Don't I look fierce? And this is only half of the outfit. I was too lazy to put the rest on - this was heavy enough!
The next morning we hitched a ride with two American guys we had met the night before. We stopped along the way to take some pictures of the wild horses that live in the national park around the volcano.
Then we crossed our fingers as we approached the entrance to the caldera viewing area. The guys we were with had tried to see Mt. Aso's famous caldera three times already but kept getting turned away because the conditions weren't safe. There are four levels of alert and concrete bunkers in case the wind starts blowing the toxic gases coming up from the volcano the wrong direction or if the volcano erupts. We only had one day scheduled for Aso so we were extremely lucky to make it up to the top and see everything in only one try.
It was on blue level alert so we had no problems seeing the caldera.
We peered down into the caldera and then hiked up a large incline for a view of the surrounding area. Our new found friends continued up the trail while Danielle and I made our way back to the visitor center to grab some food. We took the bus back down the mountain where we were able to see views of another interesting feature in Aso. It's a mountain with a large divet in the top. The mythology surrounding it says that it was a mountain of rice meant for the local god but then a famine struck the community. The god took a large scoop of rice from the top and gave it to the people so they wouldn't starve and that's why it looks the way it does today. Or at least that's what someone at the hostel said...
The caldera - you wouldn't want to be breathing that stuff in.
Another view of the caldera from where we had hiked.
After checking out and grabbing a quick bite to eat we said goodbye to beautiful Aso and caught a bus to Beppu. But more on that later.