Day 10. (24th Oct) See box story below.
Day 11 (25th October) Checked into the Hiroshima Crowne Plaza Hotel, handed my bicycle to the concierge and enjoyed a day off.
Day 12 (26th October) 9.45 am start and I’m heading for Fukuyama, following Hwy # 2 most of the way. However, somewhere around Onomichi I found myself on the Expressway and there was nowhere to exit it, (high fences and barriers along the sides). After a very fast approximately 10 km cycling at an average speed of 34.9 kph for half of that 10 km distance, I found an exit onto a rural road and headed for the nearest 7-11 for a break.
As I’m exiting the shop a police car pulls up and out come two policemen to speak to me about my cycling on the motorway. With the assistance of Google Translate I explained what had happened and how once I realised my mistake I couldn’t find a way out of my predicament. They took details of my passport and said not to do it again.
Soon afterwards I’m back on the road and arrived in Fukuyama with 109 km covered and started to look for a hotel. After six hotels visited and no vacancies I’m on the booking app to find a hotel in the nearest town, and then it started to rain. In my new panic to find a hotel I tried another booking app that I’d not used before and in my rush to secure a room I found I’d made a non-refundable booking, not for a hotel in Fukuyama but in Fukushima. I’d just paid over double what I’d been paying for hotel rooms previously and the hotel I had booked was over 900 km away. Tried to cancel but to no avail, so moving on I found a room available in a bunkhouse, a mere 20 km cycle ride into the hills. At least I had a bed to look forward to and as it turns out a very warm welcome by the folks that own the place.
Day 14 (28th October) 9.15 am start and follow the coastline for the first 60 km before arriving into Uwajima with 108 km covered for the day
Day 15 (29h October) 10.00 am start, Uwajima is a small city by the sea and surrounded by mountains. Despite the rain, I was eager to get going as I knew I had a fair distance to cover and that the chances of mountains was fairly high. I was to follow Rte 320 for 33 km until the fork in the road and then take the right fork and follow Rte 197. Of course I should have started wondering why there wasn’t any other traffic, but I was already a good 10 km up into the hillside before I realised I was on the wrong road. I figured it would probably come out and join Rte 197 sooner or later, but after a total of 17 km mostly cycling uphill I came to the end of that road, then had to backtrack to the junction of Rte 320, where just around the next corner was the fork in the road that I should have taken. Trying to make up for a lost hour and a half is pretty much impossible on mountainous routes and made even more so when I needed to stop and fix my rear wheel puncture. I found a small road that bypassed Susaki and eventually after 157 km covered for the day’s ride I reached my pre-booked accommodation at the side of the Niyodo River.
Day 16 (30th October) 9.15 am start and it’s a long gradual uphill climb. Today was a bit different in that apart from a very long tunnel section of just over 5 km, I was following a river, or rivers for 70 km out of my total 82 km ride to Saijo.
Day 17 (31st October) 9.15 am start and having decided that rather than take a ferry off the island, which was one option, the other was to cycle back over the The Shimanami Kaido six islands. Actually I would have preferred to cycle to Naruto and then cross the bridge to Awaiji Island and then on to Kobe. However there was no train or ferry on that route and bicycles weren’t allowed on the bridges over these islands. Therefore I decided that if I cycled to Sakaide I would take my bike on the train for the 50-minute crossing to Okayama. I arrived at the Sakaide midafternoon after a 90 km ride, dismantled my bicycle and put it in the bag for taking on the train, booked some accommodation in Okayama and 50 minutes later after coming off the train. I was now only 50 km away from where I had stayed the night on Day 12! I re-assembled the bike and rode to my accommodation, which was my first time in a booking. com apartment.
Day 18 (1st November) 7.45 am start and head first to Hemeji (where I had visited 22 days earlier by train) and then on to Kobe before eventually reaching Osaka, a total distance of 191.58 km covered for my longest ever distance cycled. I decided that as I needed to be back in Bangkok sometime mid-week at the latest, rather than attempting to cycle the remaining 600+ km to Tokyo, I would try to fly back to Bangkok from here, and the following day I managed, not without some difficulty, to make a phone booking for a Sunday afternoon flight.
No rooms available , so it’s a launderette for me!!
It’s midnight and lone cyclist Andrew, now shivering from the cold, can’t find a place to stay Day 10. (24th Oct) 9.15 am start, which saw me pedaling along the north west coast of Western Japan (Japan Sea coast of Shimane prefecture), where I cycled from Masuda to Hamada, a distance of just 42 kms. I was planning to continue to the city of Oda, which was a further 65 km along the coastline, however the weather was against me and I made a decision to head inland in search of better weather. I picked the city of Kake located 65 km inland as my destination for the night, thinking it’s the same distance as I’d planned to ride anyway, and set off in that direction. The weather didn’t improve, but at least I’d no longer be battling the headwinds coming off the Sea of Japan I’d been experiencing along the coastline.
