In the words of another distance skateboarder, Adam Colton, traveling by skateboard “is a pretty stupid idea.” It really is. It is less efficient than cycling, you are at the mercy of the road surface and traffic is infinitely less forgiving towards you than other forms of human powered transport. And yet there is an inexplicable allure to it. The following is a snapshot of that allure, from the China leg of my 12,159km skate across Europe, the US, and China; China being the highlight for many different reasons.
Life is really simple
Joy that transcends borders
Breaks the ice – leads to real encounters
Freedom from timetables – the road is yours
Strong legs, super-human lungs, glorious appetite
And static solitude
This piece originally appeared on Alastair Humphreys’ awesome blog as a guest post.
We awoke this morning to the pitter-patter of raindrops on our tent fly. It was early. About 4:15am, and it was just starting to get light. Time to move on, since we were free-camping in a park just next to the Eniwa Flower Road parking area.
Stomachs grumbling from only a few snacks before we hit the road, we high-tailed it along the noisy main raods to Kitahiroshima JR Station, the beginning of the Shiroishi Cycling road. This magnificent cycling road is one we have cycled before. On the Kitahiroshima City side, the road is a full car-lane width, narrowing only slightly as it enters Sapporo City.
Once on the cycling road, it was pure bliss. A short 4km uphill was rewarded with almost 20km of gentle downhill into Sapporo.
We made it home at around 8:45am, just as the rain was starting again in earnest. A quick packing up of equipment and a warm shower later, we were happy to drop onto a familiar bed and doze for a few hours. That kind of deep dozing that feels so good after wrenching oneself out of bed early for exercise. Haidee was especially deserving of the nap; she had work today from 4pm!
All in all it was a really great ride. The circuit could easily be done in just two days, and the large swathes of cycle paths along the route could make it some of the most pleasurable cycling possibly of anywhere in Japan. Lake Shikotsu is a gem, as is the short section of closed road to the west of it. I think this circuit could even be done on a longboard…
Distance: 31.7km | Time cycling: 1h 55m
Average Speed: 16.5km/h | Max speed: 35.2km/h
Day two of this three-day trip from Sapporo to Lake Shikotsu and back again broke fine and clear, the rain from yesterday and last night but a memory. It was to be a relaxing morning, however, us not getting away until well past 8am (about 3.5 hours after daybreak).
Haidee wisely gave the swimming a miss last night in the rain, and was rewarded instead by an irresistibly clear morning for a dip in the not-too-cold waters.
The clarity of the lake was all the more evident in the morning light. Small pieces of buoyant pumice bobbed on the surface of the water, as small fish nibbled at our feet.
Breakfast was the normal rolled-oats muesli fare, washed down with some freshly dripped coffee. A friendly fellow camper from Shikoku (about three days’ ferry ride from Hokkaido), who has come back to Lake Shikotsu to camp at least three times before, snapped this photo of us before he headed off towards the airport town of Chitose.
The 33km ride from Lake Shikotsu to Chitose is absolutely divine. A slight downhill all the way, on a separated cycle path which, following the path of an old train line, reminded Cezary and me a lot of the cycling paths in The Netherlands.
One point of interest for us on this day of the trip was the massive outlet shopping center Rera just outside of Chitose City. Haidee and I had wanted to visit the center at some stage, so took this opportunity to do so. Cezary was also looking for a tent for his Hokkaido trip (he is borrowing my old MSR Microzoid at the moment), so he came along also.
Rera was a bit of a disappointment, however. Cezary ended up leaving earlier than us, since a short search did not turn up any leads on a cheap tent. After saying our farewells, Haidee and I carried on, wandering around the massive complex. I was hoping for some dead-giveaway-deals on outdoor clothing (we’ll soon be heading into winter here), but nothing stood out.
We finally got on the road at around 4:30pm, aware that we probably only had about 2.5 hours or so of daylight left. Ideally we wanted to get to Kitahiroshima City, where we could connect up with the Shiroishi Cycling road, which would get us back into the center of Sapporo via a traffic-free route. That was not to happen however, and we ended the day cycling along the very busy and noisy Route 36.
At around 5:15pm, we stumbled upon the Eniwa Onsen complex. This was too good to pass by, so we popped in for a solid 1-hour wash and soak in the natural hot spring waters. Every onsen (Japanese spa) in Japan is different, boasting different varieties of natural hot spring water. Eniwa Onsen, it seems, specializes in tanin-stained hot water, which is more pleasant that it sounds. The dark water is so dark, in fact, that there are warning signs all throughout the bathing area describing in detail what bathers can expect underfoot when getting into the baths. Any deeper than about 2cm, and you can’t see a thing.
