68 to 62 days remaining

68 DAYS REMAINING

All day ferry…feeling foreign as we only four 外人 of about 400 passengers…previous ferries contained at least one or two other westerners…Of 400 passengers NONE spent longer on outside deck marine life spotting than our Joe…rest of us getting regular updates on latest sightings…sadly no sea-sickness stories to report…lots of map & route planning on board…receiving some useful tips from helpful local with excellent English…WEATHER FORECASTING: brief intro. into Hokkaido weather patterns given…systems differing according to season…three distinct mountain ranges…expecting less reliable forecasts…JUST LIKE SCOTLAND!
As sun begins to set we get first glimpses of HOKKAIDO…snow capped volcanic peaks completely different from dense green sub-tropical jungles of Iriomote (3 and half months ago)…disembark 8 pm…reunited with bikes after 21 hour separation (longest period so far…very strange)…dress warm find head torches on car deck breathing in car fumes…finally walk bikes off ferry ramp into 2 degree Celcius darkness…compass out to find road to satellite eye-balled camping spot outskirts town…but first…”guys…hey guys…STOP!…MECHANICAL!…my chain is snapped!”

67 DAYS REMAINING 

Hokkaido clearly gets a LOT of snow…after working out reason for last nights snapped chain (OVERZEALOUS FERRYMAN securing bikes) we head off exploring first Hokkaido town…just like visiting a new country…new country that gets severe winters…make our way inland to lake surrounded by 1500m volcanic mountains (venue 1972 Winter Olympics down hill skiing)…dark clouds…hoping to find free camp spot satellite eye-balled near ONSEN…45km (few to go) mostly uphill…bear bells on bicycles driving Brad mad…Brad distracts himself from annoying ‘tingle’ sound every minor bump road thinking about OVERZEALOUS FERRYMAN…what other damage have bikes sustained?…when… “Dad…Joe’s back wheel looks buckled…maybe his spoke is broken?” (see Day 79)…stop…confirm bloody broken spoke…arrive tourist town (20km from nearest bike shop)….ALARM BELLS at sight tour buses on GOLDEN WEEK…outside Youth Hostel (£70 per night no communal kitchen?!) Brad attempts to fix buckled wheel…Sam & Joe play in snow…Heidi sets off to check lay of accommodation & ONSEN land … returns…”do you want the bad news…the bad news…or the REALLY bad news?”…meanwhile Sam complains snow has made his bike gloves wet & cold…Brad shows Heidi ‘mended’ buckled wheel now even MORE buckled…

66 DAYS REMAINING 

Wake in town 20km from lake surrounded 1500m mountains venue 1970 Winter Olympics downhill skiing…yesterday family record 78km cycled (of which 22km Joe no back brake buckled wheel)…but this morning…broken spoked wheel no longer buckled thanks to fantastic bike mechanic (guess what Brad will learn first thing return to Scotland)…SO back up yesterday’s hill bypassing unfriendly tourist spot and cycle deep into mountains towards WWOOF 6…tough tiring days cycling…edgy at times (traffic, trucks, long tunnels), but some of the most unforgettable scenery we have ever seen from the saddle..literally breathtaking…including volcanic 2000m snow covered 山 Yotei & smaller 山 Shiribetsu…

BEAR INFO WARNING! Significant Hokkaido Brown Bear population… related to aggressive Grizzly & Spring means Mothers with Cubs…EVERY CLOUD SILVER LINING booming trucks and Joe’s constant wildlife chatter providing ample bear warnings to STAY AWAY…Bears & lying snow means Clan Carroll won’t be taking any minor road shortcuts in Hokkaido…eventually arrive WWOOF 6 (deep in the woods)…get shown to secluded WWOOF accommodation even deeper into the woods..next to river and hill side…WWOOF host warns…”four days ago (emphasizes showing four fingers)…Mother Bear & cub seen 50m from here” (emphasizes pointing to ground)…

65 days remaining (day 1 of 2 WWOOF 6)

Heidi shakes Brad awake 3am…”did you hear that?”…great excitement at breakfast…following NATSUMI’s tasty HOMEGROWN Miso soup & rice (with other delicious homemade relish surprises) TAKASHICHAN is trailed by five very excited children and Brad looking for possible Bear Tracks…sadly, the lack of riverside footprints & Lucky the Guard Dogs barking suggests SAMs snoring most likely explanation…rest of day taken Brad & Heidi shoveling s…t, um, well rotted compost fertilizer, onto field then some serious wood chopping and stacking (-10 to -20 c common in winter)…Sam & Joe spent day having the time of their lives playing with IKU (13, whose art adorns walls & roof of living area), AOI (6, who sings with Sam while they stacking split wood), and TAKARA (9, who shows his play date friend how to chop wood) ..all-in-all real deal natures playground…hearty supper followed by wood heated bucket shower Clan Carroll walk back to their cabin in the woods forced singing ‘Teddies Bear Picnic’ accompanied by tingle of bear bells…extra day planned this magical WWOOF-IN-THE-WOODS because raining tomorrow…

64 days remaining (day 2 of 2 WWOOF 6)

During our whirlwind 8 day CULTURAL & HISTORICAL HEARTLAND tour we came within sniffing distance of the essence of Japan – EMPEROR (see 72 days remaining)…Well, today we actually TOUCHED the essence of JAPAN…today we SORTING SOYBEANS…we did this sitting in conservatory (Heidi cross legged on the floor – Brad chair) listening to the rain falling OUTSIDE…each drop reminding us to be grateful for SORTING SOYBEAN job…Little fingers (Japanese & Scottish) helping from time to time…later, Sam & Joe join いく, あおい、& 他から at the table to make stamps, draw, needle felt…for tea break we all crack open Walnuts trying to keep half-shells intact for making mini Terapin Turtles…as end of working day nears, Heidi returns from the forest… bag of freshly picked Nettles in hand…ready to be let loose in なつみさん’s Kitchen…tonight we will eat homegrown & cooked Potatoe & Nettle soup…accompanied by なつみさん’s delicious freshly baked nettle bread &…later…Vegan Trifle Cake!

But the BEST is yet to come for our four weary CYCLIST/WWOOFERS…a rare NON-sleeping bag sleep in a spacious, double glazed, wood fired cabin in woods…

Tomorrow…an easy 60km to next short WWOOF awaits…route passing through NESIKO ( Japan’s own Aviemore), EXCEPT with an average winter snowfall of 15 to 20m all Powder…apparently this is a good thing…well, shame it’s not Winter.

63 DAYS REMAINING 

Some utterly bizarre, peculiar & other-worldly experiences from the saddle today..like cycling through a parallel universe where we THINK we are still in Scotland, but Scotland now has three Suns and two moons…and is called HOKKAIDO…and everything is Japanese…and everyone thinks this is normal…except us…like arriving at our DREAM WWOOF host farm (reforested unwanted land PH1.45)…and that DREAM WWOOF host farm is called….SULPHURIC ACID MOUNTAIN…Today we found our magical castle and expect to see not bears, but Dragons.

Tomorrow we spend one day on SULPHURIC ACID MOUNTAIN.

62 DAYS REMAINING (WWOOF 7 Sulphuric Acid Mountain)

Today the seed of a Scottish dream was planted on Sulphuric Acid Mountain. Something special happened. Tomorrow we point our handlebars East…then North East…over the next two weeks we will go where mountains breathe fire and the wild things still roam. We can’t wait…

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