2 Kyōto – Biwako – Komatsu – Toyama – Niigata

 京都市 – 琵琶湖 – 小松市 – 富山市 – 新潟市

osaka_niigata7

Kyōto to Niigata

Wednesday 20th June 2012. Kyōto to Biwa-ko. 

The typhoon had gone by morning and was fine weather so on my way again. Wanted to use the shorter car-only road to get to Biwako but not allowed so had to take the 3 sides of a square option instead. Took a wrong turn once but wasn’t too bad in the end. Easy to follow route and made good progress alongside the lake. Biwako is the biggest lake in Japan.

At a shrine was overtaken by a cyclist from Kyōto who was doing a round the lake ride.

Torii on Biwako

Thought I could only make it part way up the lake but on arrival at the intended stop found there was enough time to continue to the one stayed at last year. Once more I was the only person there.

Thursday 21st June. Biwa-ko to Echizen Misaki. 

Departed early just as rain started so stripped down to the essentials. Rained all the way up to the pass and down to Tsuruga. Traffic is light so it’s OK. Decide to warm up in a coffee shop and had their set breakfast while waiting for the info centre to open. They surprised me with a menu in English!

Info centre was very helpful. Not only they knew of campsites up the road, but phoned to ask if open and how much to stay, and told me of a free internet access. The ferry to Hokkaidō sounded tempting especially that the weather forecast is bad for next 24 hours, but need to go to Niigata.

Artwork on the streets of Tsuruga.

After stocking up on food went to use the internet before departure. Rain had stopped but restarted again just as I left Tsuruga. Spent too much time there and now I will have to get a hurry-on.

Route 8 north is no better than last year – too many large trucks going too fast. This time I turn-off and go along the coast road via Echizen Misaki. Nice, quiet and scenic, I have choice of two, the first up a steep hill, the second by the sea. Spend 10 minutes at the bottom of the hill before deciding to go on to the second. If a storm is coming I want to be sheltered.

Sunset over the Sea of Japan, see the passing ship.

In the vicinity of the campground stop at a shop to ask the way and the owner turns out to be the camp manager. It is so late she lets me stay without charge. A strong wind is blowing when I arrive. Once more I’m the only one at there. There is just enough room to erect my tent in the kitchen area with just enough shelter

Friday 22nd June. Echizen Misaki to Komatsu. 

Woke with a wet floor in the kitchen so it rained last night and continues to do so. Wind is strong now and a head wind. A combination I do not like so contemplate a second night. By noon rain stops and eases enough that I decide to go. Headwind.

Cycling road heading up the coast.

Pass Echizen-Kaga Semi National Park and take a side trip to go look at Tojinbo, an area of geological interest. While returning to the route north a police car stops and they ask for my papers, which I show them and before getting directions. This is second or third time the police have stopped to ask for my papers. While they are friendly enough it is becoming a concern.

Find an extra section of the cycling road I used last year so get on that. Takes me direct to the last supermarket before my destination. Discover the last part of the cycling road before camp is closed due to maintenance so have to take 3 sides of a square to get there.

It is on dark at 7:00pm and camp manager is closing for the day. It sounds like he is complaining that I leave it a little late to arrive, but lets me stay none-the-less. Good job I arrive before he closes, it is locked behind a large high fence, to keep bikers out, if I understand what he says. Sure enough at around 9:00pm hear a motor bike start up and leave. He also tells me the camp is patrolled by security guard.

Cooee, can we cross the road please?

He seems keen to know when I will leave, the answer to which I do not know. Anywhere between 7:00 and 10:00am I say. He doesn’t seem to understand why I do not know when I will leave.

Surprise, I’m the only one there! The coin shower is similar to Pippu Rider House but for 5 minutes instead of 3 and it pulls the same trick – as the water heats up you turn the lever to add more cold water to lower the temperature. Then the water stops altogether and nothing you do can change it. After about a minute lights suddenly come on and water restarts. It continues working after that but you lose something like 90 seconds.

Some people like comfort while waiting for the bus.

Saturday 23rd June. Komatsu camp to Kanazawa. 

The camp is part of a complex providing other emenities, like mini golf and such. It is well looked after. I tell him about the shower and get a refund. I tell him about the noise from the adjacent toll road/motorway but don’t get a refund on my camp fee. Leave at about 9:00am head north into a head wind still blowing from the storm. It was a typhoon but think it lost some of its power on the way from Hong Kong and was downgraded to a bad storm. Remains sunny all day.

Unusual wind turbine.

Make my way slowly north, enjoying the cycling road as it runs alongside the coast. Come across an unusual wind turbine at a michi-no-eki and shortly afterwards a cycling terminal. Discover some of the cycling road is closed for maintenance but told by a local the last part is open and how to get onto it. I do and it is until the next road intersection where it is closed again.

Cycling road closed due to maintenance…. maybe.

It is a nice day so decide to stay. It is not very nice, in fact probably one of the worst places I stayed. It turns out to be a mistake. After about an hour – being too late to leave – the manager warns me that the campers like to drink lots of alcohol and I should move my tent to another place. I do but they still make too much noise early in the morning. It is Saturday, hence other campers.

Sunday 24th June. Kanazawa to Ouzu. 

Leave fairly late, harder to negotiate the barriers to the last section of cycling road before heading inland along Route 8. Discover the road I used last year is car only road, but it cuts out a lot of intersections I use it again. Still headwind. Buy supplies at the Lawson convenience store before heading off. Pass two cyclists going the other way.

Nose?

