• Tag Archives motorbike
  • Ride to Touratech.. and beyond

    Saturday

    To Touratech – and sorting the tools

    So I ordered a nice toolkit for my bike from SBV, which arrived last Monday after I got back from my ride. Excitedly unpacked and played with it, only to discover that one tool, a socket extension bar, was broken. It was impossible to retract the locking mechanism so no way to put a socket on it.

    Interestingly the Japanese vendor is Touratech, and they only have a single showroom in the entire country – which coincidentally happens to be in the town where I met Wilson last Saturday and is a jumping-off point to some nice rides.

    Even though the weather was a bit meh I decided to ride there and have a chat to the guys, instead of trying to fix things via email (nihongo o tabemasen..) and sending stuff back and forth for a month.. Since the shop only opened at 10, I left around 9am, which put me in heavy traffic on the motorways leading out of Tokyo. Was totally not expecting that! It ended up taking me over 2 hours to get there instead of the estimated 1.

    The guys at Touratech were very friendly and helpful and can even speak some english – certainly a lot better than my japanese! After some explanation and showing, they quickly replaced the faulty extension. Did not have as much luck trying to figure out the different contents between the Japanese and the European version of the tool kits..

    After browsing the shop a bit I sat down and planned out the rest of the day – figuring I wanted to hear north and up to get out of the lowlands heat. Nagano direction seemed nice, so I planned some nice twisty roads up.

    Towards Nagano

    Hitting 5000km..

    The ride to Nagano was a mixture of awesome and humdrum. At first I took a wrong turn out of the Touratech shop (well, partially because of heavy traffic and a yellow line), and went the long way around the lake to get on the highway. Then just highway for half an hour or so until I peeled off onto the 140, which was pretty meh for quite a while – traffic and suburbs.

    Once I turned off the 140 and onto the 37 things started to improve, and certainly by the time I got onto the 71 it was quite an acceptable ride, especially once I got past some cars. The 46 was a pretty good stretch, and I was getting very close to my bike hitting 5000km as I got back into towns.. oh no!

    But luck was with me – at Akihata I turned off onto the 192, another great little windy road and soon my odometer ticked over to 5000km just as I was leaving the village. I find a picturesque spot with a big stone marker amongst the trees for a commemorative photo.

    The 192 turned out to be mostly a single-track back-country road, slow but rather picturesque and a great change of pace, leading through some dense forrests and eventually back down into a valley. There I hopped onto the E18 highway for a 10 minutes or so to bypass a city, turning off again at Yokokawa, I started up the 18.

    The 18 and 292.. oh my!

    Oh my, what a fantastic little road the 18 is!! I managed to get past one or two cars early on and from there I had a clear run up the mountain! After one corner I had a youngish fox just sitting in the middle of the road. No idea what it was doing there – it’s not as if I was the only vehicle passing by (there were quite a few cars coming the other way), but I guess it didn’t mind playing chicken! This was definitely one of the better roads of the day – over 200 corners in only a few miles!

    The 18 ends up in a town as a major road, but it’s not long to the start of the 146 – nominally a road with some decent stretches, except I caught up to a black crown sedan.. no idea if the cops patrol this far out in unmarked cars, but I played it safe until it eventually, after many miles, turned off. But there wasn’t long left until the road hit suburbs again. I was quite glad to finally turn off onto the 292 at Kusatsu.

    The 292. Epic! That’s the only word – even with the rain and the mist this is an awesome road with potential for great views leading up and around Mt. Shirane, one of the highest volcanoes in Japan and active as recently as 2018 (which I didn’t know until I read up about it). Unfortunately it was very misty and it was starting to get late so I didn’t stop – but this is DEFINITELY somewhere to come back to with more time! At the top, over 2100m, it got nicely chilly with only around 16C..

    Dinner and bed – Seki’s House

    After dropping back down from the peaks I went through Shiga Kogen ski area, and soon found my hostel, “Seki’s House”. The owner wasn’t home, but left me a note as to which room was mine and that they were in a bar. So after freshening up a bit I headed to the bar where it turned out Seki wasn’t having a beer, but was actually working! I had a pizza and salad for dinner with a couple of well-deserved beers, then Seki-san unlocked an onsen for locals for me where I could relax for a bit in the piping hot water.

    Completely knackered, it didn’t take me long to fall asleep – so much for writing up some trip notes!

