Kii-Katsuura station is small with only one entry and exit point. All passengers are greeted by two young women dressed in red, white and black kaftans.
I had no idea how big or small Kii-Katsuura was and had no idea where the Hotel Charmant was located in relation to the station. I approached one of the ladies.
“Hai,” and she beckoned me to follow her.
The hotel was about two short blocks away located next to an orange shop selling – you guessed it – only citrus fruit.
It was 11:45 am and although the lobby was open, there wasn’t a soul in sight. The door to what I assumed was an office was locked. I sat at a table and waited. And waited. And waited some more. Outside the streets were empty and quiet. Despite shops being open, the town was deserted.
One of my pet peeves is waiting. It is pointless, frustrating, time consuming and wasteful.. I don’t do waiting well at all. So I was very excited when two Europeans, a guy and a girl slightly younger than I, entered the small reception area.
“Oh hi! Are you two with the Cove Guardians?”
“No. Are you waiting for them?”
“Yes – I am joining today!”
“They should be back shortly for lunch. They usually come back around this time.”
“And fo you know where the check-in staff are?”
“Ah yeah – check-in isn’t until 3pm and no one will be here until then.”
“Seriously? Okay well is it safe to leave my bags here?”
“Very safe. Have a good stay!” and they left.
I continued to wait. And wait some more. Hunger was setting in. A loud siren went off followed by a calm female Japanese voice making some sort of announcement. Suddenly a dog started howling lamentfully. It was an unearthly sound. I had no idea what the siren was about. Tsunami warning? Earthquake warning? What? Either way, it sounded like the dog was in pain and needed help and thus I ran outside.
The streets were as deserted as before. There were no frantic running for safe ground, no panicked citizens grabbing what they could and evacuating. There was absolutely no indication of any impending disaster. Shop owners seemed unconcerned, lazily standing around in their shops. It was confusing. What was the siren and the voice all about? The only way I was going to find out was to wait for the others to come back from wherever they were and to ask them. Rosie has been in Kii-Katsuura for close to three months so she should know what is what in this strange yet wondrous place.
Four shops down from the hotel entrance I found the howling dog. My heart broke when I saw him sitting in a ‘cage’ which was built out from the window. He was big and beige. My first reaction was to go over and offer him some comfort and a kind hand. He would have none of it. As I approached he froze, just before breaking out in vicious, violent barks.
“Then how you bastard! I was only trying to be NICE!” I thought. I returned to the hotel, still hungry. I contemplated lugging all my bags with me as I walked around town looking for food. It was simply too much of a mission. I tried that when I was in London on a previous trip and it didn’t work. It was downright cumbersome. The only other option was to leave my bags in the lobby and hope that no one takes an interest in my stuff. Rosie has previously told me how you can leave your laptop in reception, go do something else and when you return, your laptop would be in the exact same position as you left it. Being South African, I was naturally suspicious, paranoid and distrustful of people. Leaving anything unattended is just not done. Doing so is an open invitation for trouble and misfortune. But I knoew that I could trust Rosie and if she said it was safe, you could take it to the bank. It’s difficult to shake ingrained behaviour just like that so I carefully hid my bags behind a chair and under a table.
The shop next door to the hotel, as mentioned, sold only citrus fruit. I contemplated it – it was right next to the hotel so I could watch when Rosie comes or if someone entered the hotel to steal my stuff. After stroking – or rather attempting to stroke (animals REALLY don’t like me) – the cat in the orange ship who was tied to a table by a long leash, I decided to move on. It was really difficult to find food. Although there were restaurants abound, everything was in Japanese and Kii-Katsuura being a small coastal town hours away from any major city, English was simply off the menu (so to speak).
As luck would have it, there was a green grocer behind the hotel. Here at least I could get something I recognised. My jaw hit the ground when I saw the size of the fruit. The apples were humongous and expensive compared to back home. They had massive Asian pears (a fruit I am particularly fond of but can’t often find back home) and I was not going to pass up the opportunity to have one. The size of the Asian pear was big enough to constitute a meal. And holy cow batman! It was delicious as it was big!
On my way back to the hotel I passed yet another dog tied up – this time to a bench, with no shelter and only a little pink heart shaped water bowl. I cringed. What is with these people? Does every living creature have to be tethered and imprisoned? It was infuriating. It’s like animals are nothing more than slaves at the mercy of their human masters!
The first thing I did when I got back to the hotel was to check on my bags. There was still not a soul around and true as bob, my bags were exactly as I have left them. I waited. And waited yet some more. Frustrated I went to sit outside on a bench. I amused myself by pulling my Iron Maiden hoodie over my head, putting on my oversized Jackie O sunglasses and acting like I was a celebrity hiding from the paps. When that got stale, I was a gansta chick, scoping out an enemy’s possy.
My head jerked up when a silver Yaris drove in my direction. Rosie’s unmistaken blond curls poked out from underneath a black beanie as her head barely showed up over the steering wheel. I jumped up as if someone poked me with an electric cattle prod. As the Cove Guardians spilled out of the car, I only had my eyes focused on one person. I ran to my friend and squealed excitedly as I hugged and hugged her.
“I made it Rosie! I MADE IT!!!”
“Hello Nix. Welcome!”