Betty Hits The Road

Day one of the Grand Adventure begins with packing the car. Not an easy task when leaving for a year-long trip.

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As you can imagine when packing for a year-long road trip there are quite a few things to be packed, particularly when you plan to camp for a good majority of the trip. As it turns out the boot of a Toyota Hilux is actually not that big, and having nowhere else to store our second spare tyre doesn’t help our situation. Phil has built a shelf across the back over the tyre which certainly helps but once we get the food box and all the camping gear in there isn’t much space left and still a huge pile of gear on the curb next to Betty. So I sing the tetris tune and set to work packing the rooftop box. With a lot of shifting, stuffing and rearranging we managed to get a fair bit in and successfully close the box. I’m not looking forward to the day we actually have to get anything out of there, I fear it will be a bit of an explosion once the latch is free!

So the boot is chocka-block, as is the rooftop box, the passenger seat on the driver’s side is almost full and still sleeping bags and other miscellaneous items need to go in. More tetris is needed! More stuffing is needed! Voila, Betty is packed to the brim and ready to go! Then a horrible realisation occurs. We haven’t yet bought the jerry cans and the gas bottle and there is literally no space left. Chudley, we may have to leave you in Vladivostok! Never mind, that’s future Phil, Chuck and Sammi’s problem, we’ll deal with it when we get to Russia!

We had planned to leave Tokyo around 10am to make it to Osaka in good time to meet Mariko and Yoko for dinner. It’s 11am, we’re only an hour late, pretty good considering packing always takes a lot longer than you plan! By the time we’ve grabbed something to eat and fuelled up, it’s almost 11:30 and then we’re off and driving out of Tokyo. Phil takes the wheel for this first leg as he knows the city a little better than I do! We enlist the help of the demanding lady of Apple maps (let’s call her Stephanie Hawkin) and attempt to navigate our way out of the city. Stephanie struggles with her Japanese and when she can’t pronounce the name of a street or place she makes a strange noise that sounds like she’s perhaps had a stroke. We seem to visit this odd sounding place a lot over the next couple of days!Pc

After some hairy lane changes in the city we find the entry to the expressway and onto the open road! From here it’s pretty straight forward, follow the expressway to Osaka. When we get away from the city the drive becomes quite beautiful. As we near Mt Fuji the landscape becomes green and mountainous and remains this way for most of the drive.
After a quick lunch stop in Hamanako it’s my turn to take the wheel. It’s my first drive of Betty and I’m instantly in love. She’s got a bit of a grunt to her but she’s lovely to drive, she shall no longer be referred to as Ugly Betty for she is ugly in no way!

We reach the outskirts of the city of Osaka, and with me still at the helm, venture into potential navigational difficulties. Considering I’m hopeless at navigating my way around the city of Perth I’m concerned about driving into a city a hundred times bigger where I know none of the road rules! We make our way in using both Stephanie and Google just to be sure. Turns out this is not such a good idea as they tend to have conflicting views on the best route forward! I am so focussed on driving that I’ve failed to realise the fuel light is on. This adds to our concerns as we are traversing bridges and have no idea when we’ll come across the next service station. Of course there are some on the opposite side of the road unable to be reached through the barrier! How embarrassing if we break down on day one because we’ve run out fuel in the middle of a city! Thankfully it’s not long till we come across one, Betty is fed and we continue on to the hotel, a weight lifted.

It’s already 6pm and we’re running late to meet Mariko. By some miracle we manage to find the hotel with ease, Betty has survived the first leg of the adventure and the streets of Osaka unscathed. We reluctantly leave her parked by the hotel, jump on the train and head into Tenma, close to the city centre to find the gorgeous Mariko.
We explore the laneways of downtown Osaka, eat lots of delicious foods (see Food and Booze Reviews) drink lots of delicious beer, and have a fabulous time with Mariko, Yoko and Juho, and I get to dress up as an aubergine. Such fun! After talking with our Osaka-knowledgeable friends we discover our hotel is actually in the ‘hood with the highest crime rates in Osaka. Oh no, poor Betty, all alone in the ghetto. We hope Phil’s dream doesn’t come true and no one will break in and steal our tarp!_MG_9663

After a long first day of adventuring we call it a night, say farewell to our friends and return to …. With the hope that Betty is safe. To our relief she’s there waiting for us, tarp and all! Not long after midnight we’re tucked up in bed for a good rest before day two of the Grand Adventure.

Day two begins with a lovely sento (Japanese bath) and some shopping in Osaka, and then we hit the road again. I feel confident with my city driving so I take the wheel again, and after only one small mishap with an accidental exit off the expressway which sadly cost us 800 yen and another stroke for Stephanie, we make it out of Osaka and head towards Yonago. We arrive at our next hotel around 6pm and discover a slight dilemma. We have to change our number plates to the international number plates, not a problem for the front one, it unscrews easily, but the back one has a strange cap over one of the screws which we can’t seem to remove. We try a number of different tools but to no avail. Hmm…deal with that later.

Apparently it is illegal to have a dirty car in Russia (hopefully this is not enforced too severely) so we take Betty off for a bath and hope they can help us out with the number plate at the garage. No luck with the number plate, but Betty is sparkly and clean! And then a phone call from our friendly Japanese customs agent and we are put at ease, they can remove the number plate at the port. Disaster averted and we head off into the quiet streets of Yonago for our last dinner in Japan. We find a cheap and cheerful Izakaya (Japanese tapas style restaurant), eat all the favourites and drink Sake. Then it’s back to the room for some last wireless communications before we set sail for South Korea and Russia!

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