Just before the tunnel into Toyama-ken see the other cyclists approach on another road. I want to go through this tunnel with them but they don’t stop. This tunnel is quite dangerous having no seperate path. I also wanted to chat because they have classic bike like my Maruishi Emperor. Get out and use my rear light I brought for such situations. A long gap in the traffic allows me to get through without much difficulty.

Did I see these last yea? They look so happy!

Arrive at the road station I thought of staying at, it would have been reachable last evening and suitable to camp. They also have free internet. At the next michi-no-eki close to Toyama meet another cyclist going the other way and Taka and Yumi in their campervan from Oz, whom we first met near Mt Kuju. While talking a gent comes and gives me what looks like a small packet of rice crackers in fancy wrapping, so guess it might be expensive. Leave as I want to get to the next campground at Ouzu. Am passed by Yumi and Taka tries taking action photos with varied success.

Taka and Yumi – the Australians!

The local michi-no-eki is unsuitable for camping, in fact I visited it once before, 4 years ago and it has not improved. Make it to Ouzu just before dark and directed to the campground by the local police when I go into the station. The officer on duty was asleep! I have to ask another person as it is on the other side of the river. Oshima Green Camp is fairly rundown but free so no complains, I’m the only person there.

Monday 25th June. Ouzu to Nadachi. 

I don’t think I saw these last year.

No choice but to follow last year’s route as there is no alternative. That’s OK as it is a petty route and good weather. Headwind again, but not too bad. Reach the narrow cliff where Reverend Green, the father of modern Japanese mountaineering dwells and have lunch. Road works on this section of highway has it down to one lane. Join the queue of vehicles and manage to keep up with the traffice until something bounces out of my basket on a bump in the road and stop to pick up. A long line of cars wait for me at the bottom.

Start/end of Kubiki Cycling and Walking Road.

A section of the cycling road.

The road station doesn’t seem to have a security guard like last year and the weather is much better, a typhoon was passing then.

Pass old shrine on cycling road.

Tuesday 26th June. Nadachi to Yoneyama. 

Retired policeman from Kagoshima.

This year will take the coast road so unsure about Tenryo-no-sato michi-no-eki so stay at Yoneyama. Joined by a gent in a campervan who plays two videos, one on Eichmann trail from WWII and one on Michael Jackson. Even though he has a sleepervan he stays in the road station rest room. We are the only two who stay there.

Hen and chics rocks?

Wednesday 27th June. Yoneyama to Niigata. 

Nice sunny day again. Distance sign says 100kms to Niigata – so can I do it? Leave Route 8 at Kashiwazaki and join Route 352 along the coast. Turns out the road station would have been suitable to camp at, never mind, next time.

The coast guard escort me to Niigata.

Go through a village whose houses are surrounded by wooden fences. Seems they are wind breaks.

Mostly flat at first but gets hilly nearer to Niigata where the road negotiates steep cliffs. Spectacular scenery, tunnels and steep climbs. At a narrow point in the road one car goes past too close and I move out to stop anyone else from doing the same, a good job as someone was about to do it.

An unusual sight, fenced houses.

Arrive Niigata around 5:00pm and think I must be near Furumachi Bikes so go looking for it without success. I want a meat pie! Give up and head to Fufu Guest House. Happy to learn I know the way without map but unhappy to find it has closed! Never mind go to the info centre at the station and find somewhere else. No! It closes at 6:00pm not 7:30pm as I thought, now it is 7:00pm!

Spectacular scenery heading to Niigata.

Look for and find a 24h internet cafe but they don’t like the look of me. Suggest I go to another place. After some discussion I persuade them to let me stay, just need to store my bike at the JR station. I decide not to return and can’t find the other place. Decide to go to the michi-no-eki I passed last year 20km east instead. Leave at 10:00pm and arrive a little after midnight, making a day of 120km.

And more spectacular scenery.

Thursday 28th June – Niigata.

Head back into Niigata. Debate if I should stay another night or leave on night ferry. Go to info centre and then Furumachi Bikes, arrive at 11:00am on opening time but no-one is here, 15 minutes later a gent arrives and opens. I ask for Don but he says “day off”. That is a blow but is soon sorted when he finds my packet and phones Don. Arrangements are quickly made and we meet at the international centre.

Interesting street crossing for cyclists.

We go to Craig’s bar late afternoon, another resident Kiwi, and have a few drinks and a good chat. Don takes me to the night ferry to Tomakomai. When I eventually manage to eat his pies they are delicious!! It was good to hear he is doing well and enjoying life in Japan.

The fast becoming famous, Furumachi Bikes.

Friday 29th June – Niigata to Tomakomai.

Don seeing me off to Hokkaido at the ferry terminal.

Looking forward to a rest on the ferry. I take the ferry because if I don’t there won’t be enough time to do the things I want to do at the end.

On board I’m taken to a cabin with about 15 people in it, and narrow beds for about 18. This can’t be right so go ask the head honcho what is going on. The ship isn’t a quarter full and we are all squeezed into a couple of cabins? It is interesting how some people suddenly can’t speak English when they could a few moments ago. Methinks the stewardess is new and didn’t know to spread us out. Some of us do it anyway, finding an empty cabin and everything is OK after that.

An American backpacker is on board and I and a friendly Japanese give him some tips but I doubt he will take them.

Planning the next step of the journey as we head north on the ferry.

Arrive on schedule at 5:00pm but discover it is the east port, 20km further from the city than the regular dock.

Nice tailwind has me moving along nicely. Consider going to Morappu instead of the road station. Stop to buy food and lose momentum. Decide to hang around and stick with Plan A. As I arrive at the road station it begins to rain so sleep in my sleeping bag on a bench rather than put up my tent.

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