After an unusually hectic July, August and September, Haidee and I finally managed to head off on our annual two-week cycling vacation. Being the last two weeks of September, days were already getting short, and the evenings and mornings were getting a chill on them. After a summer of more typhoons than usual, however, it ended up being the perfect timing. We only had one short afternoon of light rain during the whole two weeks.
The plan was to head to southern Hokkaido. We’d been to this region a year and a half ago, but this time we were going as far south as physically possible in Hokkaido – Okushiri Island and the southern coast via Esashi, Matsumae, Hakodate, and Onuma. It would prove to be a real trip of discovery – the deep south of Hokkaido would turn out to have a history of tragedy, culture, and somewhat of an identity crisis.
The first day of the trip started early. We were up at 4:30am in order to catch a 6:00am train from Minami-Chitose Station to Oshamanbe Station, the start of our cycle trip.
We’ve now got the putting-bikes-on-trains-in-Japan routine down pat, so it was fairly quick and easy to get the bikes and gear on the train – this was helped by the fact that we were at least 30 minutes early for the departure.
When we had left Chitose, we were wishing we were wearing gloves, it was so cold. By the time we had made it 150km or so south to the sleepy little town of Ohamanbe, however, we were stripping off to single layers. It really is much warmer down south in Hokkaido.
The heat did not help much when we had to lump our luggage and bikes along the full length of the platform…
And then up and over the connecting overbridge. This process is fairly typical of the old train stations in rural Hokkaido…they involve a lot of lugging!
We were on our way by around 10am, and instantly happy that we’d made the effort to get us and our bikes out of the everyday grind, if not for just a couple of weeks.
The mission for the day was to get to Setana Town, on the Japan Sea (or East Sea or Donghae, depending on your nationalistic bent) coast. So, soon after starting on the coast from Oshamanbe, we started inland across the peninsula towards Setana. This meant that most of the morning and some of the afternoon was spent trudging uphill. The resulting downhill was bliss.
Our campsite for the night was the Setana Campground. Situated on a headland above the town, it is a stiff climb up, but the views were fantastic. The campground manager was also a good sport, allowing us to take a shower despite it being later than the 4pm closing time for the shower building.