We left bright and early this morning, not long after six o’clock and were able to beat the traffic out of Sapporo. We cycled through town and then got on to a walking and cycling path to Kitahiroshima, which appears to have been built on what used to be a train or tram line. The first part of the path was crammed full of pensioners out getting their early morning constitutionals but as we got out of the suburbs, we had the road more to ourselves.
From Kitahiroshima, we were back on the road but were soon on a relatively quiet road which took us through Naganuma, famous for its Jingusukan. It was a little early for barbecuing lamb but we did manage to ride past a parade of yellow flags at what appeared to be this year’s photo shoot for the Speed Down campaign.
While planning today’s route, we had been uncertain about how far we would get and therefore where we could camp. We had decided to make a decision when we got to Yubari, about 60km into the trip. As it turned out, we got there by half-past nine. Yubari is famous throughout Japan for its melons and after we had visited the local convenience store to stock up, we wandered to the shop across the road, where a little old lady showed us her melons. “I’m 82 years old,” she said, “and people drive up here to take my photo”. She sold us some cut melon and I must say, it was particularly nice and sweet.
Despite the taste of melon still in our mouths, our next problem was food. After Yubari, we couldn’t be sure we could get food anywhere, including at our campsite for the night so we stocked up on onigiri and bread to have for dinner and breakfast, and found a restaurant which was open for our very early lunch at 10.30. I had tempura on a bed of rice and Kazuko had soba and rice. It was so tasty, it didn’t feel like force-feeding at all.
Once brunch was out of the way, we cycled along a particularly scenic road, which followed a river through the mountains. It was a long but very gentle climb followed by a swift descent. We had initially wanted to stay at a free, simple campsite near a lake but when we arrived, there was a sign saying the toilets and running water weren’t working because of a particularly heavy snowfall. Luckily there was another campsite further up the road, which also turned out to be free. It’s a quite corner of a place called Familyland, which seems to be some sort of day park for kids. There are a couple of dinosaurs, go karts, a shallow wading pool and theme music from Japanese anime played loudly over the Tannoy system. Thankfully only until 5pm. There is also an onsen up the road, where Kazuko and I washed off the road dirt from the 110-odd kilometres we rode today and relaxed in the refreshing, warm water.
The Trucker is riding well despite being so loaded that I can’t pick it up. The only problem is Kazuko’s cycling has improved so much in the last year that I think I may now be the slow one. We’ll have to find a way for her to carry some luggage next year. Tomorrow is scenic Furano, where we’ll be camping half-way up a mountain and in the vicinity of several more onsen. If nothing else, by this time tomorrow, we should be very clean.