    Sunday

    Sunday started off with quite heavy rain, so after waking up early I turned around and napped a bit more. I then had a leisurely breakfast which Seki-san cooked – inari-sushi and a Nagano specialty, sanzokuyaki (which, to be honest, was just a slightly different take to kareage, although it was very delicious being freshly made). Eventually it was time to get going.. the rain had let off and there were even some blue spots amongst the clouds!

    Green lanes..?

    I didn’t have much of a plan, just picked out some curvy roads towards Nozawaonsen. Seki-san waved me good-bye and flicked some sparks off a “good luck rock”.

    After filling up with petrol, my first road took me up a quiet road, the 342, which I saw was already going to be potentially a problem further on with the telltale moss in the middle and a fair bit of uncleared debris despite it being marked as a major road on my GPS.. and sure enough, after a couple of miles, it turned into a proper green lane. As in, the tarmac disappeared under a carpet of grass and was soon just grass-on-gravel. No wonder there was a barrier to stop cars!

    But, it didn’t seem too bad.. and there were some car tracks leading into it which didn’t look too old. After some debating and walking a little way along it I decided to give it a shot – the detour was quite significant! And after all, that’s what this bike is made for! So I gingerly set off down the grassy gravelly track and immediately wasn’t very happy. The gravel was not very firm and the bike moved about quite a lot – probably not helped by the full tank of fuel. Initially it was wide enough for two lanes with a guard-rail but soon the track narrowed to a single lane with no guard rail and an appreciable drop. Combined with the squirrelly nature of the front tyre on the gravel underneath, I decided to turn around at the first opportunity, which came not long after at the first of a series of switchbacks.

    I made it back to tarmac without any mishaps, but by this stage I was quite hot and bothered! Ok, the bike can definitely do this, I can’t. Certainly not on my own and without further training.

    I then proceeded to take the long way around the mountains, which was mostly rather dreary suburbs and villages with lots of slow cars in front and little to no chance to pass them. Eventually I reached the other end of the 342 and, curious, went up it to see what this end looks like. Not so long in, it turns into an unpaved single-track forest path. This looks a lot more rideable than the other side, but as I’m already late in my schedule I decide against seeing how far up I can get it. But definitely something to come back to someday!

    The 66, which I had been following, finally left the suburbs behind and became a great road back up into the mountains nearly hitting 2000m elevation again! It meets up with the 292, but unfortunately I was not heading back towards Mt Shirane, so I duplicated a short section of the road from last evening and then peeled off towards Nozowaonsen.

    The 502 to Nozowaonsen

    Peeling off the 292 onto the 471, this was a pretty fun little run, but it pretty much finishes at “Edelweiss Resort”, turning into the 502 which does not allow heavy traffic on it. I missed the turn onto the 502 and did a quick loop over some gravel roads instead of doing a U-Turn; no worries this time as it was compacted gravel roads and very much in use.

    Back on track, the 502 is a great little road. Mostly it’s a forest road, often single-track, with quite poor visibility in the many many corners due to lots of plant growth. I was lucky though as there was pretty much no traffic and it really was very pretty with very vibrant plant growth everywhere. The going was pretty slow but very nice.

    Sections of the 502 open up a little bit, especially on the downhill run past some ski slopes, and offer some great views. But better watch out – there’s bears about! No, literally! A youngish-looking black bear ran across the road in front of my bike, I had to hoik on the brakes quick-smart there! Although I was more worried about a momma-bear coming out of the woods.. so I didn’t hang around long. Times like these I need a camera on the bike!

    Crash! before lunch..

    Eventually reaching the valley of the Chikuma River and a bigger road, I stopped to look for lunch. I found a soba restaurant a few miles away, and, instead of the main road, decided to take another smaller road. This was, as it turned out, not such a good idea.. firstly it was concrete, not tarmac, secondly it was single-track, and thirdly there was no guard-rail and quite a steep drop into the valley. Picturesque, yes, but definitely not a relaxing ride.

    And then, in one corner, there was a wash of mud on the road, which I misjudged and before I knew it, I was sliding down the road. This is only the second time I’ve dropped a bike while actually riding.. at least this time it was totally obvious why. Covered in mud, I quickly picked the bike up – well, at least I get to pracise that! and, apart from being a bit muddy, it looked perfectly fine. The crash bars did their job and the little plastic protecters protected even them from any scratches. In retrospect, I should have taken a few pictures…

    Stopping again not long after, I stripped off my muddy riding pants and put on my jeans – I didn’t want to look totally unfit to enter a restaurant!

