My aim today was simply to enjoy myself. The last couple of days had sucked at my enthusiasm, and my appreciation for Japan.
It started well. Sun was pouring in the the living room of Yuhei’s apartment when I woke up. His bird, Google, flew around the room a little and seemed excited too.
I was glad I’d decided to take the 11.00 ferry, and not the 8.30 which would have meant getting up at about 5.30. I took it slowly. Yuhei and his girlfriend watched as I went through the performance of packing my stuff on to my bike, and I cycled off to the ferry port a little after 8.
The sky was blue, the mountains crisp and green and the fields which were a big muddy puddle yesterday now shined like polished mirrors in the sun. On the way I stopped at a bike shop to finally replace my broken pedals. 2,500 yen. Over half my budget for the day but it needed to be done and I couldn’t be bothered to shop around or other think it. They were pedals and they seemed robust. The old guy who ran the shop was friendly and helpful and inflated my tires too.
I made it to the ferry port by 10. It was a small and sad place. I bought my ticket and had a 600 yen bowl of beef and rice in their cafe. I was allowed to board the ferry first, before the cars, and cycled the length of the boat inside to tuck it in by the door at the end.
Upstairs the ferry was similar to those in Korea. Same colour. The same open floors to lounge or nap on, slot machines and vending machines. I spent my time in one of a series of booths with plugs and internet access trying to sort out some photos from the past week.
The two hour crossing went quickly, we docked, and I cycled immediately out on to the road, looking for the route 24 towards Nara. I’d decided that morning, although I didn’t entirely know what I was doing, that i’d go inland following a river up to Nara, then on to Kyoto, rather than the simpler, but probably uglier route via Osaka up the coast.
I didn’t get a good look at Wakayama, but it seemed about ten degrees hotter on this side of the sea and the suncream I put on my face sweated off and stung my eyes.
I pulled into a 7-11 and tried, again, to rearrange my stuff. No matter what configuration I try, or how much I get rid off, it always feels like I have too many things, and not enough space to hide it or store it neatly.
Stuff rearranged, doughnut eaten and coffee drank, I headed on. The road was narrow, trucks flew by, the same story as the past few days. Thankfully the traffic began to thin out. I crossed the Yoshiko river and everything improved. I found a raised cycle / walking track running parallel to the river – exactly like those in Korea.
It was blissful to forget about cars or direction or anything, and just cycle in the sunshine. I was reminded what nature looked and sounded like, and why I wanted to come back to Japan in the first place.
I left and rejoined the path a few times but the roads inland were still reasonably quiet, and just a little bit of good cycling had lightened my mood significantly. I passed a few football pitches, and a motel called “Hotel Chapel Christmas” which had big sun bleached Santas in strategic locations looking out to the road.
I picked up supplies at a supermarket, some squid for dinner and crisps and a can of Kirin beer since I was in a good mood.
I continued for another hour, through Hashimoto, eventually stopping in Gojo. I headed down from the main road towards the river again and quickly found a spot to camp down by the river bank.
I’d make it to Kyoto tomorrow without too much problem and I planned to spend a day in the city off the bike. I felt fairly well rested but I still hadn’t really had a day of just exploration in a city or town, and Kyoto felt like it deserved it.
From my tent I could hear the river running and the croaking of frogs beneath the a full moon outside.