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Nov 30 2012

Ad hoc on Hokkaido

“Welcome to Hokkaido” greets me Gaku my host a 21 year young environmental science student. He waited extra for my arrival in the cold to pick me up. It’s a pity I have no time to explore Hakodate as it is a special town regarding history. I don’t even find time to take some photos of the historic church because already for early afternoon strong rain showers are forecast. My early departure was the right decision. Only one hour later this photos from the Onuma National Park would only have been half as beautiful and spoiled by rain.

Onuma Quasi National Park

Onuma Quasi National Park

Furthermore I’m having my second puncture on this trip. And I manage the change tire/tyre change just before it starts to rain. Now the last tube for my trailer tires is gone. If I should buy a spare one so short before reaching my final destination? My trailer tires/tyres already over a trip from Hamburg to Rome, South Korea and three quarters of Japan after all. But I chance it and don’t buy another tube.

From Mori to Toyoura I’m cycling alongside alongside the bay of the Oshima peninsula. The bay’s diameter is a bit more than 50 km but the leg I have to do is about 100 km. It’s kind of funny as you can see your destination on the other side of the bay and almost for the whole time while making your way to the other side.

 

Alongside the coast to the north

Alongside the coast to the north

 

As my host in Oshamanbe obviously has forgotten about me Michitaka, my host in Toyoura offers me to host me a day earlier. Even though he’s already hosting two guys from France!

There is a good trick to reach people who agreed to host someone but then seem to forget about it and haven’t logged in for four weeks until the requested day and not yet sent me their address or phone number. In that case check if they are friends with other on the Couchsurfing platform or check their references. Write to those contacts who logged in recently, asking them if they have also other contact details of your host and if they could remind your host to check his mail. Most of the time hosts and guests also stay friends via other social networks or other media they use more frequently. However in this case my host is a complete newbie without any friends or references which is why this trick does not work this time.

Maiko (l.) ich und Michitaka

Maiko (l.) ich und Michitaka

Michitaka and Maiko my hosts are a Japanese couple and work for the Waldorf school. Every day they cook for me. The first day I am being offered deer: “At the moment we have too many deers here on Hokkaido so the hunters are pretty busy now. One of my friends is a hunter and I received the meat for free!” When talking about my trip I mention that I timed almost everything pretty well on my trip, I saw the lantern festival in Seoul, was at the right time in Kyoto to see the Gion Matsuri festival, saw Matsumoto bon bon, now I’m here when the foliage of Hokkaido’s forests are changing their colours, I only missed the firework season this year. I only missed the firework season this year.

 

“You don’t know it?”, Michitaka wonders.

“Don’t know what?”, I’d like to know.

“Lake Toya is well known for its fireworks which take place every day from the end of April until end of October from 8:45 pm until 9:05.” explains Michitaka.

“Come on it’s 8:20 pm now and October the 31st if we hurry we can make it in 20 minutes to Toyako!”

And indeed we make it. Well, obviously once again timed pretty well thanks to my marvellous organizing skills ;)

Firework at Lake Toya

Firework at Lake Toya

The journey from Toyoura via Toyako to Kutchan shall be my last one on my trip with clear skies. The autumn/fall atmosphere here in Hokkaido is even more amazing compared to what I’ve seen in Aomori. Gold brown rice fields steppe tree-lined by red, green, yellow and orange dappled autumn/fall woods and lush field landscape. The scent of chestnuts, foliage and farmer fires fills the air. Even though it’s mainly flat after making it over the edge of the Toyako caldera it takes me about five more hours to cycle from there around Mt. Yotei, a 1,898 meter (6,227 ft) high strato volcano. For two hours I cycle below night skies and it’s awesome! As it is already comparably cold here in Hokkaido the air is pretty dry and a crystal clear starlit sky completed by a full moon makes my trip a very special experience. The black contrasts of volcanic mountains at the horizon against this bright night sky are amazing! It’s that bright that you can even see the whole landscape.

