60 Days remaining
Four months down, two to go. Better make the most of it. We don’t know the day of the week, but we know the Moon. We know Sun Rise & Sun Set. We know rain. We know the WIND. Today the WIND will be kind. Now, when we break camp and load the bikes we do it quickly. The 7 & 9 year olds still need some cajoling, but even this is done with minimal fuss. Each bike now has its idiosyncrasies. Heidi’s bike needs the heavier Blue Sleeping bag (in the WHITE pannier with the scuff mark just next to the letter ‘O’) attached to the Front RIGHT pannier rack. Never the LEFT side. The LEFT side is attached to the bike frame by a pipe clamp. It is no trivial matter putting Blue Sleeping bag on the LEFT side!
Today we plan to cycle 90km, 12km further than we have ever cycled before; yet we still take our time doing the ‘touristy’ thing at the top of a volcano. Later we leave the Mountains with their Powder Snow, Caldera, and eager-to-spend Asian tourists behind. Heavy traffic sucks us along The Road of Broken Dreams: littered with buildings that have gone to rack and ruin; there are lean pickings outside the Niseko tourist trap. Signs of Hokkaido’s depopulation everywhere. We eventually strike camp in an empty camp site, outside a Visitors Centre that is Closed.
The day ends with the dreaded, “Daaaaaaad, my brakes are rubbing.” Another blimin broken spoke…
59 Days remaining
This morning: Japan WARTS & ALL. Caged animals. Difficult to stomach. One Cultural bridge we have been unable to cross. The HOKKAIDO Brown Bear circling a concrete cage. 3m by 3m. Sign on the steel bars explains that the indigenous people of Hokkaido, the AINU, believed Bears to be god reincarnate. A ¥100 bag of biscuits allows Korean tourists to feed god. Biscuits are fed down a tube. Four tubes, four cages, four Brown Bears. A dark shadow cast over the rest of our visit to the Ainu Open Air Museum.
Soon we will hit the Road of Broken dreams again, and find our way to a WWOOF farm that already has two WWOOFERS staying. We will arrive late and leave early. A functional overnight stop. No help on the farm from us. Yet, a bed is made in the polytunnel cum BBQ house. A fridge packed with beer. We are fed on home grown vegetables. Milk. Eggs… We are driven to an ONSEN. Our entry paid. We return to find more snacks & treats… “It’s raining tomorrow afternoon, perhaps you would like to stay for two more days?”
58 days remaining
Roller Coaster continues. Enter a bakery with a bicycle in shop window – exit with loaves of Sourdough and Blueberry Smoothies. Gifts. Later. Four soft serve ice-creams in honeycomb cones. Gifts. A free road side motorcyclists ‘Bothy’. Knock knock. More gifts. Kindness…yes…compassion…?
Enter the Hot Springs foyer. Next to huge (empty) campsite. Three days ago a five star review posted… “On Internet and on map we see campsite here (point at map). May we stay?”…two anxious parents and tired children wait for an answer…”Closed (makes cross with hands)”…”but look, here on map.”….”closed. No toilets…No water.”…”but you have campsite on Internet and on map”…two anxious parents and tired children look out window at empty campsite with BBQ area…”Closed”…Some desperation now…”please, we have cycled over 60km, the rain is coming, the children are tired. We have a small tent. We will toilet here. We will eat here. We ONSEN here. Please.”…smiles, shakes head, “Closed”…nothing to lose now…”could you ask your manager, please?”… deep into Face-Saving territory…we wait outside…plan B & C…the rain is half-an-hour nearer…eventually an answer, “Closed”. Kindness…compassion?
57 days remaining
HEIDI’S RIDER HOUSE VISITORS BOOK ENTRY:
Carroll family from Scotland (ed. Draws four bicycles)…Dad (Bike Mechanic & Bear Scarer), Mum (Cook & Mender), Sam 9yrs (problem solver & interpreter), Joe 7yrs (Wildlife Spotter & Artist).
