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July 8, 2016 - Hokkaido Day 7 - Last Day in Shiretoko
It was the third day on the Shiretoko Peninsula and it was time for an epic whale watching cruise in Rausu. The weather looked nice from the window of my hotel room and I couldn't wait to hop into the boat to look for whales while getting seasick.
After breakfast, I checked out and asked the reception to keep my bags until I come back from the cruise. I walked about a minute to the nearby Gojiraiwa Cruise Office to check in for the cruise. I was asked to make my way to the nearby fishing port to wait for the boat, scheduled to arrive at 8.30am.
At the docks, there was another boat with the e-shiretoko.com sticker belonging to a different company and tourists began to board the ship. I breathed a sigh of relief as everything seemed to be going according to plan!
But moments later, an announcement was made from the e-shiretoko boat and I wasn't able to comprehend what the person on the speakerphone was trying to say. There was a Japanese couple who recognized me from the bear watching cruise in Utoro on the day before and they told me that the cruise was cancelled due to high waves, despite the good weather that we're having! True enough, the tourists who had boarded the e-shiretoko boat earlier began to leave their seats and unzip their life jackets, disembarking the boat in disappointment. Some tourists asked the ticket collector whether the afternoon cruise was available or not, but they were told that the afternoon one would most likely be cancelled judging from the situation.
Changing the cruise to another time and day was not an option as I had already planned this day to be my last day in Shiretoko. The Japanese couple was kind to offer me a ride back to the cruise office to get a refund. I was gutted to have run into bad luck but thank goodness I got my money back.
It was at this time that I had to think about another plan to spend the time in Rausu before boarding the next bus back to Utoro at about 2pm. I asked about the whale watching platform to the office staff but the staff advised that it was pointless to go there as whales would not be hanging around in turbulent waters.
I then began to recall about a free hot spring in the middle of the forest known as Kuma no Yu 熊の湯 from the travel program 'Hokkaido Burari Tabi'...
I headed back to the hotel to inform reception about my change of plans and was advised to store my backpack at the bus terminal for convenience. I picked up my backpack from the hotel, walked out of town to the bus terminal to keep my luggage and took a towel with me as Kuma no Yu does not provide any towel rentals. From the bus terminal, I walked about an hour to Kuma no Yu, close to the Rausu hot springs area.
There was still plenty of time left after bathing for free at Kuma no Yu, so I decided to check out the Rausu Visitor Center that I passed by earlier. Over there, I visited the exhibits, drank plenty of complimentary deep sea underground water and was in time for the next eruption of the geyser just behind the facility.
After watching the geyser, it was the right time to head back to Rausu for some lunch. I was too lazy to walk all the way to the Rausu Road Station to try the grilled hokke there, so I decided to dine in at a restaurant called Shizuka, close to the bus terminal. The food here was great and way better from the food I had last evening at Fukuzumi.
To fill up my time waiting for the bus, I ordered a glass of Sapporo Classic and drank my beer at a leisurely pace while watching the news about a severe heatwave on Honshu. I finished my beer and walked back to the bus terminal. It was time to bid Rausu farewell with a heavy heart.
I got off at the Shiretoko Nature Center to see whether the Furepe Waterfall trail was open or not. Unfortunately, the trail remained off-limits and I spent the next one and a half hour wandering around facility to see some exhibits, watched a documentary at the amphitheater, did some souvenir shopping and had a venison burger as a snack to pass the the time.
After trying to spend time at the Shiretoko Nature Center, I took the bus back to Utoro and then another bus back to Shari where I would be spending the night there before leaving Shiretoko for good.
Instead of staying at the Shiretoko Daiichi Hotel just like on the evening when I first arrived in Shari, I had booked a night at a backpacker's guesthouse called Camp Clione. Unlike Daiichi Hotel, I had to walk 20 minutes to get there.
Despite the distance, I was impressed with the guesthouse when I walked in for the first time. The living spaces were spacious and aptly decorated with Ainu woodcarvings and art, and my favorite part was the onsen bath provided free of charge for the patrons. I bought dinner from the Seicomart near the Shari bus terminal, knowing that around Camp Clione there are no nearby shops and restaurants, but I was pleasantly surprised that the guesthouse sells bread, canned food, packed rice, instant curry and cup noodles at discounted prices. For 1500 yen this was a deal really hard to beat and I really recommend this place to anyone.
The first half of my Hokkaido has concluded and it was disappointed to end it at such a low note with the unforeseen cancellation of the whale watching cruise. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the three days that I spent on the Shiretoko Peninsula and I would definitely come back again at a different season (preferably autumn) to see it in a different light.
I have one more week left to explore Hokkaido before going home and I can't wait to find out what's in store in the days ahead.
More photos can be found at https://www.flickr.com/photos/124829205@N08/albums/72157668295507513