Oh deer: Rest day in Nara
Yesterday we booked a cheap guesthouse in Nara for a rest day because there don’t seem to be any campings near the town. This morning we ride the remaining 8km from our little park camping into town, find the guesthouse, drop our stuff and find two other cycle tourers from Russia there! We talk with them for a bit while we wait for the check-in to open, while they are preparing to leave. It is nice talking to other cyclists for a bit! We haven’t met that many, and the ones we’ve met have been briefly on the road so now we can actually chat and have coffee. They are on a shorter trip of a few weeks, and he is riding on a bike with no gears because his shifter broke on the plane and it has been impossible to find the right replacement. That must suck, Japan is not the best country to traverse on a single-speed bike…
Nara is quite a touristic town, but for good reason! We spend most of the time sightseeing in Nara Park, which is a nice (big!) park but the main attraction are the hundreds (thousands?) of deer that are hanging out there. They are ‘wild’ (as in, they’re free to go if they want) but are so used to humans that you sometimes have to move them out of the way. You can buy special deer crackers to feed them. We don’t, but it is fun watching people getting chased around by a bunch of hungry deer.
In the afternoon I hang around the guesthouse, doing laundry, reading and listening to podcasts, and napping. I’m tired, and don’t want to go out and interact with people. Antonio on the other hand, is off to a bar to sample some sake and he comes back slightly boozy. Together we cycle to the other end of town for dinner and with each corner we turn I’m getting more irritated. It is late and I am hungry and I’m sure there is a queue for the restaurant and Antonio is slightly drunk and annoying. I wish I stayed at the guesthouse, but dinner is actually great.
Nara to Nabari
The next morning it is very hard to leave Nara. We check out of the guesthouse late and by the time we leave it is time for second breakfast, so we sit down in Nara’s visitor’s centre above the convenience store, where we find three laptops for people to use. We finally manage the empty SD card we found back in Hiroshima and upload some photos. Then we discover the ‘culture room’ where you can do origami, calligraphy and dress up as a sumo wrestler, which of course requires a little photoshoot (and no, these are not photos that deserve to live on the internet forever, sorry 😉 ).
By the time we ride out of town it is well past 11:00; it will be another short day. We have a route, but haven’t really checked what we’ll find along the way and it turns out to be a super hilly road with hardly any towns, at least not towns that have a restaurant for lunch. I’m so hungry! Of course we’re hungry all the time now, but this doesn’t really help to lift the spirits from yesterday. Only at 14:00 we find a place to eat. Just in time, because that’s the time that many restaurants close after lunch.
At the end of the (very) short day we reach Nabari, a small city. We camp between the sports fields, squished in between the tennis- and baseball courts. We can’t be bothered to cook, so head out to an Okonomiyaki restaurant for dinner.
Self risk. Nabari to Taki.
Today is a really nice day riding along some quiet roads, with perfect weather. It is hilly so there is a constant up or down, but nothing steep or long enough to make it painful or exhausting. I really want to do a longer day instead of the 4-hour days we have been doing lately, but between the numerous toilet breaks, long lunch and photo opportunities we’re not progressing a lot.
Then we stumble upon a closed road, and there are a few road workers hanging around near the entrance so we don’t dare to just go and try. Backtracking would mean a huge detour though, so we ask them if we can go and they are not sure. From their answer and body language (mostly body language) we gather that it is not impossible to pass by bike, but of course they cannot say “Sure, go ahead!”. Instead they call someone (their supervisor? The road workers?) and come back with a google translation that says “Self-risk”. Fair enough!
We slip past the gate and within a few hundred meter find another closure, with just behind it a fallen tree. Cars wouldn’t fit, but we slip right underneath it and ride along on this wonderful little mountain road. Another kilometer further we see another reason why the road is blocked: half of it has fallen down the side of the mountain. Again, our bicycles fit past without trouble. Another closed road conquered!
At the end of the day, which comes way too soon, we stop in the only konbini we see the entire day to scout our options for camping. Turns out there is an actual free campsite that wasn’t marked on our handy map yet! It is just a big grassy field by the river, but there are a few other tents and the river is cold enough to cool the beers we brought.