Today I decided to cycle around Sakurajima island. I started a bit late because I was having a good time at Nishi's place, but I managed to set a great pace thanks to having no luggage. I took the ferry to the island and started cycling on the north road. Very soon I reached the other side of the island. A bit too soon in fact, so I decided to take the long way round and take a road to the mainland and travel around the sea instead, a good 60 kilometers longer than the return route via Sakurajima. While deciding my route at the far side of the island I heard a loud boom which sounded a bit like thunder. Nothing strange happened after that so I thought nothing of it and continued on my way. 5 minutes later, after having crossed a bridge to the mainland, everything suddenly became dark. And then I turned around.
After three days of peace Sakurajima has finally fumed out some black plumes again! It's incredible how violent the eruptions can get, and it really makes me question the sanity of the people living on the island. It seems that the price of land on the island is incredibly low, and the Sakurajima municipality is encouraging people to move to there, as it is cheap and convenient to commute to Kagoshima city (10 minutes by ferry), where the price of land is much higher. Personally I think it's a bit silly to try to get people to live next to an active volcano.
Today is the first time I've cycled a long distance without sidebags since starting this trip, and it feels awesome. The penalty for climbing hills is much lower, but my downhill speed hasn't changed much. If anything, the bicycle's a bit unstable without luggage. It's an interesting sensation to cycle like this, because there's almost no pressure on my legs, yet I still get tired at about the same rate. Besides that, because I have no front luggage there's nothing to dampen the bumps, and my arms are feeling sore sooner.
As I cycled around the ocean and got closer to Kagoshima again my eyes started to hurt: volcanic ash in the air.. Unfortunately I didn't bring my sunglasses today, and I cycled a good 10 kilometers with sore eyes. Arriving in Kagoshima I took a short break to clean my eyes and sit in the port area. When I was about ready to sit down on a bench I noticed that there was ash everywhere.
Nishi told me that the city distributes special garbage bags to collect all the ashes, as there seems to be a lot of it. It seemed a bit extreme to me when he told me this yesterday, but now I quite understand.
On the way back to Kagoshima I managed to take exactly the same road back as the one I took in the morning. I somehow have a good memory for roads. After traveling on a road once I never forget it. Yet I forget events and people's faces and names really quickly... >_<;