Shikoku Shakedown

Road 30 looked nice.

Road 30 was closed.

Even better!

I’ve learned in Hokkaido, a road closed-sign usually only means the gate across the road is closed.

And the road will be perfectly rideable and beautifully quiet.

road

I was right.

A little hilly alright. But that’s no problem. I enjoy riding up hills.

Road with view

It has been getting a bit warm lately.

Apparently it’s been the hottest summer on record.

ah… I knew I wasn’t exaggerating when saying it was hot and humid!


nice view

the temperature has been over 40 degrees when I was between Takamatsu and Koshi.

No wonder I never stopped sweating…

sweating it

The place is beautiful. The roads quiet.

the way down

It is very difficult to sleep in a tent when sweat  keeps pouring off you from all sides. I figured the best thing to do is camp as high as possible. And near water. It would be easy to get dehydrated.

camp

I thought I was lucky when I came across an Onsen with a campground. I was told it is 200 yen to camp.

Not too bad. Although I can sleep in my own tent for free I didn’t mind the 2 dollar fee.

Until he mentioned it was another 1000 to use the tent!

I thought I miss-understood.

But no, he was serious. 200 for a person, 1000 for a tent!

So I told him to stuff it and pitched my tent right next to the campsite.

IMG_7346

And rode over the pass and up the next one the following day.

A mean sign happily flashed at me from the side of the road telling me it’s now 37 degrees. I’ve had it hotter, I remember a time I rode my bicycle in a 47degree Australian summer. But it was dry then.

In the valleys where the roads, villages and people are it isn’t too easy to find my way.

Village

But I love the buildings, especially the roofs around here.

decorative roof

I bought a very light quick drying shirt for only 300yen. And I don’t care it is actually mens underwear. It’s very comfortable.

My new mens underwear

Camping just before another pass the next day I was already sweating like crazy after cycling the 3km to the top. Lucky some body put a nice chair there so I could have a comfortable break.

Nice Chair On the way down I came through this spectacular gorge,

Excellent road!

with a beautiful swimming hole!

My swimming hole

After a few days of no showers I decided a dip would be the best plan of attack. Just Glorious! Not that it helped much. I started sweating as soon as I got out. But I was rather lucky, as I found a swiss army knife right there in the gorge only days after I lost my own 🙂

My Road down there

Later that day I passed a swimming pool, so had another dip before heading up the last pass on this glorious road.

another dip

It’s the 193 on Shikoku, check it out!

R193danmen

forest hut

Just over the top I tried finding a good place to camp but it was another 10km down the hill

There goes my road

when I came through this little village,

my village

where this friendly fellow came over and gave me a beer.

ah a beer

And asked me my age. Before I came to Japan  I had heard that it’s not polite to ask a lady her age. But every single man I’ve come across did ask. How odd.

I am 33.

little bridge

From here I got back to the coast and back in extreme hot, humid weather.

I hit a wall.

No really.

wall

Building a wall in a tunnel entrance is highly inconvenient. Not to mention painful.

Route 55 winding down the coast was, apart from the headwind, very nice.

route 55

Not too busy. Lovely views.

beach

It was here I got onto the 88-temple pilgrim route.

Temple

I have known about this track since I cycled, and later walked, the Camino de Santiago in 2003.

I always wanted to come to Japan and hike this 1500km trail. It’s said that the 88 temples are founded by a famous monk Kukaki. Pilgrims have been walking this route for centuries, although modern-day pilgrims, recognisable by the white clothes, do it on bikes, by bus or motorbikes.

Pilgrim

I don’t have enough time on Shikoku for the pilgrimage. So I just made up my own route.

Small town

Crossing the 88-temple route in different places.

Henro Pilgrim Place

I decided not to use my tent. Too hot. Instead I slept on a bench in a park. I wasn’t the only one. Parks seem to be a popular place for travellers of any kind to sleep. Other people like to come and set of fireworks. Not the most practical of combinations.

It was too windy for mosquito’s. That was the only good thing about it.

I did not have the best of sleeps so I was rather happy when I found another great sleeping spot on a beach the next evening.

little buddhas

Also here I had company. But after telling me he’s:” on the run from evil gangs of Korean’s and Chinese people, and they are watching us right now… it’s really very dangerous to talk to me and oh yes, I’m schizophrenic too…”

I wasn’t sure how great my sleep would be. So decided to move along a little.

It was dark already. So trying to find another good spot was a little tricky. When I asked at a taxi stand (I had seen a sign for camping somewhere) a friendly old man directed me to one of the pilgrim shelters.

Pilgrim Shelter

He visited me in the morning and said something about buying bread (I think) So I hopped in his car and away we went.

