Saku to Tomioka (Honshu)

I make a grave mistake waking up and thinking “oh I just have 50km to ride today so it will be easy”. This is never a good way to start the day because it focuses my mind on the finish line, rather than on enjoying where I am. And focusing on the finish line inevitably leads to failing to enjoy where I am.
IMG_6290
At first the knowledge of a short day on the bike is good because I actually take in some of what I see in Saku. For example, this juxtaposition of traditional and modern functional construction.
IMG_6291

IMG_6293
And this pretty park I walked through last night on my way to the 7-Eleven. It runs through the middle of a carless street right in the heart of the town. I love the weeping trees, the Japanese bridge and the bulbs that are flowering.
IMG_6296
Just outside Saku I come to this side road that has pink and white flowering trees along it. They contrast so sharply with the green grass and yellow reeds. Spring really is wonderful here. Actually, I think this is my first time to come across a real proper post-winter spring. We have a spring at home but it is short lived and nowhere near as obvious as the one I am cycling through this month.
IMG_6303
The landscape here has changed again. I am riding through a valley of rocks. The mountains are no longer smooth or alpine-like. Rather, they are rugged and chipped like a cartoon shark’s teeth. It amazes me how quickly the landscape changes here. One minute I’m on the coast then Mt Fuji with its long sloping flanks. Then I am glimpsing the alps and now I’m in this rocky area where the mountains are not so tall but have great shape.
IMG_6304

IMG_6308

IMG_6307
I stop to look at a field under an outcrop. It would make a wonderful place to camp. It’s peaceful and quiet with lush green grass and towering pines. A few cairns dot the field but nothing to make you think there would be any ghosts floating around at night. There is a small farm next to the paddock but the elderly farmers barely bat an eyelid at my presence. I decide not to stop yet. It’s still only about 9am and I have a ways to go.
IMG_6309
I climb out of the rocky valley and look back to see how dry it is. Long brown grasses extend like a river as far as my eye can see.
IMG_6314

IMG_6315
I cross the pass and roll down the other side. It’s getting quite warm here now in Japan with daytime temperatures in the mid-twenties. That’s quite a change from the mid-teens they were in when I arrived two weeks ago. I am feeling sluggish and lost. I have no goal for this section of my ride and no idea of what I am going to find. I feel a little worried that I am just marking time because I am too lazy to deal with Tokyo. I still want to see countryside but will I just end up cycling through urban areas for the next ten days before I leave? With these thoughts in mind I stop at a creek and take a rest. Before long I am snoring and wake up confused about where I am.
IMG_6316

IMG_6319

IMG_6318
Sleep over I continue to the next mich-no-eki where I plan to stay the night. I’ve only cycled 40km but just can’t get my mind to be at ease. When I am there I get a chance to check out some of Japan’s touring motorbike set ups. They don’t much around here with prissy panniers and stuff. They just load up and go. It doesn’t matter whether you ride a Harley, BMW or Suzuki. Everything can tour if you just strap on a big plastic tub of gear. I love it because it reminds me of my two month motorcycle tour of southern Australia five years ago when I did exactly the same thing with some plastic tubs.

It’s funny how doors open when you least expect them to. There’s a guy at the visitor information centre who cycled around Australia twenty years ago. It’s funny how doors open when you least expect them to. There’s a guy at the visitor information centre who cycled around Australia twenty years ago. He takes my picture in front of the visitor centre and takes the time to help me find a camping ground nearby. He phones a few but only one has space for tonight and none for tomorrow because I got my Golden Week dates wrong: it starts tomorrow. His tale of crossing the Nullabor (twice) and cycling up through the Red Centre inspire me to pull my head out of the space it’s in. I am choosing to be here. And then I chat with Paul who reminds me that I still have ten days in Japan, which is plenty of time to still enjoy some sights.
IMG_6320

