Stay in Niseko :
In my previous post I mentioned that I arrived late at night in Niseko and met a bunch of Japanese people to hang with.
I stayed awake until midnight on the previous night, being most of the time alone at night I would not complain about changing my habits a little. Yoshiki the mysterious cook who slept drunk outside came back in the morning and took me to his house so I could take a shower, do my laundry and charge my batteries. While my laundry was drying up he shown me his motorbikes and proposed me to go for a little ride. I don’t hold a driving licence but he said that the police wouldn’t be a problem.
I was quite excited, I hadn’t been since my trip in Vietnam since a used a motorbike (and the only time really). I was happy to exchange my pedals with an engine for the morning. The mountain Youteizan could now be seen, we therefore decided to ride around it. Youteizan is a fairly small volcano (1900m) but is quite impressive due to its Fujisan look alike shape.
Nisekobiking around Youteizan.
We went back to Yoshiki’s house, picked my laundry and went shopping. We has planned spent the day cooking, munching and drinking at the campsite, many other campers would join and add their a little something to the table (fish from the river, freshly picked bamboo shoot from the mountain, sake from the shop). I was quite happy not to have any plans but just chill for the day, enjoying everyone’s presence. At around 6pm another cyclist fellow joined the campsite. I soon greeted him and we discussed a bit about our journeys. I proposed him to join the table and he was warmly welcomed by everyone. I was now in charge of doing my first English-Japanese interpreter job.
Dring fish in the sun to make the skin a bit crunchy.
The next day my fellow cyclist Suli decided to join me to climb Youteizan. We woke up and left the campsite at around 7am despite everyone telling us to start climbing at 5am. It was a relatively small mountain so did not think it would be necessarily to leave so early.
View from the campsite.
We cycled from Kutchan to the bottom of the mountain. The path started at around 300m and went all the way through the forest up until the top at 1900m. As usual we were making fun of the absurd Japanese people being overly equipped for such an easy and short expedition. We made the conclusion that not having much time to go on holiday, Japanese people instead buy all the gear when they get into an activity (high mountain gear, huge backpack for a day trip, snow boots, sticks, bells,etc..Like if they were about to climb Mount Everest).
After between 2 and 3 hours walking in the forest we finally reached the top where it started to get interesting, the forest led to a rocky, windy and snowy volcano crater. We slowly made a loop around the crater and found a spot behind some rocks to eat our lunch while overlooking the whole region.
Lunch break on top.
Taking in consideration that it was summer and that the mountain is quite small, we were amazed by the amount of snow remaining in there.From the top of Youteizan we could see our camping ground, both north and south coasts. I could as well see Furoran that I left the day before which was located 120kms away and the lake Toya that was now looking ridiculously small.
While gazing at the distance I was still trying to make up my mind, debating where I should cycle to on the next day. I had to choose between south to Hakodate as I previously planned or head north to Shakotan cape. Both looked amazing from the top of the mountain and I simply could not make a decision.
Lake Toyoka lin the distance looked tiny.
We took our time to go walk back down the mountain, found a small lake to take a bath to get ourselves “clean”. We got back to the campsite where one of the local guys (who didn’t even stay at the campsite) was waiting for us and planned on preparing a meal. My friend Suli went to the Spa while I started cutting some wood and drinking beer with this local funny guy.
Myself “Yosaku” doing what I do best.
He taught me how to use Natasha the Russian machete, Tomahawk the American hatchet and his Japanese saw. I got renamed Yosaku, who is a “famous wood cutter” and soon enough everyone was calling me this name. We then ate different things while drinking and having fun. This guy just like Yoshiki 2 days before couldn’t drive back home and decided to sleep on a bench outside.
Niseko- Shakaton : 95kms
I woke up and decided to head to the Kamui and Shakotan peninsulas. I said goodbye to the campsite, splat up with Suly who was going to Toya Lake. Going around the resort of Niseko, I firstly cycled up and down some hills. I had no pain but I could feel that my legs were a quite tired from the hike of the previous day. I went to the seaside town of Iwanai, the last town from where I could find supermarkets. I also visited a Ramen shop that was held by a friend of one of our fellow campers. I had to try out the Miso ramen (speciality in Hokkaido). I usually don’t go to restaurants alone, in French culture we like to spend time, enjoy meals and chit chat around the table. We otherwise don’t see the point of eating out. I was being lucky, it was a quiet small shop and the owner was really curious about my journey, asking me lots of questions.
