Cycling Japan #15 The Japanese Ireland; Nakashibetsu – Nemuro – Kushiro: 3670-4085kms – 415kms

Alongside my pevious post I think the locations covered in this post were my favourite in Hokkaido.Route summary for more details (more or less accurate) available here.

Nakashibestu – Notsuke Cape  : 90kms

I woke up in a horror movie setting:  the thick and freezing fog had not gone away at all. Unfortunately I could not take advantage of the lookout platform to see the valley (it was meant to be a really nice view) I could say that lately I had not been so lucky with the viewpoints.

20170703_175834Nice view isn’t it?

In the way of a king I took my breakfast while being stared at by the plebe. Japanese people tend to forget than being white just means you’re white. They somehow think you are special if you can speak Japanese, use chopsticks, eat Natto or simply do something the same way as they do. But they gave me some food so it was okay.

First I had to go to the town of Nakashibetsu to get myself a new tyre and fix my wheel again. I visited a local bicycle shop rather than a franchised shop. It turned out to be way cheaper and the old mechanic was really nice.

I felt really happy having this “new” back wheel and somehow felt confident cycling around the whole country again! I reached Shibetsu which is meant to be one of the nicest villages of Japan (according to the signs) but did not find it special at all. I had picnic on the beach and decided to go to the Nostuke Cape: a 20kms strip of sand which is meant to disappear soon enough due to the rising sea level.

 

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I had no special reason to go to the Notsuke Cape but it permitted me to get a look at some Russians island 18kms away from the coast. It also looked really cool on the map and therefore decided to go all the way just for the sake of it. It was actually quite interesting to be cycling on a road between ocean and swamps.

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I stopped near the end of the road in a tourist trap disguised as a rest stop. I noticed a path and decided to cycle a bit further to try to have a different point of view when a tractor caught up with me at the end of the path and started shouting that I was not allowed to be using this path which was reserved for the tractor. They did not want me to cycle back to the road or even walk back on the pedestrian path… I asked what I was supposed to do now and could see their embarrassment ( I tried to joke saying that I was stuck there forever if they would not let me go. A customer proposed that I should  pay and load my bicycle into the tractor). This guy was just standing there like not knowing what to do.  The lack of negotiation possible and the fact that they were trying to find someone to speak English to me (even though I was speaking Japanese to them) made me quite upset and I was happy to leave without waiting for them to figure out what to do…Most Japanese people can be really not spontaneous and understanding, it really pisses me off sometimes.

renard.jpgParking lot beggar.

I cycled south along the shore towards a rest stop where I met some interesting travellers and decided to camp there. There was a 76 years old hobo who was walking around japan. At the time I met him it had been almost 1000 days he was on the road, walking about 20kms a day and finding some inspiration on the way to fill his art book. We asked each other lots of questions and had some really interesting conversations (despite my beginner level).

 

Notsuke cape- Nemuro : 105kms

I had some issues sleeping on the previous night certainly due to some pollen allergies: you can sometimes experience some really thick pollen storms in Hokkaido. I thought it was cool up until I felt the effects it had on me. By the time I left at around 7 am, the other travellers had been already gone (my 76 years old fellow had planned to leave for dawn at 4.30am).The road following the shore was really lovely at this time of the day: there were no vehicles, a fresh morning breeze and lots of animals in the marshlands on the other side of the road.

DSCN7188.JPGQuiet seaside road.

A deer staring at me from the road

 

After 15kms or so I saw my old friend on the side of the road pushing his 85kgs trolley. It looked like he was hitch hiking but was actually on the phone. We chatted a bit and took a picture together, we then wished good luck to each other and sayonara.

I cycled really fast enjoying the morning breeze up to the peninsula at the end of that road. The nature was still nice there and looked really different from the rest of japan in a way but the road was getting busier and hotter.

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I eventually reached Nemuro by lunchtime. I felt like I had already cycled enough and decided to kill some time into town. I did not know whether I should go all the way to the Nossapu cape or stay into town for the night. I wanted to free camp but I thought the cape would be really busy in the morning.  After spending the afternoon in Nemuro I decided to cycle a bit further and try to find a nice place to camp but it was not so easy. Most of the land along the sea was owned by farmers and I felt like it would be quite intrusive of me to camp there but finally found port where I could pitch my tent…it was far from perfect but was good enough to get some good sleep.

DSCN7216.JPGLunch break in a park in Nemuro.

 

Nosapu cape– Ochiishi cape –Kirittapu Cape : 120kms

 

I slept well but woke up really early and left by 5.30am. The fishermen did not seem to start their day early there. Once again I was really happy to have left so early for the same reasons as the previous day: quiet road, wildlife and fresh breeze.

