Stunning mountain climb today. 16km of climbing and I was enjoying the chance to go slowly and take in the views properly. The descent on the other side wasn’t half bad either. We climbed on the side with better views and a windy road and descended on a fairly straight and new road. Apart from having to stop for a deer in the middle of the road, I didn’t touch the brakes all the way down.

To Damian’s delight, we had a nice, relaxed start to the day as the mountain road wasn’t going to be open any earlier than 10am. It’s still pretty icy and cold up there at night, so it gets closed to traffic quite often. As we left today, the sign said it would be open from 10am to 3:30pm.

To give us energy for the big climb ahead and to follow up on yesterday’s seafood bonanza, we returned to the restaurant where we had had lunch for their set breakfast. I’ve had the best seafood of my life in Rausu. Last night we ended up at a sushi place. We were actually looking for something cheap and cheerful, considering we had splashed out for lunch but by the time we had started thinking the sushi place was more expensive than we wanted, they had already laid our places and served us hot tea and between the three of us, we couldn’t think up a good excuse for just getting up and leaving. This turned out to be a very good thing. We all had different meals, all involving a mixture of fresh seafood and when we thought about it later, we averaged about 2000 yen each for our food. Not really that expensive after all.

After breakfast (which involved fish eggs and soup with a fish head in it), we learnt that the road was open and headed off up the mountain. I spent most of the ride saying wow and I think Kazuko did too. I was a little worried about how Damian would get on over such a long climb but when we met up with him again later in the day, he was still excited about how beautiful the scenery was.

Near the bottom of the descent, Kazuko and I turned right to go to the famous Shiretoko five lakes. First we stopped in at the visitors centre and had a cup of coffee and I had a venison burger. I spent the ride out to the five lakes delighting in the presence of so many deer along the side of the road. I hope none of them could smell my breath or they may have been wondering why that passing cyclist smelled of uncle Rudolph.

In addition to deer, we saw a couple of northern foxes on our ride out but no bears, which is probably a good thing. To see all five lakes, you need a guide with magic anti-bear powers and it costs 5000 yen or about as much as I’ve spent on seafood in the last couple of days. So instead we walked along a recently-built boardwalk which meandered its way to the first of the lakes and that was about as far as we wanted to walk anyway.

We rode back to town and met Damian at a konbini before heading to our accommodation for the night. It’s surprisingly cheap and brand new – it was finished just three days ago.

And now I leave you with today’s photos. Note I have touched up many of the cycling photos to make them look even more Epic. This is mainly for Chong’s benefit.

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