We also splashed out and had dinner at the small eatery attached to the onsen. Haidee had a tempura set (Japanese deep-fried veges) and I had a special pork-on-rice dish. A nice hint of luxury, knowing that somewhere up the road, we would need to find ourselves a stealthy wild camping spot, as there were certainly no camping grounds in the immediate vicinity.
We finally dragged ourselves out of the comfortable relaxing surroundings of the onsen complex and got onto our bikes for a mad dash into the quickly fading evening. 20 minutes later we arrived at the Eniwa Flower Road rest-stop, and decided to try our luck setting up the tent in the adjacent grassy park. The only visitors we had all night were hoards of annoying mosquitoes, so we were happy to be in our tent and dozing off to sleep, even if it was only 7:30pm by the time we retired.
Distance: 50.8km | Time cycling: 2h 57m
Average Speed: 17km/h | Max speed: 38.8km/h
A couple of days ago, I saw a forum post from a Couchsurfer* by the name of Cezary, asking whether anyone knew of somewhere he could buy a bike in Sapporo. Cezary is from Poland, but was previously working as a computer scientist in The Netherlands, and more recently in India. He’s now travelling around the world, and while in Seoul, having his full of crowded trains, buses and airplanes, decided on a whim to come to Hokkaido in Japan and travel by bicycle around the island.
His forum post in the Hokkaido Group on the Couchsurfing website was brief and to the point.
“Does anybody know where I can buy a second hand bicycle and tent in Hokkaido. I am arriving on Saturday, and want to try cycling there.”
I replied to his post, cautiously advising him that it is 1) very hard to find a decent bicycle for cycle-travel in Hokkaido, 2) is difficult to find a bicycle the right size, 3) second hand bicycles tend to be unreasonably expensive. I suggested that we meet up however, and I would take him around some secondhand stores I had seen bikes at before.
Two days later we met up, had a look around two secondhand stores, and Cezary had himself a fluke. A near-new Bridgestone bike with a new rack, ready to tour. The frame was a tad on the small side, but for 13,000yen (about US$150), he was a happy chap and very lucky indeed.
As it happened that Haidee and I were planning a 2.5 day bike-camping trip to Lake Shikotsu, just south of Sapporo, for the following weekend. However, Haidee’s study plans changed, and we brought the trip forward a few days. This meant that we were able to invite Cezary to come along, an opportunity he jumped at.
The plan was to cycle from Sapporo to Lake Shikotsu, then from Lake Shikotsu to Chitose City, and then from there back to Sapporo (another write-up of a similar route from someone else here). According to our research, there were cycle paths for much of the route. Lake Shikotsu is a volcanic crater lake, known for its crystal clear water.
Today was the mission from Sapporo to Lake Shikotsu. We knew there would be some hills along the way, and we were also expecting some great scenery. We headed off bright and early at 7:30am from our apartment, along with Cezary, near Gakuen-mae station*. As we were leaving, a light rain started falling. No photos, therefore, for the morning’s ride upstream along the Toyohira River cycle path (the same one we cycled downstream a week earlier*).
From Point C on the map above (here), we joined with Route 453 which heads all the way to Lake Shikotsu. Alongside this road, there is a dilapidated sidewalk which is also referred to as the Lake Shikotsu “Cycling Road”. The sidewalk is in bad condition, but at least it keeps you off the moderately busy Route 453.
The route is a succession of up-and-down climbs up to the turn-off to Lake Okotanbe (here). The going is slow, and perhaps luckily for us, it was raining. Doing this is the height of summer would be hot work. We chose to thoroughly ignore the massive signs informing us that the road was closed past the Lake Okotanbe lookout, and decided to try to follow Route 78 around the west side of the lake. At this point, I was fairly confident that the road would be closed, but at least paved. Confidence and ignorance are always great ingredients for an adventure.
After a quick lunch of rice balls and bread at what should have been ‘the end of the road’ (the Okotanbe Lake lookout; the climb to the lookout is a killer, by the way), we carried onwards, and soon found ourselves hurtling down to the lake. If there were any closed road barriers up ahead, we knew that we were either going to climb over them, or have to slog it back 10km uphill!
Soon enough, we arrived at the end of the road. This time, it was quite clear. A massive barrier and warning signs plastered all over the place (around here). Incidentally, this is where you can access the now closed Okotanbe Camping Ground*. We were not to be deterred, however, even by the fact that the closed road was overgrown and certainly not paved. By the looks of the map, the closed section was only about 4km anyway.
