Friday, August 31, 2018

Glorious heaven of hot springs!

1 Sept
I arrived at Chitose Airport in the late evening, threw my bike together and headed out the door. When first in another country the littlest things feel like huge achievements. Found an ATM, money! Used a vending machine, food! Decided to pitch my tent in the public park, shelter!
 The bike paths were wonderful and the traffic minimal. I decided to take the long way into sapporo past lake Shikotsu, which was beautiful and damp. It's a hot springs resort town, but all the onsens were only open to the public during select hours. I remained stinky as I continued north to Sapporo.
The hills were intense and though it was low 70s, the humidity left me dripping with sweat.

 Finally into Sapporo, I sat down to a delicious hot bowl of rice and something. A raw egg was cracked over the top and I dug in. I was eager to get put into the mountains so again I headed north on a wonderful bike path that followed the river. Another damp camp, a little rain, and I was off to the coast to find an onsen.

 Glorious, wonderful, blissful onsen! It's a natural hot spring made into an imposing, intimidating looking spa. I tentatively walked in, paid my 6 dollars and got naked. The men and women have separate sides and you get a washcloth for modesty. You scrub down while sitting on a little stool and then... Hot polls, child polls, bubbly tubs, outdoor pools, pools where the bottom is contoured like a lounge chair. It was pure heaven and made me feel human again.

Fully refreshed, I headed west to ride around the Shakotan peninsula. First stop was Otaru with its beautiful canal and strange ice cream, I chose sweet potato flavor but passed on the scoop of jet black squid ink.
The coast was beautiful with seastacks making dramatic scenery along the way.
My rainey day quickly turned into the best weather and I was able to dry my tent and clothes. The bathrooms are amazing and plentiful. With high powdered hand dryers that take the damp right out of your shoes.
The toilets deserve a post all to themselves. Heated seats, background music (so no one knows what you are doing in there) and a thorough wash and dry to finish the job. It's hard not to take your time and linger.
With so many buttons to push, and not one in English, going to the bathroom has never held so many surprises.

 I'm starting to learn where to get bowls of delicious ramen and the freshest sushi. But English is rare so I am relying on pictures and charades.
Next stop, the mountains of Niseko, site of the 1972 Olympics and support popular ski area.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Off to Japan- land of sushi, hot springs, and fancy toilets

27 August 2018
With no plans or reservations, just a bicycle and a tent, I realize my style vacation is not for everyone. But I am thrilled to head off into the mountains of Japan. One long day of travel and I'll land in Hokkaido, the northern most island to start my trip. Steep terrain, lots of rain in the forecast, and a bit of a language barrier... I can't wait!