At one point during the days ride I saw a sign that read ‘Alps’ and a roadside temperature reading showing that it was 12° which when soaking wet from the rain and an additional drenching coming from almost every passing vehicle, (such things happen when traveling on roads with deep surface water, or streams running down the mountainous roads) made for a less than enjoyable day’s cycling.
However, I was still in good spirits as I knew it would soon be over, counting off the kms covered as I neared my destination city of Kake. Having cycled up a mountain with an elevation of over 700 m, I was able to enjoy the downhill ride, albeit a rather cold ride.
Next thing I’m arriving into Kake and and it’s just starting to get dark. Time to get onto the Agoda app and find a hotel for the night. Because of the foul weather, this is the first time since early in the day that I fetch my phone out of my waterproof pannier bag. Unfortunately the phone is damp and it seems the battery isn’t good. Switching over to a new battery, I find it’s the phone that is wet and not working.
Having now lost my ability to use a booking app to find a room, and unable to use the Google trans late app to assist with my enquiries, I set out to just ride around the town/city in search of accommodation. After a fruitless search I’m now feeling very cold, and shaking with the cold. Then I see a light at a workshop at the back of someone’s house and ask for assistance. The kind guy can see I’m not in good shape and fetches me a chair to sit on while telling me to wait while he jumps in a truck to go and see if he can find someone who can assist me.
Ten minutes later he arrives back and tells me to follow him down the road to the school where the English language teacher is waiting to assist me. She then asks the name of the place I’m looking for, and upon learning I don’t actually have anywhere, she discusses my situation and then informs me that there’s actually no accommodation in this town! However, there is a place about 20 km back up the mountain road that I’ve just come down, but don’t worry, this gentleman will give me a lift with my bicycle in his truck back up to the top of the mountain.
Being so wet and cold I’m now thinking, what if it’s the same tomorrow and I have to come down that mountain in the morning in the cold rain? At this point I ask what is the next town further down the mountain that would have accommodation. They tell me it’s 38 km to Hiroshima, but advise against it because of the danger of riding in pitch darkness and in such terrible weather.
Thinking (foolishly) to myself now that I’ve stopped shaking from the cold and that I have three hours of battery power in my bicycle lights, I ask whether there are any more mountains that I need to climb if I ride on to Hiroshima. They say it’s pretty much downhill all the way and any uphill sections aren’t too steep or long.
Thanking them for their assistance I ride off into the dark, wet night. Even though it’s probably only 6 pm, it’s already a pitch black night. Riding through tunnels gave momentarily shelter from the weather, but I couldn’t stop as they aren’t fun places to be in when other traffic comes, so I continued pedalling down the road until I reached the welcome sight of Hiroshima’s bright lights..
From then on, I was on the lookout for a hotel, and followed the signs that would lead me to the main railway station, since there’s always lots of hotels near a railway station. Arriving outside the station about 7.30 pm, I head for the nearest big hotel and find they are fully booked. I try the hotels on the opposite side, physically visiting them one by one and find they are fully booked; I am no longer requesting a non-smoking room, as absolutely any room will do.
I’m now getting very cold as I continue my visit to each hotel. Many hotels were very helpful, phoning around and pinpointing possibilities, only for me to find they’re full. After trying 40 different places, I started looking to for a Lawsons convenience store with a launderette attached. I figured at least I could use the dryers to dry some clothes for myself and also the heat from the drying machines would warm me up - and I could get my dinner from the attached shop. I hadn’t stopped to eat since having an early lunch sandwich.
En route to find a launderette I spotted a sign for a capsule hotel, not quite what I had hoped for at that time of night, but it was a more welcoming sight than many a five-star hotel on any given day. It was 11.45 PM and with 169 km cycled that day, I walked into the lobby of the Hiroshima Peace Hotel and learned that they had a capsule in a dormitory that was available for me.
Five minutes later with towels rented, a pair of shorts and a T-shirt in the tumble dryer, I took a long hot shower to get myself warmed up. I came out of the shower just as the dryer stopped and wearing dry and warm clothes I headed up to my capsule. At 00.20 am I crawled into what was a very comfortable bed in a capsule hotel, I took my phones apart and placed them to ensure drying them out with body heat, and I thought to myself, I’ll have a day off tomorrow.