Road past Iwanai was at first not really interesting (oh yeah there was 1 nuclear plant) but I finally reached the Kamui peninsula. While climbing up to reach the interesting point I could see 2 foxes in front of me. There were cute and funny, they were running ahead of me, stopping and waiting for me to catch up. Once I caught up they would start running again making sure that I was following them to the top of the hill.
The scenery was magic, really green and huge cliffs, fishing boats and clear water.
Walking along the Kamui peninsula.
I walked along the nice easy trail all the way to the end of the peninsula. Many Japanese where looking at me and complimenting me for being so fast (they possibly overtook me along the road earlier). I took a short break to eat Dango and jumped back on my bicycle.
Soya sauce caramel dango, my favourite.
On the way back to the main road I could see that were lots of curious baby foxes staring at me from a curve, I wanted to stop and take a picture but some cars came and scared them away. I carried on cycling a little bit and decided to pitch my tent on the beach outside of Shakotan.
Nice and quiet camping spot on the beach.
Shakaton – Yoichi : 50kms
In comparison with the previous few weeks, I decided to take my time and cycle less in Hokkaido. Keeping this in mind I decided to only cycle 50kms on this day. I went to Shakotan cape where I could see more of these impressive cliffs, take pictures and walk along some trails. I cycled through Shakotan and went all the way to Yoichi where I was supposed to find a campsite. This place turned out to be simply a patch of grass on the beach.
Shakotan cape, just a few kilomoters after Kamui’s one.
I ate my lunch on the beach while thinking of what to do for the rest of the day. I saved some sweet pastry for latter but a sneaky bird stole it while I was looking away… The highlight of Yoichi is the Museum/Factory of Nikka Whisky. I naturally went there first, As I was parking my bicycle a couple on a tandem pulled over and started talking to me. I realised it was the same couple I met a few weeks before in Shikoku. The guy told me that the staff of the museum would not let me try their whisky if I was cycling. I consequently removed any suspicious looking gear.
Old looking premises, which is not normal in Japan : Nikka
The Brewery was founded in the first part of the 20th century by Masataka Taketsuru who studied the art of crafting different type of liquor in Scotland and France. He finally moved back to Japan with his Scottish wife and decided to create the first Japanese whisky.
There were not so many explanations of us English speakers but who cares… I had the nice surprise of being able to drink 3 different samples for free (coming in fairly copious amount).
3 different “samples” and visit for free, also soft drink on the tap for those who don’t drink.
In order to kill time and get my legs a second life I went to a Spa. The staff was really nice and allowed me to use the upper room to charge my batteries and type my blog. A girl came upstairs and we started to discuss, she was surprised by my trip (once again Japanese people don’t understand the concept of cyclotourism). This girl hurt my feeling a bit for one simple reason she said “I want to go to France but I have friends who went there and they said the food was not good”. How dare they !!
Yoichi – Sapporo : 60kms
Nothing special here, cycled to the Otaru, biggest port in Hokkaido and Japan and famous for its “old buildings” (200years old building is like antique for Japanese people who tend to rebuilt everything new rather than trying to conserve buildings) Szilvia my host in Sapporo contacted me and suggested me to arrive early afternoon (or it’s what I secretly wanted). Knowing that I would go back to Otaru to take the ferry on the next month, I decided to skip it and go all the way to Sapporo.
The ride to Sapporo was really tough for 1 reason : I had a really strong facing wind, I would sometimes almost stop even though I was pushing on my pedals like a slave. I finally arrived Sapporo and randomly met a Family starting their 6 weeks cyclotouring trip in Japan. I wished them good luck and told that we would certainly meet again in a few weeks along the way.
Sapporo television tower.
I went to the university to greet my host Szilvia, Hungarian researcher at the University and crazy about cycling. Szilvia is a really active member on Warmshowers, she was really lively, friendly. She gave me her flat keys, explained how to get there and told me to make myself home. It had been so long since I had the luxury to be indoor, take a shower, cook in a kitchen and simply enjoy lying down on something different than the floor.