HERE WE: slept well, cooked, ate, mended panniers, darned clothes, drew pictures, played games, wrote letters, dreamed! We also listened to music all day.
3 500km into cycling journey (Iriomote-Okinawa-Kyushu-Shikoku-Hiroshima-Kansai…ferry to Hokkaido). We also WWOOF- volunteer on organic farms. After 230km in three days, a broken chain and twice broken wheel, we took shelter from 24hr 雨 rain here. This simple shelter was a welcome palace (better than our usual tent to spend a rest day!). To all who like riding Hokkaido’s roads, you would love Northern Scotland too. Our bothies and bods also offer free shelter…and we have 24hr rain! Thank you Japan for all the welcomes, food gifts, and Rider Houses. Heidi, Brad, Sam, Joe. P.S., thanks to motorcyclists for all the thumbs up on the road.
BRAD COMMENT: For breakfast: pancakes with sweet adzuki beans… Coffee & Tea. For Elevenses: Walnut Sourdough with banana & honey…hot choc. For Lunch: free range pork sausages & scrambled egg & another loaf Sourdough…Hokkaido raisins…chocolate. For Supper: spaghetti with spinach, sesame, Parmesan, olive oil.
56 days remaining
Today the wind blew us over the collision point of two tectonic plates. Just like that. A sign faded by the sun tells us it happened 13 000 000 years ago. Give or take a few. Our combined age is 96 years. Anyway, a 140km stretch of Mountains is the result and, right now, it lies between us and our next destination: Kushiro National Park with it’s Wetlands and Cranes.
Sam & Joe yell at their Dad, “can we NOW please get going?” The patience of a seven & nine year old. A junction is reached. Decision time. Left goes up and THROUGH the Mountains via a 5km tunnel. Probably trucks. Straight lets us ride the wind (considerable today) down and AROUND the Mountains. We will be like sailors rounding the Cape. Exploring new lands. We go straight…
54 Days remaining
In Ishigaki, four months ago, we used to count the number of vending machines. The Kobe-Osaka day: traffic lights. Today we counted abandoned houses. Not the failed Tourist Traps on The Road Of Broken Dreams. But homes. We imagine it’s a tough place to live. Tough to make a living. Cold winters. Remote. A big school building. Abandoned. All day we pass fisherman pulling Kelp out the Pacific Ocean (the cold section). Women hang Kelp out to dry. We don’t know the Market Price for dried Kelp, but suspect it’s not much.
Meanwhile we continue cycling along what one of the few English tourist brochures tells us is called the ‘Golden Road’. ‘Golden’ because of the UNIMAGINABLE SUMS SPENT on building a NEW road along a Mountainous coastline that really shouldn’t have a road. The old one was wiped off the map by landslides. Literally. We use Google Maps satellite view to check. “WOW, the whole road is gone!” Now, on the ‘Golden Road’, we cycle through a brightly lit & very modern 5 km tunnel. It is 8.30am. Peak hour rush time. We count 12 cars (only three overtaking us, the approaching traffic side we worry less about). For the rest of the day we benefit from the UNIMAGINABLE SUMS SPENT road. For 80km we cycle wide empty roads with Mountains to our LEFT, and Ocean to our RIGHT. Black volcanic beach sand. Waves breaking cleanly. Sun.
To finish, a designated free camping spot with ONSEN, beer, & cheap meal. A round of Hokkaido golf (mix between golf & putt putt). Giggles. Tomorrow, more of the same please.
53 Days remaining
Today the binoculars got plenty of use. Empty roads, blue skies, ocean, mountains, dairy farms (!), wetlands, foxes, peregrine falcons, volcanic beach campsite, cranes, wild & free of concrete rivers…the ever present edge of bears (last month a night time mauling in a town we pass through)…low population big spaces plenty wildlife…in the Spring…this IS the Hokkaido we dreamed of…everything in front of us an unknown…lonely planet dedicates one sentence about where we are headed… A place to see cranes…tomorrow we continue pushing East, east, east…wilder & wilder…