|A Thousand Kilometers Across Japan|
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Day 1: Leaving
Day 1: The NEW tent
Day 1: The NEW tent (again)
Day 2: On To Gotemba
Day 2 : Mountains and Small Town
Day 2 : Sent From The Heavens
Day 2 : Nice House
Day 2 : Under the Overpass
Day 2 : Finally a decent place to sleep
Day 3 : View from the Hotel
Day 3 : Some of my gear
Day 3 : A bridge not quite too far
Day 3 : Stopping to smell the flowers...
Day 3 : ...and the tombstones
Day 3 : Just a nice view
Day 3 ; Dibs on Top Bunk!
Day 4 : A crayfish pond, I think!
Day 4 : Funky Spiders Everywhere
Day 4 : Look Closely at the Bottom
Day 4 : A View to Remember
Day 5: Tokoyuki: Bravest guy I know
Day 6: Mossfoot and Me
Day 7: Sunrise in Kii-Nagashima
Day 7: The Old Fishermen Pack Up
Day 7: An Ocean View
Day 7: One of the many Tunnels of Doom
Day 7: At the Japanese Hotel
Day 8: Playing Hackmaster Online
Day 8: Cool Rocks
Day 8: Cool Rocks and Me
Day 8: Relaxing at the Hostel
Day 9: A little crabby
Day 9: Mossfoot enjoys the view
Day 9: A sea of lights
Day 9: Mossfoot's contribution
Day 9: Alone with my thoughts
Day 10: Who will stop the rain?
Day 10: Sucking it up.
Day 10: A postcard resort view... except for the rain
Day 10: Today's "lovely" reststop
Day 11: The Bamboo Cutter
Day 11: "I don't know where I am...
Day 11: ...but I'm somewhere in Japan."
Day 11: Nature, Civilization, Technology.
Day 12: Leaving the Hostel
Day 12: Mossfoot at the Castle
Day 12: The Ultimate Dungeon Dive
Day 12: The Slowly Sinking Airport
Day 12: The broken clamp (moved)
Day 12: Jury Rigged Bike
Day 12: The Kindness of Strangers
Day 12: Sunset
Day 12: Moonrise
Day 12: The Bridge At Night
Day 12: Night Fishing
Day 13: Sunrise...
Day 13: ...and hope
Day 13: "A three hour tour..."
Day 13: "The weather started getting rough..."
Day 13: "The tiny ship was tossed..."
Day 13: "If not for the courge of the fearless crew..."
Day 13: "the Minnow would be lost..."
Day 13: Taking the bus across the bridge
Day 13: The Last Homely Hostel
Day 13: Moonrise, revisited.
Day 14: The Ferry Home
Day 14: Decent accomodations
Day 14: Nice waves...
Day 14: Big... big waves...
Day 14: OH CRAP!!!!
Day 14: Soaking after being soaked
Day 15: Reaching Tokyo Harbour
Day 15: Home Again
The Japan Journal
The Japan Journal
September 24, 2003
Well, I WAS supposed to leave today. However, the weather right now sucks. According to Weather.Com and other sources, heavy thunderstorms are on the horizon for tomorrow and Friday. Still, even if I leave Saturday, I should have no problem completeing the trip on schedual.
On the plus side, the has given me a chance to prepare more. I've set up this website, for example.
September 26, 2003
Tomorrow I leave. But first, some thoughts I've been having about the trip...
THE BOON AND BANE OF TECHNOLOGY AND THE ADVENTURER.
Somebody asked me why I'm not taking a cell phone with me, and I quite simply replied that I didn't want one. It felt wrong. However, working on my mini laptop here, about the size of a paperback novel, with a highly detailed encyclopedia and atlas built in, roving internet access, and websites already stored for hostels and ferries across Japan, I end up thinking of two things:
First of all, I'm living in the future. Sure I don't have that jet pack I always wanted, but aside from that, I feel a hairs breadth away from a William Gibson novel.
Secondly, I'm cheating. I mean, come on! What kind of self-respecting adventurer has the equivalent of a home office (or what a hundred years ago would have been an entire governmental department in term access to information, communication, processing and publishing power, etc... ) in a shoulder holster? Where is the sense of the unknown? Where is the sense of roughing it when you can just click online and find out where the nearest four star restaurant is (along with the most convenient route from your present position)? I bet if I managed to go back in time and had to travel through darkest Africa with Dr. Livingston I wouldn't last five minutes! I'm not an adventurer... I'm a glorified tourist!
However, some things have occurred to me. First of all, Columbus would give his right testicle and half of his left one to have access to what I have. Adventurers do not "rough it" because they like it, they take the best and most durable tools they can afford. Any sense of "roughing it" to us is really more a matter of what meager luxury they could scrape out for themselves... but if they could carry a portable mansion with them, I'm sure they would.
We buy brass telescopes because they are quaint, they bought them because they were state-of-the-art.
Secondly, there has been a definite progression to my travels thus far. When I went to Halifax, it was as bare bones as you can get. The cheapest bike, tent, sleeping bag, you name it. All I had was a note pad and pen to keep track of my journey on, and post cards to keep in touch with. By the end I was in extreme pain with a bike that was almost falling apart and never once had a dry nights sleep (even when it never rained), and half of my postcards arrived after I got home.
On my next trip I learned from my mistakes. Better bike, tent, and sleeping bag. Good enough quality that I'm still using them three years later. But the real change was the PDA I brought, that kept me in touch with the world. I was able to send emails every couple of weeks and got responses from friends and family during the trip. They got to share the adventure.
This trip is the logical progression from the first. This time, I have the best that Japan has to offer, so I might as well run with it. Adventuring 21st century style. Watch it, I'm got a webcam and I'm not afraid to use it! I only wish I had a GPS attachment for this computer, to go geocache hunting with. Well, maybe in Europe!
So I admit that I am not as hard core as the adventurers of old... but that doesn't mean that I can't, or that I won't. It's just that this time it just feels right. Japan is about the past and the future, a collision of worlds... a clash of ideas. What better way to explore such diversity than on a bicycle first designed in the 1800s with a mobile computer workstation?
Day 1 - September 27, 2003
Time Riding: 6:19:53
And so, it begins....
(Spot the Babylon 5 fan, boys and girls!)
This is not the kind of day that inspires confidence.
First of all, before any adventure, you want to have a "moment" Something that lets you feel this is special and has purpose. For Halfax it was getting up and going without a word to anyone. For Canada it was the coincidental fanfare that occurred at Mile 0 for a completely different group of bikers. By the time I arrived, though, there was nobody there, just some banners and balloons flopping around in the breeze. I'll take what I can get.
Then, as I finally left home, and waved goodbye to Gillian... I heard her call out something. I didn't hear what, so I stopped and asked.
"Did you remember your sweater?"
Okay, it wasn't a sweater, it was something else, but the feeling was the same. I shook my head... that is not a good "moment" to start a trip on.
Finding Route 246 turned out to be a bit of a chore... I knew roughly where it was but had to ask several people several times for directions. Once on it, I figured it was smooth sailing.
Where do I even begin with my complaints about Route 246? First of all, it constantly changes from highway to freeway (the difference being freeways you can't bike on). I had to get on and off the highway so many times I lost count... along with the number of times I thought I was lost as a result! This added to my overall distance without actually getting me anywhere.
Secondly there were times that I didn't realize I had entered the freeway zone! Imagine my terror as the curb disappeared, cars were going faster, and a tunnel was up ahead that I KNEW I wasn't supposed to go into! Then of course there was the time that there was a tunnel I WAS supposed to go into but didn't realize it, tack on a wasted twenty minutes and half a kilometer to figure that one out.
The highway itself is dangerous. Not terribly life threatening dangerous, but enough that I stick to the walkways whenever I can.
All of this was because I wanted to reach Gotemba, which is right between Mt. Fuji and Mt. Hakone-yama. Why? Because there is a hostel there and I wanted my first night on the road to be in relative comfort.
Of course, I never made it there...
Let me explain. First of all, I was exhausted by 5:30pm.... I had totally overestimated my abilities... it's been three years since I did anything like this, after all, and the most I did this year was half hour to an hour long bike rides around the mostly flat Tokyo central area. So one 5% 5km climb later and arm and neck sunburn (I forgot sunblock... DOH!) and I realize that I wasn't as prepared as I would have liked....
I became even less prepared when my tent disappeared.
Yep... somewhere around the 30 or 40 km mark, my tent up and flopped out of the harness behind my seat... Never did that once in Canada. Here it happens on my first day.... so, now I figure I HAVE to make it to the hostel tonight... but what if I don't? And what about the night after that? Will I be able to stay in a hostel EVERY night?
Time to find an equipment store.
I had just passed two not ten minutes before hand... and now? Nothin. Typical. I asked directions from a bike mechanic (who spoke surprising good English) and gave me directions to a Victoria Sports shop about five klicks from there. I get there and... yep... no camping goods... the gardening shop across the street had only big bulky ones for families.
EVENTUALLY I found something... this is where my luck started to change, because it was better than my last one in terms of size and weight (though naturally it is a bit smaller and I was quite fond of my Coffin... I only hope a homeless person finds it and jury rigs some poles for it.). It cost me 25 gold pieces... er I mean 25,000 yen. Fortunately this tend fits inside my napsack, so at least I won't have to worry about losing it again!
Now, back to the perils of Route 246... it only got worse the more into the mountains I got... I got on the wrong road three times! And then, around 5:30, I decided I had enough. I had to pack it in. It was starting to get dark and overcast, and despite my reflectors and flasher and crap I did NOT want to ride that way.
Near Oyama I found a quiet truck stop... that is the truck stop was quiet, but everything else wasn't, since it was right beside the highway. I figured... what the hell, it's as good a spot as any and asked if I could pitch my tent by the big rigs.
Up to now I was fairly lucky, everyone I spoke to spoke excellent (for Japan) English. Now my luck ran out... but their son understood enough that I was able to explain the situation and get permission. It was starting to rain (damn weather forecast said it was supposed to be great all week) and I had really had enough.