The next 4km were perhaps the most interesting of the whole trip for me. A great adventure of overgrown, gravely, slippery terrain. But then again, I was the one on the 29inch wheeled mountain bike with ridiculously fat tyres. Haidee and Cezary with their slick road tyres found the going a little more challenging.
In places along the track, there were recent rockfalls. The road was quite obviously used in the past, however, with signs and curve mirrors along the route. In places we had duck and dodge fallen trees. Most large obstructions had been recently cleared or cut though.
After a very enjoyable ride through along the closed road – a ride not without its injuries* – we emerged relatively unscathed at the other end, feeling very smug that we had made it. The road emerges, and becomes paved again, at the more upmarket (1,000yen a night) Bifue Camping Ground (here).
The official ‘Lake Shikotsu Perimeter Cycling Road’ starts where Route 78 hits Route 276, the highway skirting Lake Shikotsu. In parts, this cycling road is a smooth, wide sidewalk, and in other parts a dedicated cycle path through the woods. It leads right past the Morappu Camping Ground, our destination for the night. At 500yen a night, this is a typical basic Hokkaido camping ground. Clean toilets and large outdoor covered kitchen spaces. As it was (still) raining, we set up our tents and cooked under the shelter of a roof-eave* (not before Cezary and I went for a swim in the lake).
Scoffing of large quantities of pasta ensued, before we all retired to our tents at around 7:45pm. We were all out like lights.
Distance: 69.8km | Time cycling: 5h 08m
Average Speed: 13.6km/h | Max speed: 49.5km/h
Last week I cycled 8 days with my wife, her brother (Rowland), his wife (Alicia), and my wife’s friend (Saoka). It was four of us for the whole trip, plus the extra friend for three days. It was the first time I had traveled in a group before, and I thought I might jot down my thoughts on it, compared with traveling on one’s own.
First up, I have to admit that it was great fun traveling with family. Rowland and Alicia are both outdoorsy types, so we all got on really well. While there were a few moments of tension regarding pace, camping spots, and food purchases, on the whole we all got on just fine and enjoyed each others’ company.
One thing I loved about traveling with others was the plethora of photo opportunities this presented me with. People are always more interesting to photograph than static objects, and with four human subjects around me for 8 days straight, I was loving it.
It was also great to be traveling by bike with my wife for the first time. Haidee is a strong rider, and we make for good riding partners, it seems. She also has the distinct bonus of being exceptionally photogenic.
What I did find however, was that traveling with a group drew my attention away from my immediate surroundings more so than when I traveled on my own. That is to say, as we were sitting on the sea shore at the second camp site of the trip, Rowland mentioned that it must be different traveling with others, compared to when I was traveling on my own. I replied that indeed it was, and asked that everyone be quiet for just a moment, and take note of the water lapping against the shore. It was not until that we were all quiet that I heard the sea.
I guess that’s what everyday life is like. We get so caught up in the busy-ness of life and communicating and adjusting and discussing the small things that we often tune out to the gentle movements happening out of our field of attention. Noticing those usually un-noticable things is, upon reflection, one of the greatest joys of traveling on my own, and in a way, traveling in general.
This could, of course, have something to do with the fact that we probably spent a lot of time just figuring out what it means to travel in a group. A longer tour may have allowed us to develop a natural rhythm. Packing up, route choice, pace, buying food, all those little things that are easy to decide when it’s only a party of one, may become more streamlined, allowing more attention to be devoted to the smaller things.
It is quite easy for me to become nostalgic about solo travel. It really is an amazingly meditative and deep experience. Not so much in terms of finding oneself (you need others who have spent a decent amount of time around you in order to approach a well-rounded sense of that), but solo travel brings a depth of awareness that seems hard to find when surrounded by others.
In the end, it is quite impossible to state one way or the other whether solo travel is better than group travel, or vice versa. The moral to the story is that both forms of travel are different. There is something special about shared experience. There is also something special about being immersed in a natural environment, senses aware and honed. If only there was some way to strike a perfect balance…
A while back I wrote a screed of thoughts regarding digital camera choices* and mentioned that I ended up buying a second hand Panasonic GF1 micro four thirds camera; a miniature SLR camera that takes nice lightweight interchangeable lenses. Well it has now been a few months since that purchase, and I now have in my camera kit the following:
I was more than happy with the 20mm pancake lens, and this naturally stayed on the camera for 90% of the time. Great for on-the-bike shots.