I went all the way to Nossapu Cape which is the foremost eastern point of Japan. From there some contested Russian islands could be seen. I personally think that the Nossapu cape is a bit overrated (the capes I went to after were much nicer). The landscape would have been nice if it was not ruined by the human presence.

DSCN7228.JPGFishing boats in Nossapu cape.

After taking a few pictures of the cape I went back and noticed a bicycle I knew next to a rider’s house ( cheap guesthouses for cyclists and bikers). I knocked at the door and Yusuke who I met a few days before came out of the house…After briefly discussing we decided to team up as we were both heading the same way.

DSCN7230.JPGSurprise !

 

After reaching Nemuro I realised that Yusuke was kind of rushing towards the next big city while I had planned on cruising along the scenic roads and enjoy myself. We therefore splat up and I headed for a quieter road along the coast towards Kushiro.  From this point onwards I was really mesmerized by the beauty of the landscape (I had to force myself not to take too many pictures in order to save my camera’s battery).

DSCN7253Lots of windmill farms.

I just mentioned that the Nossapu cape was overrated. l it was now the total opposite : Barely no human presence apart from a few ports, windmills and farms, the vivid green fields and huge cliffs were particularly getting all my attention. The landscape was in my opinion was really similar to French Brittany or perhaps Ireland.

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I went to 落石岬 : Cape Ochiishi (falling ; rock) which was really quite difficult to access due to its dirt road, I fought a bit to climb up there but it was really worth it. I have seen a few bikers giving up and turning back.

DSCN7262.JPGOchiishi cape.

 

I met a grandpa at the cape and we walked all the way to the lighthouse. This guy was really nice and somehow he was a walking pharmacy: he gave me all sort of medicine for all sort of problem I may be suffering in the future (which was greatly appreciated because I used some of them later).

 

I carried west and noticed a person who I passed by the day before in Nemuro. I this time decided to stop and chat with this guy saying in Japanese: “that’s the second time I pass by you so this time I have to stop and chat to you”. One thing that I really loved about Hokkaido is that I kept meeting the same people all over again and that most of the people I talk to are also doing a road trip.
 

 

This guy was on a long walking trip from Wakkanai to Okinawa, or to simplify walking across the whole country. Make sure to bring enough water when you cross these parts of Hokkaido: The next 60kms in Ireland were really empty and hilly, consistently going up and down pretty much all the way. I loved it but got really hungry as I could not even find a bench to have my lunch… I finally ended up stopping just by the road facing a bunch of cows.

DSCN7267.JPGA little bit of rain and you can experience a really misty road.

I finally reached 霧多岬 :Cape Kiritappu (Fog ; lots) and went to and outdoor Spa right on top of  a cliff overlooking the village but I could  not enjoy a nice sunset due to the coming fog (Names in Japan really make sense isn’t it ?) I was really happy of my day and already knew the next day would be great as well…DSCN7285.JPGAnother typical campsite.

 

Kiritappu Cape –  nearby Kushiro : 100kms
The fog had disappeared in the campsite in Kiritappu when I woke up, making me realise how nice the surroundings were. The campsite was facing the sea and many fishing boats were out there (I later realised these were not fishing boats but collection Kombu seaweed). I discussed with a few bikers and one of them offered me a traditional Ainu Bandana.DSCN7289.JPG

The Ainu people are the indigenous people living in Hokkaido. with different customs, religionlanguage and even different looking. The Ainu are now blended into the Japanese population and therefore are hard to find.

DSCN7290.JPGAround the campsite in Kiritappu

I stayed in the campsite a bit late speaking with bikers and watching Filipinos swallow birds showing off (these birds are really something). I then left Kirritappu enjoying the clear weather and followed the coast. The road was similar to the one of the previous day, quite steep and physically demanding but enjoyable nevertheless. I stopped at some minor touristic spots which were really nice: a cape and loads of Iris fields

I passed the next town where I stopped for lunch and had to make concerning which road to take to get to Kushiro. I decided to go the hard way again in order to avoid the stream of cars and be able to enjoy more dramatic scenery. The road was constantly going uphill in the fashion of staircases. I eventually reached a campsite on top of a cliff. This campsite was really lovely.  I decided to pitch my tent facing the sea so I could be the first to enjoy a nice sunrise in the morning.

DSCN7332.JPGGood spot !

I spent the evening with 2 Japanese guys: Yoichi and Toshi (who I met again a few days later). Yoichi had been shopping and wanted to share dinner with us (I felt a bit bad because I did not really have much food to share but Yoichi was happy to provide).   After dinner I spent probably 1 hour staring at the sky enjoying a full moon and a sky without light pollution.

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