Friday, 13 March 2015

hiding out

don't have nightmares
It rains in the night and at daybreak too so we have a lie-in and wait and see.  Eventually the rain stops and a breeze dries the tent, but the skies are cloudy.  Optimistically we set off on a big descent to the coast and get caught in a downpour just as we reach a little village.  We seek shelter at the village croquet lawn.  Well, this is Japan.  There are three pitches with croquet hoops under a huge roof.  No-one is about.  We cook lunch and listen to the rain belt down.  And then the skies clear and the day brightens and so do we.  We are at the junction of the road going to Cape Sata, but neither of us fancies the detour and instead we turn northwards along the east coast before finding a new large road heading back inland and steeply uphill.  After a big sweat the road just stops in the middle of fields.  There's no obvious reason.  We take a little back road that then descends steeply down into the next valley all the way back to sea-level. What fun.  Inevitably we now have to start all over again on the climb inland and the road is ruthless.  We continue to climb without relief for the rest of the day and finally pause in an unused field perched on a ridgetop overlooking the west coast of the peninsula.  It feels like we have been torturing ourselves as well as literally going around in a circle. 
the tunnels are lit and often have a bike path/pavement

The next day is a tent day.  Rain all morning.  A little in the afternoon and more at night.  We go nowhere and let our legs and minds recover from the slog of the day before.  Fortunately we have enough water and although there's plenty of farming all around us, no-one passes by and asks what we're doing.  We don't think anyone really minds in Japan.  The following morning we're off up again, climbing to a main road that heads directly north through hills in a central valley region that is very pretty.  There's pine forest and farms dotted around and some big peaks.  Another  steady climb takes us to a tunnel that brings us out back on the east coast, with a dramatic winding ride traversing the mountains that slope seawards, before popping us out into a little village behind a long sandy bay backed with pine forest.  We shop and camp behind what looks like a community centre not far from the harbour.  In the morning we can hear announcements from the hall where the fresh fish is being sold and packed into vans.  While we're eating our breakfast a delegation appears from the intrigued staff of the centre.  There's a local and a young American - the village school English teacher - just coming to see who we are.  Perhaps we're getting a little too blase about the camping....

but how did they spot us???

The coastal road is a wonderful small and winding route that takes us past a rocket-launching centre (complete with space-themed public toilets in the carpark) before finally spitting us out on a busier main road passing through an area of urban sprawl.  The day has been cool and cloudy which suits the up and down nature of the road and in the late afternoon I find myslef puffing up another hill grateful for a wide hard shoulder as rush-hour cars and vans dash past.  Up ahead I can see another bundle of rope that has fallen off a farm truck - the kind of thing you see lying on the wayside all the time.  I'm almost cycling over it when the green rope moves and a red diamond appears.  Inside the red daimond is a forked tongue.  I shout out involuntarily as I wobble around the coiled up snake.  My legs are already jelly from the hills today, but this encounter doesn't help.  After a long grey day in the saddle we find a quiet coast road through a village of bungalows and woods before coming to a stretch of paddy fields.  The light is fading and we settle on pitching our tent for the night at the end of a farmer's track.  As night falls the frog chorus strikes up deafeningly from the flooded fields all around.

large , we think carnivorous, plant
We seem to have hit another spell of bad weather as the next day starts off grey and once again finds us climbing short sharp inclines. And long ones too.  And then it starts raining and it's not a great deal of fun.  We shelter in a bus stop and have a tea break. When there's a break in the rain we continue up the coast, passing through tiny fishing villages.  Inevitably the rain comes again and heavier.  We are quickly soaked and just have to ride through it. We arrive at a carpark with toilets and happily there's a little room for a carpark attendant that provides us with some respite.  We sit drenched and wonder about sleeping in this tiny room while the rain and wind batters the coast.  It smacks of desperation.  We eat noodles and wait it out.  Just off the coast is an island inhabited by monkeys that have learnt to wash their food in the sea water before eating it.  Hence the carpark.  While we try and dry out car after car of Japanese tourists pulls in to see if they can get a glimpse of the monkeys washing their nuts in the sea.
hipster Japanese monkeys
Thankfully, the rain eases off and we move on.  Playing cat and mouse with the rain like this can get a bit tedious and we realise that this is the price of touring Japan on the cheap.  We can't just run to the first guesthouse and wait for the sunshine.  But as always, it's never quite as bad as it first seems, and as the clouds break up and the sun reappears we find ourselves on a spectacular stretch of coastline, with islands of rocky splinters jutting out of the sea.  And to cap it all off, there's a road station with a garden where we can camp.  In the carpark we meet Eigur Toyoda, who is car-camping.  He is 70 today, he tells us as he shares his fresh tomatoes.  We talk a little of our travels and mention China.  He nods and says "Japan learnt everything from China".  It's not something we'd expect to hear said.  After a little chat Eigur heads to his car to sleep and we go off to pitch the tent.

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