

bleeding Elaphe quadrivirgata

Elaphe quadrivirgata bleeding.

Yamakagashi: Pissed-off and victorious

We reached the site in the Amari Valley at 2:00pm. We set up the tent and finally proceeded to get down to the business of searching for Giant Salamanders (noodling, snorkeling and turning over rocks).

home away from home

home away from home

I’ve crawled over and around slippery stones in many rivers in my time, but I must say this one was particularly treacherous. It seemed the force required to shift about half of the damned boulders in the river was roughly the equivalent of my body weight. Within the first hour, I had a couple of near-misses before having one roll over my foot.  It seemed be a minor injury at the moment, so I ignored it; I would regret doing so later.

Welcome to Giant Salamander territory. Don't break your leg.

After about 5 hours of searching we decided to make the walk back to the liquor store in Innai to replenish our stock of junk food (and do some road-side herping in the process). On the way there and back, I had my first sighting of an Asian keelback snake Amphiesma vibakari/ ヒバカリ(Hibakari), which slipped away before I could photograph it, and after nightfall we found numerous Schlegel’s Tree-Frogs Rhacophurus schlegelii  hanging out on the road.

Rhacophorus schlegelii

Rhacophorus schlegelii froglet