What a day. I am in pain (muscle ache).
Let's see, where to begin. I am blogging from my tent (yay!) on a side area of national road 413 towards Fuji. I'm staying at a riverside and there is nobody around me. There's a camp area nearby but it's closed. I went and trespassed to check if the vending machines were working, but alas, only water and bread for me, as there are no restaurants nearby either. But let's flash backward a bit to this morning.
Right, so after the room check was complete I was ready to leave, only to find a weird noise coming from my front wheel: there was a huge bulge sticking out of the tire that was hitting the fender. Not good. I went to the bicycle shop to get it fixed and was ready to leave around noon.
Lessons learned the first few hours: steering with two heavy bags on the front wheels takes some getting used to and my luggage is way heavier than I thought. Nevertheless I managed to reach Miyagase lake before 2PM, which amazed me a bit. I contemplated resting for the remainder of the day, but I decided to continue towards Fuji. I was entering unknown territory for the first time today, as a narrow road took me first steeply uphill, and then steeply downhill for about twice as long, negating all my progress that I gained from climbing towards lake Miyagase. The downhill thrill is great, but it really sucks if you know that you're going to have to go uphill again later to reach your goal.
During a conbini break two Japanese people were interested in my awkward appearance and approached me. I chatted with them a bit in Japanese, slightly surprised that they didn't gaijin me out by trying to talk in English. Interestingly all the people I met today talked to me in Japanese, even though it's quite countryside-y here.
It was around this time that my muscle fatigue set in. Road 413 is a horrible road, going up and up and up all the time, only going downhill for a tiny moment before changing to go up again. I reached my limits way faster than I expected, but I expected that. It was around 4PM that I saw a sign saying 'camp site' with a big arrow, and I decided to follow it. I switched roads and rode about 2 km's away from the main road, steeply downhill, zigzagging a lot, until finally an even steeper road took me towards a campsite near a river. Two Japanese hippies greeted me. Realizing that I went down a very nasty amount I didn't want to cycle back up again, so I was about ready to collapse when I arrived. When the hippies told me the price for a one-night stay (in my own tent!) I became genki again though: 1500 yen for one night, and the restaurant wasn't even open. I got back on my bicycle and walked back uphill, because the incline was way too steep for me to cycle. Those 2 km's uphill was perhaps the worst cycling time of my life. (Well, that and route 70 on Okinawa island :S).
I started to tire more and more, and around 3:00 I was sleepcycling my way uphill, stopping and going, stopping and going. I took a good break and went looking for another campsite. I found a local town (well, 6 buildings at a fork in the road) and asked around for a campsite. An old woman told me I only had to go a bit back to where I came from and there would be a beautiful campsite at the bottom of a valley. Ya no thanks, just came from there. She also told me it was so close you could even walk there easily. I decided to continue and find my own way instead.
Several km's later I found another big sign that said 'campsite' with an arrow to the right. I guess I was quite tired, because I didn't see the '1km ahead' part of the sign, and I also didn't see the 'this is a dead end with no possibility of turning' sign on the road that I took after turning right. It was a weird experience. I went downhill quite fast, and suddenly the road become narrow, I was surrounded by bamboo trees, and abandoned Japanese houses appeared out of nowhere. Stopping was impossible so I went on. The road now resembled a narrow walking path. And then it suddenly changed into stairs. Which was really too bad, because at the end of those stairs was the perfect camp site.
I contemplated carrying the bicycle down, but after trying 3 steps I realized that it would kill me. I had to carry the bicycle back up the steep uphill AGAIN, dying a little bit more in the process. Eventually I found a road a bit further ahead that took me the area where I decided to camp, and where I'm blogging this from. Here's some more photos.
In retrospect I did a lot of things wrong, especially with decisions about changing course which cost me a lot of time and energy. I didn't realize that the mountains do not forgive, and I will try to be more careful tomorrow. My current altitude is 350m, so I expect tomorrow to be about 3 times as bad as today. Well, at least I can get up early and take my time. Oh, and I forgot to use my GPS today, so I'll try to use it tomorrow instead. I would post more photos but I'm really tired!
Good night! :D