HOKKAIDO (Bear Hunt Day 16): Ashibetsu to Sapporo


It was always going to be a hard decision as to whether I would cycle all the way home to Sapporo in one go today, or split the distance into two days. In the end, I did it in one day. The reason being that it was raining. Cats and dogs almost all day. Even if I ended up arriving in Sapporo late, at least I knew there was a hot shower and comfy bed waiting for me.

Mercifully, the camp manager had allowed me to pitch my tent inside the amenities block, which kept me out of the light rain during the night. When I got up at 4am, the weather was cloudy, but only a very light misty rain.

Early morning start in Ashibetsu (Hokkaido, Japan)

By the time I was ready to leave at 5am, it was pouring rain. I considered staying one more night at the campground, since the forecast was for good weather tomorrow. But there was not any suitable covered communal areas in the campground to spend the day. So I just went for it, figuring the rain would either pass, or I would pass through it and out the other side if I got going.

By lunchtime I had cycled for about 5 hours, and my fingers looked like prunes. The rain just did not let up.

Lake Katsuragawa was the first I saw of clearer skies.

Bridge over Lake Katsurazawa (Hokkaido, Japan)

 All the rivers and lakes in the area were pure dirt brown. Today was not the only day they had seen rain recently.

In the end I followed Route 452 for what felt like en eternity through the rain. Generally bleak scenery and close forest made for some generally uninspiring riding. Although the inner little boy in me delighted in charging through the deepest puddles I could find on the side of the road.

Tunnel near Ashibetsu Lake (Route 452, Hokkaido, Japan)

The last 3 hours or so of today’s ride was conducted on pure determination. My legs had no power left in them, and my butt, despite the padded bike shorts and cushy Selle An-Atomica saddle, was getting chaffed and sore. During the last hour of the ride, I was being passed by grannies on their mama-chari.

I got home and promptly had that hot shower. It was bliss.

After the shower, I did a tally of how many bears had been found on the 16-day bear hunt cycle tour in bear-infested Hokkaido. The grand total came to 0. Nada. We did see approximately 3 stuffed bears, 24 bear warning signs, and took part in one bear safety lecture. We could have tried harder, I guess. We could have slept wild wrapped in honey-glazed bacon strips. We could have washed our stinky socks more often (I hear that bears don’t like stinky socks). Perhaps we’ll have better luck next year*.

Route Map


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Distance: 151.4km | Time on bike: 9h 04m | Average speed: 16.7km/h | Bears: 0
Financials: Food: 1,736yen

* It bears noting that our hiking pals, Leon, Ric, and Matt, did meet a bear up in the wilds of Shiretoko National Park. While from our experience it seems highly unlikely that you’d meet a bear cycle touring in Hokkaido, hiking is a different matter.

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