Route plan (more or less accurate) available here.
Kitami – Saroma Lake : 80kms
I often do the extra mile in order to reach a campsite, it is usually a good idea but it is sometimes not worth it. Being alone in a campsite with no electricity is not any better than being along the river in the city. Especially if you have to pay with sweat and blood to get there (okay I camped near a theme park than can be a good excuse).crossing one bridge to Kitami.
As usual my best friend Google maps suggested me to start by going to Saroma Lake and then zig-zag around the country side to check out other lakes.I knew there were not many towns and as usual I bought way too much food but this time I really went too far. I could feel that I was really heavy. I wanted to avoid the main roads and decided to cut through smaller roads.
Typical straight road of Hokkaido.
At some point I ended up going up a hill and realised it was leading into something looking like a quarry. There were big signs 立入禁止 “no trespassing” I played dumb (pretend that I cannot read Japanese) and went in anyway. I was already exhausted and sweating way too much to go back from where I came and climb again to the main road. All I had to do was crossing that field to catch a road behind.
I carefully sneaked in but some workers saw me anyway and started shouting. I sprinted thinking that the road was just behind and I could reach it before they could get me. I hit a dead end and an employee rapidly caught up and stopped me… I thought I was in trouble but I simply explained the situation and apologized. By miracle this guy took me to this shortcut I was after and wished me good luck.
I carried on and saw a sign for “Mint Tree Park” due to the heat I decided that I should stop in the shade for a bit. I approached something that was looking like a fountain and asked a guy sitting there if I could drink that water. This was mineral water and incredibly cold. I ended up staying there for an hour discussing with the guy while abusing fresh water. This old man happened to be from the Japanese Alps (down south), he was doing his little fishing tour of Hokkaido for the summer. He gave me some sweets and his address/phone number if I ever needed a host in Matsumoto.
Nice spot to relax and freshen up.
I followed some really nice countryside roads It was so hot but cycling felt different on that day. It was like I was simply on a day trip. I reached the campsite on Saroma Lake at around lunch time. There were lots of birds to see here and the campsite was really nice.
Swamps are ideal to watch birds.
This free campsite was of a high standard : there were maps and information about the region. It was also possible to charge electric appliances, clean toilets and even a shower. I pitched my tent and decided to have lunch here on the beach. I could now enjoy exploring the surroundings without having to carry anything.
Making myself comfortable.
I went to the rest stop near the lookout to play with internet and upload my previous blog but I definitely spent too much time there. My plan was to go up the small mountain to admire the sunset. There were about 8kms of dirt road to reach the top and it was already 6.30pm when I left the rest stop/ I must admit that was a bit unsettled about whether or not I should make the effort( make the maths : early night ; dirt road and active wildlife) but decided to go nevertheless. Fortunately I only met Bambi.
I reached the top in no time (I was actually really proud of myself here), walked up a few stairs to reach the lookout and realised it would have been possible to sleep inside the lookout and being able to enjoy both sunset and sunrise. I took a few shots in a hurry and safely went down the dirt road before dusk.
No one else bothered going up the lookout for the sunset. lonely but intense moment.
Saroma Notoro and Abashiri Lakes: 75 kms
There are some days when you don’t feel like doing much : it was one of these days. I was asking myself lots of questions concerning what to do after Japan and therefore felt a bit anxious.
I stayed up late on the previous night, the campsite was really busy and I enjoyed the company of many people… at 9.30am I was the last person to leave the campsite, I knew anyway it would be an easy day so I allowed myself to leave late
I followed cycling paths all the way to Abashiri : they were good but flat and boring in my opinion. I reached Abashiri fairly early but once again I did not bother too much being a tourist and did not want to cycle any further either.