Mt. Yotei

Mt. Yotei

Seiko, a 30 year young Urologist doctor lives in Kutchan and hosts me for two days. I’m calling her to let her know I might arrive two hours later. “I thought you were coming yesterday!”, she confuses me. Did I really confuse the arrival day? I did and she waited for two hours for my arrival. (Japanese mobile networks don’t sell SIMcards without phones and not having a gaijin card (Japanese green card) makes it even more complicated buying a cell phone.) In short: she could not call me. “Simon, I’m working at the hospital now doing a night shift so you have to come here to pick up the key!” Wow, after all this she still hosts me…

Seiko und ihr Freund im Yaki Niku grill restaurant

Seiko und ihr Freund im Yaki Niku grill restaurant

The next day she treats me for dinner at a yaki niku bbq restaurant, and takes me to another dinner with her friends. One of them even speaks a bit of German. Another one is a potato farmer. Even though rice is the big thing here in Japan this region called Niseko is known well for two things: potatoes and a winter sports. Niseko features the best powder snow in all Japan. Talking about snow… Once again there have been reports about snow on the Nakayama (Toge) pass. And when looking toward Mt. Yotei the next morning the mountain peak is covered in snow too. It reminds me of my first big bicycle trip when I passed the Brenner pass. That was also in November and they also already had snow there. Nakayama Toge is only 800 m high but Seiko warns me that there is a lot of traffic. Seiko and Nozomi (who I met on my ride from Fukushima to Sendai) recommend me to change my route. And I think it’s good advice. So instead of taking the Nakayama (Toge) pass I take route 5 which mainly runs in valleys, and from Yoichi, alongside the sea to Sapporo.

Seiko's friends

Seiko’s friends

In Otaru, 20 km before my final destination Sapporo, my rear break refuses to work. Does it really have to go on strike on my last travelling day? Well, regarding my none existing spare tire I didn’t worry and so far I was lucky and had no puncture. But when it comes to breaks it would be irresponsible to go on with only one break. So I get it fixed. Still I’m content with my breaks. On my first trip from Hamburg to Rome I had a skid break. Especially after mountain passes I had to change the skids constantly which I found pretty annoying. But it’s obvious that they fret pretty quickly especially when they have to break not only for my body weight but also a bicycle trailer packet with 40 kg. My disk brake however practically lasted for the whole trip, more than 3,000 km. Pretty cool hm?

The shore on the way to Sapporo

The shore on the way to Sapporo

This is how I reach Sapporo my final destination. “As it is quite a young city – at least from a historical point of view – there is not a lot to explore”, tells me my host Bob, 60, from the U.S.A. who teaches English here and has lived in Sapporo for over 20 years already. One should try soup curry, a local speciality. Sapporo is mainly known best for food and the annual snow festival Yuki Matsuri which takes place here in February. They build whole temples or other buildings from snow then. No worries, it’s quite likely that I will return to Sapporo in February to present you pictures from the city and this festival. But now I’m busy with getting my flights and bicycle transport organised.

My bicycle and me on my host's roof and Sapporo's ski-jump in the background

My bicycle and me on my host’s roof and Sapporo’s ski-jump in the background

And this is how my bicycle trip ends. But still I will go on with fund-raising for my projects. More info about that on this web page or my social network profiles. I’ll go on further trips which will be shown here and on my facebook page.

I’d like to thank all who helped me making this trip such a wonderful experience! So a big thank you to all my hosts – especially to to those who also helped me with the text revision for this blog! Thanks to all who donated for the aid projects. Thanks to all who commented on my blog for the nice notes or thoughtful questions! I’d like to thank SwissEye and Weber products for the support. Also a big thank you to my little sister Lilith who assisted me with my web page in Germany. Hubertus Neidhart my web page hoster, Daniel Göhr my programmer, Christoph Flosssman for minor graphic design and advice for the graphics programme, Gimp. Also Sumire Harayama and Fumi Ono who helped me with administrative work and PR for Japan and of course to you, the reader!

My next big travels in 2013/14 will take place in two countries south from here. If you’d like to know more you simply have to stay tuned :)

Thank you for accompanying me.

Until the next trip!

 

Yours truly Simon

 

 

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