    Without further mishaps I made it to the rather out-of-the-way soba restaurant, and more bad luck – they had just sold their last portion! Guess I should’ve stuck to the main road for once.. well, they told me about another soba place one more town over.

    I made it to Tomazawa, the next soba restaurant, before they sold out and had a delicious soba noodle lunch.

    Back to Tokyo – via Nikko

    From where I had ended up it was about 240km or so back to Tokyo.. but that was just one boring long blast all the way down the highway, and would get me back into a set of expressways which I knew would be heavily trafficked by the time I got there.

    So I decided to take a detour via Nikko..

    An hour or so on the highway, and then off I was up the 120. This is a really nice curvey road, often two lanes heading up the mountains with a single lane down, so getting past cars was a breeze. Once at the top the road does narrow a bit but is still quite open compared to the narrow roads I’ve mostly been riding.

    I’d been here quite a few times already, so didn’t feel the need to stop at the waterfalls again, but I did make an impromptu coffee stop at Lake Chuuzenji after seeing a cafe with a parking spot. In fact, it turns out there’s two next to each other, and I ended up going to Adonis as I noticed it had outdoor seating. A nice coffee and slice of cheesecake while taking in the sight of the lake certainly hit the spot!

    After the lake is the ridiculous section of switchbacks on the down-hill run of the 120. But it’s been rebuilt to be one-way only, which does allow a bike some wiggle-room to get past the interminable columns of cars.. I must say, I don’t think I’ve ever come the other way UP the 120… might have to try that one day.

    From there it wasn’t long until the start of the highway back to Tokyo.. nothing much more to say. I sat on cruise control at 120kmh for quite a lot of it until the he traffic got heavier as I got closer to Tokyo. Despite it getting slower there was no traffic jam and all up a smooth, if boring, ride back.

    Otsukaresama!

    Photos:

    (Click on a picture to go to the album..)

    Visiting the Touratech shop in Japan
    The rather picturesque spot where my Bumblebee reached the 5000km milestone.
    Seki-san's House - my hostel accommodation in Nagano.
    The weekend route. 843km or so.. and more than half on little windy backroads. Not too shabby :)

  • Motorbike weekend with Wilson

    Friday

    Tokyo to Kawaguchiko via Route 56.

    Taking a half-day Friday, a friend of mine and I planned a quick trip to the Fuji Lakes area as he needed to be back on Saturday evening.

    We left Tokyo separately and met up at a restaurant in Sagamiko as it’s quite picturesque near a lake, at the end of the highway, and the start of the more scenic roads leading west. I left the highway a little bit earlier to take in a short twisty section and, of course, immediately took a wrong turn after a rather convoluted exit ramp and had to backtrack through a long tunnel. And then, of course, got stuck behind a car during the twisty bit.

    After lunch we headed off towards Yamanakako taking a small road to Route 56 which we then followed all the way to the lake. On the way we had a quick fuel-stop in Doshi but otherwise just enjoyed the ride. I wanted to check out Nijinomotsu bridge, so from Yamanako we headed up a small road. After a mile or so it got covered in debris and small rocks, and Wilson didn’t want to go on with his street bike, so he turned around to find somewhere to wait for me.

    I kept going and after another corner, the road turned into a dirt/rock track. Unfazed I started up it, but after two hairpins and the incline getting ever steeper I decided that this was probably not a good idea.. and anyway, after glancing down at my GPS I realised I wasn’t even on the road anymore! Doh! So turning back and finding the right road, I headed up it. No debris and tarmac. However, after a couple of miles, it was blocked off, presumably due to a landslide or something. Bugger!

    After messaging Wilson that I was on my way back and texting him the location of a parking lot to meet up, I turned around. When I got to the parking lot I had a message from Wilson that he was waiting at a McDonald’s a few miles away. Battling the rush-hour traffic, I eventually got there and enjoyed a chocolate shake for my efforts, yum!

