After typhoon Jebi ran its course (it wasn’t bad where we were, just stormy) we headed out of Sounkyo towards Onneyu. Whatever leftover wind from Jebi there was, or maybe it was just a normal strong wind, who knows, worked in our favour as we zoomed downhill with a tailwind, and we arrived in Onneyu in no time. There, we did some sight-seeing, set up camp in a free (!) camping, had a good long soak in the local onsen, and then slept like a log through the night.
The night during which, we learned in the morning from several worried messages, a 6.7M earthquake had struck just southeast of Sapporo, leaving several people dead and many more missing. We hadn’t felt a thing because we are far from the epicenter, but when buying breakfast we noticed that power was down everywhere and shelves in the konbini were empty as people were stocking up on emergency food. Not quite realizing the extent of the situation (finding detailed updates in English is not that easy) we continued with our plan to head to Abashiri.
More downhill! More tailwind! Everything is awesome! Except that all businesses were closed, apart from a few konbinis that were selling whatever they had left on the shelves. Outside a supermarket, which was selling basic necessities in the parking lot, we stocked up on 1,5 day’s worth of pot noodles, just in case. Three separate people approached us with the question whether we had enough food, one put us on the phone with her father who spoke English, and another one gave us a bundle of bananas.
Even with my cynical, occasional misanthropic heart, I can’t deny that people are amazing <3 Not only during disasters of course, but traveling (even more so if you do it by bicycle, it seems) is always a reminder that 99.9% of people are just great.
A steady diet of pot noodles
In Abashiri was another free, lakeside camping. However, everything in town was still closed because all of Hokkaido, around 3 milion households, was without electricity. We are pretty self reliant with our powerbanks, and of course we had our water and pot noodles, so we would be fine, but of course it is a terrible disaster for all the people here. The upside though -and I kind of hate myself for saying this- was that the night sky was absolutely amazing over the lake that night because there was no light pollution whatsoever. Silver linings and all.
The next morning we squabbled over what to do next. The camping was still without power, but what about town? Would shops be open? What if it stays like this for anothet week? What are our options? I am great in coming up with doomsday scenario’s, and wasn’t entirely comfortable with just sticking to the plan because of all the uncertainty. Especially because we would be heading towards the ass end of Hokkaido. Antonio, on the other hand, wanted to continue, in worst case there would always be people to help us out. I know he is right, of course, especially because since yesterday’s gifted bananas we were also given tomatoes and an entire breakfast (seriously, people <3) but I hate on having to rely on others. We compromised and decided that we would cycle as far as Shari (40km) and that if there would be still no food/power we would turn around again.
And power there was! Not everywhere, but it seems that some parts of town had switched to emergency generators and shops were open, and by the time we arrived to Shari even restaurants were open. Real food! Real ramen!
Onwards we continued, to Utoro, another 40km away. Pedalling along the coastal road (the Okhotsk sea! Can you believe that?!) with the sea on the left, wetlands on the right, birds of prey circling overhead and salmon jumping in the river. Despite all this awesomeness I was in an unexplicable grumpy mood. I guess that just happens sometimes, or maybe I was dehydrated or just bored of fucking noodles. Who knows. 10km before our destination for the day my spirits had lifted somewhat, but then it started to rain. Normally this is enough to turn my mood really foul (I hate cycling in the rain so, so much), but this time it didn’t. Progress!
The rain turned into a proper storm, and by the time we set up camp in Utoro our tent got nearly knocked over by the wind. Other tents on the camping did get knocked over though, so good job to our little house. And of course, having finally arrived at the ass-end of Japan, there was no power here, and the wind made it impossible to cook outside and there was of course no kitchen…so we cooked our noodles on the floor of the ladies bathroom, the only place sheltered from the wind and rain. Despite all the shit thrown a Japan the past week, I think this was a personal low point…but at least we have food, shelter and water, and a toilet. What more does a person need, right?