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August 24th, 2011 | categorizilation: all categories,Hokkaido (Japan),Post-2008

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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).

Camping at Lake Shikotsu, Hokkaido, Japan Camping at Lake Shikotsu, Hokkaido, Japan

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.

Lake Shikotsu, Hokkaido, Japan

Swimming in Lake Shikotsu, Hokkaido, Japan Swimming in Lake Shikotsu, Hokkaido, Japan

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.

Floating pumice in Lake Shikotsu, Hokkaido, Japan

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 merry troupe of three (Haidee, Rob, and couchsurfer Cezary) at Lake Shikotsu, Hokkaido, Japan

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.

Shikotsu-Chitose Cycling Road, Hokkaido, Japan Shikotsu-Chitose Cycling Road, Hokkaido, Japan

Shikotsu-Chitose Cycling Road, Hokkaido, Japan

Drying wet underwear on bicycle (Surly Karate Monkey) handlebars (on the Shikotsu-Chitose cycling road, Hokkaido, Japan)

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.

Approaching Eniwa on the busy and noisy Route 36, Hokkaido, Japan

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.

A tasty meal at the Eniwa Onsen, Eniwa, Hokkaido, Japan

A tasty meal at the Eniwa Onsen, Eniwa, Hokkaido, Japan

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

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