They agreed and no I rest... checking my maps, wondering what next.. I still have to go to Gotemba... it's the only way the road goes... hopefully I'll get a decent view of Fuji at least... After that I'll definitely go to Shizuoka... but after that I'm not sure. There is another hostel in Kanaya, but that's by the foothills... A coastal route will be longer, but probably easier... decisions decisions... Oh well, leave it for morning... no matter which I choose I have to go to Shizuoka first.
A little bit of a side note here... last night, I was scared. But not because of the trip. A good guy once told me that I am an excellent communicator. I won't argue with that. I'm not being smug here. You see last night I realized that's what I was scared about! In Canada, any time I had a problem, I always knew what to say and how to say it to get help... it's a talent. I've only been refused help once or twice in all my travels. In Quebec it was a problem, and I don't relish the idea of repeating it. Now I don't have that safety net. I have to rely on the communication equivalent of a fig leaf, a phrase book. In this situation, that's scarier than you might realize.
Day 2 - September 28, 2003
Well that was one of the worst night's sleep I've had in a long time. The traffic never really let up during the night, but became interspersed just enough to let me almost get to sleep, then wake me up again. I don't know how much real sleep I got. Even earplugs didn't help much. Oh well, nothing to be done about that now... it's 5:30am, and it's light out. Time o get ready.
Okay, I'm in Fuji city and just had a VERY filling meal... hoo boy I might have overdone it! Don't ask me what it was, I don't have my book with me, but it was rice with meat and miso soup (sorta) in two really big bowls, with some kind of pickled vegetable side dish and japanese ice tea.
Route 246 continued to frustrate me, but not as much... to get up to Gotemba was such a pain I had to walk most of the time... however... after that... WHEEEEEE! Mostly downhill for a good 40 kilometers! I realize that the reason I made so little progress yesterday was just how much I was going UPHILL.. Sometimes you can't really tell... it's a slow grade and you think nothing of it at first. In fact it even looks level, but after 10 or so kilometers of it, you start to feel it.
After route 246, I switched to Route 1... which I was worried about at first, except it turned out the bike paths are better laid out than for 246, I have very little trouble, and for a good 10 or so kilometers was treated to a very nice wide safe side route that took me all the way to Fuji city... where I'm really starting to feel all that excess food kick in...
Time Riding: 7:36:35
Where to begin?!?
First of all, progress. As you can see above, I've covered a fair bit more distance... but at a price.
Route 1 is easier to follow than 246 was... but you know if I was better prepared for 246 it wouldn't have been that bad... my main mistake was always sticking to the curb when I should have been keeping an eye on the path. When it disappears, it's for a reason.
Oh, ALMOST lost my sleeping bag today... it's the darn "speed bumps" (what I call it when you cross the intersection taking the sidewalk/bike route). I know how to avoid that in the future, though...
OF COMPANIONS LOST AND FOUND AND LOST AGAIN
I never thought I'd have a moment like in B.C., where I hooked up with some fellow travelers, but for a few hours, I did. I was "lost"in Yui, south west of Fuji (the city not the mountain)... lost in the sense that I knew were the highway was, but I'd be darned if I could find the bike path. I circled around and came across three Japanese guys going to Shizuoka. They didn't speak English but we stammered enough to figure out what was going on. Quite an odd bunch... one was young and wearing the latest gear, the others were old and dressed very casually. One had a face so tanned and wrinkled he had to be a fisherman or dock worker at some point (Yui and the surrounding area is all harbor and fishing type stuff)
Anyways, they road with me Shimizu, and we parted ways (they were taking a different route it seemed)... only later I ended up running into them AGAIN (accidentally since I decided at first to take the scenic Route 150 instead of Route 1. Their reappearance changed my plans.! This time we stuck together all the way to Shizuoka before we parted company. Still, it was good to be in a pack again. I hate the lone wolf gig, it's just that nobody I know can or wants to come with me...
HOTEL HUNTING: MURPHY’S LAW IN EFFECT
So now that I'm back on Route 1, I figure maybe I can find that Hostel I found on the internet in Kanaya (about 30k from Shizuoka). However, my tendons had other ideas. My hamstrings have swollen, and it is now quite painful to peddle... this must be in part because of my shoes, but I'm not sure what can be done to fix it! Maybe peddle in socked feet? (Just kidding... although... hmm...)
So, about 15 or 20 kilometers shy of the hostel, I gave up...
Actually I gave up about 30 or 40 km shy of the hostel, but ended up searching through two small cities for a hotel! A couple of hours BEFORE I wanted to quit, though, I found several perfect spots to camp. Figures.
With every push of the peddle, my tendons felt worse. Eventually I tracked down an English speaking manager at a McDonald's, who gave me some help... but not quite enough... once in the general area I had to ask for directions again to find the place... apparently they added a set of traffic lights since the map he showed me was made.
So here I am, resting and writing... I don't know if my hamstrings will be up to snuff tomorrow, but I hope so! If not, I might hobble as far as Kanaya and stay at the hostel there (half the price of this place).
Why is it that we are so afraid of the dark? Actually I know the psychological/evolutionary reasons, but it's still a weird thing to experience. When it's daylight I feel everything will be fine and nothing can hurt me, but when sunset comes, I get panicky and depressed. Last night I slept with my hands next to the mini-mag flashlight and a can of bear repellent... just in case. But really, what are the odds of ANYTHING happening to you in that situation (especially in Japan)?
That's it for now, I guess!
As I fell asleep I realized it wasn't a hamstring, which I think is a muscle, but the achilleas tendon... and they still hurt.
I slept okay, but woke up a few times for some reason. A mosquito somehow got in and was buzzing in my ear... don't know if I ever got it.
Not sure what the plan is for today... if the tendons are still inflamed, I might need to change shoes or something. Oh well, figure all that out after I start off today.
Time Riding: 5:06:10
THINGS GOING ARAI
Yep, that about sums it up. You know you're in trouble when your every thought is focused on a destination just so you can call it a day. That's how it was with me.
When I got to Kanaya, I had to make a decision. 20 odd kilometers was pretty damn wimpy for me to call it a day, and my ankles weren't feeling too too bad... so , after researching the available hostels on my route (fortunately I had saved the information on my computer 'cause my internet access wasn't working at the gas station I did this at) I found there was on in Arai. About 60 km from me at that time. I figured if I could make it there and was feeling really bad, I could bed down in the hostel for a couple of nights, save the money but have a decent place to sleep and tend my ankles.
It's rather telling that I don't have a lot to talk about today... partly because not much happened. I bought a nice white long sleeved thin shirt at a men's store on sale (now already stained with iced coffee), and picked up some gel packs for my ankles... they didn't do the job, so at the first drug store I found I got some Ice Rub... presumably just the ticket. I wanted to get Tiger Balm, but the pharmacist seemed to think that wasn't right for the job. The phrase book came in rather handy there, by the way.
Now... looking over the map... lets see if I can recall what happened...
Shimada: Pain and Ice pads
Kanaya : Pain and ONE HELL OF A MOUNTAIN TO CLIMB... Going downhill was fun though, managed to reach 55km and hour... though the road had some sharp turns, was supposed to be a 40km/h limit and yet there was STILL a guy tailgating me at 50kph+! Almost lost control, crashed, died, yadda yadda, the usual. After going down the Rockies at nearly 90kph, this was nothing. Interestingly, there was a love hotel about half way up the mountain. There were also some castle ruins, but they were too far out of the way unfortunately...
Fukuro: Pain and new shirt
Iwata: Pain and Ice Rub Spray
Big River To Cross On Narrow Bridge: Here I didn't know what to do... it looked like the same situation that bikes were normally forbidden to cross over, the curb was way too narrow, yet there was no other way across. I ended up waiting ten minutes trying to figure out where to go when a teenage girl on a crappy shopping bicycle just plowed through it. How embarrassing! Needless to say I chased right after her...
This reminds me... so far I think Japan COULD have an excellent bike road system... I actually like how it constantly diverts to take you into every little town (out of necessity, I know but still). But they need to be more clearly marked! I've had to stop a number of times, and sometimes back up a full kilometer (totally slowing down my progress) because of this problem! The signs only have one word underneath them, and it's always the same, so its probably something like "Starts"or "Ends" or "Keep Left" or something.
Okay, back to the route:
Hamamatsu: Lots of Pain, several wrong turns
Maisakai: Pain and Plain
After that I had to cross another bridge (this one with a separate bike path) that took me over the mouth of Hamana-Ko (Lake Hamana presumably). Beautiful sight! About the only thing I stopped to take in the entire day...
...except for a Fuzzy Knights strip I shot somewhere between Fukuro and Iwata. Well, I couldn't resist. I found an old temple setup in a virtually empty town with lots of great stuff to shoot, so I just had to take advantage of it! Question is if I can make it in time for the deadline on the 5th. That killed half an hour... I think.
Arai: Pain and Hostel!
What can I say? I like Hostels... not as fancy shmansy as hotels, anywhere from half to a third the price, but you can get a bath, kick back, swap stories with other travelers, and relax.
Except this place doesn't HAVE any other travelers. There are only two people staying here... and nobody is on an adventure per se. The clerk speaks decent English and I chatted with him for a bit, and later let him and another co-worker try out my recumbent (both too short for it but they managed).
Ooooh! Bunk beds! Dibs on the top bunk!
I have decided to stay here for a full day. I'll be leaving on Wednesday. My ankles definitely need the rest. I can't run, only hobble like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Still, I think it was the right decision pushing on to Irai... it's beautiful! I'll be taking a lot of pictures tomorrow. It's a pity it's not a Saturday, they have an observatory they use on Saturdays here!
You know, I have NEVER been to an observatory, though it's always been a fond wish of mine. I want to see the craters on the moon up close, to see the polar ice caps of Mars and the rings of Saturn... the moons of Jupiter... and not just in pictures and on TV... CGI has spoiled it for me. But to see it for myself...
