Hakodate was the start of this little peddle around Hokkaido and now it`s the end. But last week i was in a different city.
Sapporo was good. It`s laid out on an easy grid of north-south east-west streets that seem to idle through the day waiting for sunset so it can enjoy itself under the neon again. Every other building seemed to house a bar or restaurant. People told me i should go back in winter. "It`s a different city in winter" they`d say. Day and night, cold and warm, four cities in one. It would be very easy to go to Sapporo for a week and still be there a few years later.
But i only managed to stay for a couple of nights before the tyres were rolling again through more headwinds, rain, sunshine and scenery west through Otaru and then south through the beautiful mountains of Niseko which upped the sweat levels to saturation point. The tyres have also rolled past quite a bit of crap on this journey which i would never have seen if i was in a vehicle. I guess i`ve never given it too much thought before (never had to) but the side of the road is where everything gets washed up; litter, furniture, a lonely shoe, crushed cans, mushed newspapers, car crash leftovers and plenty of dead animals from insects to deer with all your regular domestic pets along the way too. You never notice when you glide past in an air conditioned box at murderous speeds but trust me, all the shit that you throw out of the window or squash under your tyres is all there waiting to greet the long distance cyclist, driftwood for the world of wheels.
After Niseko i took stock a little bit and wasn`t too pleased with the results. The tent has a couple of holes in it. The camping mattress has a bulge in the middle of it the size of a rugby ball whenever i inflate it. The lenses of my glasses are scratched so badly that everything looks slightly frosted. My mobile phone battery is dead. My odometer reset itself so that i have no idea how far i actually travelled. The bike is buggered. I`ve met people who`ve cycled around the world for months and years at a time. How do they do it?
And camping itself had got a little tiresome. I`d gone through what i`ve subsequently called the Three Stages of Over-Camping.
Stage One: You think to yourself, "I`d love to sleep in a bed." Thoughts of duvets and pillows and blankets occupy your mind at sunset.
Stage Two: You think to yourself, "I`d love to sleep in a room." Beds are no longer important at this stage. Four walls, a ceiling and a floor would be just lovely, thank you.
Stage Three: You think to yourself, "I`d love to sleep...well, yeah, i`d love to sleep". That`s all. You no longer care where and on what that sleep occurs. On a beach, in a storm, on a bed of nails, in hell, on a wild bear, you don`t care as long as you get multiple hours of it continuously. I didn`t reach a Stage Four. I can only assume that would be a combination of murder and suicide.
Hakodate is a cute little city but i`ll leave tomorrow heading back to Tokyo and work and normality and a bed. It`s been a thoroughly good journey that`s disappeared into the past faster than most, the ending crept up on me even though i could see it clearly on a map getting closer. But there`s something about the rhythm of the peddles and the barely perceptible sound of your own movement that makes you crave more. For all the sweat and rain and sunburn and malfunctions, this morning as i set off into more scenic hills for the last time i thought, "Yeah, i could do another week of this."
Keep moving. See you soon.