Greg had tipped us off about some very hard-to-find Royalex whitewater canoes being sold by a contact of his out east in Hokkaido. So it transpired that Haidee and I would purchase a 20-year-old Royalex Old Town Cascade canoe for 180,000yen (about US$1,500). Such is the canoe market here in Hokkaido!
Suffice it to say that we were now in eastern Hokkaido with a new canoe that needed to be christened by us, its proud new owners. Mari and Greg jumped at the opportunity to drive out east and paddle a river that had been on our radar for a while – the Toshibetsu (not to be confused with the Shiribeshi-toshibetsu River in southern Hokkaido).
With two vehicles, the shuttling was very straight forward.
It was cold though. Full drysuit sort of weather, with woolly hats in full force too. There was still snow here and there in the north-facing shadows.
Not soon after setting off, we had our first chance encounter with a wildlife highlight of eastern Hokkaido – the rare red-crested tancho crane. Two boisterous individuals who allowed us quite close before they flew off.
This encounter happily took our minds off the stiff, fridged cold wind we were paddling against during the first one kilometer or so after putting in. We were looking forward to getting into the shelter of the bends of the river fast.
The bends came soon enough, and indeed sheltered us from the cold southerly wind.
And then the cliffs came.
Great, magnificent, awe-inspiring walls of clay, hanging over the river, contrasted against the colorless vegetation waiting for warmer temperatures to burst into green.
It was clear that we’d arrived at the Toshibetsu not long after the ice-out. Great large ice-floes sat washed up on the riversides, slowly melting.
We stopped to investigate one. The needle-like structure of the ice was fasctinating.
We had a few breaks along the way, but overall, it was a very straight-forward paddle. The almost-30km went quickly. First canoeing of the season done!