Well, I'm a little angry at myself. Why? Because if this keeps up I will NOT be going to Korea. I COMPLETELY overestimated my abilities. Not only that, but I forgot some basic rules of biking: 1) The planned distance is NEVER the true distance. 2) You can't even get an accurate planned distance. According to my computer atlas, the route so far should only be 267km instead of 310km... those detours, twists and turns and sidetracks really start to add up.
What's worse, I think I got into this mess because instead of just going as far as I felt like each day, I've felt compelled to reach a target no matter what. I think that in part has resulted in my inflamed tendons. First I pushed to hard to reach Fuji, then I overdid it to try and reach the hostel in Kanaya (which I never did)
Another thing is that today has brought fresh to my mind that I haven't been taking in the sights as much as I would like. I feel like I'm on a tight schedule... which I am. When I was going across Canada I didn't have this problem... But here... every day I wake up feeling I have to go to work tomorrow and therefore I have to go as far as possible today before it's all over.
This is NOT the way to have FUN.
Therefore, I have decided that my destination has become completely optional. If I make it to Pusan, fine. If I only make it to Kitakyshu, fine. If I only make it to Tokushima, fine. (These places are all ferry cities, BTW, which is how I have to get back). The important thing is to enjoy the journey, not to cram into schedules, push myself too far, and generally make myself feel miserable just for the sake of a patch on my backpack (still... that Korean flag would have looked nice... sigh)
Oh, one last thing... it turns out there IS another cyclist here. I met him briefly yesterday and asked for directions, but the language barrier was too great. Turns out he's going to Kyoto! All he really managed to say was "Good Luck" which I eventually returned with "Gombata" Always nice to see another traveler on the road!
That's it for now, I guess.
Day 4: September 30, 2003
You know that feeling you get when you stretch something, and you feel it give unwillingly? Kind of like a leather seat being sat on? That's the feel my ankles have when I move them. I can't hear it, but I feel it exactly the same as a leather seat. That can't be good.
I woke up at 6am as I expected (going to bed at 10pm) but then dozed off again for another hour. Then I had a strange dream. I dreamt I was at a Hallmark store with my dad. I couldn't really picture the cards, but they had lots of miniature Harley Davidson motorcycles on a display. I knocked over part of the display and spent most of the dream trying to put it back. Dad got what he had wanted and was telling me to go, since the employees could put things back, but that's never been in my nature. I had to fix it myself... I didn't do a good job, though, as I remember. In the end I apologized and went off with my dad. Then I woke up, and realized that I miss him.
After checking on the internet I decided my shirt needed some jury rigging. It's loose and light, but the neck is too open. So I sewed a button two inches over and cut a slit on the other side so I could tighten it up. That should help with the sunburn. Speaking of which my face is a cris-cross of tan, burn, and unmarked areas caused by the bandana protecting part of my face after the damage was done, the still exposed areas, and the areas always covered up by the helmet strap. In a day or two my face will look like Neopolitan ice cream.
Okay, that's it for morning... now to see what this town has to offer. (Starting with a hat presumably)
Couldn't find a hat. Almost everything was closed until 10 or 11 anyways.
Like I said yesterday, I like hostels. I highly recommend them over hotels even for casual traveling. I've always felt that hotel rooms were overpriced considering what you got out of it and what you really needed. Hostel are, to me, the perfect traveling pit stop. All you need is a dwarven barman and an elvin serving wench and ... er... I didn't say that out loud did I?
Anyways, I've mentioned this on my video camera already, but it bears repeating here. This place is a GREAT natural horror movie location. Big empty hostel (especially since the other guy left this morning headed for Kyoto). The first person I saw was a kid, who when I heard him singing inside, I said hello and he came up to the window, hands pressed against the screen like a gecko, and then was gone again after I asked for a room.
Most of the time this place is empty, but you always hear little sounds, indicating someone is not far off, but you have no idea where they are, either.
The only person I constantly see around it this little lady who his constantly (perhaps even compulsively) cleaning. She never says anything, I've said Hello and whatnot several times (English and Japanese) and she simply glares at me, as if I had no right to be in her place. Sometimes hear her laughing or muttering to herself when nobody else is around.
This place is full of mini-ecosystems. Aquariums and just large (as in kiddy pool sized) stone bowls full of plants and fish, with tubes sometimes running between one and another. Almost feels like some kind of eco experimentation going on.
I ran into a woman with a German Shepardish dog and when I said "Ohio"she replied in a friendly way, but with the most unbelievably raspy voice! I mean it shocked me! It was like the nice lady had been possessed by a demon or something.
Those are just the highlights, there are lots of little things as well... the main hall's kiln, the speaker system way above looking kinda 1920s neo-gothic, the large stone warrior in the lobby... the ticking of the pendulum clocks... a painting with faux cracked gold paint on the frame that I swear says "KILL".. that's a nice touch... heck, even the wind whistles in the halls.
OF SASHIMI AND BIKE REPAIRS
Well looking at my bike, I gotta say I was worried. I had come back from some shopping (bought some tuna sashimi, spring rolls, potato salad, and meat-on-a-stick-I-never-bothered-learning-the-name-of) to notice that my rear seat support struts are WAY off. They're always been off since I brought it to Japan, but now it was threatening to scrape the tire. In th end, I figured it out... the problem was I had always been adjusting two sets of clamps when there was a third set I hadn't even considered.
This again brought me to think about work, and how it's changed things. To be honest, I COULD have fixed the problem ages ago, it only took about an hour to figure out from start to finish... but the way work is, time always seems so short, so when I have a stretch of free time the last thing I want to do are mundane chores. Now, with a whole day free, no obligations and pretty much nothing to do, mundane chores don't seem so bad.
And yet, while I COULD shoot a number of Fuzzy Knights strips right now... I won't. I'm just enjoying sitting around doing nothing too damn much.
Oh, the meat on a stick is called Yakitori... I was bored enough to look it up... and I say bored in the best possible way. Ahhh... relaxing... I remember this...
RELAXING MAKES ONSEN-SE
Okay, I'm stretching for puns, but the bath they have here is of the Onsen variety... that is to say it's a public bath where you must shower heavily first before going in and can expect a lot of sweaty Japanese men to join you. I didn't have that happen, though... not that it would matter, I've been to real Onsens before and had to strut my stuff naked flappin free and easy in the breeze... when everyone else is doing it, you just don't give a damn. But being the only guy here likely to take a bath, I had it all to myself. I was hoping the time there would do wonders for my ankle... if so I guess those wonders will have to wait until morning.
Dinner consisted of what was left over from my earlier shopping trip, spring rolls, beef and some banana chocolate ice cream (hey, I can spoil myself, I'm allowed!).
The manager here is a swell guy. Married with a cute chubby little baby (1 month old). He speaks English pretty well, well enough to help me out when I needed it. I tried to get him to understand about geocacheing (thinking it would be good for business here), but I couldn't quite get the idea across... that's what I really don't like about language barriers... they really are barriers. They keep people apart. Not just because you can't understand each other, but because it's awkward to try, and even subconsciously you try to avoid the situation, and stick to universal small talk pleasantries without really learning anything about the other person.
The internet connection was worse than yesterday... I can only imagine it will continue to get more difficult to use the farther away I am from a major city.
THE NEW PLAN OF ATTACK
Well, having essentially given up on a goal and settled only on a direction, I make my way towards the ferry dock by the mouth of Isa Wan... it will take me to Toba (a 30 km ferry ride... I don't know why I like ferries so much, but I do! Maybe because I know I'll never be on a real cruise in my life and ferries are as close as I'll get.
After that... I have a big decision to make...
If I want to have even a hope of making it to Korea, I will have to tackle the mountains of Nara-ken. Judging from the elevation on the maps will mean tackling an pass higher than the one at Gotemba for about three or four times longer. Plus it is almost certainly impossible to reach a hostel for the next two days in that direction.
The other option is to stick to the coast, add another hundred kilometers (thus another day) and reduce the chances of a Korea visit even further, plus there are more hostels in case I need them.
(weighs the options for a moment)
Eh, it's not like there is any TREASURE waiting for me in Korea or something.
Day 5 - October 1, 2003
It's an old habit. My 3rd grade teacher told me it was good luck to say that at the beginning of each month, so I try to say it at midnight... needless to say, I could use some good luck now.
My lip is swelling up , and the blister is more pronounced. Geez... I should have worn the bandana from the get-go! So far, on all three of my trips I have had only two constants: A now tattered T-shirt that my dad gave me that I always take, and a blister on my lip.
Strange dream last night.... dreamt I went to the top floor of some office building or maybe a giant mall, only to notice that there are no railings around the central "gap".. you know, that spot in some buildings where you can look straight up to all the floors above or below you. And lo and behold a guy walks right off the edge, tries to grab the edge, but its too late. At first people thought it was a stunt or a dummy that fell, then I hear (didn't see) them crying out when they realize otherwise. I take the elevator down, and I want nothing more than to be on the ground on the ground NOW and to never be more than three feet above ground again.
That's when Mr. T. comes in.
I accidentally run into him somewhere outside, shorter mohawk than usual, couple of people hanging out with him. I follow him for a bit, try to tell him that I'm glad he got a second chance at a career, and the next thing you know Barbara Walters is trying to get me to sign up for telephone service. In fact, lots of people are, they all the way down the street selling their variations of 10-10-321 or whatever. I tell Barbara about the incident at the building before and hope that somebody does something about those lack of railings, then leave.
It's strange, but I don't recall having dreams quite this vivid in a long time.
TAKING IT DOWN A NOTCH - BAM!
Okay, time to pack and go. Route 42 (my lucky number) is my destination., since it takes me right to the ferry (and is used less than the only other road there... I hope).