Abashiri – Bihoro – Kussharo Lake :85kms
I had a chat with another cyclist at the campsite in Abashiri before leaving. Unfortunately he was going the other way (I started meeting lots of cyclists past this point but they always were heading a different way). He told me that Kussharo was misty. I cycled to Bihoro where I did my shopping and relaxed a bit before climbing the 30kms to the Bihoro Pass overlooking the lake. A few minutes after leaving Bihoro the fog and rain decided to join me: making the whole thing not so enjoyable. I also noticed that one of my back wheel spokes was broken… lovely.
The climb was gentle but the rain and the fog made it seem endless. I eventually reached a rest stop with an observation platform that actually had no interested because we could not see 20 meters ahead. I decided to go down to the lake and soon realised that the clouds were only covering the top of the mountain. I could now catch a sight of the Lake Kussharo while rapidly cruising downhill. It was really enjoyable in comparison with the ascension but I had to check my speed due to the wet floor. That would have been silly to end up as a pancake when you finally start to enjoy your day.
Wakoto peninsula in Kussharo Lake.
Kussharo Lake was really nice. There are Tons of Onsens and a few campsites to choose from. I personally slept in Sunayu camping ground but I would recommend to stay in Wakoto near the small peninsula that you can explore and of course spend hours in the outdoor spa for free.
As I just mentioned I slept in Sunayu, I was not too impressed with the campsite. It was located by the road and I was expecting some spas there as well.. in theory there were but one has to dig a hole on the beach to be able to bath… it can be interesting but I arrived late and I could not be bothered digging a hole with my bare hands.Go on dig a hole !
Lake Kussharo – Lake Mashu – Nakashibetsu Area : 95kms
I woke up early and left without taking breakfast, I wanted to go to the next Onsen on my map but I realised it was not an outdoor one and therefore was still closed at 7am… I was a bit upset that I did not have the occasion to really take a bath around Lake Kussharo, especially because I hadn’t been in an Onsen for 3 days (so no shower) and there were so many outdoor Onsen on my map. I finished my loop around the lake and went to Kawayu 8kms further my camping location. 川湯 Kawayu means : river ; hot water. It therefore implies lot of foot spa.
Lovely hot river and spa in Kawayu.
I had eyes on the Lake Mashu which was inside another volcano and not too far from Lake kussharo. A few kms after Kawayu smoke could be seen from the road. There was another volcano on the side and it was possible to get close to the smoke (if you can bare the egg fragrance).
Always happy to find spot you did not know of. and without the herd of tourists.
There were many “chimneys” making the place a bit noisy from all the smoke coming out but it was overall a good surprise, there were a few picnic tables for me to take my breakfast before climbing to the next mountain.
I then carried on to the lake Mashu. I steadily climbed up the 15km up until the cape where I could NOT see the lake. I moved on to another lookout where my super cyclist power allowed me to park for free (it was already the second time on that morning).
With or without clouds Lake Mashu will impress you.
After taking lots of pictures and enjoying the scenery I rapidly went down to Teshikaga where I stopped at the rest stop and enjoyed more foot spa and went for a picnic in a nearby park.Most people pay attention tot the lake but not to what’s on the other side.
While I was standing in front of a supermarket eating ice cream a heavy loaded skinny cyclist parked next to me and started talking to me. (My decisions to go for ice cream often led to meeting another fellow cyclist) Yusuke 21yold Japanese guy was on a 1 year cycling trip around japan (I met Yusuke another 2 times in the future). Yusuke was going to Mashu lake but mentioned that he may go towards east just like me in a near future.
The whole way to Nakashibetsu was pretty much straight and flat. I stopped at this free Onsen hidden behind a river in the middle of nowhere. I was about to get in the changing room when I noticed a freaking snake crawling inside it… I was a bit sceptical about going in there but I after realised there were lots of snake skin around and made the conclusion that it was his house. This snake wouldn’t bother sharing the premises with me.Wild and rustic onsen in the countryside.
The campsite was located on top of a hill near an observatory another 25km further. The bath was really good but made my legs numb… making these extra 25kms seemed really long. I finally reached the campsite where a freezing fog was awaiting.
Cows cows cows.