Kura River canoeing, Iriomote Island クーラ川、西表島

Ishigaki port

Jan. 2020

Breakfast at 8, again heavy on fish but it is fine.

After breakfast, those who are going canoeing assemble at 9. The sky is overcast but it is not raining.

The young lady, who doubles as a waitress, drives us a couple of kilometers to the canoeing spot. I was surprised that we had to climb over a fence and scramble down a bank into the mangroves in order to reach the stashed canoes.

Canoe Trip on Kura river

There are only two other people for this jaunt, but the young lady has, unfortunately, brought one set too few paddles. D. and I therefore have a double canoe with only one set of paddles. D. does not get to paddle her own canoe. Unfortunately, the canoe is full of water. This proves difficult to tip out, so we ease our arses into a couple of centimetres of water from the off.

Our starting point is very near the mouth of Kura river. We can see the surf breaking not far away so it is, of course, tidal. The vegetation hangs over the water and the river is not very wide. At times, we have to duck to avoid the low branches. The river, or stream is more accurate, is also very shallow in places and it is easy to run aground.

We are out of the wind in the mangroves, and the rain has held off so it is quite warm especially with the life jacket. As the water is shallower than the average bath, I am unsure of the life-jacket’s function.

After paddling gently upstream for a couple of hundred meters, the stream peters out into a series of rocky trickles and becomes non navigable. From this point, we proceed on foot along the rocky stream bed until we come to a sort of Frank Lloyd Wright waterfall, Kura. Here the obligatory photo is taken.

Kura Waterfall

Kura Waterfall

A brief jungle trek

We then strike off into the jungle, on a well-worn path. This takes us up and around the waterfall until we emerge on top of it. This presents another photo op. This is, perhaps, just as well as we have left all our electronic devices behind, not wanting to risk then on the water. The pictures here are courtesy of the tour guide.

Iriomote Jungle

Iriomote Jungle

We then return the way we have come. As we are reunited with our canoes, two other parties are arriving. Our guide tells us that the route gets very busy in the season.

This trek is also done at night. There is then, perhaps, a slim chance of seeing a Yama Neko (Iriomote wild cat). Not to mention encountering a Habu. In fact, our guide tells us she was bitten by a habu. She was not trekking in the forest at night, as you might expect, but on the step outside her apartment.

Bento lunch and return to Ishigaki-jima  大見謝ロードパーク

Back in our canoes, we drift downstream to the starting point. We enjoyed this canoe trip, and not just for the novelty value, but would have wished for something longer. It is part of the hotel package and we have to catch the ferry back to Ishigaki-jima so is just an additional attraction and understandably short.

Canoes stashed, we are driven to a nearby beach with a viewing spot, Ohmitsuke Road Park, for our bento lunch which was prepared by the hotel. Lunch over, we are driven back to the hotel to change out of our wet clothes. Dry, we head to Uehara ferry port and the bus to take us back to Ohara and the ferry to Ishigaki-jima.

View from Ohmitsuke Road Park

View from Ohmitsuke Road Park

The sea is noticeably calmer for the return trip and the sun has cleared away the clouds now we are leaving.

This was a good experience for us. We don’t usually join tours or organized activities but Iriomote-jima is really only jungle so organized activities are, for the most part, the only option.

I was surprised by the general lack of wildlife. I had expected to see exotic birds, but we noted only a few crows, egrets and swallows. Goats are common as pets and for controlling vegetation and for food, but, sadly, saw no cats – not even domestic ones.

Back to Ishigaki-jima, and go to the same Izakaya ‘Paikaji’ again.

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