Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Highlights of Hakone Free Pass Route

Hakone Free Pass Loop:
Hakone Machi (Lake Ashi cruise)- Togendai - Sounzan(Ropeway) - Gora (Cable car) - Hakone Yumoto (Train) (can also be done in reverse)

On our first day in Hakone, we started our tour with a bus ride from our hotel, the Fujiya to Moto Hakone. The weather was not in our favour, with intermittent rain and wind. But armed with borrowed hotel umbrellas, we plodded on. Our first stop was the Old Cedar Highway. It was awesome walking on the footpath surrounded by 400 year old cedar trees. The tall sturdy trees provided some respite from the rain and it was lovely to enjoy the serene surroundings.

From the Cedar Highway, we made our way on foot to Hakone Machi at Lake Ashi to board the pirate cruise boat to the other side of the Lake. At this stage, it was pouring cats and dogs. We really couldn't see much and as luck would have it, a bus-load of tourists came on board the ship, turning the pirate boat into a real pirate boat of the past - loud and noisy!

We went through the rest of journey on the ropeway, cablecar and train, just going through the motion and not really able to enjoy the sights, because it was just too dark, wet and cold. Fortunately for us, the weather turned and we had beautiful blue skies and bright sunshine the next day. We decided to repeat the Hakone Loop, and we were glad we did. What a difference from the day before! Instead of looking out from blurry windows filled with raindrops, we could actually enjoy the beautiful scenery of the lake and volcano mountain.

I thoroughly enjoyed the ropeway as it gave a bird's eye view of the volcano craters at Owakudani. The hot springs water from the volcano are channeled by pipelines to the various resorts in Hakone.

Be prepared to hold your nose because the sulphur fumes smells like rotten eggs!

Whist we're on the subject of eggs, every visitor must try the "black egg" at Owakudani. These eggs are 3/4 boiled, and are cooked in the volcano hot springs. Apart from the black shell, they taste just like normal eggs.

Still a couple of volcano-boiled eggs didn't quite satisfy the hunger pangs after we completed the loop at Gora, so we headed to the Gyoza Centre, a cosy little cafe which is about 1 km from the train station for a meal of dumplings.

After that we hopped on the train for a slow ride down to Hakone Yumoto (Note: the bus is a faster way to travel, where available. From Gora, you must take the train.) At Hakone Yumoto town, we browsed around the 2 rows of shops, enjoying more food! It was particularly enjoyable seeing how the snacks were made.