Posted tagged ‘Iriomote’

Utara Coal Mine Ruins (ウタラ炭坑)

March 5, 2013

The ruins of the largest coal mine on Iriomote Island, the 20-minute stroll is a great chance to get a taste of jungle hiking without the effort or discomfort of getting there.

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The hike: From the bus stop, cross the street and walk though the parking lot. Instead of dropping down to the boat landing on your right, continue straight on and the concrete road will turn into a dirt forest track. You’ll soon see signs pointing to Utara Coal Mine (ウタラ炭坑), which is 1km from the parking lot. There are signs every 200 meters, so it’s impossible to get lost. Depending on when you go, you may very well have the entire trail to yourself, since most people opt for the boat ride. You can also rent a kayak at the boat landing and paddle up to the ruins, but I’m not sure if they’ll rent it to you without joining an expensive tour. Anyway, after a few minutes of hiking, you’ll come to a lookout point with fantastic views of the river below. A little further on the trail will drop down to meet Utara river, which it will follow for the remainder of the walk. There are places where you can drop down and observe the wildlife of the mangroves. At the end of the path, you’ll see some wooden stairs on your left which lead to an elevated wooden walkway. Follow this walkway to the end, and you’ll arrive at the ruins. There are explanatory panels here (in Japanese only), as well as a black-and-white photo of what the place used to look like. Apparently, the Imperial Army used slaves from Korea and China for the perilous work in the coal mines, during which time Iriomote Island was infested with malaria. The walkway is a good place to contemplate what life must have been like years ago. The rest of the area is heavily overgrown, but if you’re keen to do some additional exploring, then hop over the wooden railing and knock yourself out. Be careful of snakes, leeches, and other creatures that may be lurking in the deep.

When to go: This relatively flat hike can easily be done year round, and is great to do with kids. It’s also great to do after doing the Kanbiree hike, since you’re already in the area.

Access: From Uehara ferry terminal, take a bus bound for Shirahama and get off at Urauchibashi (浦内橋). The first bus is at 10:43am. Click here for the schedule. Otherwise, if you stay at Mariudo Guesthouse, they should be able to give you a ride to the start if you ask them. Hitching is also an option.

Level of difficulty: 1 out of 5 (a pretty flat walk)

Distance: 2km (40 minutes to 1-1/2 hours)

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Kanbiree waterfall (カンビレーの滝)

November 11, 2012

Kanbiree waterfall is one of Iriomote’s most visited waterfalls, and an excellent introduction to the unspoiled scenery of the Yaeyama archipelago.

The hike: When exiting the boat, tell the driver what time you’d like to return, or there will likely not be a boat waiting for you when you return. (In high season it should be fine, but in winter the boats are few and far between). From the boat landing, head up the concrete path with the concrete and metal retaining wall on your left. You’ll soon pass by a concrete rest area on your left, which may have tents pitched over the picnic tables to keep out the rain. The trail becomes a mix of concrete and rock for the next stretch, until you reach a junction. If you need to use the restroom, then take the path on your left. Otherwise, continue straight on the easy-to-follow route. There are a few waterfalls on the left side, usually after passing over a wooden bridge. Your next landmark, after 15 to 20 minutes of easy hiking, will be a trail on the right heading towards a lookout point (展望台). Climb up the stairs for a great view of Mariyudu waterfall (マリユドゥ滝). Retrace your steps to the main trail and continue heading up the river towards the falls. In about 10 minutes or so, you’ll see a trail heading off on the right to Mariyudu waterfall. At the time of writing (March 2012), this trail was off limits to hikers. It’s just as well, because if you climb under the rope you’ll find the trail incredibly slippery and overgrown. It meets up with the river above the waterfall, but you can’t actually view the falls from here, so it’s better to ignore this trail and head towards Kanbiree waterfall. You’ll reach those falls in another 10 minutes or so. The trail ends at an open area with a great view of the fall, but unfortunately a lot of the rocks here have been defaced with graffiti. If you’re an experienced hiker, then I highly recommend heading to the top of the falls. To get there you’ll basically need to follow the rocks on the left side of the river. There is a trail marked with ribbon, but be careful in wet conditions because the entire area is slippery. After a few minutes of tricky footwork, you’ll see a rope draped across a stream coming in from the left. Grab onto the rope and make your way through the water to the other side. After this point it gets much easier, and you can rock hop a fair ways up the river. Take a break at any place you choose. There are some great swimming holes the further up the river you scramble. This is where the Iriomote traverse outlined in the Lonely Planet guidebook begins, but you’ll need to register your intentions with the Iriomote police and you’re prohibited from traversing alone. Most Japanese guidebooks recommend camping halfway through the traverse to help break up the distance. Once you find the trail it’s actually pretty well marked, with signposts every 200 meters. Anyway, retrace your steps back to the ferry terminal and consider doing the short hike to the Utara coal mine ruins if you’ve still got the energy.

When to go: This hike can easily be done year round, but bring plenty of water in the summer and be careful of slippery rocks in wet conditions.

Access: From Uehara ferry terminal, take a bus bound for Shirahama and get off at Urauchibashi (浦内橋). The first bus is at 10:43am, but if staying at Mariudo Guesthouse they can drop you off there in time for the first boat at 9:30am. From the bus stop, cross the street and walk through the small parking lot, turning right to go down to the boat landing by the river. The boat costs ¥1800 and takes about 30 minutes to get to the start of the trail at Gunkan-Iwa (軍艦岩). The boat would be a lot faster if the driver didn’t keep stopping to point out all the geographical features in Japanese.

Level of difficulty: 1 out of 5 (elevation change ~50m)

Distance: 5km (2-1/2 to 4 hours)

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