Friday, 30 September 2011
After leaving the port we headed up the hill to the nearby village of Shukunegi where the Sado Island Ogi folk museum is located. While winding my way slowing up a steep climb in low gear I saw that Brian had stopped by the side of the road. When I caught up to him it was easy to see why he had suddenly stopped. On the side of the road in a workshop a retired carpenter was building a fantastic model of a large traditional Japanese temple entirely by hand using no nails at all. So far he had been working on his retirement project for one & a half years and it wasn't finished yet. It was an incredible work of art and his woodworking skills were outstanding. After taking a few photos we continued up the hill towards the Ogi folk museum.
After leaving the port town of Akadomari we pressed on along the coast to the larger port of Ogi where we wanted to have lunch. Although the road signs said it was only 15km to Ogi it felt a lot further and finally the port of Ogi was in sight. It was nice to finally reach Ogi and we looked for a Shokudo in which to have lunch . Shokudo's serve basic home style meals that are very reasonable yet filling making it the perfect stop for two hungry cyclists , by this time we had done about 70km so we were well in need of a feed. Just off the main street Brian my cycling pal spotted a elderly lady just about to bring in the flag from her Shokudo meaning that she was ready to close . But upon seeing the two weary cyclists approach she stopped what she was doing and said she could serve us lunch upstairs in her Shokudo. The 1st floor of her shop housed a tourist shop selling local goods and the 2nd floor was the Shokudo. We both ordered one of my favorite cycling meals Katsu Curry ( fried pork cutlets , curry & rice ) and of course a large bottle of beer. While waiting for our meal we took a look at our maps and decided which route we would take back to Ryotsu. The meal was fantastic and after a short rest we were back on our bikes and we stopped off in the port to view the tourists taking rides in the traditional wooden tub boats. The port was full of tour buses on one day pack tours and the tub boat operators were rather busy.
The largest town we first came across on our ride along the coast was the port town on Akidomari. From here a passenger ferry goes to the mainland and it is also the village were the famed Hokusetsu sake is produced. This sake brewer has become well known for winning many medals at international competitions as well as producing the sake for the Japanese restaurant " Nobu " which is co owned by Robert De Nero . Inside the brewery were many photos of Robert De Nero as he has visited Akidomari several times over the years. The sake brewery was over 100 years old and beautifully restored and it would't have been right to leave without trying a few samples of the famous product which the staff offered to us , I'm not really a big sake fan and I was hoping that they had a beer for tasting as they used to produce beer as well up until a few years ago. But as time was getting on we departed the brewery and pushed on up the main street where we saw another old western style building now being used as a cafe , it looked very out of place in Akidomari, I'm sure Robert De Nero must have had lunch in here on one of his trips and just on the outskirts of town we saw a large boat that had been turned into a house !. Sado Island is full of surprises if you keep your eyes open.
Just up the road from the campsite was the 1st residence of the Buddist monk Nichiren. It is now preserved as a museum and is kept in fantastic condition with a large statue of Nichiren sitting peacefully in the garden. The adjoining building next door was built in a traditional western style and seemed out of place in such a small Japanese fishing village. But this was just one of many surprises that we encountered along the coast.
After viewing the heritage lighthouse and buildings we proceeded along the coast and by this time it was about 9.30am and we had been cycling for about an hour at a steady pace. The view along the coastline was fantastic and every now and then we would spot local farmers harvesting their rice crop. Also as it was starting to heat up so I removed my jacket in preparation for the long ride along the coast towards the port city of Ogi we we wanted to stop for lunch. There were so many interesting places to look at that we often stopped and took a few photos along the way. We stopped to photograph a large statue of a turtle, he didn't look too vicious so I sat on his back for a photo and after that we pressed on stopping two photograph a small tunnel that the road passed through. Along the coast road we viewed a number of small tunnels that had been boarded up due to new tunnels being built, the longest tunnel we rode through was 1.5km long !. Further along the coast we arrived in the small village of
Matsugasaki where we stopped to view yet another fantastic camping ground right by the beach. This is also the village were the famous Buddhist monk Nichiren 1st set ashore on the island.