IMG_6321

IMG_6326
And so, re-energised I set off back into Japan’s rural landscapes. The camping ground is 25km away so I’ll still ride a respectable 65km today. I do stop at the World Heritage Silk Mill in Tomioka but the entry fee is JPY1,000 ($11) and I am not that interested in the mill so keep riding. I don’t regret not stopping at the mill because there are huge shallots to gawk at as I cycle.
IMG_6327

IMG_6328
There are also some interesting statues on the side of the road that have been fully clothed. One even has a face drawn on it. I’ve seen statues with hats and bibs but these are my first fully dressed friends of the roadside. They even have cute little roofs to stand under so that they do not have to endure rain and snow.
IMG_6329
There are also some interesting statues on the side of the road that have been fully clothed. One even has a face drawn on it. I’ve seen statues with hats and bibs but these are my first fully dressed friends of the roadside. They even have cute little roofs to stand under so that they do not have to endure rain and snow.
IMG_6330
I arrive at the camping ground and the manager is expecting me. He speaks no English but we manage to fumble our way through the formalities and niceties. The visitor centre called ahead so he knows I am Australian and that I want a site for the night. “Jitensha … sugoi” he says, which means “bicycle … excellent”. It costs JPY1,130 ($13) for the night but it’s worth it. I have the camping ground to myself and it is so peaceful. The only sounds are the birds in the trees. I feel relaxed and take an hour to plot my route from here. One map I picked up at the tourist centre allows me to mark the michi-no-eki between here and Nikko and also down to Tokyo. The tourist information warned me that campsites will be difficult to find for the next six days. They did mention that an option is to wait until after 5pm when the caretakers all leave and the squeeze into a site. But I would prefer to take my chances by camping free at michi-no-eki in the car parking spaces. At least this would be legitimate.

I now have a route planned that will take me back up into the mountains for a few days along a road that is marked on my map as “Japan Romantic Road”. It will require a lot of climbing for the next three days but I have plenty of time and will walk up anything that is too steep. Also, I will force myself to eat more. I think a big part of my problem is a lack of calories. I have lost some weight here in Japan (not a lot but a little bit), which is a good thing because I was getting a bit fat. But I think that I have reached the tipping point where insufficient calories in is affecting my performance and mood. I struggle to eat when I am fatigued but will just make myself eat foods that I like (today I ate KFC and it was so good). At least I’ve got good dinners with me: noodles, sauce, capsicum, dried mushrooms, dried seaweed, dried shallots, dried octopus legs and the shaved smoked fish / pork (I’m not sure which) that the Japanese like to put on top of noodle dishes. It is hearty, filling and delicious.

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Saku to Tomioka (Honshu)

  1. It’s interesting Andrew to read about your challenge with taking in enough fuel. I can understand that completely. It’s also interesting to read the types of food you’re eating to stay fuelled.

    • Haha. Not the right types of food. I like the sandwiches from 7-Eleven, salads from Family Mart, onigiri (triangle rice parcels with meat or fish inside and wrapped in seaweed) from the 7-Eleven (because they have pictures so I know I will get one I like otherwise it’s a bit of a surprise), katsudon with rice from the convenience store, McDonalds is my personal favourite when I am totally wiped out, bananas, mandarines, chocolate biscuits, noodles with a mix of dried vegies (mushrooms, seaweed, anything else I can get my hands on) and fresh capsicum and dried fish/octopus topped with that shaved fish/meat stuff they serve a lot of here (I cook this all up for tea). I’ve had some udon and soba noodles at restaurants but can take or leave them.

      I am finding that the longer I stay in Asian countries the less I want to eat rice and noodles. At home I don’t really like potatoes and bread much but when I am cycling these are my go to foods. I love hot chips and sandwiches (not if I have to make them though – sandwiches are only good if someone else has made them). Burgers always rock my world too.

      I am also finding that my stomach gets bloated and upset if I eat too much rice. But I do eat a lot of onigiri.

      I am looking forward to the solid food in Hungary. I think I will fare better there.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s