Tonebetsu Natural Park - The fifth step ... the length of Japan. - CycleBlaze

August 10, 2018

Tonebetsu Natural Park

Setting off from our hostel in Bunkyo.
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This morning did not start off on a good note.  Thanks to a few rowdy guests who had arrived at the guesthouse last night we had a dreadful night's sleep.  The day was forecast to be rainy and so it was.  When we eventually got started neither Leigh's not my bike computers were working and my cellphone was struggling to pick up a GPS signal.   Leigh's bikes front mudguard was scraping the wheel (these damn things always seem to get bent). We were both probably a bit tense from lack of sleep and the knowledge that we weren't hundred percent prepared for the trip.  Things could only get better.

Still, it felt good to be back on the bicycles, loaded for the first time since we left Chile four months ago, and setting out on the first day of our trip through Japan.  The rain chucked down as we made our way to Chitose so I could find an ATM and to pick up some essentials if we found a reasonable supermarket.  The ATM was found at a Family Mart as we entered town - much relief because I have a fear of being caught without cash in case my credit card is not accepted.  Then we found an Aeon, one of the big chain stores.  I had hoped to find some gas canisters for our camping stoves and to pick up some coffee and green tea (if anything decent could be found - last year we struggled on this front in Japan).  We also needed some rice, wasabi and soy sauce as a backup meal in case we camped too far from a konbini, as convenience stores are known in Japan.  In the end all I got was the wasabi and soy sauce.

While I was in the Aeon (Leigh stayed outside to keep an eye on our gear) the rain had stopped and the sun had come out.  It would remain mostly dry for the rest of the day and, apart from a headwind all the way, we had great cycling conditions.  To improve my mood even further, my bicycles computer started working again.  To balance it out Leigh's decided to work only sporadically. 

Soon we were out of Chitose and onto quiet country roads through carefully tended small farms growing wheat, rice, maize, onions, cabbages, pumpkins and almost anything else one could think of.  The road was mostly very flat with a few small hills.  The traffic was also mostly light and very considerate. Just what our unfit bodies needed.   We stopped at a number of konbinis along the way to pick up first and second breakfasts as well as lunch - familiar items such as rice balls, sushi and potato croquets.  Also available was "Sweat", a pleasant and refreshing supposably isotonic drink that I enjoyed so much last year.  It felt good to be cycling in Japan again.

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Our target for today was the Tonebetsu Natural Park where free camping is to be found.  It is just outside the town of Imawizawa and despite being infested with mosquitos is a fantastic place to stop for the night.  After setting up camp we cycled back into town where we enjoyed some 7-Eleven spagbol on the kerb outside the konbini before heading back to the campsite to enjoy a beer and some wasabi flavoured rice crackers.  The campsite has pretty good toilets and a washing up area but no showers.  Still, this is more than we would get than if we were wild camping so we enjoyed a good scrub before heading to bed for a hopefully good night's rest.

Today's ride: 66 km (41 miles)
Total: 66 km (41 miles)

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