Cycling Japan #13 Crossing Hokkaido; Sapporo – Ishikawa –Kitami: 2965-3335kms – 370kms

Stay in Sapporo:

As mentioned in my previous post : I had been invited by Szilvia from Warmshower to stay at her place in Sapporo. I had not been in a city for quite some time and I was quite excited to change my routine for a little bit. Sapporo is the 5th biggest city in Japan with about 2 million inhabitants and makes up almost half the population of the whole Island of Hokkaido (go check the map and you get a pretty neat idea about the Density of Hokkaido).

As I arrived on a Wednesday, Szilvia was able to be free from about 5pm and around lunchtimes, leaving us some time to share together. I had to admit that I did not do much on the first 2 days: the weather was not exactly enjoyable and I was simply enjoying being an indoor cat.

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On Friday I finally could go out a bit and explore the city. Despite being a big city Sapporo has a special atmosphere it is fairly quiet, the people seem much warmer than in other regions.  Hokkaido being really cold 6 months of the year, the brighter days come with lots of events and festivals to enjoy, making Sapporo really lively in summer.

DSCN6677.JPGCarpet flower Festival.

Szilvia managed to get free quite early and joined me for some fun into town: we went into a few parks and up a hill overlooking the city so we could enjoy a few drinks while watching the stars rising over the city.   We ended up going into a bar ran by an American expat where we could drink real beers (more than 300 beers available) and finally went back home for sunrise.

View fVirew20170623_181217.jpgView from Asahiyama park.

We had planned on going on a cycling trip together during the weekend but unfortunately the weather wouldn’t let us have fun (It was probably really fortunate for my legs that needed more rest). There were still more things to be done in Sapporo anyway.

20170624_165111.jpgPlaying in Moerenuma Park.

 

Sapporo-Iwamizawa :60kms:

It felt like I had been in Sapporo for a long time, I could have stayed forever with Szilvia but I had to keep I mind what was the original purpose of my trip to Japan… to cycle !!. I met Szilvia for a last lunch together and left at 2pm.  I was aiming towards Asahigawa. I had noticed a nice river was running for 100kms toward where I was heading.

20170624_204954.jpgSoup Curry, speciality of Hokkaido.
I left Sapporo with nice conditions. I followed rivers and cycling paths up until the countryside. As I reached the 2nd and main river I was supposed to follow, the weather was not supporting me anymore and soon enough I had a really strong wind facing me, the clouds turned grey and the wind was freezing.20170626_151205.jpgPast Sapporo that’s the main thing you’re gonna see : Farms.

There were another 50kms to go to reach my first checkpoint and it was already fairly late. I decided to play it wise as there was no need to cycle anymore if the valley if I was not enjoying it. There was nothing that special about that river anyway so I got back to my original thought which was to go to Asahikawa through the mountains. The gateway to get into those mountains was a few kms from my actual location and there was a campsite right there, how convenient  :)!

DSCN6731.JPGCute little park and campsite.

 

Iwamizawa- Ashibetsu – Asahikawa : 120kms
As usual, I packed and left early. It had been almost 1 week since the last time I had camped but I was happy to sleep on the floor nevertheless. My new plan was the following: cycle north in the mountains past Ashibetsu and then go down east to Asahikawa. I knew it would be longer and slightly more difficult than my original plan along the river but also more interesting and rewarding. DSCN6750.JPGSmall river in the mountains.

From where I was the logic route would have been to go east straight to Furano . Furano is famous for its lavenda fields and has lots of nice things to see, but I wanted to wait another 2 or 3 weeks to go there and enjoy the lavenda festival.DSCN6767.JPG
The first part of my trip to Asahikawa was nice but fairly boring. Thankfully for my legs the hills were not so steep, so far they had not shown any sign of weakness.  At around lunchtime I reached Ashibestsu :A small town in the valley between 2 mountains, there was also a river running all the way to Furano. I mostly rely on my instinct (and judging by the shapes I see on google maps) to decide which way to go. I got really lucky by picking this town as a checkpoint, there was in my opinion a major thing to see in the region.