Lets have breakfast

After about 20 minutes and 4 villages later I started to wonder how far you have to drive for some bread. But he just wanted to show me his local cafe, where his friends were all having breakfast.

with his friends I got on my bicycle and rode the last 30k’s into Koshi a town I liked surprisingly well.

Considering it had started raining, I was wet and tired and had no idea where I was going. The lady at the tourist info was surprisingly unhelpful but I located a hostel where I wasn’t allowed inside ’till after 4.

It was only 12. So I stripped out of my wet clothes and had a wash at the little tap on the side of the building. I sat on the verandah using the wifi (gotta love that they put power points outside everywhere!)

And slept for two days. With a small break to check out the castle, discover it still rained and went back to bed.

dragon on the castle

Koshi castle

view from the roof I woke up and suddenly the rain had gone, and so had the humidity! All that was left was a glorious sunny day and wonderful cool nights.

(not many, but I didn’t know that then)

A Glorious day! Only 10km out of the town I found myself on one of those very quiet windy mountain roads again.

I loved it! The rivers, the hills the little old shacks, lots of statues,

IMG_7647

and massive big trees.

big trees!

Wow!

I found a great camp spot and it was cool! The first good sleep in my tent for such a long time.

And the beautiful morning helped as well.

early

One of those days when you say “Good Morning” and really mean it.

Good Morning!!!

The post-lady stopped to give me some sweet potatoes and soy milk, for strength she said.

post lady

I must’ve climbed a bit. 1300-something meter.

heading up

hills

And stopped at a little shop that dubbed as the local pub,

shop

a jolly bunch of people gave me drinks, ice-cream and cuddles (I wasn’t too keen on those last one, but one man in particular squeezed me nearly flat while the other took pictures. Shame I haven’t got one of those pictures. Would like to see my face actually)

A little bit down the track I saw a lot of owl statues.

owl

And a gentleman making them.

In some villages they are very much used to tourist because of the Pilgrim trail. In others, not so. So much not so that when a tourist comes through, they take her photo, print and frame it and ask her to sign it before she leaves the village…

I'm famous!

He asked where I was going to sleep.

When I said it was in my tent he told me to get in his car, there was a hotel about 20km down the road. But I didn’t want to hop in any cars. I way too much enjoyed the riding here. And a hotel is out of the question anyway.

He thought for a minute and then said he knew a great place by the river. So he locked up shop, jumped in his car and shot off. I guess I was meant to follow. So I cycled on down the road.

Just a couple of km later his car was parked and I saw him chatting to two older gentleman.

He introduced me to his friend who is 87 years old.

Not being rude

(He’s not being rude in this picture, it’s just that Japanese-thing)

 They were enjoying the late afternoon sun and said I was more than welcome to pitch my tent next to the house.

But why wouldn’t I sleep inside? I found out this was his ‘spare’ house. His actual residence was just across the street and I was welcome to use the shower there.

Both gentleman were wearing these Japanese shoes. I wonder if they’re comfortable. lots of farmers, construction workers and fishermen wear those.

Those shoes

As I walked back he came along to show me the other floor. I hadn’t noticed there were two levels but build on a steep slope along the river there was a back entrance. This was what you might call the ‘man-shack‘.  Japanese style. He had it fully kitted out as a karaoke-room and demonstrated it by singing me a song 🙂

Karaoke at home

The next day it was about 80km downhill with tailwinds and sunshine. Does that still count as cycling?

I was back on the pilgrim trail too, as I first met a lady on a bicycle. And shared a coffee. Then an American guy hiking it. He didn’t feel like a coffee because he had a long long way to go up the hill I just flew down.

nice roofe

I got back to the northern shore and only had the Sadamisaki-peninsula to ride down before my last ferry to Kyushu.

North ShoreThere’s two roads to choose from, the main highway and the scenic route.

That goes up and down a lot and passes small villages,

Small Village

where farming ladies tried out my bike. I’m sure it’s not as heavy as the work they do all day everyday,

Ladies of the Land

And a nuclear power plant.

Nuclair power plantOk, not that scenic maybe…

This was the last dry day before reaching Fukuoka on the other side of Kyushu.

Last night on Shikoku

A typhoon was on it’s way and drenched many towns all over southern Japan.

As I came over the last hill,  rain pouring down, I saw a ferry in the port. So I shot down the mountain and onto the boat.

They saw me coming so held the gate open ’till I got through. The ferry might have left 2 minutes late because of me. That would be a first in Japan!

Once on I figured I better ask some one where we are going.

I checked my map earlier and it seemed there’s 3 routes leaving this small town.

I wasn’t quit on the right one, but it went only about 40km passed my prefered destination. An easy ride along the shore with even a nice bicycle road.

But it rained.

