One man's recollection of a day from a couple of years ago as he and his work chums dragged their bums up a great big chunk of rock. May contain traces of expletives.
At the time, it was a day like any other: My presence had been demanded at work. I obliged by dressing casually in a long-sleeved number lacking colour and held together as a fashionable ensemble with a tie I had picked up for two bucks from a second hand shop many days earlier; a faint hint of body odour was being emitted at a steadily nauseating rate, unaided in its potency by the consumption of a lunch consisting of raw fish and, unless memory has been concealing a card up its vast sleeve, a 500 mL serve of second-rate iced coffee; as far as the rules of engagement across the ether permit me to divulge, I began what by theoretical standards was classed as work at 10:00 am, having concluded the thankless deed by no later than 5:42 pm.
Aside: Back in the day, Under The Radar and I were arguably the quickest of the gumbies to assess that loitering at work after the clock had been punched only stirred our on-again-off-again desire to be deported to our respective countries quick smart. He plays no further part in this story; perhaps only a bit towards the end.
One of my other work colleagues, whom henceforth shall be referred to as 'Big Gay Dez' had used his charm to procure a van with regrettable power by hoicking his skirt before one of the native non-English speaking lads with a fruity blow-dried hairdo at the car rental agency in the hope of preventing a premature decapitation of our lofty plans. We filled the van's interior with the arses of two men (including Big Gay Dez) and two slightly larger arses of two female work colleagues. This memory alone remains more vivid than much that was to follow as I was in two minds whether or not to strap myself to the van's roof rack should we chance upon a dunny break somewhere along the way. We didn't, as time was, to quote Big Gay Dez 'of the essence,' so I sought justice in the future tense by perfecting my death stare in the rear-view mirror.
It wasn't long until we were motoring, for all intensive care purposes, tragically on the Tomei Expressway (a.k.a. the poorest excuse for an inappropriately named stretch of road in Japan), where the top speed of 50 kilometres became an embarrassment once the average speed was calculated. I'm fucked if I remember what that was; I think you may have a mental image of time standing still, though.
I had maintained written and verbal contact over the trusted mobile phone with the fifth member of our team, the Art of Stu (UTMG, you have permission to use this title for an album if you wish), who was arguably the smartest of us all as he sat with both cheeks plonked on a seat aboard one of the comfortably super fast shinkansen (a.k.a. bullet trains). He had agreed to lend his Scottish climbing prowess by joining the team from his regional Kyoto.
We finally hooked up with the Art at the local fast-train station and squeezed our sorry arses into that weak as piss van. Knowing next to nought about which direction the giant pimple of rock and ash and gravel we were about to hike up was, we asked every motherfucker we saw from the confines of our not-so-squeezy jalopy. Each new direction gave us a different sense of steering towards nowhere until a road with fundamentally less joy and significantly greater upwards gradient proved to be the chiropractor that fixed the camel's back.
And then the heavens opened their bowels. Greatly.
We were at one of the many stations, the farthest for allowing vehicular transportation; no matter how shite, at the chime of 10 pm. Thanks to the overnight professionals within the team, who took their time slotting their blockbuster thighs into newly purchased brand name clothing (I had no money at that point, so I donned the shorts I had bought proudly from Target and my Adelaide-made Rossi boots to compliment my t-shirt and $10 rainproof shooshie jacket), we were ready to tackle Fuji-san by 10:40 pm, giving us exactly seven hours, twenty minutes and change, if we were lucky, before sunrise.
One of the mutually agreed factors which had determined our cumulative insanity to climb the fucker immediately following that day's conclusion to work had specifically been to watch the earth turn sufficiently for us to see the dawn of the next day.
More about that when we return, but first, a brief word from our sponsor:
Tuborg: Just say ja, ja?
The Art of Stu and I had been in training for a good two months for this gruelling marathon event. He had arrived in the country at least thirty-one days ahead of me, landing as awkwardly as I did, though many kilometres closer to a known landmark, which resulted in yours truly being in a precarious position of vulnerability of looking like a fuck-nut come the Fuji climb. It was decided pretty early on that we went about this expedition with the preparation oft associated with an Australian-Scottish collaboration: fearing reprisal by a member of the Yakuza, I stayed the fuck away from ganja. Instead, I flung the local brew down like a siphon with a mechanical pump; being away from my significantly better half brought with it untold strains in emotions. So, as I was suffering with no end in sight as my internal organs craved for the eternally present preservatives to fuck right off, I welcomed no such luck in that department, but grew to know plenty of sleepless nights on a first-name basis which led to some form of foreign-based Japanese record I've yet to claim as the award is sponsored by Kirin Breweries. I've yet to see a giraffe in Japan.
