|Rob told us there are bears all over Hokkaido|
|not that kind of bear|
Our road is heading into the Sounkyo Gorge. The road is bigger than we like, but there's a nice wide hard shoulder so at least we have some space to look around and enjoy the scenery. There's nothing worse than 'white-line' cycling on the edge of a main road, listening out for overtaking traffic with vehicles coming in the opposite direction.
In the morning we climb up to a high pass of 1000 metres. It's a tedious slog up some very long straight roads.
The track flattens out and curves along a ridge. And then it begins to descend. In the wrong direction. I've checked with the compass. We are almost heading north and the lake should be south of here. But it's a relief to be able to get on the bikes and head downhill. Gayle hurtles away. I'm following slowly behind and just noticing the two logger's huts by the track when I see Gayle has stopped in her tracks. She says something I don't catch. What? "A bear!" "A bear?" "A bear!" She's stock still. I don't know what to do. There's nowhere to run except downhill ahead. Fortunately the bear immediately dashed into the forest as soon as it saw Gayle. We quickly confer and decide to retrace our footsteps. The track feels suddenly very claustrophobic. Gayle looks excited and happy. She wants to tell me about the bear. I don't want to know anything until we are, literally, out of the woods. At least we can ride back down the track - we retreat 6 kilometres and get back to the road.
How big was it? About this high, Gayle indicates the height of her bike. Oh, so just a little black bear. No, this was on all fours. It was a big brown bear. A grizzly. It was about twenty, thirty metres away. With it's back to her. It turned when it heard her coming and then leapt into the trees. Gayle continues to look excited and happy. She knows she's very lucky. I am so happy to be cycling on tarmac again.
|blink and you'll miss it|