The camera was slung over my shoulder for about 90% of the time I was on my bike. I do not yet have a decent camera bag for the camera yet, so it just hung un-protected…not particularly recommended, but I never managed to damage the camera (as far as I know). I did have the polarizing filter on the lens almost 100% of the time, however, and when I didn’t have the filter on, the lens cap was certainly covering the lens. The bonus with not having the camera in any sort of case, however, was that it was therefore always ready for action.
What I really missed, was having a handlebar bag. I have since ordered an Ortlieb Ultimate 5 Plus handlebar bag from wiggle.co.uk, but it was a real pain not being able to put the camera away quickly in short rain showers, and then getting it out again quickly once they had passed.
The controls on the back of the camera are really very easy to use one-handed, which is important when on the bike. I could adjust apeture, iso, and white balance all with one hand (I had the camera set to Apeture Priority most of the time) while on the bike; great for when you want to crank the apeture way up in order to capture a sense of speed.
While 20mm (40mm in 35mm equivalent) is on the long side for everyday shots, I haven’t found this a massive issue. I carried the great old Canon 50mm f1.4 FD S.S.C. lens (100mm equivalent) mainly for around-camp shots where I didn’t want to get in the face of my subjects.
The polarizing filter was useful in a couple of ways. One was the obvious polarization feature. Crisp blue skies and true colours are great products of reduced glare and reflection, which the filter helps to reduce.
The other helpful feature is that it is ever so slightly tinted, which means that with the 20mm f1.7 pancake lens on the camera, I can generally take photos at 1.7 apeture even in bright sunlight. This equals a nice depth of field, which would otherwise not be achieved (the camera would either over-expose or automatically drop decrease the apeture). Not as much depth of field as a 3-stop ND filter, but it is a good compromise when you’re touring on a bike and don’t want to be fiddling around with too many filters.
The cheap and battered 0.42x fisheye conversion lens fits on the 20mm f1.7 pancake lens, and provides some light comedic relief, albeit not at the best quality in the world. The Panasonic 7-14mm ultra wide angle lens would be nice, but that’s an extra US$800 or so…so that’s not going to happen in any great hurry.
On the recent 8-day tour I did with a group in Hokkaido, I didn’t end up using the Zoom H1 audio recorder very much at all. I think it got all of about 5 minutes of use. But then, I didn’t take much video either. I think I was concentrating more on getting used to the photo capabilities of the camera on that trip.
The Gorillapod tripod made a few appearances, but with the speed of the 20mm f1.7 lens, it is not overly necessary save for dark night time shots (the panorama below was stitched in the great free, powerful, and lightweight Autostitch*).
All in all, I am very happy with the Panasonic Lumix GF1. Very versatile, nice and small and lightweight. Great quality photos, and the 20mm pancake lens is magic. I did find myself wanting a zoom lens on occasion, so I imagine that perhaps a 14-140mm lens* could be the eventual next purchase.
This is part of a series of posts about cycling gear I have been using lately. First up, the mighty Surly Karate Monkey.
Surly Karate Monkey Review
Earlier this year, I was looking into bicycle options for life here in Sapporo. I was looking for something that would be as versatile as possible, including something that would be comfortable to ride in the middle of winter here. Sapporo gets massive snowfall in winter; a yearly average of almost 600cm (6 metres!) and an average maximum snowfall in one 24 hour period of 100cm. Unless you’re riding a Surly Pugsley or Salsa Mukluk , you’re not going to be cycling over any snow deeper than 15cm or so, but the local cyclists I talked to here in Sapporo all recommended that I consider getting a 29-inch wheeled mountain bike to handle the icy/snowy conditions in winter in Hokkaido.
With that advice in mind, I approached Surly and asked if they would hook me up with a Karate Monkey frame. Due to supply issues here in Japan, I ended up getting a complete Karate Monkey bike at cost (thanks Surly ). I opted for the Karate Monkey simply due to the reputation it has as a no-nonsense, versatile, back to basics bike. Steel frame, great build quality. The bike came set up as a single speed (33t at the front + 17t at the back + Truativ Firex 1.1 + 29-inch wheels = 56.5 gear inches). I have a Shimano Alfine 8-speed internal gear hub on order, but for the last 6 months or so I have been riding it as a single speed. The bike is awesome. I love it to bits. Stock standard with no bitsy accessories, it is like a huge BMX. So much fun. I now have it set up as a commuter/tourer (apart from the lack of gears), and it is very well behaved when loaded up.