I'm typing this part on the ferry, which was farther than I expected. Route 42 was better than the other roads in terms of views and scenery, but worse in the fact that the bike "paths" were little more than concrete covered runoff drains and kept switching from one side of the road to the other. The curb is virtually non existent, and big rigs regularly travel down it. However, after picking up some nerve from a cyclist on a ten speed braving the narrow curb without hesitation, I decided to do the same. Fortunately, the big trucks became fewer and fewer as I went on, and eventually I hooked up with the Pacific Bike Path. This path runs all the way up and down the peninsula, but if I had used it the entire time, I would have progressed much slower. But towards the end it didn't matter, and it was worth the extra few kilometers. What a view! I had to stop several times to take photographs, and even did a Fuzzy Knights strip.
God, I'm itching all over, what is up with that? And why do I get the sinking feeling that this light white shirt is not stopping the sun as much as I thought? And when sunburn goes white and flake off, should you start to panic?
Okay, enough of the minor gripes.
I love ferries... don't know why... as I mentioned before it might be because I'll never be on a luxury cruise. Maybe it conjures up images of travel in the days of yore.. old school adventure. And maybe it's because it's X number of kilometers that I don't have to peddle. Any which way I always enjoy it.
Time Riding: 4:31:43
APPLE JUICE: NECTAR OF THE GODS!
Okay, after the ferry it was pretty straight forward... more hills up, more hills down, more trees, more getting lost and finding my way back. The usual. This hostel was about as hard to find as the last one, and had an equally hard climb up. The upside to the climb is 1) the view and 2) the internet. It seems I need a clear LOS (line of sight) with wide open spaces (preferably the horizon) to get any kind of access out here. Since I'm probably camping tomorrow, I just hope I find a hill or something to pitch my tent on.
This place is much about as big as the last... maybe bigger. They have Japanese and Western style rooms... the guy didn't ask which I wanted and just put me in a Western. Well, not that it really matters...
Dibs on top bunk!
Having had a nice cold can of apple juice I forgot just how much I missed the taste. Being on a diet before I left, that was one of many little pleasures I had to do without to try and keep around 1500 calories. Why oh why can't there be zero calorie apple juice?!?
This place also has a Japanese style bath... and considering that I am STILL itching all over, I'm going to use it.
Overall, a slow, easy day... but that's fine with me. I probably enjoyed today's trip more than any other so far!
Which, when you think about it, is probably why I have so little to say about it...
SLEEPING ABOVE ONES BETTER
I met a guy (Tomoaki) from Shizuoka who is WALKING to Shikoku, and is then going to walk AROUND it! Apparently this will grant you a wish if you complete the trip and make the appropriate prayers at all the temples. Wow... too bad bicycles can't be included... But it is a great story. This guy is 25, and walks 30km a day (up to a maximum of 50)... kind of puts me to shame, only covering 80-120km a day on a recumbent bike! He walks about 10 hours day, he says, and his journey will be about 1400km in total! The only times he will take a boat at all, is to hop from the mainland to Hyogo-ken island, then walk the length of it, hop over to Shikoku island, and zigzag around that visiting the 88 temples that cover the island. It will take him three months.
Tomoaki, I salute you.
His wish is to for good health (his leg was hurt in a traffic accident) After walking a thousand plus kilometers, I won't be surprised if his wish is granted.
Overall, a slow, easy day... but that's fine with me. I probably enjoyed today's trip more than any other so far!
Which, when you think about it, is probably why I spent most of my time talking about dreams, ferries and other travelers.
Now the skin on the side of my face is flaking...
Day 6: October 2, 2003
I forgot to talk about Spanish Village! Not that there is too much to say... The Spanish Village is an amusement park, like Disneyland, but the theme is all Spanish. A cartoon dog Don Quixote and whatnot are the main characters (and very Disney-esque in appearance as well, I might add). From my vantage point on the hostel, I can see they have roller-coasters and the usual trappings of such a place, but I have no inclination to go there.
A CHANGE OF PACE
It's 11 o'clock, and I've covered over 45 kilometers. Not bad! I had to walk up a number of hills (too steep and/or too long), but the downward slide more than made up for it. Some of the curves I hit so fast I had to lean my whole bike like a motorcycle racer. Cool and a wee bit terrifying.
However, despite the number of kilometers I've covered, I haven't made that much real progress. The roads twist and turn so much that I don't think I've traveled that far. Still, I don't mind. This is a great day, and my only hope is to find a camping spot with a view of the ocean so I can connect to the internet tonight.
At the roadside cafe that I stopped at, I was given a free iced tea by one of the patrons. Very nice of her, and I couldn't politely refuse. After all, they wanted to do me a favor. I also ordered some udon...mmmmm... yummy udon
Time Riding: 5:11:23
LEFT AND 42
After traveling on Route 160, I eventually made it back onto Route 42. Turning left I continued on my way...
And soon stopped.
Now, it's only 3pm when this happened, keep in mind. I've traveled a good 80 kilometers, but I notice that there is a beach nearby, and a park, and this might be the last chance I get to be by the shore for a while (figuring I'd need a Line of Sight with the horizon to get a connection) so I figured "What the hell?" and turned in.
EVENTUALLY I get to the beach. I did a lot of walking around first. In fact a lot of today has been hiking, and not just up the difficult hills. I hiked at least half a kilometer up to the lookout tower in this area, and another kilometer to the beach and back to see if it was worth biking to and setting up (I thought it was close by. Uh-uh.
But by the time I figured this out, it was too late to turn back)
Turns out I'm not the only one camping here. There are three other tents set up... and I think a family is staying here too. Haven't met them yet, but I'll update if I do.
The beach here is incredible. Great view, birds everywhere, boats in the distance. And more of those damn spiders! What the hell are they (Encarta was of no help)?
PRAYING TO THE INTERNET GODS
Well, I tried everywhere... by the beach, on the lookout, in the town... I can't get a connection anywhere. First without hookup, I wonder if the world will panic, or just me?
Actually I'm kind of glad. I am enjoying just sitting here by the beachside and just listening to the waves (and occasionally scratching myself)
Enough typing! Time to explore!
RAGE AGAINST THE STUPID FRIGGIN MACHINE!
Shortly after the last entry, my computer crapped out on me. I don't know what the problem is, but it's some kind of corruption that even the folks at Yodibashi Camera could only shake their head at. In the end, they had to reinstall windows and I lost everything on the computer... including ten pages of the Fuzzy Knights Movie script I was working on (I was THIS close to finishing!)
Now, I figured the odds of this happening again were very low... at least within the two weeks I'd be gone... but nevertheless, when I accidentally installed the English version of Windows on this computer on the D partition instead of the C partition (thus essentially having two copies of windows on the same computer, one English, one Japanese) I figured I'd keep both on the system as a kind of back up redundancy.
Lo and behold it came in useful. If I hadn't had this Japanese OS backup, I'd be carrying around a five pound paperweight under my shoulder, and I would have lost all the movies and pictures I shot! As it is, I've managed to save it all.
This, however, has a secondary problem. The English Windows is how I connected to the Internet, and now it's gone. I had copied the English OS install disk onto the D drive, so I could reinstall windows on the road if I had to. But unfortuantely, the programs themselves (such as the internet program) have to be installed AFTERWARDS. Which means, unless I work some magic over the next couple of nights, that I'm out of the game as far as interent goes.
Why the heck did this happen now? Why did it happen at all? Man, my PSION never once crapped out on me like this!
This has spoiled an otherwise lovely evening. Now it's night.
Oh, there isn't a family here, per se... but fishermen. Four old fishermen who are camping out beside this little shrine by the seashore. It would be cool if I could talk to them, but I had to spend the past TWO FRIGGIN HOURS reinstalling Windows and hoping that I didn't lose all the video and pictures I took... and now I have to walk into town so I can call Gillan and let her know I'm okay.
Man... I would have taken bets on something like this happening to me... it just makes a kind of narrative sense...
AM I IN THE MATRIX?
I've been thinking about that lately. It's really weird how the coincidences add up... all these little things that have been guiding my desisions. The most recent example was today where I checked out the area with the tents, wasn't sure if it was okay for me to join them, was about to leave and a Japanese man just happened to speak English pretty well out here in the middle of nowhere, and let me know it was okay to camp in the rocky areas. How conveeeeeeenient. (scratches non existent beard thoughtfully) To add to this sense of conveeeenience, if my internet access had worked then I wouldn't have had to bike a kilometer away to the nearest payphone just so I could let Gillian I was alright. And the fishermen offered me his cell phone to call her, but conveeeeeniently she wasn't home at that time, thus requiring said trip after dark.
Now, something to keep in mind is, I don't have a bike light. Forgot to bring one. I have a tail light, sure, but I never thought I'd need a front light. The streets are all well lit and I had no intention of biking in the dark anyways.
Except that this area is a kilometer from the nearest street light, with winding up and downhills to add to the fun.
So it's me, my mini-mag held in one hand biking in the moonlight along the ocean shore while the now drunk fishermen go off to do some night fishing.
And you know what? I'm glad it all happened that way. I got some great night time pictures of the landscape (and hopefully the fishermen), and had a relaxing, yet exhillerating wizz through the night time roads. Chances are this would never have happened under ordinary circumsatances. I refuse to believe in the idea of anything or anyone guiding me... but at times like this it is easy to see why some people would.
As an added bonus, the vending machine at the gas station had V8 juice! My favorite! I haven't had any of that since I left Canada!
And I think I might have got the internet situation worked out, but needless to say I'll have to wait a while to see if it works or not.
I woke up at about 5:30 this morning.... man those fishermen could saw wood! I had to use earplugs to get to sleep, they were worse than the highway stop on my first day in some ways! But eventually they stopped snoring and I had a great night&s sleep. When I woke up, I managed to catch the sunrise on the ocean. Fantastic. It's kind of sad to think that I miss a lot of this stuff in my daily life, living in the city, waking up late, spending all hours on the computer. It's nice with this laptop to have it both ways.
One could argue that I should just be using a pad of paper and a pen to record this journey, but I disagree. I'm a typist by nature, and generally I can type as fast as I think, whereas when I write I struggle to put the words down on paper fast enough, then strain to decipher it later. The only downside to this method is when the FRICKIN COMPUTER SCREWS UP ON YOU... (pant wheeze pant) okay, I'\ve calmed down now...
