There are days that you look back on and wonder how things turned out the way that they did. Today was one of those days. We began with a simple plan - catch the train to Toyama, transfer to the fast train to Tokyo, catch the plane home and we're done.
The plan was so simple we decided to go for a wander to the market to see if there was anything we couldn't live without. Turns out there were some shops that we hadn't visited yet and some things that we absolutely needed to get before coming home again so it was a productive trip. From there is was back to the Ryoken to finish packing and a quick taxi to the train station and everything is going according to plan.
It was at this point that we discovered that, because of the heavy rains that we'd been having, a number of tracks and routes had been affected and ours was one of them. We couldn't head north or south and that basically meant our travel options to Tokyo, and our plane home, had taken their first beating.
Ok. Let's think this through. We're seasoned travellers and there is always an option.
Bus! If we catch a bus to Toyama, we can still link up with the train to Tokyo and make our flight. Fortunately the bus station is right next door and we were at the ticket counter within minutes. Strike two. The trains departure is dubious and the arrival time means that we would miss the connecting train to Tokyo anyway. Also, our JR Pass didn't cover the bus tickets so we would have had to pay seventy-odd dollars for the tickets.
A cunning plan begins to form.
We approach the information counter to see if there was any way of hiring a car for the two-hour ride to Toyama. A couple of phone calls later and we have agreed on a price and are making our way to the taxi rank in front of the train station. Five minutes later we're walking back to the bus station to where the taxi is waiting. It's not our fault though as we were led there by the lady who brokered the ride. We meet the driver and, after he and the lady from the information counter finish a discussion that was obviously about the agreed price and our need to be in Toyama, we're under way.
After a short time, we notice the meter starting to go up. We're a little confused as to why the meter would be going up when it is an agreed fare so we attempt to discuss contract law with the driver. Apparently this can be a difficult topic when you don't speak each other's language. Fortunately we have Google! A quick type into the magic translator and we've now clearly delivered our message to the driver. To which he was able to also do some Google voodoo and deny all knowledge of any contract or agreed price.
Heart palpating, stomach tightening...
We weren't about to get him to stop and drop us off as we were already 10 minutes into the journey and this was our final option. We decided to try to put across our understanding of the situation in a number of ways while still heading to our destination. To cut a long story short, it was becoming dangerous to try to input and read translated messages on a screen while driving so we agreed to wait until we arrived to have the conversation.
All the while the meter was going up.
We ended up making very good time and, despite worrying about not making the train on time, we ended up getting to the station about 20 minutes before the scheduled time and, best of all, the meter showed less that what we were quoted anyway so there was a lot of worrying for no reason in the end. We have now joined an elite group of travellers who have paid over $300 for a single taxi ride but it was worth it so that we could make the train.
When we tried to book a ticket we were told there were no reserved seats left on the train but we could go to the unreserved carriages instead. More nervous waiting to see if there was going to be a spare seat on the train but, again, we wandered onto the train and found a couple of seats - not next to each other, but we were on the way.
Despite the God of rain and mudslides being angry, the god of "getting to the station on time and making the connection" was smiling favourably on our adventures.
Arrived in Tokyo, found our way to the Narita Express (NEX) and booked our tickets to the train station. Again, this was one of the few connections that we missed but the next train was only about 15 minutes later so we were en route before we knew it.
From here, by the time we got through customs and immigration and had a quick look for Tom's birthday present in duty free, we barely had time to sit in the Qantas club before we were being called on. The overnight flight was as expected - long and uncomfortable - but we arrived on Australian soil pretty much on schedule. It was a case of "rinse and repeat" when it came to getting through customs, immigration and to our connecting flight home. By the time we had landed it had taken just over 24 hours from the time we left our hotel to arriving at our front door but, we made it so that's all that matters. If we had a crystal ball at the beginning of the day and knew how it was going to turn out we would have probably enjoyed the journey knowing everything turned out so well. At the time however, it was quite stressful wondering about every connection and whether we were going to make it.
At the end of the day we had a great time in Japan and we saw some very interesting places and tried some different foods. Brett got to make a knife with a Japanese blade smith and Pamela had a successful conference. We didn't break the bank but got to do all the things we wanted so we look back with some very fond memories.
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