Well after 12 years I finally returned to Sado Island which is 2.5 hours by car ferry from Niigata City . Why did it take me so long ?, that's not really important now, but what is important is that I had a fantastic time although it wasn't the first time my cycling pal Brian & I had bitten off more than we could chew. We didn't realize the coastal road would have some many steep hills and the steep mountain range we had to cross to reach the inland plain on the return leg of journey. The day started off with early as we decided to take the 1st car ferry that sails to the port of Ryotsu , it departs Niigata port at 6am. One thing that prompted us to do the trip was that the owners of the car ferry are running a campaign where bicycles travel free until Nov, lets hope they do this again next year. It was a fine sunny day and perfect weather for cycle touring so once we arrived in Ryotsu we headed left and followed the coastal road. Our 1st stop for the day was the view of one of Japan's top 100 light houses and buildings. It was a nice area and camping there would be fantastic. After a short stop we pressed on and tackled many short steep climbs before the road leveled off along the scenic coastline. Which we followed all the way to the port of Ogi.
Thursday, 8 September 2011
After riding around the lake I took a left turn through another long unlit tunnel which led downhill into the village of Takadani Shinden . These small villages are full of historic homes that in the past would have had exposed traditional thatched roofs but because of the difficultly in restoring them and the heavy snow most are now covered with tin. Pictured above is a fantastic Japanese Kura ( Storehouse ) which is in great shape sitting by the corner of the road. After passing through the village I rode down to the local Shibata city camping ground which is in a nice setting alongside the Kajikawa river. After a short rest I tackled the last remaining steep climb out of the valley. It was tough going even in low gear but the Humber made it up and once I reached the top of the road it was all downhill to the village of Akadani and not long after that I was able to join back up with the cycle road which headed downhill back to my van. I'm sure of the total distance but it was only about 30km or so I think. The main purpose of the ride was to have some fun pottering about the hills on the Humber and it just goes to prove you don't have to cycle far to enjoy the ride !.
After passing through the tunnel I found out the bridge over the dam was closed due to repairs being carried out, So I turned to my left and and rode the fantastic smooth sealed road around the lake. This section used to be gravel many years ago but the area is popular with fisherman trying to hook a black bass and at the top of the lake is the nearest rock climbing area to Niigata City so I guess because of the increase of traffic they finally decided to seal the entire road. I was surprised to see how low the lake level was and the amount of damage that had been caused by the recent heavy rains. The side creeks running into the lake were in a bad state and a lot of erosion had happened, but even though the lake was low there were several hard core fisherman with camp stools and sun umbrellas trying there luck by the waters edge. Upon reaching the head of the lake I stopped to take a photo or two of a rock climber on a bolted route descending. Several years ago when I lived in Shibata city I was invited to climb the same section in some borrowed climbing shoes. Basically the route I climbed was a big long bolted slab so it was not too difficult. Pictured above are a few pics taken while cycling around the lake.
As it was a fine day I loaded the Humber into my trusty Suzuki Every mini van and headed out into the hills. My first stop was my favorite fresh water spring in the foothills of Mt Gozu and after topping up my water bottles I then drove along the base of the mountain and around the corner where I joined up with the popular Shibata to Akadani cycle road. This cycle road follows the old railway line that used to run from Shibata into the hills beyond Akadani where there was once a large coal mine. Now the cycle road is popular with school kids, walkers, runners & cyclists and passes through many small villages along the way. I think the total distance from Shibata to the end of the cycle road is about 18km or so if I remember correctly. After starting out at a rest area that has a car park I rode the slight up hill grade until the cycle road finishes at a small village. I think there may be some difficultly in extending the cycle road into Akadani village because of private land ownership, but it would be fantastic if one day the cycle road could go all the way into Akadani itself. After turning left at the end of the cycle road I headed down and across a bridge over the Kajikawa river as I wanted to take a look at Uchinokura dam and the lake. It's a short tough climb in low gear up the road but after passing through the long unlit tunnel you are rewarded with a fantastic view of the lake and surrounding mountains . And the view on the way up lacking back towards the peaks of Mt Gozu is rather nice as well. Pictured above is a map showing the route and a few photos taken on the 1st leg of the trip.