    From there it wasn’t far to our final destination, a hotel in Kawaguchiko, which we found after an accidental detour over the bridge. Following check-in we wandered off to find dinner and ended up in a chinese restaurant. Well, that was a bit different! The crispy-duck pancakes came with four pre-cut pieces of duck and a tiny bit of hoi-sin sauce, and the sweet-and-sour pork was what seemed to be soy sauce.. Finally back at the hotel we enjoyed a nice hot sentan (unfortunately no onsen) before rolling into our futons for a deep sleep.

    Saturday

    Kawaguchiko to Utsubuna for lunch; around the Fuji lakes, scenic forest roads, and some fast curvy stretches.

    We got up around 7am, geared up, dropped the key into the check-out basket, and headed off. First stop was a service station on the other side of the lake for Wilson to feed his hungry steed, while I wandered across to a 7-11 to feed myself. Wilson’s not a big breakfast person, but I do like my cup of coffee in the mornings!

    From there we followed the road around the lake, then looped around Lake Saiko, Lake Shouji, and Lake Motosu before heading along Route 300, a fantastic curvy stretch. Nearly at Fuji River we peeled off onto the 413 which is a small road leading through forests. There was a bit of debris on the road, so we took it nice and slow until we got to the top where there was a nice look-out. We stopped for a couple of pictures, and a guy arrived from the other direction on a Postie Bike. He said his other bike was a GS, and also mentioned that there was more debris on the road from the direction he had come from.

    We continued on and it was actually not as bad as what we had already done, but when we got to an intersection Wilson said he’d had enough of the tiny road and wanted to get back on something more decent. Unfortunately the road leading back to the main road, while starting off nice and wide and clean, quickly turned very narrow, very bumpy, and very mossy, so slowly, slowly.. nevertheless we made it back without mishap and then proceeded to follow Route 9 beside Fuji River.

    We stopped in Utsubuna for lunch in a small restaurant beside the road. Although we had both initially wanted Tempura we opted for soba bowls instead, and they were very delicious. After lunch Wilson and I split up – Wilson was wanting to head back to Tokyo, and I was wanting to check out a small road leading to Tenshi Lake.

    Utsubuna to Shirakaba Lake via dirt roads, Shizuoka, and the fantastic 152; long dash to the hotel at night.

    The road to Tenshi Lake, rather predictably by now, got narrower, covered in debris, and eventually turned into a rocky track leading deeper into the forest. Less daunted, I kept going and it was quite a nice ride, I even saw a deer grazing beside the road. Eventually the track turned less rocky and more gravelly, but developed a centre grassy hump which was a bit tricky to negotiate at times. Still, I made it through without mishap and had a good time of it!

    From there I had wanted to ride Route 152 further west, but to get there required riding through quite a bit of town and major roads, which were full of cars and people. I miss the quiet countryside already! After slogging my way through Shizuoka I turned off on Route 362 which was much nicer. I also wanted to take Route 32, but this turned out to be closed a few miles in, so I had to backtrack. Still, 362 was mostly ok for traffic and most cars let me past.

    I eventually reached 152 and, after passing the detour in Isuka due to a landslide I had managed to get past all the cars and could really enjoy the road leading up the Funagira Dam Lake. This was a well-paved road with great sweeping corners, fantastic to ride. Eventually though, as seems to always be the case here, the road turned into a single-lane narrow road through the forest. My aim was to get over the Bungui-toge Pass, but this was thwarted…

    After reaching the Hodono Castle Ruins (which I actually didn’t see as I didn’t realise I was there at the time – I was running a bit behind schedule to reach my hotel for the night at this stage…) I ended up taking a wrong turn through a long tunnel.. which I then had to backtrack. The 152 was closed here, but there was a smaller road which should detour around and meet up again with the 152 later. Except, after a few miles, yep, you guessed it, it was also closed!

    Checking for alternatives I realised there really was nothing.. and by now I was _really_ behind schedule. I had originally wanted to get a place somewhere in this area, but they were all booked out, and I accidentally ended up booking something near Nagano, which was still a couple of hours away.. so I just told the GPS to route me to the hotel, fastest route, and gave up on going over the Pass. Funny story: the new route took me through the tunnel I had taken a “wrong turn” through an hour earlier…

    Here followed a mad dash to the hotel. I should have spent a bit more time trying to plan the route instead of trusting the GPS as, instead of routing me over highways, it took me via Route 152 and other quite small roads. During daytime this would probably have been really nice and picturesque, but as it was getting dark, the highway would have been a lot more comfortable. Still, I got to try out the auxiliary lights on the bike after dark and damn, are they impressive! I was still able to make quite good progress even on small twisty roads through the forest. I’m really glad I reprogrammed them to be dimmer before setting off as otherwise they would have been blinding to oncoming traffic even on low-beam.

