Kofu

It's now 2PM and it's nice and warm in Kofu. I'm sitting in a Tully's coffee getting unnecessarily frustrated by the impossibly slow internet. Let me start out by ranting about that a bit. Why can't people get wifi right?

Japan especially sucks when it comes to wifi. Many business hotels still supply a lan cable in each hotel room, and to be honest I much prefer that because with wifi you just never know if it's going to work. Yesterday I had a hotel that only had wifi and no lan cable, and for some mysterious reason it only worked in the lobby and not in the room. I'm guessing the router on my floor was messed up, but try telling that to staff whose main task is not to provide you with internet. I did not bother and just sat in the lobby.

No internet is without a doubt a million times better than slow internet. When I know I have the option of having internet I start to depend on it. For example, sometimes I see a 7-11 or Familymart conbini popping up and then I know there's about a 50% chance that they'll have working wifi. I don't even bother with other conbinis any more, they never have working internet. But it's so incredibly frustrating when all you want to do is quickly check the weather, do a google map search or book a hotel, and the internet's just too damn slow, or won't let you sign in. FRUSTRATION.

There's supposedly free wifi almost everywhere for visitors to Japan, where they let you log in with your mobile phone number. But in order to make that work you first need to call a special number to receive a login code. I have never ever managed to connect to that number, or any of its alternatives. I don't know whoever was in charge of building that system, but user testing certainly didn't come into it. FRUSTRATION.

I know I'm getting unreasonably frustrated over this. All I have to do is set everything to airplane mode and not worry about a thing. I think perhaps the cause of my mood is that things have become a routine, and that things are coming to an end. I've got two more days of progress-/luggage-cycling left until I reach Atsugi, which I can't help but consider my obvious trip endpoint. I considered dragging it out by making a detour or having more break days along the way, but in my mind that somehow diminishes the trip. When it ends, it ends. I just have to accept that.

Something that still blows my mind is that more time has passed since I left Atsugi, than the total time I spent in Japan. It's been 6 years since I lived here, and I only lived here less than 5 years. Time will always be the number one thing that interests me in my life.

This morning started out very grey and mildly rainy. The way the weather is like at a place really affects how I think about a place. As such, I didn't get a very good impression of Lake Suwa. Despite me saying that I'm falling into a routine, the morning started out very un-routine-like, with a hotel breakfast that was included. And this time I remembered that my hotel had free breakfast, so I partook. Then I set off onto yet another climb, this time on the way to Kofu.

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The climb turned out to be very manageable. The inclines were never very steep and the area stayed populated and rural rather than narrow mountain pass like. It wasn't too much of a climb either, maybe 300 meters max. When I reached the top the road did go down steeply for quite a while. Then it changed to a pleasant downhill slope that carried me all the way to Kofu without using up too much effort. I arrived before lunch, found a Sukiya and then lazed about in the local castle gardens and watched a woman play with her dog. For some reason no one else was there even though it was a beautiful place. It felt really peaceful.

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I knew I'd be too early to check in to my hotel, but I went anyway and dropped off my luggage, then found a nearby coffee shop to spend time in. There is real value in sitting somewhere different and just thinking.. and writing. It's something I want to continue doing when I get back to London.

Speaking of London.. today, while I was cycling along a quite busy narrow road, completely comfortable and listening to music, my mind wandered off into random things, and somehow ended up at post-trip worries. My mind's decided that the end is nigh so I might as well start thinking about post-trip actions. I don't want to.. but my mind does. I wish I could control it better. I guess sometimes it's best to just let it wander.

An odd thing I've noticed about myself is how easily my mind wanders after three weeks of cycling. I used to always want to be busy with something, but now I'm just content staring out blankly towards a lake or a mountain for hours on end. That kind of mindset just comes naturally when you're traveling alone, I guess. I enjoy being in this state, but I know I will lose it again when work life starts up again. It can't be helped. There is no possibly way to keep this state of mind and still get work done. I've tried many times and did not succeed. But I also know that I can reach this state of mind any time I want. All I need is a few weeks holiday and a cycling trip :)

Who remembers Fallout 4? Or Skyrim? Or any other RPG with an open world and a million quests? Cycling trips are very much like that. You've got a main quest to fulfill, which is getting to your destination and not missing your flight, but while you're doing that you can make up your own side quests, and sometimes a random stranger comes along and gives you a quest, or helps you with yours. For those of you who haven't played any of those games, the very first time you play a new game like that and discover the world and all of its possibilities, that moment is a magical moment that will not come along often.

Cycling trips are very much a journey of discovery. For my very first trip I did not know anything and kind of went in haphazardly, with a friend to share the experience. Neither of us had expected it would be that difficult, or that amazing, and it was a magical moment to discover the nature of cycling trips. For my first solo cycling trip I had set myself some mad goals right from the get-go, but already I was more aware of the kind of challenges I would face (even though I underestimated them). I genuinely did not know if what I wanted to do was possible. Geographically. Physically. It was all new.

This is my eight big trip. I've done some pretty crazy things. I know the things that are possible. In fact, I can't think of many things that are impossible really. Anything a road bike can do, a touring bike can too. I suspect that anything a mountain bike can do, a well-prepared touring bike can do too, but I haven't ventured into that area yet. What used to be potentially impossible to me is now just difficult. The world has been explored, I've leveled up, done all the side quests. It could be time to try out a new game.. or I could do it all over again somewhere else, or with someone else, or in a different style. A lot of things are possible with experience.

When I reached Kofu the sun had come out and I could see Mount Fuji on the horizon. That's the sign that I'm getting very close to home now. Tomorrow is sunny too, so I will challenge myself with what could be the most difficult day of the trip: the climb into the Fuji five lakes area. It's not very long-distance, but the climb could be severe. I need to prepare for the worst. But it will be the final challenge. It's all downhill from there, literally.

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Posted in Spirit of Japan 3