Posted tagged ‘Iriomote Island’

Geeda Waterfall (ゲーダの滝)

January 21, 2013

Geeda waterfall is a three-tiered beauty with magnificant views over the jungle to the East China Sea. The river slog and accompanying climb are recommended for experienced hikers only unless you go with a guide.


The hike: Once you cross Geeda bridge (ゲーダ橋), look behind the railing on the right side of the road and you can see the trail descending into the jungle. Be careful when coming by bicycle, because just before Geeda bridge is Nishi Geeda bridge (西ゲーダ橋). Don’t get the two bridges confused. If the bus driver lets you off at Omijya, then you’ll need to backtrack a few minutes to find the bridge. Enter the jungle and you’ll soon cross over the river and follow the right bank. After a couple of minutes, the trail ends at the edge of the river. From here you’ll basically need to spend most of the time in the river, alternating from the left to right banks. Basically choose whichever areas look stable and relatively safe to climb. You might find it useful in tricky areas to actually exit the river and follow through the overgrown jungle. I spent most of the climb trying to stay dry, but ended up spending the entire time in the river on the way back, since I was already wet from swimming. The water isn’t too deep, but there are a few waist-deep pools to watch out for. After 20 to 30 minutes of scrambling, you’ll reach the base of the 3-tiered waterfall. Instead of climbing up to the base, look on the left bank of the river for a trail through the jungle that will take you to the top of the waterfall. It’s marked with a pink ribbon that can be difficult to find, but just head up the steep incline. The path climbs steeply at first before descending to the top of the first tier. From here you can get a good view of the jungle with the sea beyond. The part of the climb to the second tier is tricky and vertigo-inducing, so do not attempt it if you’re not confident with climbing. The route continues climbing to the base of a cliff. When you reach this area, turn right and traverse the edge of the cliff before reaching an overgrown tree. You’ll see some ropes here, so hoist yourself up to the second tier of the waterfall. The views here and outstanding and the flat rocks make it an ideal place to take a break. If you’re still gungho, there’s an incredibly steep and dangerous trail to the left of the waterfall that will take you to top, but do not proceed if the rocks are wet, as you’ll have no traction. I turned back just before the top because I was alone, and didn’t have a rope and harness. After admiring the views, make your way carefully back down to the base of the first tier, where you’ll find a great swimming hole. After getting thoroughly soaked, head back down through the river back to the paved road and your waiting transport.

When to go: This hike can be done year round, but be sure to have good footwear. I did this hike in sandals and my toes got pretty beat up, so consider wearing some sawanobori shoes or Vibram 5-Fingers. You can rent wetsuit boots at Mariudo if you don’t have any. Hiking boots are pretty useless, since the trail pretty much runs straight up the river. Mariudo also runs half-day tours if you’re inexperienced. Climbing rope and a harness will come in handy if you choose to climb the final tier.

Access: Although there is no bus stop at the trailhead, the bus driver will usually let you off there if you tell him/her. Just ask to get off at Omijya (お見謝) Paakingu or Geeda hashi. Another option (which I chose) was to rent a bicycle and ride out to the trailhead from Uehara. If you’re staying at Mariudo Guesthouse then you can rent a bicycle there and ride the 6km to the trailhead. Just head downhill towards Funaura port and keep going. This might be a better option because of the limited bus schedule. If you’ve got a license then you can rent a scooter as well.

Level of difficulty: 5 out of 5 (elevation change ~100m)

Distance: 3km (1 to 4 hours, depending on how long you swim)

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Pinaisaara Waterfall (ピナイサーラの滝)

March 15, 2012

Pinaisaara waterfall is an exciting kayak/hike combination on Iriomote Island, one of Japan’s best preserved wilderness areas. You may even get to see a Crested Serpent Eagle flying through the mangrove trees.

The hike: From the boat landing, kayak up the river, making sure you stay on the right fork of the river when it meets Funaura bay. From here, it should take about 15 to 20 minutes of easy kayaking to reach the start of the hike. If you’ve come by yourself, then look for a place to tie up your boat on the right side of the river, before the river turns into rocks and rapids. Be sure to store your paddle inside your kayak and put your life jacket in a tree so you can find your boat later. Better yet, take a picture of your kayak so you can remember what it looks like! Once you exit the boat, you have 2 options. If you turn left and follow the stream upriver, you can get to the base of Pinasaara waterfall. If you turn right and climb up to the ridge, you can climb to the top of the falls. I recommend climbing to the top first, and then visit the base of the falls for a swim before paddling back to the start. Enter the jungle from the boat landing and turn right, following the trail for a few meters before it starts the short but steep climb to the ridge. The trail is completely unmarked and can be difficult to follow (I think this is done on purpose in order for the guides to justify their existence).  You should reach the ridge after about 10 minutes of strenuous climbing. At one point you’ll reach a large rock formation, but there’s a rope here to assist you in the ascent. Just past this the trail will flatten out and turn towards the left. After a few minutes you’ll cross a stream and reach the top of a crest, where you can hear the waterfall. There’s a faint trail to the right, but ignore this and take the trail to your left marked with a white buoy tied to a tree. It’s a steep 2-minute descent to the river, which is at the top of the waterfall. In order to look down on the waterfall and out to sea, you’ll need to cross the river, which can be really tricky. Just to your left you’ll see a very small waterfall that stretches the length of the river. At the base of that fall the water is shallow and the river bed is flat, so this is where you’ll want to cross. Upstream seems safer, but there’s no way of getting up there. Once you cross, head downstream and around towards the right to the top of the cliff. It seems like it would be easier to just stay on dry land and walk along the flat rocks on your right, but be careful because they are extremely slippery. If you’re not sure where to go, then just wait for a guided tour to come along and watch how the guide crosses the river. After admiring the views, retrace your steps back down to the river and continue upstream. The path can be a bit tricky to find, so when in doubt stick to the river until you end up crossing a portion of it. From here the track will climb up on the right bank of the river, away from the shore. The best course of action is to follow the scuff marks on the rocks. They’re the best indication of where to go. After about 10 minutes you’ll reach the base of the falls, so take a break here and enjoy the swim (if the water’s not too cold). After this you can backtrack to your kayak and paddle back to civilization. All in all it should take anywhere from 3 to 5 hours to do the entire trip, depending on how fast you can kayak and how long you rest/swim.

When to go: This hike can be done year round, but summer is the best season if you want to go swimming at the base of the waterfall. Winter can be just as rewarding, with fewer people and a better chance to see the waterfall at full strength.

Access: Although during low tide this hike can be done without a boat, the best way to appreciate the splendor of the place is to get to the start of the hike by kayak. 99% of the people join a guided tour, but it’s not necessary if you have a little experience with kayaking. Mariudo Guesthouse can rent you a kayak only (without a guide) for ¥4000. They’ll drop you off and pick you up, and will also give you a basic map. This is a great place to stay on the island, because the food is good, the staff are knowledgable, and they have a fantastic selection of tours. If you’re not comfortable with kayaking, you can always join their full-day guided tour for ¥8000, which includes the guide, lunch, and kayaks. Please note that these were the prices back in 2012 and they may have increased, so please inquire with the staff.

Level of difficulty: 2 out of 5 (elevation change ~100m)

Distance: 4km by kayak, 2km walking (3 to 5 hours)

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