June 29th my wife and I celebrated our 3rd anniversary. We had lunch out with family, did some shopping, had a second lunch with more family 2 hours later, while all the while managing to sneak in the beers.
The day ended with dinner at my wife's mother's place. Enchiladas all around, courtesy of my sis-in-law who is visiting at the moment.
The next day we had a BBQ over at another sister's house, which pretty much brought the rest of the in-laws and a lot of old friends, millions of children and Haru into one spot. We're all suckers for good food. It was loads of fun, and no one complained that the weather prediction was off, as we should have had rain, but instead had a nice overcast day.
Day 3 I packed up the gear and Haru and I jumped into the jeep to head out for some fishing and hunting training. Another overcast day, nice breeze, decent temps, great for a romp outdoors. We had a fun mountain climb, which more or less involved Haru following boar, and myself struggling to keep up.
We managed to get the jump on a group of piglets, don't know how far off the biggies were. Haru tracked us right on top of 'em. They took off in all directions, and Haru picked one and gave chase. Her first pigs, and she showed a lot of interest. They were pretty much the same size as her, and damn they're fast. She chased for a bit, and then came back. It's all a fun game to her, and after the pigs were gone she enjoyed digging up the bamboo shoots the pigs had half uncovered.
Mid afternoon rolled around and I was getting hungry. Headed down the mountain to get a bite to eat, and while driving toward a local 'bento' shop in the area I came across a mountain road I hadn't been up recently. It's barely wide enough for my little jeep to get through, and only paved for the first 200 meters or so. After that it's all off road, rocks, mud and such. Basically just a 2 rut path cutting up to the top of the mountain where it dead ends. The other side of the mountain is a large tract of nationally owned forest with some of the biggest trees you'll find in Chiba prefecture. There's a lot of wild mushrooms and vegetables growing up there, and I wanted to take a quick peek.
It's just over 3km to the end of the 'road' and we were pretty much there when things started to go awry. I was happy to notice some recent maintenance on the route, the forestry service fixes it up around once a year. Going up there were a few muddy patches due to the recent rain, but nothing the 4WD was going to have issues with. There's one last rise, then a dip and a short hill before getting to the end of the route. Just as I rolled over the rise I noticed the dip was a bit muddy, but it didn't look too bad. I figured it wouldn't be too fun heading back, but it shouldn't be too bad.
BIG mistake. Rolled up the last bit of road, took a walk around with Haru for 30mins and started on the descent. Got to the 'dip' and we couldn't get up the little rise. No matter how I tried to take it, the closest I could get to the top was around 10 meters. I found out later that they only did road work this year up to the rise, then dumped a load of excess mud down into the 'dip'.
I spent the next two hours of daylight trying to be crafty and get up the hill. No go. I got my shovel out and worked on the road, tried laying stuff on it for traction, tried crawling, and finally tried just flying down from as far back as I could get and gunning up. Always the same result. 10 meters from the top. Lots of fun driving tho, but now Haru and I were both covered in mud and it was 7pm. We were losing daylight fast. I realized we weren't going to get out without help and figured we'd just sleep in the car and figure it out the next day.
I backed up the car to the bottom of the rise to get ready for a night out, and just after I stopped, the car started sliding to the right. We had a cliff face going up on our left, and a cliff dropping off to the right. Haru was in the passenger seat to my left, so I grabbed her, and jumped out the passenger side door. Luckily the car stopped sliding, with the front right wheel off the edge. We weren't going to be sleeping in the car. I grabbed some rope and tied the car up to a few nearby trees to stop it from sliding further, and stacked rocks around the tires. We were going to need serious help now. The sky was also starting to look a bit iffy and I didn't want to get caught sleeping in a tent in the rain under a cliff face.
Decided to head down the mountain seeing as it was still 7:30, I had a couple flashlights, good gear, and it's only 3km. We trudged down to the bottom in around an hour and a half, and ran into a local who pointed me in the direction of the nearest gas station 5km away. We walked while I called in a rescue party, aka my bro-in-law and co. They were around 3 hours away, but dropped everything to come pick us up. We finally met up at 1am, and got home at 4. Collapsed into my bed, till it was absolutely necessary to get up.
Borrowed a vehicle from my father-in-law's company and drove back out to see about the jeep. Locals are great. The nearest car repair shop's 'shacho' (boss) was amazing. He jumped into his 4WD 'kei truck' (a extremely mini pick up truck with a 660cc engine) and drove with me as far as was safe up the mountain. He was amazed I drive up there all the time, as even the locals don't know the road exists (and of course you have to be nuts to drive up there). He's been contracted to do some work up there by the forestry service on occasion, so knows the area.
We took a look at the jeep, and figured out a plan of attack for getting it back on the road. I had a fleeting thought the night before that the only way I was going to get the car out of there was by getting a vehicle with tracks and not tires to pull the jeep out. I mentioned it to the 'shacho' and he agreed and called up a friend of his who runs a construction company. They talked for a bit, and decided to help me out and arranged to get a shovel car up to the mountain.
To make this long story shorter, two hours later we were back up the mountain with the shovel car pulling the jeep back onto the road, and up the rise. I have a bit of video I took here and there that I'll try to post later, but all in all it was a nutty few days. I'm happy it didn't end up worse than it did, but mostly I have to thank friends and family for all their help. It's times like this when things are going south that you realize how important their support is.
As an interesting side note, when bro-in-law and co. came to pick me up, they drove out on an empty tank of gas. Guessing which route to take that MIGHT have an all night gas station within a 30km radius was pretty stressing. Of course this whole story ends well, so we didn't run out of gas, but it was a close thing. We were also both on the last battery bar on our cellphones. Not fun.