We slept on the wooden floor last night, sheltered from the cold wind swirling around the exposed hilltop outside. It would have been quite chilly camping.
The sun is already streaming through the windows, brightening the cabin with a golden hue. The light is beaming on my face, making it impossible to continue sleeping. It’s 5am.
It’s a slow, lazy breakfast this morning. I’m keen to reach Wakkanai today, and then take the ferry to Rebun or Rishiri island first thing tomorrow morning. I figure I can do 129km and maybe reach Wakkanai before sunset, since it’s riding on a coastal road which, logically, should be flat all the way; headwinds not withstanding. It’s also the last segment; so no more serious mileage after today.
We set out at 8.30am; a bit late by my reckoning but we were taking our time, enjoying the cabin and the atmosphere of Lavender hill. The morning view of the land below is stunning.
The rest of the day’s ride can be synopsized into one word – ‘uninteresting’, with the exception of my first live sighting of a Hokkaido fox, when we rode around a bend and suddenly came upon one in the middle of the road.
I have miscalculated the distance to Wakkanai. It’s 150km, not 120km. Arnaud and Alexandra decide that they will take it easy and camp at Sarufutsu and push on to Wakkanai tomorrow instead. Their decision is made simpler by the fact their rear wheel has 4 broken spokes, which they hadn’t realised until I commented on the way the wheel is wobbling unnaturally. The nearest bikeshop is in Wakkanai so they have no choice. They have to nurse it all the way there.
I’m undecided. If I push it, I should be able to barely make Wakkanai after sundown. But I’m not sure, and I’m not too keen on locating campsites in the dark.
We reach Sarufutsu just after 5pm and I decide to pack it in for the day. That way, I’ll be able to take my time when I reach Cape Soya, and the rest of the ride to Wakkanai, 60km from Sarufutsu.
Sarufutsu is a fishing village, but oddly there’s a sort of a park (the first tree-less one I’ve seen) with a hotel, and an open field with an amphitheatre.
We ride in to the park building and find out that the campsite is anywhere on the open field behind the amphitheatre. We also find out that there’s an onsen in the hotel but … only for hotel guests; lowly campers excluded. Bummer…
We’re hungry so we head for the hotel’s restaurant, but it’s closed until 7pm.
We decide to visit a Seicomart nearby and stock up on water and some food. They’re open by 6am so we decide we’ll come here for breakfast instead of at camp. We trying to make the 2pm ferry to Rebun but before that Arnaud needs to get the tandem fixed, so it has be an early start tomorrow.
We go back and set up camp and wait for the restaurant to open. Meanwhile, we’re craving for a proper scrub in the shower and a long soak in the hotspring tub. So we decide to go anyway… quietly, and hope for the best.
Nobody in the onsen pay us any notice. We luxuriate in the bath for a full hour. I suppose it was a bit of a naughty thing to do but we’ve only got a few days left in Japan, and nothing can compare to the sheer pleasure of a pre-dinner onsen outing; more so if dinner is fresh scallops lightly sauteed, accompanied by rice, miso and salad, and a glass of chilled, foamy Asahi draught beer. The luxurious taste of food and drink is amplified many times the way I’m feeling after the onsen – all stress, weariness, the day’s grime, gook and gunk has been washed away. I could easily get used to the onsen habit.
The dew is heavy in the air. Must be the sea nearby. The tent is drenched, and the air is chilly but inside, I’m snug and dry.
Tomorrow, Wakkanai will mark the end of the long ride from Hakodate in the south. Tomorrow, we go island hopping.
Distance today: 91km
Distance to date: 726km