After our night in the internet cafe it was time to say goodbye to Hokkaido, roll our bikes onto the ferry, take a nap, and roll off an hour and a half later in the town of Oma on Honshu! I love taking the bike on ferries, it is very hassle free, especially compared to trains and airplanes. Just roll on, make sure it is tied so it won’t fall, and off you go!
Oma is a tiny little town with not a lot to offer, except for a sushi restaurant. They are famous for the tuna they catch here as they are some of the biggest in the wold, apparently. This is more Antonio’s thing as I don’t eat fish or seafood, but I ordered some tamago (egg) sushi and watched as the chef prepared everything right in front of us. He must have taken a pity on me (or my pitiful order of sushi) because I got a second portion for free!
Still, a portion of sushi is not enough fuel for two permanently hungry cyclists, so we promised we would look for a konbini in the next town to top up with some istant noodles. Unfortunately, the town had no such thing, only a very small supermarket with the essentials. Konbinis are great, they are convenience stores, as the name suggests, and that means they have everything that you might need while on the road, including free hot water to prepare your instant soup/noodles/coffee/whatever. Supermarkets do not, so I had to ask the old lady behind the counter if she could please boil some water for us. She did, of course, in the kitchen-annex-storage area behind the shop. People are great <3
With full bellies we set off into the hills of northern Tohoku. This is one of the least populated areas of Honshu and not a lot of people go here, so lots of quiet roads and just a whole lot of nothingness. That also means that it is not really worth to maintain the secondary roads, which deteriorate quickly because of the harsh climate, so our road quickly turned into gravel as it took us further into the hills. Up and up we went. Even though there are no big mountains here this was still a nasty little climb, but none of it mattered as it was one of the nicest roads we have taken so far. We quickly nicknamed it the Magical Forest Road. River on one side, overgrown cliff on the other. Green everywhere. Moss-covered boulders. Little waterfalls. Our out loud admiration of all this beauty quickly turned silent as we were too out of breath as the climb continued, plodding uphill with less than 5km/hr, trying to navigate fallen rocks and loose gravel so as not to loose momentum or fall over, because then we would never get our bikes going again.
At the top it started raining (of course it did…) so our downhill wasn’t much faster. Still navigating rocks and gravel, now with slippery brakes, is not the best way to make up for the time lost on the ascent. Oh well, who cares, we are on holiday, and besides, there were plenty of wild camping options along the way and we had food and water, so what more could we want? If you have been reading along on this blog you can guess what we wanted: a scalding hot onsen at the end of the day, of course! And not entirely by coincidence, our road was taking us straight to two of those. Free and outdoor, we found our perfect camping spot. It had stopped raining too! So we quickly pitched our tent in a grassy section of the parking lot, cooked dinner, and then went in for a soak. Again, we had the whole place to ourselves and it was just perfect to enjoy a hot bath with the river rushing past right next to it, the smell of wet forest, no rain. The water was so hot that we couldn’t enjoy it for all that long and we came out looking like two boiled lobsters, but thoroughly heated up after a descent in the rain. We slept like roses.
The next day we continued on the magical forest road to a place where hell meets paradise: a barren moon-like landscape surrounded by forested hills, with the clearest blue lake I have ever seen, filled by sulphuric springs so a smell of rotten eggs lingers in the air and there are bright yellow sulphur deposits all around. Very eerie, very beautiful, and very clearly a place of religious significance as there is a complex of temples that you can visit (which we didn’t, bad tourists we are).
To get out of there a surprise 12% climb (ouch!) which I shamefully had to walk and push my bike up as my lowest two gears are not working properly. I have been tweaking my rear derailleur over the last few days but can’t seem to get it right, so this is apparently the price I have to pay. Luckily it was a short climb only, after which we had a loooooooong downhill to the town of Mutsu.