Cycling on gravel roads is really where this bike comes into its own. The stock complete bike comes with WTB 2.2 tyres, which is a helluva lot of balloon power. The 700cc rims (well, 29-inch in mountain biking marketing parlance) mean that the final diameter of the wheel is monstrously large, creating a smaller approach angle on bumps in the road, meaning you get a smoother ride. As you can see, I have installed trekking/touring bars on the bike now, which increase the comfort level up even more.
Freeload Racks review on a Karate Monkey
Finding racks for a 29-inch disk brake bike setup can be a little challenging, however I have found that with a little tweaking the Freeload Racks do fit, and are an especially elegant solution for front racks on a Karate Monkey. They fit on more or less any bicycle on the planet (I wonder if they have tried a penny farthing), and are a great piece of ingenuity.
A Freeload Rack on the back of a Karate Monkey is a little more fiddly than the front, since there is nowhere on the rear seat stays where you can get a 100% snug fit onto the frame, due to the asymmetrical spacing of the cable lugs on the Karate Monkey frame. I got the racks sitting even by adding rubber shims to both sides of the mounting feet of the Freeload Racks. Not ideal, but it does the job (and my oh my those nylon straps on the racks are strong).
With shorter chainstays on the Karate Monkey, the adjust-ability of the Freeload Racks on the back of the bike is very helpful for heel clearance. You have to have the pannier mounting rails adjusted as far back as possible, but this doesn’t seem to be too much of an issue. Mounting panniers on the lower of the two pannier mounting rails helps stability even more, however, by lowers the center of gravity overall; this is a great feature of these racks, and especially welcome on a 29-er mountain bike which has a higher center of gravity to start with.
A Freeload Rack on the front of the Karate Monkey is absolutely rock-solid, and is an excellent solution to the no-rack-eyelets issue on Karate Monkey forks. I am thinking of getting a touring platform (one with pannier rails) for the front, as I can imagine that this would be an awesome option for carrying panniers on the front of the bike. On a recent 8 day tour, the “Sports platform” was handy for carrying bulky items such as synthetic sleeping bags or wet tent flies.
As for loaded touring on a single-speed (not entirely recommended), this is what I had to say previously:I would say that the single speed gearing of the Karate Monkey (33t at the front + 17t at the back + Truativ Firex 1.1 + 29-inch wheels = 56.5 gear inches) is near perfect for all-round cycling. Even with a load on the bike. So far on the tour, I have not come across any situation when I had to stop and push the bike, but so far I have not had to cycle up steep gravel/side roads…I think that could be a situation where the single speed proves fatal on a bicycle tour. In other words, while gears would be the obvious preferred choice, this particular single speed setup on the Karate Monkey is great for day-to-day riding and on-road cycle touring. It bears mention that I do use SPD pedals. I think the situation could be different if I was not clipped in and using decent stiff soled cycle shoes. That is to say, on the uphills, I have spent most of my time standing up. Essentially spending up to three hours on a glorified stepping machine (albeit with much more interesting scenery than in a stuffy gym). This is doable though. (link)
The recent 8 day summer tour has got me all excited for a winter tour here in Hokkaido
Disclaimer: Freeload Racks sent me a pair of their racks free of charge to test and provide feedback.
We were not sure how far we would end up going today. One option was to camp at Jozankei, about 50km up and over Nakayama Pass, and then cycle the remaining 25km to Sapporo the next day. The weather, however, was markedly cooler than previous days, so we ended up having the energy to cycle all the way back to Sapporo.
We began the day half an hour earlier than usual, and instead of having our usual breakfast with coffee, we all just wolfed down bakery breads and rice balls. We were keen to get on the road and on the feared Nakayama Pass before it got too hot. We parted ways with Saoka this morning, as she had to be back in Sapporo earlier than us. We heard later that she had successfully returned her hired bicycle to Niseko, and was back in Sapporo by train.
Haidee, Rowland, Alicia and I were on the road by 5am (an hour after daybreak) and I was loving the delicious early morning light.
The climb up the 835m high Nakayama Pass was not as steep as we had expected however, and by 8:15am we had reached the top.
We filled up on the local delicacy – deep fried batter-coated potatoes – before indulging in some well earned downhill goodness.
Lunch was had at a very nice little cafe/pasta restaurant on the way into Sapporo. Rowland was happy to see good quality coffees on offer, as he has not been overly impressed thus far with the quality of coffee in Japan. Mind you, our four-person group, wearing week-old unwashed clothes was probably a bit of a sight in the rather nice cafe surroundings.