One other problem to note with the computer in this current state is that I lost WordPerfect and am now relying on the built in Word program. Expect many more spelling errors, assuming I get back online before I get home. Also, the keys are all wonkey... when I want to use an ' I get a & sign... this is because the keyboard is being recognized in English, and so the Japanese placement is ignored. Sheesh. Well, hopefully I can work that out at the hostle tonight.
Before I left I shared a cup of coffee with the fishermen. They were on a three day fishing trip, and it seemed like they had a good time. Like most fishermen, though, I suspect that the fish caught was simply a by-product... not a real goal. Like my brother Wyatt would say, it's not the destination, it's the journey.
I'M BACK, BABY!
Well, despite just about every possible problem cropping up on this computer (knock on wood) I managed to get internet access back! Yeah, it's good to be back! Who da man? I'm now ducked out behind a small store catching everyone up on events.
Time Riding: 6:38:06
THE LONG WALK AND TUNNELS FROM HELL
This has had to be the most grueling day so far...
Where to begin?
At the beinning I suppose...
Shortly after I finished that last bit, it was on my way to Shingu... at least, that was my hope... Route 42 turned from a godsend to a route from hell. Going up... up... up... UP! I simply cannot believe how much UP there was in the world until today... I ended up walking uphill (too long and steep for me to bike with all my gear and general fatigue and whatnot) for 2 HOURS. I had to cross bridges hundreds of meters above the ground with virtually NO shoulder for comfort... try doing that with an 18 wheeler plowing behind you and the only way out of its way is straight DOWN. And then when I did get a chance to go down, half the time there was construction going on and I had to stop! All that energy I put into going up had no payoff! That got infuriating after the THIRD time.
But that wasn't the scariest part. Oh no. The scariest part was the tunnels. You see, Route 42 had turned into a highway traffic only road, and failed to tell me. By the time I figured this out it was too late. You already know about the bridges... now came the tunnels... anywhere from 1000-2000m in length. And again, no shoulder to speak of. Even with my rear light flashing it was brown trousers time. I tried to time it right and dash through, but always I would end up seeing two blaring lights in my rear view helmet mirror half way through.
Eventually I ditched Route 42 and took a more coastal route, thinking it would be easier...
Oh sure, I can laugh about it now, but it turned out to be WORSE. Route 311 did indeed follow the coast, but it went up and down more times than a Pavarotti at an all-you-can-eat buffet. And twisted and turned all over the place (this part of the coast is full of fishing towns which were probably completely isolated in the past. At least Route 42 was more predictable and direct!
Add to that more tunnels... actually these tunnels were cool. Literally. They had good shoulders or even paths for bikes on them, and were very cool to ride through... a short respite from the otherwise unrelenting noonday heat.
THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME
These roads didn't have construction. It was worse... I ended up having to go down hairpin turns at 50kph or more because I was afraid if I hit the breaks too hard, I'd wipe out. Add to that a two foot deep concrete ditch to your left, the unpredictable traffic on your right, no shoulder, the occasional unseen unexpected bump in the road, and top it all off with the road switching from two lanes to one lane (for both directions of traffic to share) without warning and you have youself one hell of a real life video game. Too bad you only get one life.
After having to do this several times... my nerves were getting shot. Oh, and I crashed once as well, nothing major, but my elbow still hurts. Well, technically it was my second crash, but the first was more like the bike falling on me on the first day, my knee is still bruised from that embarassment... and why are my forearms covered with little bumps now? If I touch them they burst with water... my arms have been covered up since day 3 and yet I'm still being affected?
Okay, my goal was Shingu... but after another couple of hours of climbing hills and riding through tunnels and playing the most dangerous game of my life, not to mention making very little "real" progress, I was concidering cutting it early. There was a hostel in Kumano and I figured maybe I should turn in for the day, even if it was only 70km...
I should have listened to myself.
EGO BOOST... INTO THE DIRT
However, I can't help that the road from Kumano to Shingu is FLAT. Gloriously flat. Flat as a supermodel's chest. I also thought about how pathetic my average speed was up to this point (12 kph), and how little distance was travelled.
Ah, to hell with it. It's only 20 kilometers!
And it was. It was almost as good and fast as I imagined. About an hour later I was in Shingu, and without much trouble found the hostel. Now I could take a welll deserved day off and take care of any little problems I might have over the next day before pressing onward!
They were closed.
The manager didn't speak english but I figured out that her assistant was in the hospital and I had to find somewhere else...
WHAT THE HECK?!?
Well if that ain't a kick in the head... and to top it off, it was now 5, which meant the sun was going down in an hour. Finding a camping spot would be a crap shoot at best before nightfall, and I wasn't going to backtrack 20 kilometers, either. The next nearest hostel was in Taiji... another 20 kilometers away, but I didn't think the terrain would be as flat as it is here. Besides, I was exhausted from hiking countless uphills!
So... what to do... what to do... Well, this is where having a weird looking bike comes in handy. It's a conversation piece, and if someone asks me about it in reasonable English, I know I've got a likely local tour guide on my hands...
Well, the guy I ended up with was not that great at English, but beggars can't be choosers. He helped me find a cheap hotel for the night. A Japanese style hotel (yay!) with a little old woman puttering about like mad who couldn't speak A SINGLE WORD OF ENGLISH (GHAH!) I have to admit, it got to the point where I just wanted to world to stop so I could catch my breath around her.
The phrase book I had came in moderately handy, but the fact of the matter is it's mostly worthless. It's designed to be used when both people are willingly looking and checking what is being said (as a teaching aid, it could be handy, but not for my purposes). Trying to find a specific phrase is nearly impossible!
Anyways, this is where I am. sitting on a pillow on a tatami mat in a Japanese robe in a small single room of a Japanese hotel. All in all, it could have been worse.. but dang if plans don't always come together the way you hope. Part of me just thinks this is payback for that Matrix comment earlier. Whoever is in control wants me to think that it ain't all roses... yeah, that's right, I'm on to you Mr. Matrix Man! Come on out!
Ehhhh... time for sleep. I can't stay here two nights, that's for damn sure. Too much hassel for one thing! I'm thinking the hostel in Kushimoto looks good. Not too far, should give me a chance to take care of some stuff before I start... sounds like a plan... but remember what I said about plans.
Day 8: October 4, 2004
FOR I HAVE PROMISES TO KEEP....
Before I started this trip, I had planned to roleplay online with some friends in the middle of the journey... I was afraid my connection wouldn't hold out. I left around 6:30 this morning, and biked for about an hour and a half before finding a decent place to connect... behind a Shell gas station. Also managed to update various other things as well. So I spent the next four hours playing and chatting online (eventually killing some kind of slime thingy in a pit) before pushing onwards once more...
Time Riding: 2:44:21
...AND MILES TO GO BEFORE I SLEEP.
As you can see from the time... I did not do too much cycling today... but as you can see from the distance, I covered a decent bit of ground nevertheless. The terrain was reasonably flat all the way (except for right at the end)
Yesterday really took its toll on me. Drudging up hill after endless hill with no end in sight... I really wanted to take two days off in Shingu... but circumstances already mentioned prevented that, and I certainly didn't want to stay another night at that hotel... so I figured Kushimoto, the southernmost tip of Honshu, would be a great place to stop.
The location is fantastic! It's smack dab in the middle of a national park. Great scenery and whatnot... although there is a bit of a tourist town not too far away... but that's on the opposite side of the penninsula, and it was so steep and long to get over here that I don't intend to go back to town on foot or bike either today or tomorrow. Chances are I'll be spending tomorrow just checking out the scenery, taking pictures, and generally relaxing.
The hostel here is cheap and for once offered meals... I wanted to try the meals more out of curiosity than anything else. Dinner was great, traditional Japanese meal with several small and various dishes, with wheat tea to drink. Definately worth the price!
THE EVER SHORTENING ROAD.
Okay, my original plan was Tokyo to Korea in about two weeks.
That was back when I was under the dilusion I was Lance Armstrong.
When I leave it'll be day 10 already... 4 days? I'm not even getting to Kita-Kyushu in that time, and the trip from Kita-Kyushu to Tokyo is 48 hours according to the website I found...
And so, the route must change.
Estimating 80 km a day or so... plus I can go over a little two weeks if need be... I figure my best be is now Kochi in southern Shikoku. From there it'll be a 29 hour ferry ride back home. I've officially changed the title as well.
And so, to close, this brings me to a brief topic I have been meaning to mention for a while:
NOAH'S GENERAL THEORY OF QUANTUM BICYCLE TRAVELING
You can know either the time you have to travel, or the destination you have to travel to, but never both at the same time.
Day 9: October 5, 2003
THE LAYOVER: PART 222
You know, the number 2 is bad luck in Japan. It represents death (because the words for 2 and die or dead are similar). But I've been seeing an awful lot of 2s lately. Back on route 42, when I finally gave up and took the coastal route, it was partly because the road was too dangerous in my opinion. And this happened at 222.2 km (the roads here keep track of how much distance you have travelled from the main city of the province).
Just now, looking at my speedometer (the clock is not set correctly) it says 0:22, and the AC controler (with a similar problem) says 22:22
Heck, even 42 is just a variation of 222... good thing I'm not superstitious...
(knocks on wood)
Note: I discovered later that 4 is unlucky in Japan, not 2... I think it might be China I'm thinking about (heh)
SCRAPES AND BRUISES
Let's see... right now I have a massive bruise on my left knee, smaller bruise on my left shin, tiny bruises all along my right leg, the left side of my hip appears to be badly bruised (hurts if I lean on it), my left elbow is cut up a bit, and the usual tendon flaring in my ankles. Aside from that it's just the usual sunburn.
Most of those bumps and bruises happened from a couple of minor crashes I've had. I say minor because it was more like me stopping incorrectly and the bike falling on top of me. Comical to see... but it's a dang awkward position to try and move 60 plus pounds of bike and gear off of you.
