Monday, September 3, 2012


It`s been a while. I`ve peddled 2200km around Hokkaido in the last five weeks(ish) and i`m not quite finished. My legs may never forgive me.

I went along the south coast of Hokkaido through more fishing villages and farming towns dodging roadkill (there`s lots of that) and being dodged by trucks and cars (quite a few of them too) until i reached Cape Erimo which sticks out of the coast and into gale force winds. It was probably the windiest place i`ve ever been. Houses slanted. Dogs walked at angles. Birds took off and never came back. It was like riding through sand.

My guide book highlighted beautiful scenic coastal roads that would be perfect for motorbike or cycle touring but it started raining and it didn`t stop for days and so the scenery was submerged in three horizons of wet, damp and fog, ably accompanied by a shit load more wind. Camping isn`t an adventure when everything you own is wet and there isn`t a shower and you`ve just spent the best part of a day peddling downhill into a head wind. Things were in danger of slipping into the negative end of the fun scale but Nemuro came to the rescue.

Nemuro is a town on the far south east corner of Hokkaido that is frozen solid for most parts of the year and as a consequence nobody there really knew what to do with the summer sunshine and t-shirt temperatures. People walked about looking at the sky expecting snow to fall from it and looking at the ground in slight disbelief as it wasn`t covered in a layer of ice or snow. I slept in a bed, washed and dried everything and ate a bucket load of sushi.

Up the east coast there was the Shiretoko Peninsular which is a stunning looking place dripping with mountains and trees. A winding road of only 18km took me two and half hours to climb such was the gradient and temperature but the 13km on the other side only took about 15 minutes. There was a lot of sweat, swearing and photograh taking on Shiretoko.

The most entertaining times have been when things have gone wrong. Heading east instead of west and then finding out your mistake and shrugging and carrying on east anyway until you find a campsite near a beach with a drunk old man who basically lives in a tent near a beach and won`t stop talking to you or waving at you when you walk across the campsite heading to the toilet and makes you wish you`d gone west just like you planned.

Or when the wind and rain become so stong and pain-in-the-arse-ish that you actually physically shake your fist at the sky and shout obsenities at it only to realise that there`s a car full of people behind you trying not to look and laugh as they overtake.

I`ve met plenty of other people on cycling or motorbike tours and as a consequence ended up in a hostel one night with a group of lads thrown together in the middle of nowhere. They all chatted away agreeing with each other and nodding vigourously while i sat on the edges listening in trying to catch any words that seemed recognisble which were mainly difficult, easy, wet, hot, tired, delicious, cheap, expensive (i deduced that they were either all talking about their interetsing journeys or they`d all visited one hell of a brothel) all the while we ate bbq fish as the mosquitos ate us and the crows tried to get to the leftovers in the rubbish bins and the local cat stalked the birds. Not sure who wins that food chain.

Mounatins, beaches, lakes, rivers, dirt tracks, gravel, roads, rain, fog, sun, sun burn, sun tan, sodden feet, sweaty clothes, dirt, baths, cities, running repairs, incomprehensible conversations, laughter, anger (hang on, this sounds like i`ve been to war)and being just on the correct side of lost, Hokkaido and a bicycle have given me too much. Well, almost too much. I`ve got two weeks left yet.

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