And it rained.

and then it rained a little bit more.

A spell

At least I found a dry place to camp.

camp

In Fukuoka I had an old friend to catch up with.

Back in 2007 Kokoro was two year into his 6-year-round-the-world-bicycle-ride.

We met in Cappadocia where we spent a night camping in a cave together with Kurt, who’s still going strong,

And Scott. Who’s still on the road as well!

Koko continued his journey, met a lovely Japanese girl backpacking in Peru, got her a bicycle and that was that.

Koko and Azumi

They have been married for 9 months now.

Koko just started a new job while she’s riding her bicycle around Europe. That’s the way!

I knew he worked late. But riding through the rain all day I found his apartment in the afternoon.

This lady spotted me hanging around the neighbourhood.

My Fukuoka Mama

She decided I needed to come home with her, get out of those wet clothes, have a shower, a coffee,

coffee

meet the family,

Grand daughters

Grand daughters and granddad

cool! A giraffe!

have a meal.

A Meal

And adopted me for the rest of my stay.

Which has been rather long.

And even though Koko works extreme long hours he did manage to get some time off and took me for a bicycle ride up Mt Aso.

Mt Aso

Where I thought it verry funny they drew the best place to stand for a picture on the ground even though it isn’t really a very good place at all…

Up the Hill

Now I will leave Japan tomorrow.

IMG_8368

With a shiny new Chinese visa in my passport and a ferry to Korea!

See you there!

17 thoughts on “Shikoku Shakedown

  1. Hi Mirjam,
    I was just working on photos to give to Granny Gerry for her 75th birthday (on Saturday 14th Sept). when your blog arrived. As always it’s just wonderful. Gerry and I had a super three weeks in Ireland but only did an overnight tour with Paddy Wagon from Cork this time. We will be having a cuppa with Granny Isabel on Friday afternoon at her daughters place as her ‘C’ treatment is not treating her well. She’s lost all her hair and is feeling extremely tired but still cheerful. Hopefully by the time one of her triplet granddaughters gets married in October she will be feeling much better and she will be able to attend the happy occasion.
    Gerry and I are travelling well and so is Granny Val. We are all still very busy going our various activities but we miss having Granny Isabel with us.
    Cheers to you as you continue to enjoy your unique travels from the three Grannies ……Isabel, Gerry and Shirley.

  2. I think this is one of my favourite chapters in your story so far. Made made laugh and laugh and oooh and ahhh, you’re brilliant, girl!

  3. Dag Miriam,

    Weer een prachtig verslag en geweldige foto’s. Ik zelf ben fotograaf dus heb er wel enig verstand van. Goede reis naar Korea en we wachten in spanning je volgende verslag af.

    gr, Jans en Ankie Koops

  4. Hi Miriam – What a wonderful adventure. Your storyline meshes perfectly with your photos. I admire your discipline in stopping to take pictures. I often forget to do that, and the photo binge, hoping to have enough material to tell the story.

    Happy Trails,

    Pat

  5. Zowaar toch nog wat internet op de Zuidfranse camping, dus even een reactie. Wat een geweldig verhaal weer, lachen hoor! En uiteraard weer mooie foto’s. Het was een waardig laatste blog uit Japan en ik ben nu al benieuwd naar Zuid Korea… We wachten het rustig af. Liefs van ons en veel mooie avonturen in Zuid Korea!
    pap & mam.

  6. Hey, this is the American guy doing the Shikoku pilgrimage you met on a mountain road a few weeks ago. Good to see your site! Keep it up!

  7. Ik lees je blog al jaren, maar nooit schreef ik je iets. Bij deze dus. Super mooie foto’s en verhalen. Ik ben zelf bijna 1 jaar terug in nl na een tweejarige fietsreis en krijg heimwee naar dat trappende leven als ik jouw verhalen lees. Japan is zo mooi! Happy cycling en thx voor de heimwee. Groeten Martje

  8. Toen ik mijn pelgrimstocht herfst 2014 liep, kwam ik langs een hut waar een man mij een kopje koffie gaf. Enthousiast vertelde hij over de vele pelgrims die hier langskomen en blijven slapen. Hij nam zijn bruine poedel op schoot en gaf mij een guestbook. Opeens zag ik daar jou naam. Het leuke was dat ik deze post (met echt prachtige foto’s van Shikoku btw!) al voor mijn vertrek had gezien en het dus extra leuk was je berichtje daar terug te zien. Hij vertelde me dat het hier heel veilig was en dat hij nog een biertje met je had gedronken.

    Erg leuk verhaal, de 1300 km tocht is zeker de moeite waard, al is jouw avontuur nu al van zo veel grotere proporties 😉 geniet er van en ga zo door!

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