I started exploring this little peninsula after breakfast (also traditional Japanese), went down to the rocks, had fun rock climbing there and saw tons of different kinds of fish in various pools in the rocks... hermit crabs and other kinds of crabs, and fishermen all along one side of the rocks. Then I went exploring in town, and to the local lighthouse. Really not too much to say about all that... it was nice, but kind of ordinary. It was the rocks tht stole the show. I could have hung out there all day.
ALL ALONE IN A SEA OF LIGHT
I have a new roommate, who speaks even less English than the last one. He's retired and driving around Japan... covers about 500k a day. After dinner, (similar but different from last time... the fish wasn't deboned unfortunately) some fireworks went off... didn't have time to get my camera for them, though. Exploring what was going on, there was some kind of concert going on, or so I thought... no band ever played... just music in the background. What was going on, however, was a festival of light or some such... people would light candles and have drawings around the wind protectors and leave them out in the field... boats in the harbor shone their lights on the shore. It was like the stars were on the ground, a sea of light.
I went down there in high spirits, even added my own candle to the bunch (with a drawing of Mossfoot drawn on it saying "Lost Somewhere In Japan") but soon became depressed.
For some reason (maybe it was the Japanese lady singing "The Piano Man" over the speakers that did it) I felt incredably alone. I hadn't felt this alone since I had to leave my Aunt Elaine's house during my cross Canada bike trip.
So here I am walking through a sea of light, feeling more alone that I ever had on this trip before. I lay down under the stars and look up, notice some planes flying by (well I have no idea what the one in the middle was, the lights were all weird in their flashing, but the ones before and after it (escort like) were definately jets).
All alone in a sea of light
Heh... just some thoughts put into poetry, I guess...
Anyways, I was in a funk. But I snapped out of it when I saw something... a grandfather holding onto two of her granddaughers by the arms, and apparantly he wanted them to race... saying the equivelent of "ready, set, GO!" then letting go of one of the girls arms and holding onto the other. The older, taller one. The older girl struggled, and whined, and the younger girl wizzed on ahead.
And I understood everything.
The grandfather was giving the younger shorter girl a playful headstart, but the older granddaughter couldn't see this... she only saw herself being held back from easy victory. She was upset as to how unfair to her it was. The grandfather was laughing, because he was just trying to be fair to the younger granddaughter, and knew the older one would win regardless. But it didn't matter. The older granddaughter got sad and sulked. Eventually the grandfather picked her up and carried her.
And suddenly my feelings of lonelyness vanished. I laughed, and the grandfather laughed with me. No words needed.
If only all of life was that easy to interpret.
Well, more like a lack of plan... I no longer have a destination at all. I am simply going to play it by ear and see what happens on a daily basis. No matter where I end up I will be within range of a ferry to Tokyo or a ferry that can take me to a ferry within range of Tokyo.
This is a strangely liberating feeling... because I no longer feel like I have only huge difficulties in front of me. This is supposed to be a vacation, I should start treating it like one. Kick back, relax, see what happens next.
And it just started to rain... and rain...
WHO WILL STOP THE RAIN?
Well, I got about 27km in before the rain really started to bug me. At first it had let up, and I thought I got lucky.
As I've said in previous journals, luck is a two edged sword.
It's not that it's raining A LOT... because it's not. the problem is that the roads are now slick, and though my tires are well equiped for such weather it turns out my shoes are not. These shoes, great for hiking, are apparantly ice skates when it comes to wet smooth surfaces... like my peddels. Add that the killer ditches on the left and traffic I don't trust on my right, and you have one unhappy cyclist.
To be honest, I think the drivers in Japan deserve a lot more credit... if anything it's North American drivers that are the dangers on the road. We have wide wide roads and we feel we have to use it ALL when driving. Japanese drivers get used to going into very narrow places all the time. If anything I am safer around them. However, what they feel is comfortable distance I call too close for comfort. Which is why they have a bad rap, I think.
Oh well.. sitting here, waiting for the rain to stop... wondering if my sleeping bag is soaked...
HINDSIGHT IS 0/20
It occurs to me (much too late in the trip) how useful the semi-frequent rest areas for cars and buses are. They provide a place to wait out the rain, maps showing where you are and rotues you could take, and in one case, even showing up to date weather updates (my future doesn't look good, by the way). Also, I should have brought some plastic bags... my sleeping bag is now soaked and my knapsack is getting that way. However, a guy at the rest stop, noticing my plight offered me a number of black garbage bags out of the blue!
I thought things were starting to look up... and then then my helmet mirror came off! Just like that it peeled off when I adjusted it.
Now, without that mirror, I feel half blind. I have no idea what is behind me, how big it is and if it anything I should be worried about. So this just natrually made my day... in the cursing the sky blue kind of way. Normally, no problem. I have crazy glue for just this reason... except it turns out one of my sewing needles SKEWERED my crazy glue and rendered it useless (still have no clue how that happened).
Eventually I got it repaired at a gas station (that just happened to have some crazy glue) I got off of 42 so I could take some more scenic road (with slower traffic and nice wide bike roads... heh). Noticing a map by a bus stop, I stopped to take a look. My usual procedure is to lean up against whatever railing is nearby with one foot on the peddle. Problem is, I unknowingly chose the one spot there was a gap in the railing. I tried to brace my foot on the ground, but there was no ground there (a one foot curb)
AUUUGH! Smack! Crash!
Geeze how embarassing. One small step for Noah, one suicide leap for my pride.
Time Riding: 4:27:58
OUT OF THE COLD
Well, I made it. I'm in my room, more ore less warm and dry (concidering I have to have the window open for internet here and am wearing only a T-Shirt and boxers right now. Hanging my clothes up to dry. Turns out my sleeping bag was not AS wet as I had feared... but it was wet where it counts... right around the head area... that would have been most unpleasent.
One of the reasons for the great average speed was that I didn't once walk up hill. I COULD have... some of the climbs were steep enough to warrent it... but I had something to prove to myself today... nothing has gone as planned, and I certainly feel less adequate than before I started (head full of dilusions) so I had to prove to myself that I COULD get up these hills without stopping. And I did. Small comfort for a one month trip across Japan that has been whittled down to two weeks along a quarter of it. I doubt I'll even break 1000km before my return.
My mini-camcorder, which I had been recordering this trip on thus far, has cone more or less kaput. It MIGHT still be working, but I certainly won't trust it. Fortunately my other camera for still pictures can take movies, but only for 15 seconds and with no sound.
This place doesn't offer meals, so I just stopped by the local Lawson's and picked up some non-fancy grub and comfort food. After biking in the rain all day, I deserve to spoil myself a little.
That reminds me... notice how it says four and a half hours bicycling above? Well, keep in mind that is ONLY for bicycling, not how long I was outside, taking pictures, shooting video, checking maps, waiting for the rain to stop, asking for directions, etc.. I left at 8:00 today and got here around 5:00. Most days I start around 7:00 or 7:30, and end around 4:00 or 5:00, regardless of what the Time Riding above says. Sunset is at 6, so I don't ride any later than 5:00
So, the plan as it stands now... Looks like I won't even make it to Kochi. Well, I COULD... but it would suck some of the fun out of the trip... and since I've long since abandoned any real goals or triumphs, fun is all I have left. It looks like Tokushima is where I will call it a day, though at this point I'm planning on going farther north first, take a ferry to the island of Awaji-Shima, then bike down to Tokushima rather than just taking the ferry directly across at Wakayama.
That should just about do it for me time wise. I tell you, I totally underestimated the twists and turns of a place like this! On my map I would have figured today's trip would only have been 50 km instead of 87km! Even if I had been direct and went straight to Tanabe instead of around the Shirahama resort first, it would have been about 75km.
Oh well... time to rest... time for a bath... time to indulge in some potato chips and chocolate milk...
Expect me when you see me.
Day 11: October 7, 2003
A MUSICAL INTERLUDE
A guy on the Kenzer boards (Fpilot) following my trip, wrote this Filk song for me.. it is sugn to the tune of the Beach Boys "Somewhere Near Japan"...
And Noah said "Be a pal, and get me out of Ryoga-ville,
42 / 24
Today is a cloudy day... and cool... too cool in fact. Whenever I sweated going uphill, then coasted downhill, I got a chill from the breeze created. Still, I'll take this over "sweating so much that my face was like sandpaper with salt deposits" anyday.
Having decided to call it quits at Tokushima, I am now faced with the problem of getting there too quickly. So I now nee to space out my traveling appropriately. The next hostel was too close via the striaght and narrow route, so I decided to get there the scenic way, hugging the coast on local and back roads (switching from Route 42 to Route 24). I saw some very nice fishing villages, and even what I believe was a ship building factory. Despite some nasty hills (I climbed one or two... nothing to prove today), it was a pleasent ride, and I got to my destination in record time! It's only 2pm and I'm already done for the day, woo-hoo!
Now the problem is getting a room... this place is well... empty! An old man let me in but he doesn't run the place. He just let me in, called out to someone, and guestured for me to sit down and have a coffee... so now I'm waiting, and I don't hear a sound. I've been waiting quite a while, too... when I got here early I thought I could take the opportunity to explore this little coastal village... now I'm afraid I'll be stuck waiting for someone who went back to sleep or something...
The hostel here is different than the others for on big reason: internet. And its really kind of odd to see it here because this is the most remote location I've been to yet. They have two computers set up in the common room (but nothing special... more like what you might have in your basement)
Okay, this is nuts... I've been sitting here for almost an hour now...and nothing! I saw someone a while ago... a shadow through a gap in another room... but that's it. I certainly don't feel comfortable shouting out "YO, I NEED A ROOM OVER HERE!" or anything...what the heck did the old guy tell the manager anyways?
I finally found out that the manager is away until 5 or 6... so I went out for some grub, checked out the sights, and came back... I hope the manager isn't mad at me for moving in while she was out (an assistant guestured it was okay)...
