OWAKUDANI: BLACK EGGS AND SULFUR

Owakudani is a valley in the Hakone region south of Tokyo where you can see the volcanic activity up close.

(大涌谷 lit. "Great Boiling Valley"?) is a volcanic valley with active sulphur vents and hot springs in Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. It is a popular tourist site for its scenic views, volcanic activity, and especially, Kuro-tamago (黒卵 lit. "black egg"?) — a local specialty of eggs hard-boiled in the hot springs. The boiled eggs turn black and smell slightly sulphuric; consuming the eggs is said to increase longevity. Eating one is said to add seven years to your life. You may eat up to two and a half for up to seventeen and a half years, but eating a whole third is said to be highly unadvised.

It looked like a bit of a moonscape to me. Configuration: Canon 5D Mark III, shooting a mix of handheld HDR with a Canon EF 28-70mm f/2.8.

2013 07 19 Owakudani_-28

As you take the short hike to the viewing area, the smell of sulfur (rotten eggs) becomes stronger and stronger.

 2013 07 19 Owakudani_-15

2013 07 19 Owakudani_-17

There is a reason there are signs like this. The sulfur is very strong, a few times I felt a bit lightheaded when the wind shifted (and nauseous). It is clearly signed that if the sulfur gets too bad, they close the area down.

 2013 07 19 Owakudani_-16

2013 07 19 Owakudani_-18

 2013 07 19 Owakudani_-21

At the end of the hike you come to a viewing area which also happens to be where they are cooking the eggs. They have these large metal baskets, which they place into the hot water.

2013 07 19 Owakudani_-82

I just realized that I didn’t take a lot of shots with the eggs. But they are as black as night. The taste? You will have to find that out for yourself (smile).

2013 07 19 Owakudani_-92

As we hiked back we watched the eggs shoot down the hill on their own ropeway. I would wager they sell a lot of eggs everyday.

 2013 07 19 Owakudani_-100

As we left the valley, I began wondering about the volcanic gases. Japan is a hotbed of geological activity, with almost daily earthquakes and 2 volcanoes that rank in the top 5 for most “dangerous” to a population. In fact, the volcanic gases can be very dangerous for the unaware:

Hikers have died on volcanoes in Japan after taking a wrong turn on a trail and being overcome by volcanic gases, In April 2009, a U.S. poet, Craig Arnold, disappeared after setting off on a hike on the volcanic island of Kuchinoerabujima, 50 kilometers off the cost of southern Kyushu.

Enjoy that onsens and hot springs, they come from an interesting source.

PLANNING TWO DAYS OF TOURING IN BALI

image

It is hard to plan a trip to a country that you have never been to when you live in a country where no one speaks English. We asked questions, read reviews and researched through Tripadvisor and Lonely Planet  .. with a final itinerary as follows …

We booked a car with Sila Tours (Highly recommended. They are not tour guides, but $55 a day for a new van and a driver is fantastic) and set out a rough goal of seeing these things:

  • Mt. Batur, the volcano.
  • Rice fields
  • Bird Sanctuary near Ubud
  • The Monkey Forest
  • A few temples, with Gung Kawi and the Water Palace being the two options
  • An Elephant reserve

This is more than we normally do as we definitely do not subscribe to the “as much as you can” philosophy. We like to do less, but really enjoy where we are. As most of these were nature trips, the learning/history element (which is time consuming) was not as big a factor.

Many people stay in Ubud, we stayed in Nusa Dua which meant driving through the traffic laden streets. In other countries that would be an issue, but not in Bali as the countryside is fascinating. I was enthralled looking out the window as we went from town to town. The people, the shops, the never ending temples on every street corner and at every house. Fascinating. I would have loved to spend more time wandering through small village streets.

My only mistake was that I should not have relied on the driver to help us order the trip over the 2 days that we toured as their sense of time and directions is a little deceiving. When I would ask “how far to the next place” I always got the answer “30 minutes”. 30 minutes later I would ask for an update and get “20 more minutes”.

If you are heading there, enjoy. Great place.