As you can see from the above photos the scenery was awesome, all this was new country to me as I had not ventured this way before and soon found myself at the start of a long tunnel !
In japan they love tunnels so if you are planning on touring here bring or buy a set of front and rear lights and use them in all tunnels, cars and large trucks drive very fast through them, sometimes there is great lighting, sometimes hardly any at all, sometimes water is dripping from the roof which can be a bit scary on a bicycle !. Even a car travelling at normal speed sound like the bullet train approaching - best advice is use both your lights and get through the tunnel as quickly as possible to stop and turn your lights off , if there is a wide footpath in the tunnel use it instead of the road. Some tunnels are quite short such as 50 mtrs long but on this tour the longest tunnel I rode through was 2666 mts long !
I soon came to the turn off for traffic heading into the mountains for Fukushima and just up the hill I came to Irihirose where there was a pond , rest area and a couple of shops. The banner advertising soft cream looked to good to refuse so stopped for a while while enjoying a fantastic mango flavored soft cream , refilled my 2 ltr hydration bladder for the long haul up and over the mountain, answered lots of questions from curious tourists about were I was going and set out . Little did I know this was to be one of my hardest 80km rides of my life , it was beautiful, long & winding and just never seemed to stop. I would say I rode about 90% of the road before the grade became far to steep to cycle and was forced to walk for at least an hour or more in 30 deg heat towards the summit.
From the above set of photos you can see the type of road I was travelling on , a lot of sections were so close to the mountain that snow shelters had been built to cover and protect the road, but even so there was a lot of construction going on repairing landslides which would be fairly common in such high altitude . From time to time in the Japanese countryside you come across fresh water springs hence the reason for the tin cup attached to my handle bar bag, there is nothing better than a nice cool drink of spring water and its safe as well. When my 2 ltr bladder of water became warm it was easy to refill it with cold spring water instead. Upon reaching the summit I took a couple of photos of the border signs and entered a long tunnel which lead to one of the longest and most terrifying downhills of my entire life . I was sure there was enough material on my Avid BB7 disk brake pads to get me through this tour, but with constant braking for well over an hour on steep sometimes 10 % grades I was beginning to wonder !. I saw plenty of evidence of cars or trucks that had lost control and skidded into the barriers and took as much care as possible to control my speed below 40 km per hour which was difficult as my hands were screaming to let go.
Further down there were a few flat sections but overall it was a demanding downhill on a fully loaded touring bike , now I can see why very few cyclists have ridden this route. Even though it was very remote there were quite a lot of traffic, mainly large trucks and motor cycle riders. The view of the lake below was fantastic and finally with aching forearms I stopped off at the dam car car which had toilets and a restaurant, far below in the valley I spotted my destination for the day , the town of Tadami.
After another steep switch back decent to the valley floor I rolled into Tadami Village at 2pm after 7 hours of almost not stop cycling. Tadami was really nice and it was not long before I located the campsite which only cost 700 yen even with no advance booking. I was able to check in quickly erect my tent and with some good local free maps and advice I considered what to do next. First of all I need to figure out what to do for dinner, even though I was totally worn out I new I needed to eat a big dinner and as the two only eateries in town did not open until 8pm that was out of the question as I had a long ride the next day. So it was off to the supermarket to buy supplies. It was located out of town but well stocked so I purchased the following
items : 1 x portion of microwave rice, 1 x Bag of liquid curry, 2 x fried pork cullet sticks, 2 x fried potato cakes, 2 x 500 ml cans of beer ,1 x can coke , 1 x packet of dark chocolate
It must seem like a lot, but considering my lack of energy I needed and consumed all of it , the coke and chocolate were quickly eaten outside the supermarket before the ride back to camp, were I took a nice hot shower and proceeded to cook my monstrous dinner. It felt great to be clean and well fed and then by headlamp consulted my maps, after speaking with the camp office staff early I decided to take a slightly shorter more direct route the next day which turned out to be the best choice. Because of my mosquito bites I only ended up getting about an hour sleep which was not so good.