    I eventually reached my destination, the “Petit Hotel Kurumi No Milk” without mishap, despite having to stop to let a few deer cross the road on the very last stretch. As it was already nearly 9pm by now there was no point trying to head out to find dinner as the closest places would be a 15 minute ride away or so. Unfortunately I lucked out again and the place had neither an onsen nor a sentan – and after my epic ride (over 500km, mostly over small roads) I was a bit beat. So I folded myself into the ofuro and soaked before collapsing in bed. Still, it’s a nice enough place and, as it turned out, was on the Venus Line, which is one of the best roads in Japan for motorcycling!

    Sunday

    “Petit Hotel Kurumi no Milk” to Tokyo; via the last bit of the Venus Line, various other small roads; 2 caves, and a rather horrid last stretch back to Tokyo..

    I left quite early again as the hotel didn’t have breakfast – I really need to start booking through Jalan again as the places it has usually have breakfast options! A very nice trundle along the last bit of the Venus line followed, in very comfortable 18C at this altitude. After various great mountain roads I stopped for breakfast at a kombini – not my favourite, but it was too early for anywhere else to be open, and I needed coffee!

    I was mostly just moseying back towards Tokyo, but realised that I was well and truly too early as I had originally expected to be starting at least 100km further back and was wanting to check out the “Median Tectonic Line Museum” in Oshika this morning. In retrospect I could have had a great blast up the Venus Line and had breakfast at the top.. oh well.

    Instead I did a sudden U-Turn when I saw a sign for Fujido Cave and headed up the side-road to that. I already got a sneaking suspicion on my way up the access road, which was confirmed when I reached the top – I had already been here! Well, no point going in the cave again, so I traipsed across the Ueno Suspension Bridge in search of ice-cream. Unfortunately it was still too early for that, so I traipsed back and got an ice-cream out of the Cave shop freezer instead. The view was nicer on this side anyway.

    From here I did a big loop through a small forest road just for fun, and then tagged another cave as my next destination. The ride to Hashidate Limestone Cave was mostly along Route 299 and overall great, although the last bit through Ogano was a bit painful with traffic. FWIW, Hashidate Cave isn’t worth it as a specific destination.. it’s quite small and there’s barely any indication of stalactites or stalagmites. It’s also a bit of a scramble to go through, so only recommended if you’re reasonably fit and flexible. It does seem to be quite a popular tourist destination though with a big eatery and other touristy stuff. The only hint is to drive up to it instead of parking at the top carpark.

    I tried to keep going up the road past the cave to get to Arima Dam, but, yep, it was closed maybe 10 miles later.. so back I went and had to take quite a long detour to get there, some of it through busy towns. I made it eventually and discovered it’s a hot-spot for bikers! Lots of bikes parked up on the dam wall with people lounging about.

    From here there was really nothing else except back to Tokyo. I tried to take a smaller road for a bit but, again, closed, so again, backtracking.. the main road leading down into Hanno got busier and busier, and, coming out of the mountains and onto the Kanto plain, the temperature soared to 30C+. I was getting quite hot in my gear, and the neverending lines of cars did not help. After various attempts to reroute myself off the busy main roads I eventually got onto the highway back to Tokyo.

    Unlike the south, there were no major hold-ups and apart from not taking an exit when I should have (the GPS and road signs disagreed with each other; the GPS turned out to be correct..) it was a mostly reasonable ride back. Still, I was more than happy to finally get home and have a shower!

    What a fantastic weekend 🙂 Looking forward to the next ride.. although I definitely need to invest in some summer riding clothes!

    Photos:

    (Click on a picture to go to the album..)


  • Bike Trip 2021 – Day 3

    The day started rainy. Very rainy. Despite Brians warning I had left my clothes out to dry which were soaked again of course. Oh well..

    I wasted time till nearly 10am when the rain eased off, then ran out and bought an umbrella. Of course as soon as I stepped out of the shop the rain stopped, proving once again that you don’t need an umbrella to keep the rain off you, but rather, to stop the rain. I grabbed some breakfast at a french bakery and a much needed cup of coffee, then headed off to the castle.