DSCN6770.JPGAshibetsuDSCN6782.JPG

20kms from Asahikawa the traffic started to get busy but luckily there was now a cycling path next to the river to follow all the way to town. I went shopping in one of the best supermarket  franchise I had found so far and went to a nice sauna/spa…

 

Asahikawa –Ishihoku Pass – Kitami : 190 kms

 

I enjoyed a bit too much the spa on the previous day, which made me arrive really late at the campsite (midnight) I consequently did not realise where I was. There were a few foxes around so I quickly set my tent to avoid getting infected (foxes carry a parasite that is really dangerous).

I Woke up and explored the surroundings of the campsite, it was located in a nice park where shrines, waterfall,etc… I then explored a bit Asahikawa while deciding whether I should go to Furano  or go through the mountain of Daisetsuzan to make my way east (I was really unsure if I could rely on my legs and Furano was definitely easier).

20170628_105222.jpgThere are lots of similar street art in Asahikawa.

I noticed a cycling path along one of the rivers running east, I decided to follow it and save Furano for later.  I knew that the choice I just had made would be the difficult one: There was basically neither camp site nor much civilization for the next 140kms to come.

20170628_131954.jpg40kms of cycling path toward the mountains (can see golfers here).

At the end of the 40kms long cycling path I could now see the Daisetsuzan (Mont Daisetsu). Seeing some snow again made me happy to have decided to go the hard way. There were a few touristic things to see but decided not to stop (I stopped just for picnic and already so many Chinese tourists were swarming around).  I was cycling in between cliffs on both sides and along a river.

DSCN6836.JPGDaisetsuzan covered in snow, the biggest mountain in Hokkaido (from what I’ve heard).
DSCN6848It is pretty much like being in a canyon.
I did not need all those overrated touristic things to enjoy being where I was.I stopped again near a waterfall, this time I could not avoid the herd of tourists but I wanted to take pictures anyway.DSCN6860no comment.

I then reached Taisetsu Lake where I had to make another choice concerning my next destination (tough life). I thought that it would be more logic to carry through the mountains to go east to Kitami and do a loop south to go back to Sapporo.

DSCN6877.JPGooyuki lake (heavy snow) and its barrage.

There were not much good opportunities for camping location so I decided to stop relatively early to avoid some bad surprises. I threw my tent behind some high grass on top of the mountain (Ishihoku Pass 1050m), being a mountain road I knew it would not be so busy at night… all I was scared about was the wildlife…

I left at 7am, the temperature was about 10C. I was happy about the fact that I was camping on the pass so I wouldn’t have to climb any further. Despite being really cold it was quite enjoyable to wake up while enjoying 15kms of downhill scenic road. In contrast.

DSCN6884.JPGPassing the sekihoku cape (northern rock).

the next 65 kms to Kitami were dead boring, flat and straight. I stopped at a rest stop to check a map of the region and get some ideas about where to go next. I reached Kitami fairly early and stopped by a river to have lunch and take a rest. It was quite early to stop cycling but I felt like I had done enough for the day, I still had more than 2 weeks remaining and I had decided to save the north of Hokkaido for my next trip in Japan, allowing me to take it easy, cycle less and enjoy more the region.

20170629_102924.jpgFunny translations.

I had to change my habits and trying to go to the spa every 2 days at least. Spas/sauna can be really good for my muscles and I had now to take care of myself (no one mentioned it is good to kill time when you are somewhere there is nothing special to do). Before going to a campsite out of town I went to a supermarket to treat myself with an ice cream. While approaching the mall I noticed 2 bicycles, they were really hippie looking compared to mine. I walked around the mall thinking that I may find these 2 aliens without success. I instead had a short conversation with a 4 years old girl who was trying to steal my ice cream.

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