Rain was something we expected to happen, but after 5 days of blissful sunshine, this had kinda been put out of our minds. That dream ended yesterday when it started bucketing down and we realised that riding in the rain isn’t quite as fun as we thought it would be.
Currently holed up in Starbucks, this seems like a good chance to reflect on the previous few days of riding and adventure.
Saturday, 5 May
Waking up well rested after an easy ride the previous day we decided to fuel up on tuna mayos (onigiri) and make some progress heading north. Along the way we met plenty of crazy cyclists out enjoying the weather including this samurai out for a 160k return to Saitama.
We very quickly learned how naive we were choosing the most direct route between two cities while climbing the yamabushi mountain pass. Victory shot at the highest point you can see the pain on Ross’ face. The only thing that got us up there was the encouragement from fellow cyclists giving out thumbs up and yelling “Ganbare!”
Watch the days events unfold below.
Finally arriving in Chichibu exhausted and dirty we headed straight to the infamous Bukou onsen. Here we took a well deserved rest, wrote a blog post and ate large amounts of ramen.
Deciding the 1500 yen charge on the attached camp ground for a piece of grass was a crime, we opted for a nice soft piece of bitumen at the local park.
Sunday, 6 May
Up at 5 am to try and pack up before being noticed by too many locals, we were greeted by a nice man walking his dog. Sprung. Straight from one car park to another we settle down for a nice conbini breakfast of katsu-don and coffee. You can also see my bike load testing Lawsons’ bike racks in the background.
Getting a little bit tired of climbing mountains it was great to find some nice flat plains for a while. We flagged down an old Japanese guy to ask for a photo and after asking “うまくなくて大丈夫?” he happily took what I think is a great shot.
With the mountains in the distance we had plenty of energy for a bit of playing around. First was Ross getting in an upper body workout at this princess palace we found.
Afterwards we found a cool little temple on the way and decided to visit and pray for unending sunshine.
Despite all the playing around, and Ross leaving his backpack behind at princess palace, we found the campsite quite early. This is a free campsite maintained by the governemnt just outside of Takasaki and when we arrived in the morning there were tons of Japanese people enjoying the end of Golden Week. After returning from lunch however we found ourselves mostly alone in the huge park.
Not completely alone however, a nice Japanese family was in the middle of packing up their tent when Ross struck up a conversation about the smelly toilet. Turns out their son is heading to America in a couple of months and thought this would be an amazing chance to practice English. Fast forward an hour or so and they have picked up their older daughter and we are drinking beer and eating delicious sushi in the tiny town of Kamisato.
It was an awesome experience speaking Japanese to the parents getting advice on Japan and English to the kids about America. Returning to the campsite slightly tipsy, this had turned into a bigger day than we had intended. Exhausted, we decided it was time for a shower and bed. The campsite doesn’t have showers, however there is a nice river nearby where a quick dip sorted us right out.
Monday, 7 May
Today was the first day we were warned by Google about the potential of rain. Thankfully, Ross had organised a couch surfing host in Takasaki. So off we went in search of our rain saviour.
It was a pretty quiet and uneventful easy ride 10km ride to Takasaki. On the way we found a Tesla charging station which was awesome to see.
The white car was owned by a friendly Japanese lady called Mayu who recommended a soba restaurant, which we went to and it was delicious. When asked “how is the Tesla?” She responded by opening up the wing doors and saying “it’s great!”
Clearing some huge mountains over the previous few days we thought it was cool when we saw a tiny grass hill. So we did the obvious thing of running up to the top to claim another mountain as defeated.
Arriving at like 8am we were far too early to call it a day so we went exploring to find a huge Buddha statue and look around some cool sights. After turning our 10km ride into a more respectable 40km we returned to Takasaki to meet our couch surfing host. Arriving slightly too early we grabbed some beers from the super market and headed to the coin laundry (our namesake!) for an overdue laundry session and to wait.
Meeting Naomichi was a blast, he’s a super fun university student with a love of rugby, and the scars to prove it. We headed to the local izakaya for delicious food and too many banana milks. Nomihoudai is the word to look out for in Japan.