The day did not quite turn out as expected, but mostly for the better. It's been a long, long day. But a great one.
I'm a manic control freak, so I've been checking the weather for various areas in Hokkaido almost every day. The main reason that I didn't choose to go north to Wakkanai via the route that I'm currently going south on, is that it consistenly had the highest wind speeds of anywhere in Hokkaido. The going south bit is a bit unexpected, and I figured I would have to endure it for a mere three days, but I definitely wasn't looking forward to another full day of bracing the winds. Yesterday really took a lot of strength out of me.
Luckily, when I woke up, the sun was shining, the world was warming up and magically there was hardly any wind! Sigh. Just when I was ready to hate Hokkaido completely, a superb day like this shows up.. As I left the ryokan the owner lady came up to me and put a bag full of lunchy goodies in my hands, all carefully wrapped so I couldn't tell what they were. So nice!
Today has been two roads, though kind of only one: the 232 later turns into the 231. It started out hilly with lots of needless ups and downs, then later started hugging the seaside a bit closer, becoming quite flat. There were some towns along the way, and to my great satisfaction they all had conbinis in them. I'm starting to reach civilization again! It's about damn time too, the north was just too boring. The closer I got to Rumoi, the better it got.
Of course a bug just had to fly right into my shirt. I wasn't sure if it exited or went past, so I had to probe my neck area with my finger since I was cycling fairly fast and didn't want to look down. As I pushed and prodded I realized that a) there was indeed some kind of bug there, b) I had disintegrated it with my prodding, and c) the damn thing stung me right in the tip of my index finger before disintegrating. Bleh! The spot was numb for the next hour or so, but I can't see any evidence that I was actually stung..
It took me the whole day yesterday to do 90 kilometers. Today I managed to do it before lunch. There was hardly any wind, and it was coming in from the side, so I wasn't taking advantage of that, but I guess my body was a lot more comfortable today not having to exert so much effort against the wind. It's excellent training, I can tell that my whole body is getting stronger, not just the leg muscles. Meanwile it's happily burning away all the fat. Maybe that explains why I'm not actually that hungry. It's either that or the gigantic lunch the ryokan lady packed for me: it turned to be two massive onigiri, two eggs, a little packet of salt and some pickles. That, combined with some conbini sides, was enough for lunch and dinner.
Since I was fairly early, I skipped the first camp site I had planned to stay at and went on 20 kilometers for the second one I had marked. It was at this point that I realized that I had planned the worst possible cycling road in the entirety of Japan, and I partly Openstreetmap for that because it's just really really crap at indicating anything useful. Google Maps is so much better for Japan, but alas does not allow me to use it in an offline way the way I want it to. Shame, because I'd totally buy a Google Map of Japan for offline use, especially if it had search functionality and/or distance calculation. Which, by the way, my offline Openstreetmap doesn't have either. Too barebone.
The road was terrible for cycling because it was full of tunnels! It started with an easy one, but then another one, and another one, and another one. I've gone through at least 10 tunnels today, most of them longer than 1 kilometer, and the longest one was 3 kilometers long. WHAT THE FUCK. What's the point of having a scenic ocean road if you're going to build fucking tunnels all along the way? Much shitness! They weren't nice tunnels either: no bicycle/pedestrian area, fairly narrow lanes and sometimes very poorly lit. Oh, and there were construction works going on in some of the tunnels, reducing them to one direction, with construction workers flagging and whistling for cars to pass or wait, so I held up a lot of cars while I passed the construction works..
And so we come to my worst moment of the day: I nearly died! To no fault of my own, I might add. My front and rear lights were turned on and clearly visible in the tunnel. My cycling strategy in tunnels is fairly straightforward: if the tunnel is wide and there's space for cars to pass me without straying into the oncoming lane, I stick to the side as much as I reasonably can and give them space to pass. If the tunnel is narrow and there's no oncomers, I also stick to the side. But if the tunnel is narrow and there's oncomers, I cycle right in the middle of the lane to make it very clear to the cars behind me that it's unsafe to pass. I also do this well in advance before they get close to me so they have to react.
But this time my near-death experience was not thanks to a car behind me: there was a row of about 4-5 cars coming towards me, still quite far away, and no cars behind me or in front of me on my lane. Since there were no cars in sight on my end, I cycled near the middle of the lane to ensure that I was clearly visible, but obviously that wasn't enough. Near the end of the convoy of cars appraoching me, one car nipped out and started overtaking the others! What the fuck! She (yes, it turned out to be a woman) should have clearly seen me as my light was on and we happened to be in a clearly lit part of the tunnel! She was approaching rapidly, and for a moment I thought/hoped that after seeing me, she would do the sensible thing: brake, and get back in lane.
BUT SHE DIDN'T DO THAT!! She just kept pushing on in my lane, and I had to get right in the gutter real fucking fast. In an instant fit of rage, I managed to get all the way to the side immediately and stopped my bicycle. I then somehow found the time to shout in anger at her while holding up my middle finger right in her face as she passed my bicycle way too close for comfort. I seriously hope she gets her driving license taken away. I couldn't do much else but fume internally and get on with cycling, so that's what I did. But goddamn, what a shit driver that was. My fuming was so strong I cycled at least 3kph faster in rage for the next 30 minutes.
Many tunnels later, as I reached my second designated camp site, it turned out to be crap. There was nothing else around, and the 'camping' area was some very small patches of grass right at the side of the main road. I was still after-fuming and full of rage energy, so I cycled on even more.
My rage stopped soon after though, when I spotted a beautiful waterfall on the road side. As I stopped to take photos another cyclist came in from the opposite direction: an old man on a Giant Great Journey! I'm not sure if he was entirely sane, though. When he approached me, he started shouting really loudly, and his volume never really went down much. Maybe he was deaf from the tunnels. He asked me "WHERE YOU FROM?! WHERE YOU GOING!?!". I answered him twice in Japanese before he realized that I could speak Japanese, and then things went slightly smoother. The guy was 66 years old! And still doing a cycling trip. I can only hope that I'm as fit as he is when I'm that age. I told him that the road ahead was crap and full of tunnels, and he said that the road behind him was the same, but that there's a really nice camp site another 20 kilometers away. Perfect.
I reached the camp site fairly late, but it did turn out to be beautiful. It's huge, has a conbini in front of it and a perfect view of the nearby mountains. Oh, and it's near the beach, which is just 1 minute away. Absolutely brilliant. If I can keep going to sleep and waking up at places like this, on days like this, I will be a happy man for the rest of my life.
My body hurts all over, but it's a familiar hurt. More of a general tired-ness, really. Yet despite that massive difference in distance and even amount climbed, my body feels better than it did yesterday. I'm not as tired. For some reason, the first thing I did with my 'free' time after finding the camp site was to cycle around town and see if there was an internet signal anywhere for my mobile wifi device. Alas, I'm still not quite back in civilization just yet. But Sapporo is 70 kilometers away. I can reach it early tomorrow, and then see if I can book a ferry for the next day. Or take a break day, which may or may not be mandatory depending on how the ferry booking goes. Oh well, it's all good.
On days like this, it's all good.