029: Kyoto — Hirata, Iga

Tuesday, April 26th

A hot and hilly day spent mostly along quiet winding country roads and lanes – the Route 307 and 422.

I intended to make it up by 6, head to Kiyomizu-dera Temple early, then head on out the city before 8, but it was a slow start. I got to the temple at around 8.30 after checking out of the hostel and recompiling my things on to my now functional and intact bike.

I would like to thank the inventor of the bungee cord and the cargo net as these are the only things keeping my stuff attached. I feel i’ve become preoccupied with my gear, ironically I was kind of cynical of people who get too hung up on buying all the right things, but now I see if your bike and other stuff works, you can just focus on riding. My mind has been occupied by all these niggling problems and it often feels like i’m waiting for something to break, rather than just enjoying the cycling.

But now I think I have a good setup. The sleeping bag and tent are on the small shelf I had installed on the front, and one of buy front panniers is sitting on top of the others at the back. It all seems pretty steady and lighter than before, and i’m hoping it holds up to Tokyo.

The temple, unsurprisingly as it’s one of Kyoto’s prettiest, was swarming with visitors, mostly school kids. I took a brief walk around but was eager to get out of the city. It was a warm day and already 25C by the time i’d was on the outskirts. It took me the best part of an hour, 10 miles, and Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot to figure the way out.

Kyoto left a good impression on me, and it would be interesting to see how Tokyo compared.

Out of the city it was a straightforward day. Some challenging climbs, as you tend to get with the more picturesque roads. This one followed the river and reminded me of the 187, and the roads during my first few days in Japan, with now felt a long time and distance away. The road passed a dam, a few shrines, and a series of animal skins hanging on a fence being sold at the side of the road. Bears, perhaps, but it was hard to tell and there was no-one to ask. The illustration didn’t clarify things.

After leaving the river behind the good scenery continued, quiet roads and big trees, a few tunnels but they passed quickly. A number of shops selling these ornaments i’ve seen all over Japan. A mole-like animal with a stoned look on it’s face tilted to the side over it’s podgy belly. I need to look up what they are, and what they mean. Each shop tried to make an impact on the passing motorist through the size and arrangement of their many creatures. Luckily I chose to stop at the one which had melon cream soda in it’s vending machine.

I joined the 422 which was a much quieter smaller road, winding up through a couple of rural villages. It was almost deserted and the smell of the trees from the dense forest was strong.

The heat was taking it’s toll on me. It was something I hadn’t had to deal with much yet and it drained me in a different way to the bad weather or a tough climb. It would take a little adjustment. Thankfully after a stretch of uphill it was down most of the way to Iga. A long winding descent through the trees.

It ended close on the edge of town, close to a supermarket and I went in and spent far too much money on food. A classic mistake of the hungry shopper.

I carried on a little longer, but I felt like it would be better to get an early night and an early start tomorrow rather than drag the day out for just a few more miles. It had been a slow and steady cycle, rather than a day during which the distance flew by.

I passed a neglected looking play park and camped behind a slide in the shape of an elephant – the arch of it’s cartoon body and head matching the domed shape of my tent behind it, hopefully obscuring me from the road.

Theres still a long way between here and Tokyo, and uncertainty too. I have a route planned, but other than Mt Fuji and the lakes there, i’m not sure what i’ll find. Tomorrow i’m aiming for Toba, and make it to the Aichi prefecture, a ferry ride away.


Wilco – I Am Trying To Break Your Heat, Mac DeMarco – Brother, Arthur Russel – That’s Us / Wild Combination

Map (via Strava)