Tuesday, 16 June 2015

sailing away

tallying up the accommodation costs
After a day riding out of the city we suddenly find ourselves in an empty park on a Friday night.  Just us and the mosquitoes.  The night is hot and airless.  Even though we have both washed in the toilets, we still feel sweaty and dirty.  The heat has been cranking up gradually but it's the humidity that gets us.  Come morning and the park is full of families with young children all playing on the swings, slides, grappling nets and zip wires.  We head down to the big river where we pick up a bike path full of men in lycra on road bikes.  Less than a day's ride out of central Tokyo and we are surrounded by fields once again.  It's wonderful cycling heading out towards the sea. The sun blazes and is tempered by the cool wind coming off the river.  Mid-afternoon we come to a small park with benches in the shade and stop for a break.  The wind is sooo good that we decide to stop for the night. 
photo op with a Sunday cycle posse

happy anglers
We have a bit of spare time before catching the ferry north to Hokkaido.  We turn north towards Mito city and take a bike path alongside a reservoir.  As usual around water there's always some fishermen.  It's a Sunday so there are many out today, some with three or four rods set up.  We've no idea if anyone ever catches anything until we come across three guys trying to photograph their catch - an absolutely enormous fish that would keep the family in sashimi for a week.  Away from the water we find ourselves on back country roads with farmers busy at work.  A lot of the land is given over to rice paddies, but there are all kinds of crops being grown in small plots.  Looking for somewhere to camp we begin following a river that runs into Mito city.  Before we know it we're in a park in the city centre, but by nightfall it's emptied out of dogwalkers and joggers and we are left to quietly camp on a grassy knoll.  Mito's drawcard is a large Japanese garden but it turns out that it's planted out with a lot of plum trees that blossom in the Spring - we're only two months too late.  
hydrangeas are everywhere now

The ride to the port is pleasant and easy and it's no problem getting tickets for this evening's ferry.  We are going economy - sleeping on tatami mats in a large room - but we know it'll be quiet - this is Japan.  There's a Dutch couple in a tiny camper van - only enough space to lie down.  We reckon there's a big market to be exploited in Japanese tourism - renting out campervans to foreigners - and they tell us that there's only one Japanese company that has a website in English.  We meet Teriyaki who is on his bicycle, heading home after a week away. 
more photo ops
Teriyaki is obviously not his name but when we ask he gives us his full name which amounts to about nine syllables, so really he stands no chance with us.  He looks in (mock?) horror at our loaded bikes.  He is carrying a knapsack and what looks like a bag of rice strapped to his rack.  Not many people here get what we're doing, especially the cyclists.  The day before we met a group of cyclists and they assumed we had flown to Japan to cycle around and they looked amazed when we said we had been here for four months.  It took a while before they could finally grasp that we had travelled from Europe over the last three years.  Probably thought we were millionaires.  We wish.

two jolly non-millionaires

The boat sails on time.  It'll take 19 hours to reach Hokkaido, so we take advantage of the facilities - a nice sauna and baths.  I wonder when the ship starts rocking would you notice if you're soaking in the bath?

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