What a difference twelve hours makes. The rain has stopped and the sea is calm again. Last night the waves were pounding so heavily that the whole shower block I was sleeping in was shuddering. This morning the sea is as flat as a pancake. I cook up some breakfast behind the sea wall and then climb up the ladder to sit on top and enjoy the view.
It takes me a while to get going because all my gear is still soaking wet. Nothing dried in the damp shower room overnight despite my propping the door open to try to get some air circulating. I set off with my bike looking like a washing line because I have towels and wet clothes hanging on the outside of my gear to dry.
Pretty soon I am riding through and past small fishing villages. Yesterday the ocean was angry and everything was bobbing on a strong swell. Today the water is like green glass.
The road is definitely not flat along the coast here. I wonder whether there even are any flat roads here in the Land of the Rising Sun. High up in the hills I see more fishing nets and boats that have been stored. There are also cute little signs that I can only assume are warning passers-by of the presence of bears. I definitely won’t be camping up here in these woods. I know that sounds soft to those who live in Canada or North America where there are bears but I’m from Australia and the closest thing we have is a koala, which isn’t even actually a bear (though drop bears are kind of scary).
The roads here are amazing for cycling. The surface everywhere I’ve been has been near to perfect. I think I’ve only encountered half a dozen pot holes since leaving Osaka and they were in an area with heavy roadworks so no doubt they will be fixed soon too. The cambers are perfect for descending without and there’s always plenty of colour on the roadside trees. I dare say my old friends from the Audax Queensland club would love to do a few brevets here. Come to think of it, I just did a Google search and there is an Audax club in Japan that seem to have many brevets (but the site is in Japanese so I can’t tell you more than that).
The road heads inland a few times away from the coast. Each time I need to go over a high pass to get to the landscape behind the first mountain. In the picture above I was down in that little village about 2km before I took this photo. At the time of taking the photo I was about 500m from the entrance of a tunnel that I was grateful for because it saved me having to cross the very top of the pass.
Navigation in Japan is so easy. There are big signs at every main intersection identifying the towns to which a road goes and also its road number. Along the road there are labels every 100-200m reminding you what road number you are on. And then at every minor intersection there are colour-coded road number signs. The colour remains the same for the entire road. So road 311 was always red and the road coming off it will always be orange (I didn’t go up it, I just turned into it to take a photo of the sign). So far the only roads I’ve seen that are not numbered are urban streets and mountainside goat tracks that no one is ever actually going to take as a through-road anyway.
As I near Osawa I ride through this cute village with mountains as a backdrop and a huge waterfall drawing a thin white line down the mountain in the distance.
And then I cross a bridge over water so clear that I can see the rocks despite it being more than about 1m deep.
Actually, let’s just put it out there and say that the riding was stunning. There were islands and bays and mountain ranges. I didn’t even mind that I was climbing a lot because it just meant I had amazing views.
And then about 80km into what would be a 115km day I noticed the shadow of my rear pannier flapping around like a bird with a broken wing. So much for Ortlieb’s being bomb proof. A screw has totally snapped and the pannier is now held on by only half the rail. Fortunately, I am Australian and we know a thing or two about holding things together with wire and duct tape. I was also fortunate that I had bought a large roll of duct tape in Owasa earlier in the day. So I used the tape to attach the roll top buckle of the pannier bag to my rear rack to take the pressure off the remaining clip. I think that if I find a hardware store that sells nits and bolts I might be able to jimmy up a repair to hold the mounting bar back in place. If not, some cable ties will probably be more effective than the tape because it will still allow me access to the pannier bag. I will also repack to make the weight in the rear panniers lighter so that there’s even less pressure on it. But, in the meantime, I have less than three hours of daylight to travel about 28km so I use the duct tape to hold everything in place and keep cycling.
Besides, at the time of the breakage, this is the view back to where I came from.
A long valley leads from the top of the mountain pass down to Ise. It’s probably 20km long and I now ride past and through rice farms. Unlike the fields in the mountains near Wakayama, here the fields have been flooded to allow cultivation and planting. A few tractors are digging up the fields and the little combine harvester / planter machines that I grew so fond of in Korea are sitting quietly waiting for the farmers to come back to plant more seedlings tomorrow.
The last 10km of every long day seem to take forever. You clock down from 30km to 25km to 20km to 15km to 10km and then the speedometer feels like it must be broken because suddenly you don’t hit the milestones anymore. I reach Ise just as the sun sets and find some free wifi to look up a guesthouse. The Ise Guesthouse Kazime is close, has vacancy, is cheap (JPY2,600 for a bunk in a dorm) and has good reviews on Booking.com. After a few geographical errors and returns to where I had the wifi I find the hostel, check in, take my first proper hot shower since leaving Malaysia and link up with some other guests for dinner at a local izakaya (Japanese bar). I order unaju as my first proper Japanese meal (I cannot believe I made it nine days without dining out). The bar tender / chef is a jovial guy who feeds us bar snacks for free (some tempura battered vegetables and some small raw fish stuffed with rice that he’s just whipped up for us). My dinner mates are a French Canadian cycle tourer who is traveling in the opposite direction to me and who gives me some good tips on the next day’s ride north and an Israeli lady who is on holidays in Japan from whom I learn that Israel’s landscape is very yellow (something I would like to see). I am glad I pushed through and rode so far today.