This place is well known for its orange groves. These are spectactular to view all year around, according to the website, except for September and October... sheesh. Figures.
While searching for food, I came across a place selling fish, squid, etc... also in pre packaged bundled... I got soe fried breaded fish and when she understood my situation the woman gave me a bag of "snack sticks" (semi sweet moist bread sticks) for free! I love nice people!
Well, the manager finally returned... very nice... a little wacky... better English than most of the managers I've met. We chatted a bit and she gave me a map of the area in English... lots of information about local tourist spots... wish I had more time to check them all out.
Oh well... time for a bath... time for some rest...
Day 12: October 8, 2003
THE TRIP JUST GOT LONGER
Hopefully not by much, but the way I had planned, it I was going to take a ferry north of Wakayama at a place called Misaki over to Sumoto... that was my goal for the day. However, the ferry service STOPPED there some time ago... I was wondering why some maps showed it and others didn't... now I have to go an extra 15 or so kilometers north-east to Tajiri to find another one, and it takes me to Tsuna instead, wich is another 10 k of where I intended to be. Yeesh! Oh well, probably for the best.
Okay, not quite yet. Before I could leave I was bushwhacked with hospitality. The manager wanted to take a pcitures of me with my bike, and I of her, she made tea and fresh bread with home made orange jam as well! What a great begining to the day!
FROM GOOD TO BAD IN 0.2 SECONDS
The ride to Tajiri was great. Relatively level, no headwind, overall smooth sailing.
Finding the ferry once I was there proved more difficult. After meandering through countless back streets in the generally correct direction, I got a map at a Koban (first time since I started this trip that there was one home!)
Then, just as I started off on my journey once again, it all went straight to hell.
While (stupidly) looking at my new map, I smacked into one of the metal barriers menat to keep cars from going on the sidewalk, and the force of it broke my seat! The aluminum frame, SNAPPED... Needless to say, this is bad. On top of that I was almost late for the ferry. So running with a broken bike, I managed to get on board just as they closed the gate.
So now I'm on a ferry with a broken bike, pondering my next move.
The snap happened just shy of the clamp that holds it to the frame... I'm thinking I can move the clamp up to hold the two halves of the bar evenly... maybe put in a metal rod or something inside for support, and crazy glue for good measure. Have to wait and see...
For now, though... I'm going to rest and eat and ponder my next move.
Time Riding: 5:05:09
KING OF THE JURY RIGS
I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I ROCK when it comes to jury rigs. Scotty has got nothing on me! Gimme some bubblegum and duct tape and I'll have that warp reactor working at Warp 9.5 in no time.
Of course, it didn't ALL go my way...
This is what I did. The bicycle I have has four clamps, two on the back and two on the bottom, all identical. When I initially tried to clap the two pieces together by moving the clamp forward, it worked, but the clamp itself had been damaged in the crash and broke. First it split down the middle, then half the top came off, effectively ruining any chance of my idea for working...
Eventually, I realized... I have three OTHER clamps on the bike.
I figured, take the broken clamp and put it on the back where there is less pressure and the beam is still intact. Then secure it tightly with a fabric pull strap used for bundling camping equipment. Use the GOOD clamp to secure the break.
It worked... sorta.
I say sorta because what happened was the GOOD clamp broke too.. I tightened it too much, or maybe the shock of the damage went all through the seat frame. But aisde from that it was fine. I used a second pull strap to reenforce it.
So far... so good. It works and I not feel any kind of give. But I do NOT want to take any risks on it. If it gives out at the wrong moment I could wipe out on the road and... well... it might not be pretty. Therefore, I will be going a maximum of 20kph at any given time, downhill or otherwise. Going uphill, where I normally put more stress on the frame in pushing, I'll walk it. That should see me through.
Don't bother trying to talk me out of it, by the way, with fraintic emails yelling out "DON'T BE A FOOL!" It's a done deal. Where I am there are NO ferries that can take me anywhere, and NO trains. I don't even know if there is a bus I could use! And even if I did, I'd have to abandon the bike. Not going to happen. I can order and replace those parts when I get back. I spent a small fortune getting the bike here and fixing it, and I'm not about to throw all that away.
The jury rig is secure. I will be fine. (he chants to himself over and over trying to reassure himself)
THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS
It's like somebody up their said "Ah, gee, that's a real kick in the teeth, let's go easy on the little guy, huh?"
And lo, there were friendly campers, free food, and a warm beachside bestowethed upon me.
I stumbled upon this beach by accident, I was actually making my way for an Onsen, hoping on the offchance they were open 24 hours and that I could maybe pull an all nighter there. Then I see this pleasent little beach with a large family having a picnic. I asked them if it was okay to camp in this area, they said it was, then invited me for dinner. A couple of them spoke adequate English, so we chatted for a while, I showed off Mossfoot, had chicken and beef for dinner, and set up my tent in time for sunset. Even though it's now nighttime as I type this, the breeze off the shore is not that cold... it's pleasentlly cool. Absolutely perfect.
Of course, the cynical side of me wonders if the powers that did this are just setting me up for the BIG whammy tomorrow...
Sleeping with the pepper spray ready... just in case
The weather was so nice that I had to go for a walk. Also, I had noticed the ferry dock about a kilometer away and figured I could find out some more information there... I noticed a number of fishermen out at night, some of them with light emitting bobbers in the water. Many people were out for a stroll... old men and women... young girls on bicycles... so why did I feel I should be carrying my pepper spray with me? As nice and quiet a place this is... I can't help but feel like I might get jumped at any second. Stupid, I know, but that's how I feel at night.
It was a beautiful night, though... and a great walk. The information desk at the ferry station was closed, but I got a map I could use there... also, it will be open at 9am tomorrow, so I might wait until then... I really want to know which route is safer (I've had conflicting reports thus far) and I'm in no rush.
Getting back to my tent by the beach, I half expected it to be ransacked, but of course it wasn't. This is what makes camping alone so difficult, I think.
Oh well... time for bed, and hoping for a better tomorrow.
Day 13: October 9, 2003
Well, I lied about biking below 20kph... it's just that as the day went on I got more confident about the repair job I did.... er... if you define "as the day went on" as meaning "by 6:30am". I took the more direct route, and it turned out to be relatively flat and with far more bike paths than I expected. I got to Nandan by 7:30 amazingly enough.
Now, once I got here there was a question of "what next"? You see, I know you can't bike over the bridge connecting this island to Shikoku, and I had been told there might be a ferry to take me. Once again I was misinformed. I asked around here and there are NO ferries. Just cruises taking people to the whirlpools that happen every six hours and...
... whoa whoa whoa... back up there... did I just say WHIRLPOOLS? WOO HOO!
I talked to a bus station about letting me take my bike across the bridge on one of the buses (results still pending) and bought a ticket for the cruise. The ship is an awesome looking ship... It looks like it has a wooden hull, three masts and six sails, though of course it will be motorized instead. Still a great ship to look at! And I should be back with plenty of time to spare for the bus!
Well, the ship is a replica, of course, but it's a nice looking replica. Almost looked like it could have been in Pirates of the Carribian... except there were no cannons (rats). The ride was great, saw some small whirlpools (no big ship swallowing ones unfortunately), but I also had another accident. This time, the shoulder holster for the computer I'm typing on snapped... fortunately the case is durable and it was undamaged in the short fall, but now I have to carry the computer in my side bag. No big deal, but it's amazing just how many things are breaking down during this trip. Even my spedometer lost a button!
TREKING AROUND TOKUSHIMA
The bus wasn't a problem. It was also somewhat unusual. You see, each passenger pays depending on how far they take the bus, like a taxi. Each stop along the route is listed, if you get on at stop 7, you can keep an eye on the board which shows how much you owe at each stop. Unfortunately, he dropped me off a good five kilometers farther away from Tokushima than I thought he would. He probably felt he was doing me a favor, since it was in a park on high ground so I didn't have to bike up it and get a great view and whatnot. Sure, I took advantage of it, but all I really wanted to do was get on the ferry.
From there, it was a VERY confusing bike ride into Tokushima... most of the time it was striaght forward, but when it was confusing, it was REALLY confusing. Bridges crossed and not crossed, wrong turns, wrong rivers followed. Backtracking over and over again... I didn't know if I would find the ferry terminal in time...
I ended up at the ferry terminal only to discover it was going to Osaka, and the one I wanted was on the OTHER side of the river! I could see the huge passenger liner taunting me on the opposite end. Forgetting about the condition of my bike, I rushed over there as quickly as possible, on another long, winding, often misdirected journey.
I got to the harbour, but I couldn't find the ferry. It was here somewhere, my internal compass could tell. I could mentally map out roughly where I was in proxemity to it, but that still left a fair bit of waterfront to cover (with obscuring wearhouses). Then, as I asked a couple of workers for directions, I heard off in the distance...
...as the ferry bellowed out its departure. It might as well have been the "You Lose" music from The Price is Right.
In fact, I was three hours late. The boat I had just missed was actually going to Kita-Kyushu. No chance I could have reached it in time, even if I had made a bee line. So now I have to kill time until 10:30 tomorrow morning... I was thinking about pulling an all nighter at a donut shop (if I can find one) since I have done that on my previous two trips... granted part of me finds that appealing, the symetery and all... but the part of me that wants to curl up in a Hobbit hole thinks "Dude, that was because you couldn't afford a hostel for two nights in a row, now you can!" (yes, my hobbits say "dude")
Sneaky little bastard won... and just like Tolkien's hobbts, I ended up in more trouble than I expected to be.
Time Riding: 5:22:53
Turns out this hostel is only "technically" in Tokushima... it's on the edge, and on top of that, it's over some mountains and in a cove, which I was not expecting. Also, I only expected to bike 50 kilometers today, and ended up doing 80. This is what happens when you listen to your inner hobbit. Sure it SOUNDS easy... but to get to that bit of comfort you sometimes have to go through hell and high water. The internet connection here is absolute zero, by the way, so you won't be reading this until tomorrow, at the earliest.
