Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cycle in Japan - part 2

Yumi's transformation to a bear is nearly complete...

We braved cycling 25km across Sapporo city centre to see Asako at her family home.  Our tummies were filled with good food and our bags with yummy chocolates.  As you can see, Asako's grandmother was quite smitten with Thomas.

The river to Lake Shikotsuko was paved in gold

Everything in this small town was named Yamazaki including this bridge, a school,  the train station and the bus stop.

Filling up on onigiris at "Seicomart" our favourite convenient store is a morning ritual. 2 onigiris each and a coffee (for Yumi) or a strawberry flavoured milk (for Thomas) will keep s going for at least 30 kms.  Asako broke our hearts when she said they are only in Hokkaido.

Our second ferry ride.  This time a short ride from Hakodate (Hokkaido) to Aomori (Honshu). Typhoon is coming towards us so we decided to get to Honshu as quick as possible. We camped at the port that night.


The ASPAM building in Aomori.

Why so sad, Yumi?  Because we are going 12% up, not down. It was hot and the road was steep and long. 

Today was by far our hardest day.  A lot more pushing than riding.

So happy to see finally the sign for Kasamatsu pass.  What?!  Now we have to watch out for bears (that's for those who can't read the sign on the left hand side)! They couldn't catch up with us on the way down though: we rode 16km in less than 25 minutes!

A beautiful 14km ride along the Oirase Mountain stream. Both of us could not wait to pitch the tent and chill after another long day on the bicycles.

Thomas posing for a photo, Japanese style.

After our 2nd exhausting day of hill climbs and with rain approaching, we thought we had hit the jackpot when we found this bus shelter.  We got permission from a local to spend the night in it. It was "royal" standard for us: benches, cushions, no need to pitch the tent, big and wide enough for us to spread out our stuff.  While Yumi went to take a sink "bath" at the nearby petrol station, one of our neighbours brought Thomas onigiri and pickles.

On her way to the petrol station, Yumi made friends with a woman walking with her grandson.  Atsuko was horrified that we were going to sleep in a bus shelter and bathe at the petrol station and very kindly invited us to stay in her minshuku (a family run B&B) for FREE!  She invited her best friend Keiko to join us for a big feast.  Keiko then offered us her beautiful "winter" home in Morioka for the next 2 days.  We can't thank them enough for their generosity and kindness. Morioka was a perfect opportunity to rest, the first time since Sapporo... 700kms ago.

A local festival. We have no idea what it was for. We were just there when we saw these people pushing the big thing. It reminded us of our day near the lake Towada where we pushed our bicycles up 12% slopes. 

Gates of Chuson temple in Hiraizumi. We decided to visit the temples the following morning before our daily ride. Still we cycled 90kms that day.

We rode through the devastation caused by the March tsunami near Ichinomaki just North of Sendai, Miyagi prefecture.  It looked like a war zone.

Despite the damage, the spirit of the people remains strong.  

Rain, hills, typhoons, blistering heat, 2600km in the legs yet... Thomas is having "the tan of his life" :)

 "Sweet home Sasagawa" such a small village it's not even on the map! Taka (holding the baby on this picture) met us at the campsite on the beach and -having cycled from Alaska to Las Vegas, Mexico to Tierra del Fuego and across Cambodia- invited us at a party he was organising that night. As usual, we went on a eating mission and ate amazing food. Taka apart from being a great host and guitar player is also a great cook! 

 We hate tunnels, especially the really big dark ones with no hard shoulder or pavement to walk on however, we enjoyed the bicycle only tunnels on this flat cycling path along the edge of the Japan Sea.

Pausing in front of the Nageiwa rock. The legend has it that once an ogre and Okuninushi had a strength contest right there. The ogre threw the rock you see in the background and Okuninushi threw his much further breaking in two the ogre's rock in the process which resulted in the ogre killing himself in the sea. Don't play games with Okuninushi (whoever that is) if you are a sore loooser. Swimming in the sea was fun and relaxing though. 

 The typical evening routine: a) open a beer after a long and dehydrating day and b) check where we are going tomorrow.

Met a bus driver cyclist team at an "ashiyu": a sauna for your legs. They passed us on the hills, showing off with their 7kg bicycles, but none of them could lift Thomas's 40kg bicycle. They told us our route that day would be hard. We had 2200km of training behind us, but man, that was a tough day.

Not sure where that was but it was nice.