Meanwhile, to the west, the Art of Stu was blowing his mind as though he were in the company of Jimi Hendrix at a Bill Hicks concert with a carefully chosen and regularly supplied influx of doobies bearing a stamp with his initials. He was also throwing back the local brew without denting his bank account as he had been in the country for at least thirty-one days longer than I, and, therefore, endowed with the solitary pay cheque that had cleared.
We woz transcending time, space, dimension and the proverbial "dimension yet to be featured in an out-of-body experience" where religion played a part as big as that of John Holmes in NAME A MOVIE HE STARRED IN in the lead up to it all.
The Art of Stu was the first of the touring party to hit the wall. It came well after my lucid rendition of Radiohead's Creep, where I paid close attention to emphasising, without even the slightest fuck-up, the line 'What the hell am I doing here?' even if it was several hours from the crack of dawn.
If I were to equate his slow descent into the nether regions of altitude sickness, I'd be inclined to the tune of 100% to equate him sliding into a sudden and permanent state of looking and behaving like Popeye. At first, it was the eyes: virtually non-existent within the blink of one and the same; then came the forearms, which had taken on grizzly bear proportions; the mutation of the voice, where the phrase 'Goo-goo-goo-goo-goo' was as present as the absent strands of hair on my head, may have been part of my own physical metamorphosis into a limp-wristed vagrant on his way to the highest point in Japan, but I didn't notice.
The Art of Stu sucked on the $30 oxygen canister as I attended to the unicorns, which had extricated themselves without anyone noticing from the expansive freedom of my rear pocket. Just when things had seemed to be falling into place, with Big Gay Dez leading the way in his new The North Face pants, all Helena Bonham-Carter broke loose: the miner's lamp, which I had stolen from someone in the car park during the penultimate stage of the pre-climb, had stretched so far over my head that it was drooping beside my balls and shining ever so annoyingly directly into my eyes; the voodoo chant the Art of Stu had insisted I chair was wearing off, freeing all manner of evil from his pack and boots, although the frequency of his 'Goo-goo-goo-goo-goos' gave me a laugh every few seconds; the others were totally oblivious and, as you'd guess, susceptible to dangers we'd have to save them from. Rank amateurs.
It was a phenomenal day to be alive. And we were barely four hours into it.
I guess it was about five hundred steps from the summit that an unknown source handed me my set of invisible wings. I hadn't heard a peep from the unicorns since their departure but I couldn't shut Thom Yorke up no matter how hard I kicked him in the groin. The others had disappeared, whether physically or spiritually, and the Art kept at it with the precision of a surgeon: 'Goo-goo-goo-goo-goo' he'd say over and over again. Legendary. If nothing other than humour, it supplied both of us with the perfect rhythm for forward cum upward propulsion.
When we got to the summit, seeing the partial displacement of light filtering through the corners of our pulped eyeballs, my bollocks were 98% frozen. It felt like the entire population of Japan had arrived there ahead of us, their bollocks intact and warming in Gore-Tex material of every part of the spectrum. How I wished, how I wished I was rich. I remember thinking: 'Where the fuck did these guys and their Gore-Tex come from?' and 'Who told them we'd be here today?' and 'If only I had brought food.'
The moment we found a suitable perch to watch the Earth's revolution bring forth the almighty sun was one of the few times I've felt close to discovering - or perhaps accepting - faith. I was on the verge of tears as I gorked sunward, playing pocket ice-hockey with two pucks as my Scottish buddy laughed 'Goo-goo-goo-goo-goo.'
We committed the event to memory by ordering a serve of the mountain's finest cup noodle for $10 a pop and then began our rapid descent the same way from whence we had arrived.
By 9 am, my brain had fully completed its refrying process; I was as close to normal as my mum could tell (had she been present) and we had only another hour to go before our thighs and joints were afforded the luxury of a rest.
THE EAGERLY AWAITED END:
We lived. I'm not convinced that we prospered, but I know one thing's for certain: I'm happy beyond words that I climbed Mount Fuji. I have no reservation is stating, for the record, for anyone taking care of the annals of history and on behalf of my unborn children to know what their dad was, is and forever shall be like, that I'm not going to be climbing that fucking lump of ash again within the lifetime I'm presently a participant in.
At least not when there's Moon-walking and Uranus-walking to be done.