BAD MOON RISING?
I'm typing this by the beach as the sun goes down, and a full moon emerges from the clouds. A full moon... somehow it strikes me as vaugely prophetic that this would be my last day. The destination reached, the journey concluded. You could look at it as bad luck... but I think in Japan it's good luck... actually I think it also has something to do with women reaching sexual maturity but we won't go into that now.
Like most of the hostels I've been to, this one is very nice, I have a four bunk room all to myself (dibs on the top bunk!). A couple of motorcyclists are staying here, in a separate room, but they haven't tried to speak to me yet.
PUTTING IT INTO PERSPECTIVE
So... what the hell was the point of all this again? Usually when I reach the end of a trip, there is a feeling of satisfaction... and this time it's missing. I feel the satisfaction of having settled in for another night and looking forward to a good night's sleep... but my body has just gotten warmed up as far as travelling goes... these past few days have been easier not just because of the terrain, but because my muscles have been getting stronger. After each layover, which gave the legs a chance to rest and develop, I noticed distinct improvement the following day. I guarantee if I had another week you'd find the riding times, distances traveled, and average speeds steadily increasing.
So here I am all ready to really get started on an adventure, and I have to stop. Now granted, this has to be the end for a number of reasons... I need to save 8 days for when Wyatt comes to visit, and I wasted 3 waiting for good weather. Various odds and ends have been giving out in my gear. My bike is broken and riding it is like playing with a lethal slot machine.
It has been holding together remarkably well, however...
"Don't worry, she'll hold together... (bump crack creek) Here me baby? Hold together..."
I'm glad I don't have to abandon Viaticus Rex... I fully intend to repair her and even have her sent to England so I can bike around Europe (I might ditch virtually everything except the frame to save money shipping it and rebuild it from scratch with better parts when I get there - Viaticus Rex Mark II)
So, was this trip worth it? Well, that depends on what you look at as its goals. If it's about distance travelled, I'd say it was a dismal failure. I wanted to get to Korea, but traveled barely half the distance . Of course, I've changed directions and plans several times, too... originally I was going to go over the mountains to Wakayama instead of the long route down and around. I was also going to go from Wakayama to Tokushima by ferry instead of up over, around and down like I did. I certainly didn't expect to stay extra nights at the hostels... I forgot just how vital those rest days are in the first week.
If you look at it in terms of experiences gained, I'd say it was a success. Sure, I didn't fight off any ninjas (darn it) or find lost treasure (can always use loot)... but I saw more of Japan in terms of people, culture and places in two weeks than I had in the two years before that. THAT alone made it worth my while.
(It also reminded me that I spend WAY too much time working (heh))
IT AIN'T OVER YET
Nope... not by a long shot... because besides the 36 hour ferry/luxury cruise from here to Tokyo, I have a sneaking feeling that the ferry doesn't actually go to Tokyo at all... I think it goes to Chiba.
I've never been to Chiba... sped past it on a train to the airport yes... but never to it. I have no idea how to get home from there.
"West" would be a good start.
This essentially makes the trip from Chiba to my home in Ichigaya the last part of my trip... hope I don't get lost on the way...
I hope it's overcast in just the right shade of grey when I get there... anyone who has read Neuromancer will know why.
Day 14: October 10, 2003 - Day 15, October 11, 2003
Woke up at 5am today. No point in wasting any time. Time to back up and go.
I went to a museum in town... there used to be a MASSIVE castle here, but it was destroyed (I presume during WWII?) and only some foundation is left. They turned it into a modern art park with a museum in the center. Judging from the model recreation of it inside, it was fantastic to behold.
I'm at the ferry now... I think I busted up my AirH card when the computer fell (better it than the computer). It has a noticable dent and slight bend. That would explain why I still can't get internet access despite being in the heart of the city. I'll have to take it back to Yodibashi Camera to get it fixed, I guess. But I might be able to squeeze it back to the right shape myself (heh)
The ticket cost 12,000 yen... second class I assume... I only know there is a 2 involved in describing my ticket, and the tickes with a 1 are twice as expensive. I was surprised to find that it includes a "Food Card". Apparently I am allotted X amount of food on the trip.
The trip itself is 650 kilometers. I was told I will be arriving at 5am... I assume they mean tomorrow morning and not the day after, but I have had conflicting accounts of travel time.
I might have been wrong about Chiba... looking at this map I distinctly see the Kanji for Tokyo listed as the destination. Now I'm almost disappointed!
Well, I'm onboard. I admit, I'm impressed, but I did have my hopes set a little higher. Still, it feels like a moderately priced hotel. The Food Card is apparently used in the vending machines onboard, which serve sushi, spaghetti, french fries, drinks, rice&curry, soba noodles, ice cream. At least they're thurough.
There are several "lounge" areas on board, with televisions and whatnot (the channels are not fixed, either, each has a remote). One room is just a flat empty area with windows on all sides for people to take their shoes off and lay about, nap, read, whatever. A store that sells magazines and snacks (which you would expect anyways). The second class accomodations are bunk beds (Dibs on the... ah you get the idea), a laundry room, arcade, and a japanese style bath to boot!
With plenty of time to kill... how about some poetry? Hey... where'd everyone go? Everyone's a critic...
I'M BIKING THROUGH JAPAN
BIKE TREK III: THE VOYAGE HOME
This has been my third major bike trip. Hopefully not my last. I am still hoping to do some of Europe in the next couple of years.
As always I have one major gripe about this trip. Going alone. The upside of going alone is I end up venting everything in my journal. I have time to think, reflect, and write. I remember when Wyatt biked with me the number of photographs increased and the size of the journal decreased dramatically because the two of us would talk during all hours or listen to an audio tape. Nevertheless I will always prefer company with me when I travel, it makes the trip far more enjoyable. But I guess it is my burden to go on these trips solo... bleach!
Looking out the window as we go over some big rocking waves, I see a city on the coast... I wonder where it is and if I have been through it... I think I must have concidering the route we're taking.
DOIN' THE WAVE
Well it's not as if this boat ride was without its share of adventure. These waves are getting worse (or better from a camera point of view) so I decided to go outside and get a good shot of one as we plowed through it (great splash effects)
I had just had a bath and was wearing the floppy Japanese sandals. The wind was really strong, making me look like a mime as take a couple of shots and...
(in slow motion thought) Oh my... that was a big wave... going up up up... coming towards me
(back to regular motion) OH CRAP!
We are not talking a spray. We are not talking about a "Big Thunder Mountain" amusement park kind of splash, we are talking about a WAVE. I was hit with a wall of water. HARD.
Down I go, knocked onto my butt and sliding several feet, shoes skitter way off down the deck and eventually to Davy Jones' Locker. I grab onto the door enclave and desperately try to get my footing, then scamper back inside before the next one hits.
Now that I think about... I think the captain made an anouncement earlier about not going outside. But I couldn't understand what he said.
So I'm sitting typing this in a change of clothes (wearing only silk boxers, a T-shirt and socks... hope nobody minds) while I wait for my clothes to dry, thinking...
"Damn, that was fun!"
OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN...
Now I know why people get sea sick. Not that I am, mind you. But I've been on a dozen different boats and not ONE of them comes close to bouncing this much up and down! It was fun... for the first three hours. I gotta admit that Coca-Cola I had isn't sitting too well with me right now... or the vending machine sushi... or the chocolate ice cream... or the smell of smoke currently in the air...
...but I'm not seasick...I swear.
We must be plowing on ahead at full speed regardless of the weather. If you sit up on the front it's like a perpetual car wash on the windows as wave after wave gets pounded. I don't know if the waves are supposed to be punishing us or vice versa, but SOMEONE out there is saying "Thank you, mistress, may I have an other?"
On the upside, I think this ferry only takes 18 hours to get to Tokyo instead of the 36 hours to Chiba that I had feared. We've just reached the southernmost point of Honshu, Kushimoto, according to the wall map with all the little lights on it... and I can see the shore all right, but I can't be sure if that lighthouse I'm looking at is the same one I visited or not.
The other effect that... these waves... are having... is... it's... making... me....zzzzzzzzzzzzz
You may have noticed in the pictures that I am wearing a tattered old rag of a shirt at the beginning and end of the trip. This is because it's the same T-shirt I've worn on all three journeys. My dad got it for me, I used to have three or four of them, but this is the last one to survive I guess. The neck collar is torn and there are holes on both shoulders, so this is probably its last hurrah as well. However, I'm cutting out the central image and using it as a flag on my bike on the next trip.
ARRIVING AT 5AM.
Well, the sun hasn'\t even risen yet and we're getting ready to land. I think we're a bit behind schedual, but if not we will arrive at 5:00am. Fortunately, Tokyo is lit up like Vegas, so it's never really dark there. Then it's it just one more bike ride home.
Just one more...
I tell you, in some ways this trip felt much longer than two weeks. I look at some of the pictures and video I shot on the first couple of days and they already feel a lifetime removed.
Time Riding: 2:58:45
HOME. AT LAST.
Sure, two weeks is no big deal when you're working a 9 to 5 job five days a week... I've noticed the weeks just flying by while at Berlitz. But it's different when you don't know where you're going, where you'll stay, or what you'll do if things go wrong. These last two weeks have gone by considerably slower than you might expect.
And yet... now that I'm back, it seems like it happened so quickly... it's strange how easily we slide back to our old habits and customs. By tomorrow this might feel like it happened months ago.
Well, getting here was a bit of a chore... none of the bridges near the ferry terminal would allow bikes, so I had to go way around the bay, then back through Ginza, then around the Emperor's Palace, and finally en-route to Shinjuku I realized I missed my turn off about a half kilometer back.
But finally... finally home. It's 7am.
I sneak into the apartment... quietly. Open the door and creep in. She thought the ferry wouldn't get in until that night. When I get to the bedroom, I hear Gillian say sleepily "Noah? Is that you?"
I smile. "I told you to expect me when you saw me."