I DIDN’T PLAN TO START OUT THIS WAY. For several years, I’ve had the notion to propel myself (either on foot or by bicycle) from one end of Japan to the other. Starting today, that dream is being realized. However, it began much differently than I had imagined.
Scott, Dylan, and I got off the ferry yesterday, April 13th, with about 85 km between us and the starting line: Cape Sata, Japan’s southernmost point. After biking 45 km we pitched our tents for the evening. That left us with 40 km to travel this morning before our trip could officially “begin.”
Today was much more physically demanding than I had anticipated. No one had warned me (more like, I didn’t research enough) that near the Cape, the roads switch from being flat and coastal to steep and mountainous. I’m talking about 20km of muscle-binding inclines. My Japanese isn’t perfect, but I swear I saw a sign that read “abandon all hope ye who enter here.” Our average speed was reduced from a comfortable 23 km/hr on the day to around 15 km/hr, and the sun was hot. After an hour of sweaty first-gear hill-crawling we made it to the entrance gate. Paying the 500-yen admission fee and walking our bikes through some final park paths, we arrived at the southernmost point of mainland Japan.
A few things immediately stuck out to me:
- From this “southernmost point,” I could see a lighthouse on a barely disconnected island only a minute walk away. Apparently, that didn’t count as part of the “Mainland.”
- Only from now did our mileage start to count toward the “trip total.” All the tough cycling we had done previously on the trip on Yakushima and today was part of the “pre-trip.” As hard as all those 204 km (so says my bike computer) were, our trip odometer was now set to 0.
- Scott, Dylan, and I were really here and really doing this. Many other end-to-end travelers had stood at this very spot, taken a picture or quick video, and then set out with the whole country ahead of them. Now, we were entering their ranks. That was (and is) very cool to me.
After taking way too many photos of ourselves, we turned around to face north, and headed out. Retracing our steps, we once again traversed the mountains and made it back to the deliciously smooth coastal roads. Next time you and your friends decide, “Great idea! Let’s bicycle to Cape Sata!” I suggest you bring several water bottles, energy bars, and a pick-up truck in reserve.
Although we wanted to press on late into the night, we ended up making it as far as 46km north to a small beach-side campground where we pitched our tents right on the sand. Currently, it’s drizzling out, and I am blogging from the campground’s public restroom. Despite some distinct aromas, the restroom is relatively warm, dry and has a power outlet. I attempted to post this yesterday, but Internet was scarce. Today, April 15th, our plan is to head inland about 70 km to where we have a connection for a place to stay. This is good news for me as my body is really feeling the 85 km and mountains from yesterday. While I am encouraged by what I could (and did) do yesterday, I can see the logic of easing into longer distances.
April 14th, Milage:
Pre-Trip south to start line: 39km
North from Cape Sata Start Line: 46km
Day Total: 85km
Current trip total: 46km
Crash: Worn down but happy to start
Calves: Post work-out high