I picked up Nick from Nagaoka and we drove up to Niigata for his birthday meal. We got stuck in traffic, then stuck in the one-way system so we arrived about a half hour late. Good-un Martin.
The curry was great. It was a proper curry, none of this brown school-dinner stuff that the Japanese usually call curry, with naan's and chipattis and Cobra beer. It even had wall coverings that wouldn't look out of place in Brick Lane.
After we went to Hot Spot, but not to drink. Everyone who came from North Niigata were going to take a trip to Zao for teh weekend. To do this, they needed to drive back to Murakami on Friday night and have an early start on Saturday. So not too much drinking. My plan was to stay over at Holly's and then drive down to Joetsu to meet Ben, Simon and the lads down at Cupid Valley in Joetsu. But I had my car in Niigata city centre, so for an early start, I needed to drive my car to Holly's. So no drinking Friday night.
On Saturday morning I had a bit of a surprise; I had brought everything I needed to board with me except my ski trousers. I couldn't believe it. So, I headed to Tokamachi to pick up my gear and headed to Cupid Valley, picking up Matt from Sado on the way. We got to Cupid Valley by 1pm, so not too late to have a full afternoon on the slope.
We bought our ski pass and made out way up the mountain on a ski lift. The mountain looked perfect for snowboarding; a big mountain, not to steep, not too shallow, without too many skiers making the slopes bumpy and stacks of powder. This was going to be a good day boarding. Matt and I started to make our way down teh slope, occasionally getting stuck in powder when we went to close to the edges. I was pushing myself a little harder than usual because I knew that if I fell I would fall into nice soft snow. It was great, easily the best boarding I've ever experienced.
The run came to a set of jumps and I felt confident enough to try it. Matt gave me a few tips and he went first to show me how to do it. He landed it, pulled to one side and waited for me. I set off. I tried to keep my speed down, lined up the jump, left the ground and...
...well, a brief thought of "Wow, I'm in the air" followed by "I'm leaning back too much" then "no worries, there's so much powder it'll be a soft landing". CRUNCH!! I managed to find the one place on the mountain that was solid ice, and promptly introduced it to my back.
I was in pain. No, I was pain. And I couldn't breathe. And I couldn't move. Matt yelled to see if I was okay and I tried to move to give some kind of signal. He then started yelling for me to get out of the way so I wouldn't be crushed by the next jumper. Slowly, and painfully, and breathlessly I managed to unclip my bindings and crawl to the side of the slope. And I sat waiting for the pain to go and my breath to return. After ten minutes or so, I gingerly got back on my board and steadily made my way back to the chalet.
As luck would have it, we bumped into the other ALTs (Ben, Holly, Simon, ??, Ian and Joe with their girlfriends) at the chalet. They'd just finished a tabehodai (all you can eat buffet) and we hung out with them until they were getting ready for another session on the slopes. By that time, I was ready too so I joined Matt, Simon and ?? in teh quest to find to decent powder at the top of the slope.
We took the gondola and pretty soon found what we were looking for; a slope with aift at top and bottom and plenty of powder and plenty of trees to weave in and out. Well, I say weaving, I couldn't turn too quickly with my back so it was more a dash through the trees for me. I did a few runs before making my way back to the chalet to rest again.
I bumped into Lillian, Megan and Jamie this time and I joined them for ice-cream. When my back was less painful, I had time for one more run. Strangely, my back hurt more on teh ski-lift than it did when I was boarding. It was still painful and was hoping that the onsen would help sort it out. It did in a way, but only when I was in the bath. When I got out I was still in pain. Luckily, Joe had some Ibuprofen and I took a couple. By the time I'd driven to Joetsu I could feel no pain at all.
The drive to Joetsu was really impressive. The village near Cupid Valley was having a snow festival so all along the main road little candle holes had been dug into the walls of snow. It was even more impressive when I turned off the car headlights for a few minutes.
We (Matt, Ben, Holly, Simon and I) went for ramen, dropped our stuff off at Dan's house then walked into Takada for the party. We went to Nova and met with Dan and other ALTs. I also met Conrad who I hadn;t seen in ages and we caught up.
We needed to get drunk, cheaply, so we went to join Joe and the others as a nomihodai (all you can drink) karaoke place. A couple of hours drinking beer and G&t while screaming along to the Doors, Oasis and Franz Ferdinand and we were ready for the party.
So back to Nova, and the booze was taking effect, so much so that I really can't remember what happened or who was there. I don;t remember my back hurting, which is good. I do remember taking photos, which is bad.
I woke on Sunday, on the floor of Dan's apartment under a towel. It's was freezing so I guess I was lucky to find myself fully clothed. My back was aching a bit; bearable but I could do with more ibuprofen. I felt tired and sore, but after a long period of persuasion I agreed to go boarding again, this time further south in Arai.
Dan knew the way so he drove Simon and I followed. The main roads were fine but some of the more country roads were covered in large patches of bumpy ice. We were driving down one of these country roads when Dan got a little unlucky. He ran over quite a large bump and the back of his car swung out a little. He tried to correct it, but it was difficult with more ice bumps further up the road. Another car was coming in the opposite direction. I thought the other car woulkd stop, but it didn't and tried to go past Dan. At this point, Dan's car swung into the other lane, clipping the oncoming car and then spinning round tro stop and face in the opposite direction.
The other car stopped, and I parked my car. While Dan and the other driver were exchanging details, a police car on patrol came by and stopped to investigate. Simon's Japanese proved to be very useful when it came to talking with teh police officer, but still, it took a good hour or so to get details taken, notes made and everything sorted out before we could leave. It was too late to go boarding so we grabbed some food from seven-eleven and headed back to Dan's to warm up before I left for Tokamachi.
I stopped at Jusco to buy ibuprofen. I tried to ask in Japanese "I-bu-pu-ro-pe-n arimasu ka?" but the chemist didn;t understand me. I looked in my dictionary for pain and luckily found, in the definition, the phrase "senaka ga itai desu" (I have a pain in my back). So I pointed to that, mimed taking a pill and the guy understood. Communication really can be more than just speech.
I took a couple of ibuprofen and drove home. Route 253 was a bit difficult. There was lots of ice on the road and I was starting to feel quite tired. I had to stop at one point and take a nap just to be safe. But I managed to get back safely, prepare things for today and get a good night's sleep. Well, as good as you can get with a painful back. The ibuprofen is really helping though.