Mountains, snow (on the ground), rain, cold. No bears yet.

Oh, it feels good to be warm and dry again. We haven’t been for several hours now.

We woke up bright and early but managed to take our time drinking coffee and didn’t leave the house until 9am. The forecast was for rain but it didn’t look too bad as we left so we hoped we might only have a bit of drizzle along the way.

Leaving home in cheerful anticipation.

I’ve never had the Trucker as fully loaded as this before – front and rear panniers all full. I can barely lift the bike and the frame wobbles a bit while she gets up to speed. We took a while getting out of town, stopping for plenty of traffic lights and to put more clothes on as the weather cooled and the rain increased. As we rode along the river, my rear brakes seemed to be rubbing so I fiddled with them a bit and the noise stopped but later it came back occasionally. I finally took a closer look and discovered one of my spokes had broken. Luckily, the Trucker comes with a special spoke holder and a couple of spares but unluckily it was impossible to get the spare spoke in without removing the rear cassette and I hadn’t brought the tools for that. However, luckily again, Damian had brought with him a handy kevlar piece of string which can be used to keep the rim in shape until we pass a bike shop that can take the rear cassette off for us.

New spoke. I imagine we'd've been in some strife without that kevlar. Cheers Damian.

We were setting a pretty leisurely pace and we hadn’t even got to the mountains yet. When we finally started climbing, two things happened: Kazuko danced away like a gazelle and Damian eased up gracefully like a more slow-moving but graceful animal *please offer metaphor suggestions in the comments section*. Kazuko was, of course, quite unencumbered with luggage as this shot of her and her bicycle clearly shows:

Doesn't she look graceful in her wet weather gear?

I was, of course, spluttering uphill like the little train that almost could, wondering how much weight I was carrying. I’m pleased to report I didn’t have to put the Trucker in the granny ring, though. As we climbed, we made a habit of stopping and waiting for Damian to catchup to make sure he was okay, and he made a habit of telling us to carry on and that there was no need to wait all the time for him.

Kazuko looking cool while waiting.

And even cooler offering me a bite of her onigiri.

Eventually we had quite a long climb and started passing more and more unmelted snow.

The mist starts to settle in.

In addition to the mist, the rain had picked up and my eye started stinging rather a lot. It turns out a couple of years worth of sun cream was imbedded in my helmet’s foam patch and the rain was making it leak into my eye. It took nearly a full bottle of water to rinse most of it out. We got near enough to the top of the climb to stop and wait for Damian and watch the rain fall from under some shelter.

Looks wet out.

Kazuko reorganised her hair.

And I squeezed the water out of my gloves.

We waited long enough that I started to worry about Damian and I started to wander back down the road looking hopefully for him making his way up the hill and, with his colourful waterproof cover for his front bag, looking for all the world like a man pushing a yellow wheelbarrow up a hill. He finally arrived, pushing his Brompton, having run out of both gears and water.

The mountains slowed us down quite a lot and we had become quite cold descending into Lake Shikotsu so we took shelter from the rain and had some nice warm noodles to warm us up. We didn’t want to leave and ride in the pouring rain but we still had 30km to Tomakomai and our progress had been so slow that I feared this may even take us as long as three hours and I was worried about riding in the dark. As it turned out, it was downhill for pretty much all of the way and, after a small pause to get lost in town, we arrived wet but happy at our little business hotel where we weren’t greeted with horror at our state but instead given a room and a nice, warm bath by the friendly owners.

It’s now time for some quality sleep so I’ll leave you with some pictures I took in the mountains today.

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