All tanked up on carbohydrates and caffeine, we were ready to make the assault into Sapporo. Luckily, Haidee and I had done this route into Sapporo before, and knew of some nice cycle paths along the Toyohira River which would deliver us more or less to our apartment door. They were a welcome respite to the busy roads. They even had toilets. Typical Japanese park toilet style too. Urinals open to the world at large. A man has to have a view when he pees, don’t you know?
Hardly a day went by on the tour without a swim in a river or ocean. Today was not exception. The upper Toyohira River was a nice a spot as any to cool off in the heat of the day.
The final 5km push on into Sapporo was under a blazing sun and a stiff, hot headwind. At least we had a cycling path almost entirely to ourselves.
Arrival home to our pokey wee apartment was a welcome relief. Cold showers and the breeze of a shaded 11th floor apartment is hard to beat after 8 days outside. Time to get back to the business of keeping in touch…
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31km on the bike before 10am. Now that’s my kind of morning. But there’s really no excuse not to when the sun rises at 4am!
There was more rain in the night, but it had all passed by dawn. We are all using tents owned by Haidee and I, and thankfully they all seem water-tight. Rowland and Alicia are using my ancient Kathmandu North Star Plus tent which I bought during a half-price sale in New Zealand in 2002. I used that 3kg behemoth of a tent on my cycle tour across the Eurasian Continent in 2006, so the tent is understandably showing signs of wear and tear.
The seam sealing on the floor was peeling (replaced with some seam-sealer goop from Montbell), as is the seam sealing on the fly. The tent floor fabric itself has also lost most of its waterproof sealing. Roland and I tried to replace this also, using a special paint-on tent floor sealing product, but this generally just ended up a sticky mess. We ended up having to coat the floor with talcum powder on the morning we all left on the tour because it had not dried in time.
Haidee and I are in the great MSR Hubba Hubba tent we bought earlier this year. It is about 2kg, and is super fast to pitch. Quite unlike any tent I have owned in the past. Very happy with that purchase. Saoka is in my MSR Carbon Reflex 1 tent, kindly supplied by MSR to replace the great little MSR Microzoid tent I used on my longboarding journey across the US and China. I haven’t slept in the tent myself yet, but at around 1kg, and 100g lighter than the Microzoid tent (but with waaaaay more room), it looks to be a near perfect one-person tent.
Today’s scenery was simply spectacular. Mt. Yotei, or “little Fuji” as it is known, cut quite the striking figure against a beautiful blue sky.
Once again we arrived at our ultimate destination for the day at around 10am. Kyogoku natural fresh water springs was the place. Quite nice indeed. Clear, ice-cold water gushes forth out the ground here in massive quantities. Locals come to fill 20 litre barrels by the trolley-load, Chinese and Korean tourists waddle around by the bus-load, and weary cycle tourists (that’s us) wander around enjoying the cool natural air-conditioning of the flowing waters.
From the spring’s source, it is only a 5 minute walk to the Kyogoku Campground (500yen per tent per night). The water from the spring flows in a narrow stream past the campground, so we all egged each other on to jump in. I was one of the first, and within seconds my legs were cramping from the cold. Rowland followed, and was equally wracked with pain. Saoka wandered into the frigid water as if it was the most natural thing in the world, and proceeded to wander around in the water for at least 5 minutes. 5 seconds in that water and I was in excruciating pain…as was Rowland also.
Splashing in the water was followed by pleasant but uneasy lounging in the grass at our campsite. Uneasy in the sense that the site was inundated with ants. Lying in the grass on sleeping mats was an exercise in frustration.
For food on this trip, we have been mainly eating lunches at cheap eateries (usually under 800yen each), and cooking our own dinners with items bought from local supermarkets. Dishes on the menu have included pasta, curry rice, and potato salads. Snacks have been mainly bought from convenience stores, which are to be found in almost any resemblance of a human settlement in Japan. Travelling by bike, camping, and organizing food in this way, Rowland and Alicia have found that it is much cheaper to travel by bike in Japan than it is to travel by public transport and staying at hostels/inns in Southeast Asia.
We did splash out a little today for dinner. Instead of cooking it ourselves, we biked 2 minutes to the local onsen complex next to the campground which served an array of cheap, delicious food. Most dishes were under 600yen, and even though the beer was a little on the steep side (450yen for tap beer), it was a nice relaxing way to enjoy the evening. I went for a cold dish; soba noodles with dipping sauce.
Another enjoyable day done
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