Japan Winter Safari: Wildlife Photography from a Wheelchair!!!

Wim Reports from the Japan Winter Safari:

Yes! I am in a wheelchair! Or on crutches! … So what happened? …

The largest blizzard that we have experienced blew up overnight – and that is saying something – we have seen some monsters! But this one was something else.

So when we woke up this morning with that incredible storm still raging, the majority to decided to remain at the inn. The flying ice, snow, driving rain, gale-force were just too much to contemplate. But of few of us hardy souls – or maybe foolhardy souls – decided that another trip to Lake Kussharo in these conditions would be well worth it.

So we climbed through snow-drifts and clambered past massive ice stalagmites that continued to grow. Another group decided that this was not worth it and returned to the warmth and shelter of the inn.

We persevered and were rewarded with some extraordinary of the Whooper Swans as they hunkered down in the warm waters on the edge of the lake, while the wind did its best to blow them away, or to remove their feathers, which stood up in unkempt styles fashioned by the ongoing howling gale.

(Photos from before – no time to download after the hospital …)

7 a Swan Wim

After capturing some fabulous shots we returned to the inn for breakfast and to our fellows, only to be told that all roads have been closed and there will be no passage to Rausu until further notice. So we traveled to our backup lodge in Kushiro.

We stopped along the way at another good area to photograph the swans. The birds obligingly flew back and forth, and while we were there, many more flew in from surrounding areas and there were dozens in the water …

7 a Ben Swan-28-1

And then off again to Kushiro. As the bus stopped and I made my way to the door, I looked out and realized that conditions outside looked treacherous to say the least. As I reached the stairs I reminded myself – and others – to be very, very careful. With that, I stepped off the bus.

THUD! CRACK! I heard it as I keeled over – something snapped in my ankle – what had happened? I looked around, flat on my back, bewildered for a second or two. Then the pain! Something in my ankle …

To cut a long story short then, after a few hours at the local hospital, I now have a cast – a wheelchair – and crutches!

Hopefully we can reach Rausu tomorrow to photograph the Steller’s Sea Eagles. We have been looking forward to that part of our adventure …