22/5/16. We had read about the Iya Valley in several places and, when in town, had seen literature about a tourist bus trip that took in the sights of the valley and its neighbour. It would blow the budget at ¥7,500 (£50) each but did include lunch and a boat trip in the Oboke Gorge (another sight that was well publicised).
We decided to splash out and asked the lady in the hostel to book it for us over the phone (the literature made it clear that pre-reservation was essential). We are mighty glad that we did go because we had a wonderful time and very much doubt that we could have cobbled together the same using public buses and trains for anywhere near the cost.
The Bonnet Bus (so called because the engine is in front of the driver) is an ancient jalopy which must require a good deal of strength to drive, with the amount of steering wheel twirling that went on (I’m sure it doesn’t have power steering) once we hit the very narrow, extremely bendy roads in the Valley and every gear change involved double de-clutching, for those old enough to remember what that is.
There were 9 passengers (6 Japanese, a young lady from Hong Kong, and us) and the bus seats about 25, but we reckon it must get very busy in the height of the season.
The trip was very much about the sights so it is probably best to look at the photos (separate page created here) but the main points were:-
- The Iya Valley is spectacular with steep, high, wooded slopes towering above the road. It is on a par with Switzerland (and that is high praise indeed!)
- As previously mentioned, the road was very narrow and bendy as well as steep (>10%) in places.
- We stopped at the Japanese version of the Mannequin Pis. We could not understand why it was there and, although it is probably twice the size of the Brussels original, was rather underwhelming.
- Lunch was superb! 9 different dishes including a local river fish on a skewer and the local “soba” noodles made from buckwheat. Yummy.
- A trip across a vine bridge which required very careful foot placement. It looks hairy but wasn’t really very scary – even for Christine!
- The boat trip was short (about 15 minutes) but the gorge was rather gorgeous!
- The stops at the folklore museum and the geological exhibition (admission to the latter was not included in the price, but everything else was) were both rather “meh”.
All in all, it was well worth the money and we would heartily recommend it, if you are in the area.