And there we went. By plane to Hiroshima. The beautiful thing about the airport at Hiroshima is that it's about 300 meters high, located on a small mountain. In other words, going by bicycle is a breeze. Which was quite a welcome change after our preparation. Friday night we started. I somehow got my bicycle in the big bag and took it on the train to Tokyo. I transfered once and managed to carry the heavy thing all the way to Junko, where we prepared her bike for carrying. The next morning we had to transfer once to get to the airport, and soon our bikes were loaded up. The flight was short, and after arriving at Hiroshima it took us quite a while to get the bicycles back together, since both of us not quite experienced with this kind of trip.
Soon we were off though, and on the way to our first stop: Onomichi. It's a small coastal town quite a bit east of Hiroshima, and this is the place to start to get to Shikoku. The only way for cyclists to get to Shikoku is by way of the Shimanami Kaidou, or in English the Island-Wave Roadway. It's a wonderful cycling path connecting the mainland of Japan to Shikoku island by various bridges that connect all the small islands in the Japanese inland sea together. For the first day however, we stayed in Onomichi and did some sightseeing around the local temples.
At the end of the first day we reached Onomichi and arrived at our hostel, which turned out to be a minshuku, meaning that it's just a house people live in, and they offer some rooms for guests to stay in. It was quite a nice experience to stay there, and the people were very nice. We had pre-sent our luggage to them a couple of days in advance, and when we arrived the boxes were there waiting for us. It was just a matter of unpacking them, screwing on the baggage handlers, and we were all set for the Shimanami Kaidou the next day.
The weather could have been a bit better, but all in all I was quite happy that it wasn't that hot yet. We made good speed and we managed to finish the whole route in one day, as usual stopping at some places to take pictures. We arrived in Imabari by ferry, skipping the last bridge, because we wanted to catch a train to Naruto, at the other side of Shikoku. That didn't quite go as planned however, and the Japan Railways people didn't allow us to take the bicycles into the train without first packing it up into our carrying bags... That was something that I really wanted to avoid, because it would take me half an hour to take my baggage handlers off, and then it would be almost impossible to carry, since I had four side bags... T_T Well, shikattanai, as they say in Japanese, and half an hour later we were ready to enter the train. It took us two hours and three transfers to get to Naruto. At the last transfer point we had to wait for an hour until the next train, and the station was in the middle of nowhere. No restaurant, no conbini. Nothing. All we could do was walk around a bit, but there was really nothing. Not even anyone in the station.
We managed to reach Naruto around 22:30, put our bicycles together, had dinner, and put up our tent. It was maybe around 1 or 2 that we finally managed to sleep, not in the least due to the fact that it was quite hard to find a suitable place to camp (in the dark, only rock soil...), and that I had last put up the tent one year ago and kind of forgot how to do it o_0.
The following morning we cycled 6kms to Naruto park, from where we could take a sightseeing boat to the Naturo whirlpools, a famous area under a huge bridge, where the water of the inland sea and the ocean meet, creating huge whirlpools. Quite a nice sight, and certainly something different from the usual temples and castles.
After that it was time to start the real cycling adventure, and we started our big journey southwards. We went all the way through the urban jungle until we reached Takamatsu, where we had some trouble finding roads that cyclists were allowed to travel on. This caused some delay, but we managed to reach a beautiful little road-side onsen (public hot spring bath) just around sunset. It was even more fortunate that there was a park conveniently located next to it, which we gladly used to put up our tent. The cycling was a bit disappointing since we were only going around in the cities, but after this day we found that we had seen the last of civilization for quite some time... More later!