Even wilder

What a day. 90+ kilometers and I hardly saw humans, cars or junctions. It's.. different, but I guess you could call it a success.

A success is definitely not what I'd call camping last night. It started raining after dark and didn't really let up until well after the sun came up. My tent was drenched of course, and what's worse, the inside was completely filled with water drops, and the slightest move would set them off which would make them drop down on my lovely 'must absolutely definitely keep as far away from water as possible' down sleeping bag. So I managed to do a Mission Impossible style wake-up and managed to evacuate myself and most of my things before settings off most off the water drops. Thus I was left with a drenched tent that I needed to pack ASAP so I could set off and start cycling.

So I shook off most of the water, put some towels inside, wiped off some more, and put the tent on its side to dry while I had breakfast and packed the other stuff. It's pretty much a routine now when camping, unfortunately. The tent really doesn't do rain well at all. I managed to get it fairly dry though, and hopefully squeezed out the rest when I rolled it up. So I was left with two drenched towels, which I put on the outside of my bags to dry off while cycling. Yay, camping..

The ride around the lake turned out to be quite up-down-y, just like Derek mentioned yesterday, and I used up a lot of energy. Fortunately my halfway point was an actual proper town: Bifuka! (Or: Beefcake, as the little voice in my head likes to call it). I wasn't expecting much from it because I had done my research, and only needed to stock up for dinner and breakfast the next day. Much to my surprise there was a 7-eleven! In the endless emptiness of Hokkaido, a 7-eleven is salvation. I stocked up and had lunch there, since the whole town seemed pretty dead and it was still before noon. You really can't expect much from Hokkaido..

The afternoon's road was just that: a single road that would go on for dozens and dozens of kilometers with hardly any turnings. There was some mild change in scenery though, and a very nice bit in the middle that constantly sloped down a little so it made for great progress. It was quite warm today and I sweated a lot, but on this road there was a ridiculously long tunnel that was just freezing cold inside. Way way colder than any tunnel I've ever cycled.

The main 'attraction' on this afternoon's road was a place called 'Truck Land'. In Japan, 'torakko' means tram, so really it should be called 'Tram Land'. It was utterly uninspiring and I didn't even bother to try. If your only attraction within 50 kilometers is a place called 'Truck Land' then your island sucks.

The best part of today was by far the nature. When you're on the only road going through a natural park/area, all you see around you is pure, unspoilt nature. Gorgeous forests, mountains, streams, you name it. Lots of wildlife too. I saw two really huge foxes today. One of them was in the middle of the road and stared at me for a while while I took its picture. Then I tried to get closer and it ran away. The other one ran away before I could manage to take a photo. I also saw a very jumpy springbok-like creature but it was also rather shy of strange humans on bicycles. And one squirrel.

The bugs were out in full force today, hopefully proof of the weather actually getting warmer and staying warmer. I had to wear glasses a lot today to save my eyes. At one point some flying creature got into my under layer via my neck. I felt it and maybe crushed it without stopping, then shook my shirt a bit hoping it would fall out. Since I didn't notice anything afterwards I thought it was all taken care of, but when I changed clothes just now my undershirt had a live wasp in it! It was half-crushed already, but it seems like I got lucky there. More bug horror: right at the end of the day when I was nearing the campsite it started to get very cloudy and the thunderbugs came out in swarms. I had to cycle through them going downhill at speed, and they got stuck in my clothes and in my hair. Ugh.

So yeah, rain. It had been sunny or mildly cloudy all day, but right at the end the weather comes to ruin your fucking day. I managed to reach the entrance to the camp site, or so I thought, just when it started pouring down. I took shelter under a covered bike rack and waited for it to pass, which it soon did. Then I found out that the camp site was another 1.5 kilometers ahead, on top of a fucking hill because why would life make it easy? The inclines were 11-12% for the most part, and then some impossible percentage on the last bit where I just had to get off and walk up.

The camp site turned out to be quite small, and I wasn't really looking forward to setting up my tent on wet grass when more rain might show up. Fortunately there was a mountain hut right at the summit of the hill, with a beautiful outlook on the valley below. Apparently it's ok for people to freely use this hut to cook, stay warm, eat and so on. It has toilets, a wood heater, some tables and a small kitchen. Right after I settled down at one of the tables, a massive rainstorm broke out. I am so glad that I didn't try to set up my tent earlier.

Side note: Garmin speed sensor issues again! I just can't get it to work properly. At first, when it broke, it just reported half the speed of the actual speed, but now it's started showing random numbers. Going downhill fast? Sure, maybe that's about 70kph, whatever. Climbing in a gear that you know the speed of already at your rpm: why not take off 4-5kph and leave you guessing? It's utter and utter shit, this speed sensor. The fucking thing has GPS data at its disposal, for fucks sake. All the damn thing has to do is occasionally re-sync its speed measurements with the GPS and it'll be fine. Or even better, forget about the wheel sensor altogether and just report GPS speed. It might be a bit slower than real-time wheel measurements, but at least it will be accurate. But you can't have that because then you can't get cadence information. Pretty crap, Garmin. Just like your website by the way. The least you can do is correct the measurements after upload, but nooooo. If it's recorded as crap, it stays crap.

There were tons of camping opportunities along the roadside today. I was following a river for most of the day, so the riverbed offered ample opportunity for camping. Failing that, I'm north of rice country now, so there's many patches of grass ready to be camped on. There's nobody around of course because this is Hokkaido. A third option would have been any one of the many abandoned buildings I saw today. In the countryside here it appears that maybe half of the buildings are collapsed, and of the other half a lot of them are abandoned or at least very poorly maintained. Concentration of population, and leaving large areas of emptiness in-between. Japan is really good at that.

I've got a relatively easy day tomorrow, to get to lake something-or-other near the coast, after which it's a straight-up ride to the northernmost point. Two more days! And then I'll have to decide how to get back..

(Post-night update: the mountain hut was by far the creepiest place I've ever stayed in. From now on I'll try to stay in more conventional places. It really doesn't pay off to find hidden places, expected places are better.)

Posted in Spirit of Japan 2