Apologies for last night’s abortive posting. I started writing my post, then decided to put my glasses in my shoe, dropped them, scratched about on the ground to pick them up and somehow pressed send. I tried to cancel it but didn’t know what happened because I lost my signal. And I realised I was pretty tired so I just went to sleep instead. In case you’re interested, here’s the paragraph:

First things first – tonight I’m sleeping on a bench at a camp site. My map had two camp grounds marked on it but both of them turned out to be closed. It was too dark to go anywhere else, so now I’m on a bench in a little barbecue hut and at least I’ll be dry if it rains.

As it turns out, I had a pretty good night’s sleep. When I went to sleep, the only sound I could hear was the rapids of the river next to where I’m camped and then it started raining at about 3am. I am dry in my sheltered hut and I don’t have to put away a wet tent in the rain.

It’s still quite a contrast to waking up in a heated room yesterday morning, but it seemed to be a day of contrasts. I left town at a leisurely pace, stocked up on bread and onigiri and headed back out to temple 15. I started a bit of a trend that I continued through the day of getting close to each temple, then taking a wrong turn somewhere – only mildly frustrating. I managed to get to seven temples in the day. The first three were close together, then I had a bit of a ride to the next two and finally, another long ride to temple 20, which was capped by my steepest climb yet. It was only about 5km but with some long section of very high gradients. When it’s above 20 per cent for much, you’re really just fighting gravity. I had to stop and rest twice. I think I’ve found the limits of the Trucker’s gearing. But it was all worth it for the temple at the top – a beautiful, peaceful place with old buildings and decorations overgrown with moss. After staying there a while, I headed down the mountain. I had some time until temple closing time, but temple 21 is also on top of a mountain and I wouldn’t have time to cycle up it, so I started riding in a different direction to find somewhere to sleep. Along the way, I kept seeing signs for a ropeway and didn’t think much of it but when I got to its base, I realised that it would take me to temple 21 and I had time to catch the last one there and back. This was inspired cheating – the ropeway was a wonderfully scenic ride, up to the top of one mountain, over a forested valley to the next mountain top and then down a little to temple 21. And best of all, I now don’t have to climb that mountain in the pouring rain today.

The contrasts and events of the day: temple 20 – small, run-down and overgrown, temple 21 – much easier to get to (thanks ropeway) wide walkways, electric lights and looked like it had been built yesterday. Temple 18 – rustic with friendly ladies in the office who were very interested in my cycling and wished me all the best. Temple 19 – the most commercial looking one yet and the monks in the office looked like it was a particulary boring day job for them. Many of the couples I met during the day were an excitable, talkative woman and a dour or shy man. And people who looked at me suspiciously the first time they saw me grew more enthusiastic when we met again during the day, especially the woman and her husband who I had seen at the first temple of the day and kept seeing at most temples. They passed me while I was resting on the way up to temple 20 and called out encouragement, then waved madly when we passed each other by at the top of the ropeway at temple 21. On top of temple 20 – an animated conversation with an enthusiastic man who I couldn’t understand at all, an old lady loudly telling all around about the foreigner on the bicycle. The lady who gave me a large biscuit for my endeavours and the walker who arrived at the top soaked in sweat but stopped to be impressed that I had cycled.

Looks like I’m going to be stuck in rain all day today so I’ll put my wet weather gear on and trundle along at a steady pace and look forward to Thursday when the rain is meant to stop.

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