Today was odd. By all rights, or rather, by my previous days' standards, it should have been a terrible day, but I enjoyed the hell out of it. I've gone from planning the day route but not the overall route to planning the overall route but not the day route, and it seems to have worked out great. Despite all the mishaps ... thanks to all the mishaps?
Every morning right after I wake up I check the weather report. I already knew rain was coming but needed to know the precise location. It seemed pretty light on the map, and since I wasn't going too far today I decided to cycle. That was definitely the right decision, although I pushed it a liiiitle too far, and the rain caught up with me later in the day.
Despite the looming threat of rain I set off in the morning in good spirits and headed for Tottori's sand dunes. Words cannot describe how disappointing Tottori's sand dunes are. I guess Japanese are not used to seeing lots of sand, but I didn't find it very fascinating. The weather probably had something to do with it too. Grey skies don't make for nice photos. I quickly cycled on.
Today's coastal road was perhaps the toughest one yet. 8% inclines seemed common, 10% ones appeared a few times as well, and there were tunnels everywhere. Yet somehow, perhaps thanks to the break day, perhaps thanks to me actually getting fitter, or perhaps thanks to the old man inspiring me, I think today was the best day of cycling yet. The rhythm of the road already introduced itself a few days ago: climb up to a tunnel or peak, descend down into a valley with a little coastal town, then climb up again to the next peak. This rhythm has gone to the extreme today, with higher peaks, steeper inclines, longer ups and faster downs. It was fantastic. There was hardly any traffic because of the bypass road next to the coastal road. Tunnels aren't too bad if there's no traffic, and if there's rain outside the tunnel.
There was rain. During the morning only a little, a few drops every once in a while, and it didn't bother me in the slightest. It's also finally gotten a little bit warmer, and the smell of rain on hot asphalt is just one of the best things in life. I usually wear a thermal/base layer and then a thin cycle shirt, but because of the rain I also wore my thin anti-wind coat for most of the day. I was worried I would overheat and sweat too much, but I ended up feeling a lot more comfortable than before. Three layers seems to be my preferred kit, even when it gets warmer. I do sweat more in my coat, but as soon as I take out it dissipates real quickly. It just feels more sustainable with the coat on.
I had planned to do about 60 kilometers today to reach a place called Kasumi, or Kami, depending on who you ask. The reason I wanted to visit here was a weeaboo one: the town provided the inspiration for a town in an anime that I still very much like: Air (TV). The drawing style hasn't aged well but the theme song is still fantastic. When I arrived in Kasumi it was grey and raining lightly. I think I spotted a few places that I recognized from the anime but it certainly wasn't memorable. The town fit much more closely into the continuity of my cycling trip than it did in the continuity of the anime. Let's keep those two separate.
I had my lunch at the only conbini in town and asked the owner if she knew any cheap hotels in the area. Not much luck there, so I figured I might as well cycle on a bit and maybe reach Kinosaki Onsen, a town about 30 kilometers further away. I could definitely feel the saddle pain as I got on the bike again after lunch, but it wasn't too bad. I still felt motivated to go further.
As I rejoined the road again I cycled onwards on even steeper and higher hills. The valleys between the mountains seemed to get shorter, and most of the road was now either steep uphill or steep downhill, with even a few switchbacks for the really steep bits. I was eager to get a move on and reach Kinosaki Onsen in the hopes of finding a cheap onsen hotel or ryokan, but it was not to be. The rain started getting heavier and heavier, and soon it was just a massive downpour. I had to stop.
Yesterday I marked a few camp sites after Kasumi on my map, which came in very handy today. There was exactly one on my road before Kinosaki, and it was only a few kilometers after the rain started that I made it to the camp site. Wet, but recoverable. It was one of those typically Japanese camp sites with a bunch of roofed areas for barbecueing and washing things, yakiniku grills on one side, sinks on the other, a big slabby table in the middle and a nice view of the beach.
I've been in this little barbecue building for 2 hours and have not seen anyone yet, except for an old lady who took a walk on the beach and somehow did not notice me, or pretended not to notice me. Setting up a tent seems like a hassle considering the ground is very wet; the rain has only gotten worse since I took shelter. I'll probably just stick my sleeping bag and mat on this concrete table slab and sleep in the barbecue building. I hope no one throws me out.
At least the rain has gotten worse. Now I don't need to doubt about whether I should have cycled on. It would not have been a fun cycle.
I've set up my plan so that I've got a few places I want/need to stay at, for touristy things or washing clothes things or for break day things, but have not planned out where to stay in the bits in-between. Today was an in-between day. Tomorrow will be a tourist end point. Since I've made more progress than I thought today tomorrow should be easier than planned. Unless it's still raining. A late start would be bad, but still better than wasting an entire day in this middle-of-nowhere place. I'm hoping to stay in a youth hostel tomorrow, but if that fails I might end up having to camp again. I'm ok with either option.