Friday, 11 October 2013

Oct 5 day tour - Day 3 , Tadami - Aizu Wakamatsu

After waking up at 5am and packing everything I was ready to go at 7am and as it was only 18 deg it made for easy riding until mid morning when it was already 26 deg . I stopped along the was a a small local shop like a 7/11 and bought a few snacks for the long ride ahead . The new route led up a valley that rejoined the R 400 that I had intended to take at first. The road I was now on was called R 401 and very remote with almost no traffic at all, nearer the top it became too steep to cycle so I was forced to dismount and walk about 10 km to the summit. Upon reaching the top I stopped for a rest and took a photo of my bike next to the sign the area was full of light tan moss and grass and looked like nobody ever ventured this way very often. About 50 mtrs down the other side of the mountain I noticed my left foot was really slippery which made cornering dangerous, so I stopped to clean off what I thought at first was some kind of moss - it was not moss at all it was some of animal shit, maybe bear or tanuki but hell it stunk and it was now all over my  left shoe & pedal !. All I could do was to spit water at it and use a few tissues to clean most of it off but later on I found some running water and did a better job of it.

Not long later after passing  through the village of Showa  and short section of steep down hill , I rejoined R 400 and with a bit more walking and a nice down hill I came to the turnoff for R 346 which was 98 % down hill and safe to ride. It is amazing to me that people live in here , at this time of the year it is very beautiful but I could easily imagine it with 4 mtrs of snow or more in winter making getting out for supplies very difficult or impossible.

Finally I came to another turn off which according to my map was a short cut across to the historic village of Ochijiku , a local standing on the corner told me this was the correct road to take but warned me it was very tough, long and winding but I thought how bad can 16 km really be and proceeded up hill . By this time it must have been nearly 30 deg and I was forced to dismount once more and the switch back climb became too steep to ride. Half way up I came to a fantastic fresh water spring , so sat down in the shade to rest , filled both my 2 ltr drink bladder and tin cup and was suitably revived for the remainder of the ride towards the village of Ochijiku . 

I rolled into the main street past tourists out for a day trip covered in sweat and dust and looked for a place to eat some cold soba noodles which is a village specialty . These days the village caters for tourists in a big way with every house converted into some kind of shop. This area is a  part of the famous Nikko highway, back in the old days when people traveled by foot or horse to get to the Samurai castle town of Aizu they most likely passed by here, maybe they had soba noodles for lunch as well. 

The place I chose let me park my bicycle outside, the main street is made of dirt and cars, motorcycles are banned from entering it but luckily they did not mind a cyclist walking up to their front door. The soba noodles were pretty good and the old lady who is the owner gave me a free glass of local wine. I had already ridden 70km by the time I had lunch and left at 2.30pm for the last climb up to the dam and decent into Minami Aizu where I was going to stay at a riverside campground. A bit more walking was needed to get to the top but as the locals said it was only 30km into Aizu I thought it could not be too bad. The view of the dam was nice but the decent was far worse than I experienced the day before, not only was it about 10% downhill , the switchbacks continued on forever . I was lucky it was dry as I could not have made it in the rain, I was really working hard to stay in control on such a long steep winding decent but somehow made it to the bottom with mishap.

After getting into Minami Aizu I soon found the camp ground and after checking in I asked were their showers were located only to be told they did not have any, but they said there is a nice onsen nearby which sounded perfect, then they said unfortunately  its closed today . So after a 100km ride which was pretty tough I was unable to take a shower and settled to try and wash myself in the tiny camp bathroom instead before cycling a few blocks away to the coin laundry as I was running out of clean clothes, it did feel nice drinking a beer and eating chips while waiting though and on my return to the campsite I cooked up another instant pasta in a typhoon, maybe I should have brought the wind shield after all . The next day was to be a rest day exploring Aizu Wakamatsu so at least I could sleep later than normal. 




llewellyn said...

Don, I wonder if Ouchijuku will be reachable on my tour in March ?or will there still be snow ! I'll be heading north from Narita to Utsunomiya ,Shirakawa, Koriyama, Aizuwakamatsu then ultimately to Niigata with a left hand turn towards Kanazawa.

Don Speden said...

Hi IIewellyn

I would guess there will be snow there in March, I would not venture near there by bicycle in March , but you could always take a bus there from Aizu instead, its worth checking out anyhow.