(As you might have noticed, I’m a little bit behind with posting. Right now we are in central Hokkaido, safely tucked away in a hotel. Typhoon Jebi is passing us tonight quite far to the west, but is still causing strong winds and overall nasty weather, but nothing like the total chaos it is causing in other parts of the country. Still, we don’t quite trust our tent enough so better to be in an actual building)
Yesterday we wanted to push to do our first 80-km day of this trip, but just one kilometer short of that milestone we were presented with an opportunity we couldn’t resist: the perfect campsite. A little park, gazebos, potable water, toilets, and even wifi! Whaaaaaaat?! What even is this magical country for cycle tourists? Situated on the side of the mountain range (more like, high hills?) that we just summited it had a gorgeous view over the valley below to boot. At 20:30 we rolled into bed, already looking forward to what was -no doubt- going to be a magical sunrise the next morning.
At 05:00 we got up to watch this (from our bed!), only to be presented with a superthick fog. Estimated visibility: 15m. The entire valley, most of our campsite in fact, had just disappeared. Welcome to Japan…
Sidenote about camping, in case you’re wondering why we’re camping in a park like a bunch of total bums? It’s because we are, kind of, total bums, but mostly because you just…can? No-one really minds. In fact the parking lot of this particular site (but no exception) was full of people sleeping in their cars/campervans, so a tent is not that different, as long as you make sure you’re not in anyone’s way/trampling the precious grass or setting up camp in the gazebo.
Decked out in all our rain gear, buff and gloves we raced the 3km downhill into town where we warmed up again with hot coffee and a steamed bun.
Fueled by caffeine we set out to do a 16km climb (great way to start the day), slowly peeling of layer by layer of clothing because the sun started coming out and the climb got steeper and steeper. So steep that you know when you stop pedalling you will never ever get your bike in motion again, so the only thing to do is to push forward with legs burning and sweat dripping and repeating the mantra “it’s not bad, it’s just hard…” over and over again.
All this effort only so we can jump into a scalding hot pool, naked, with a bunch of other naked people. Our first onsen! Or technically, a rotenburo (outdoor onsen), with a very nice view over the mountains. Very rewarding for the hard climb, and our first bath in 3 days so good to soak all the sweat and grime from the road away. There are a lot more of these to come, and I already look forward to them. It’s not really cool to take photos of random naked strangers so no pics for this one (at the moment we have no way to get photos from our camera onto the internet anyway) but a search for “Fukiage onsen” should give you an idea.
After the onsen it was all the way downhill to Toma, where we pitched just as dusk set in (we’re getting better at this!) at another michi-no-eki.