"You have very strange criteria for judging cities”, Remy remarks
We just disembarked from the ferry and in less than a kilometer through Himeji I say “Oh, I already like Himeji, I’ve spotted a hundred places to pitch our tent on!!”. Well, I did exaggerate a bit, but I saw numerous small parks and playgrounds. I loved it!
And how Himeji really was like?
Well, a big city isn’t pretty by definition to put it bluntly. Still we don’t mind to cycle through it once in a while in Japan, because there are plenty of distractions; and every town or city holds a gem somewhere. Or multiple. In Himeji it’s the famous Himeji castle. It’s one of the oldest original buildings from the feudal period. The castle is registered on the list of world heritage and is also known as the “white heron castle” because of the white outer walls.
And finding a place to sleep in bicycle friendly Himeji wasn’t that hard either. See picture. This where we pitched our tent when it got dark. Here you see Remy, rearranging his bags and I’m writing this blog. There is a toilet and just around the corner the is a 7-Eleven where we’ll get our coffee from.
This is one of the reasons we like Japan so much for a bicycle trip: you can almost literally pitch your tent anywhere. At the coast, the side of the road, in the middle of the city.... as long as it’s public space.
Back to Shikoku.
The day after the storm we jumped on our bicycles again. It was wonderful weather, not too hot and apart from some tree branches on the road, we saw no trace of Hagibis.
We cycled a different route than we the one we had planned. Hagibis more or less forced us to go inland because we didn’t want to cycle and camp along the coast. Imagine we would be hit by a tsunami. A small chance, but still....
And how wonderful it was!! The route went through the mountains and even though it was tough, it was doable and beautiful. We cycled along gorges, through valleys, along raging rivers, through forests and the highest highlight was the top of mount Tsuguri. The first 1500 meters we cycled up, and the last couple of hundred meters were by ski lift and foot.
Other highlights were the Oboke canyon, the Iya Valley (we saw Manneken Pis from Brussels who’s apparently on holiday in Japan as well), the “Scarecrow Village” Nagoro, where there are more scarecrows than people living there (1 in 20 is human), the wonderful vine bridges over the Iyakawa river...
We had absolutely no regrets over our changing our route. On the map you can see our cycled route in yellow.
Northeast of Shikoku there are three small islands. The first we wanted to skip because of time constraints, the second was only reachable via the third island, so we decided to stay on the third island, Shodoshima.
On this island we encountered our toughest one and a half hour we had so far: we cycled over a road with an inclination of eighteen percent over a distance of three point five kilometers. That’s steep. Very steep. Even Remy said near the end “Pff”. That’s how steep it was.
I said a bit more. Sigh, huff, moan, puff...
Reeem, I can’t anymore
Reeem, I’m dying!
Reeem, I’m falling!!
“Maybe you shouldn’t talk so much, saves energy for cycling”.
Once I’ve stopped, I can’t get back on the saddle again to continue cycling. The only thing that gets me going is a push from Remy. Literally. After I was forced to step down by exhaustion, or better said making a choice between stepping down or fall down, Remy held my bicycle firmly to allow me to step up and gave me a big push so I could cycle uphill again. This was of course another highlight (for Remy) in our marriage (and for me.... right).
You’re wondering of course why we’re doing this for “fun”. Well, to be honest I was wondering about that myself at that moment. But... to suffer is only temporary and in this case the suffering took one and a half hours. But the reward that’s after that is what we’re doing it for. In this case a splendid view over the island and ditto descent. By the way we had a lot of distractions while we were suffering: the road was wonderful, but what was even better: we saw monkeys! In the wild no less. Not for the first time in Japan mind you.
Cycling and camping along the Iya-gawa River:
Nagoro, ‘’scarecrow village’’:
Oku-Iya Niju Kazura Bashi (Double Vine Bridges), Yaen: