Two of my favorite things to do at the end of a long day of cycling are: 1) finding the perfect camping spot and enjoying a warm onsen bath before going to sleep, and 2) boarding a ferry and relaxing while watching the sunset. Today I almost had both. Almost, because the onsen was closed already. But let's start at the beginning, which is the nice hostel I stayed at in Nagasaki.
The owners of the hostel were very nice people, and they served us a nice umeshu (plum alcohol) on the house each night, which provided a nice opportunity to talk with the other guests. Two days ago I met two Danish guys and a Polish guy, and we exchanged thoughts on which type of alcohol gets you the most drunk. Yesterday there was one Japanse guy on a motorcycle and an interesting guy from Taiwan, who was in Japan for a couple of months to travel, but seemed to be particulary interested in Dutch sights in Japan. When I asked him about that, he told me has working on translating some historical Taiwanese texts, which were written in Dutch, as the Dutch colonized Taiwan for a short period of time, several hundred years ago. Interesting job. He said he really wanted to visit Holland, so I told him to go to Huis Ten Bosch instead as it is prettier.
I didn't cycle in the morning because I went to a place that I will you about later (when I am more comfortable..) , so I started to cycle around 13:00 after having a fake pizza lunch. Japanese restaurants fail 99% of the time at making proper pizza, but I keep falling for it. Anyway, leaving Nagasaki I rode up a couple of large hills and found myself on the way to the Unzen national park. Despite all the warnings of the good old hostelkeeper I somehow ended up on the southern road (251), and not the northern one (57) that was supposed to be much easier. I realized fairly quickly that I took a wrong turn, but didn't want to climb back up a single hill to get back to the correct road. As a result I had to climb about 6 or 7 impossible hills instead. It was killing. But the view was beautiful.
This drink is still frozen when you buy it. As it slowly thaws out you can begin to drink it. It stays cool for hours!
After somehow ending up on a dike (I didn't know they had those in Japan) I managed to find my way to the ferry around sunset. While waiting for the ferry to arrive I checked google maps to find a nearby place to camp, and I found a beach less than 5 km's away from the ferry place. Lucky me, because the ferry arrived around 6PM and I didn't have a lot of time to search a camping place today.
My guide book told me there was also an onsen/public bath nearby, but it was already closed when I arrived. I asked an old man for directions to find the onsen, and he cycled with me for a bit and told me about the area. Somehow I learned a lot of Japanese today, in particular words related to volcanoes and the tide. The man, Yoshida-san, told me his motto: "health first, money second". He then proceeded to tell me about volcanic eruptions at the Unzen national park, and how it erupts every two hundred years and a lot of people die when that happens. He also told me about his trip by bicycle from Kumamoto to Kagoshima, which took three days. When I asked him how old he was when he did the cycling trip, he told me he did it four years ago :O meaning he was well over 60 years old. Incredible. I also realized how close I am to my goal. Even if I take the long way round and cycle to the southernmost point, it won't take more than a week. I need to start thinking about what to do after I reach 'the end'...
He also showed me a great place to set up my tent, right underneath a lifeguard house, meaning I am protected from the rain which is expected to fall tonight. When I set up my tent about an hour ago everything was nice and peaceful: no wind, beautiful sunset, quite warm. Right now my tent is nearly collapsing in on itself because of the strong wind, and I had to get out to reinforce things a bit with some spare tent pegs. At least tonight shouldn't be too cold. I just hope that the weather report was wrong and there won't be any rain. In any case, thanks to Yoshida-san I found a comfortable place to sleep and I don't have to worry about people throwing me out, since in this place camping is allowed. A peaceful night awaits.
(Third favorite thing to do at the end of a long day of cycling: get a room in a business hotel and order pizza online. But that makes me feel really guilty cause it costs about 3 times my usual daily budget..)