the bus journey from shiretoko-shari station知床斜里駅 to utoro ウトロ was one of the most scenic rides ever. for the most part, that 60-minute ride brought us close to the coast and we were able to get a good view of the beautiful okhotsk sea. i wished the road would go on forever but the bus whisked us into the mountains soon and when we re-emerged, we were already at the sleepy little seaside town of utoro.
utoro is a place famous for its drift ice every winter (january/february). but it was summer then. the plan was to check into iruka hotel (dolphin), head to the unesco heritage site, shiretoko 5 lakes 知床五湖 and then to shiretoko pass 知床峠.
we managed to arrange a taxi with the hotel to bring us to these places for about 6000 yen return. it was definitely way better than taking the bus which came by very very infrequently.
this time, we went deep into the mountains and around them. the scenery were no less beautiful. wildlife was so abundant: we passed by bears resting by the road under the shade, deers nibbling on grasses and red foxes.
the 5 lakes had a magnificent board walk from where we could peep into the marshes, spot some deers and revel in the majesty of the surrounding mountains. but it was rather hot at noontime. earlier, i was contemplating if i ought to sign up for their hiking tours (at least 5000 yen per pax) but i thought the old people wouldn’t enjoy it. i was right.
scenery-wise the better hiking option would be mount rausu 羅臼岳. that’s provided you are fighting-fit of course, since rausu didn’t look very easy at all.
from the 5 lakes, we headed west towards shiretoko pass where we’d get to stand next to mount rausu and got a good view of the disputed kuril islands (claimed by both japan and russia).
by the time we got back, it was time for dinner. we had ours at a ramen house next to the sea. yummy!
one of the must-do at utoro was to take a cruise around the shiretoko peninsula (either on a cruise ship or speedboat, from 6000 yen per pax). the hotel owner helped us book the tickets so all we had to do was present ourselves at the ticketing station just outside the harbour. the weather was good – blue skies, blue sea, lush green – and a couple of dolphins playing some distance away. but merely looking at the beautiful landscape from the ferry instead of walking on it felt a bit dissatisfying. even though it was the quickest way and probably safest way to explore the peninsula.
in the evening, we walked from iruka hotel to the oronko rock to see sunset; along the way, we were joined by a red fox. it got to the top of the rock earlier than us, probably to stake out his favourite hidden spot. and it was wily enough to avoid this paparazzi.
the sunset was splendid; a befitting way to end our stay in utoro.
the next day, we took a bus back to shari station, transferred to another bus to memanbetsu airport 女満別空港, and took a flight back to tokyo. it was another good-weather day.
and so ended our adventures in hokkaido. someday, we will be back for the drift ice.