Kusatsu. Surrounded by mountains. The only way out is to overcome them.
I am not a racer. The challenge for me is to go far, not fast. On my own power. Today was dreadful. All the inclines have become so steep that I can no longer pretend that I'm doing the climbs at reasonable speed. I'm suffering all the way in the lowest gears my bike has to offer. And that's how it's supposed to be! This is exactly what this trip is about. Wake up in a tent, pack up all your stuff, leave while there's still only a few cars on the road, lunch at conbini, find a camp site, set up your tent and go to onsen. SUCH IS THE LIFE! A few days ago i wrote that I still hadn't quite found the right feeling yet. This is it. This is the feeling. This is what I wanted to experience. Complete physical exhaustion, complete physical destruction and complete physical relaxation. This is why I cycle.
Today was tough. The stats will tell you otherwise, because it's neither the highest climb nor the longest distance I've done on this trip, but the amount of climbing per kilometer was just insane today. I really had to give up at some points and just stand at the side of the road, too exhausted to even look at anything, just waiting for my heart to recover. My legs managed to last only slightly longer than my stamina, but it wouldn't have taken much more for them to give out. Good thing I planned only shorter distances while I'm in the mountains, cause I really need the recovery time.
The road from Karuizawa to Kusatsu is incredibly scenic. There's mountains, forests, nature everywhere. The first part is a gruesome climb to get alongside a mountain, the middle part takes you down 800 meters again and has surely worn down my brakes, and the last part is another gruesome climb back up to 1200 meters. Cycle, sit, drink, eat, cycle, wait, drink, cycle. But I made it. The camp site was empty and I got to choose the place with the least wind. Just like yesterday, after I'm done typing this I'm going to head out and find an onsen. Hopefully it's not too far away, since this place is kind of outside the town center, and the area is quite mountainous.
By the way: totally not impressed with Karuizawa. Just a bunch of giant villas and overpriced 'European' restaurants (and onsens) for rich-ass Japanese people who want to pretend they're European. Really too bad though because the entire area is wonderfully scenic.