    The castle was pretty neat, and contains an old gun museum. The guns were collected by somebody local and then donated to Matsumoto city, they are all period-weapons of the castle. The castle was already built with guns in mind, containing both arrow slits as well as gun ports. Unfortunately there was very little else on display, but still, it’s well worth a visit.

    As the weather had improved I decided to go for a ride-out, having already decided to stay another night at the Backpackers. So sans luggage I took off and headed up into the mountains where, of course, the rain started again. The road itself was great, but there was a fair bit of traffic on it which was a bit annoying. The river down in the ravine had several dams across it, bringing it up closer to the road level after each dam.

    Eventually I turned off onto a side-road, which was supposed to go up a pass at over 2000m. But, as so often around here, eventually the road was blocked and not allowed to continue. This time there was a little guard hut to stop people. Apparently to get up to the pass I had to take a bus, but the last bus had already left. No amount of pleading would let them let me through. Bah!

    On the upside there was a short hiking trail to a waterfall, and even in the pouring rain it was well worth the hike. Eventually I came to a triple-waterfall which was very impressive, especially with all the rain.

    I checked with the road-guards about another pass, and they assured me the road was open. So I headed that way, hoping to be able to do a loop back to Matsumoto instead of retracing my route. The road looked a bit ominous though, looking a little bit neglected with some grass growing in cracks and covered in leaves and twigs from the recent storms. Turning a corner, I came across a whole horde of monkeys, which scampered off the road and into the trees, screeching at me for having disturbed them. Seems it’s been a while since a car last came this way…

    My concerns proved right – shortly after the pass, the road was blocked by a chain. Gah!!! By now the rain was coming down in buckets again, so after a brief thought I decided against doing a different, longer loop back and instead plotted a route to the nearest onsen as I was soaked to the skin by now despite wearing my “waterproofs”. An absolute delight to sink into the hot water!!

    From the onsen I headed back the way I’d come, again, lots of traffic so not very enjoyable. Once I cleared out of the mountains, the rain also let up and on the far side of the plain the sun was even striking some mountains! So I replotted to head to the far mountains for a bit of sunny riding, but just as I started getting close the wind picked up and very black ominous-looking clouds closed in. I also happened to be quite close to my hostel, so I called it quits for the day, remembering the cold beer I had left in the fridge.

    Great day despite the rain! Now to find some dinner and then decide where to go tomorrow..


  • Bike Trip 2021 – Day 2

    The day dawned drizzly. Heavy drizzly. Ok, rainy! The river had swelled and was now a muddy brown pouring down the valley. I had some left-over bread for breakfast, settled with the owner, and put on my wet weather gear.

    I had initially thought to just head towards Matsumoto which was predicted to be sunny as quickly as possible, but ended up heading up into the mountains for a loop of the upstream reservoir instead. Glad I did as there were some pretty impressive bridges, and views from them, leading up to it. Just for a change the “loop road” was not closed so I could do the loop, although the minor road was quite minor…

    Heading out of the mountains the rain soon stopped and I rejoined the 299 to continue on to Matsumoto. The 299 now had a very varied character, from absolutely stunning road with fast sweeping bends and great asphalt to just a small country road.  At one point I saw a sign to a cave and, a quick u-turn later, headed up a very steep little access road to it.

    Fujido Cave turned out to be a mixed bag. The Japanese fondness of concrete and infrastructure took a lot of the character out of the cave, but I guess they have to make it accessible. Still, it’s worth a quick visit if you’re passing by with some neat rock formations. There’s also an impressive suspension bridge nearby, not recommended if you get vertigo!

    Continuing on, the 299 eventually became very small and then stopped – it was blocked off as so many other roads were. A couple of people in a small pickup truck gave me directions on how to continue on to Matsumoto, which turned out to be along the 45 until I could continue westwards on the 254. This road was also pretty nice in places. Along the way I stopped at a rest stop for some lunch and ended up buying some deer obento from a guy selling it out of the back of a “Ente”, a Citroen 2CV.

    Some great riding later I finally reached Mastumoto, detoured past the castle for a quick first look, and checked into the Backpackers run by a very friendly chap from Ireland. Time to do some shopping for some essentials (soap, shaver, towel), a quick freshen-up, and then I wandered in search of dinner. I ate some yakitori as it had outdoor seating and enjoyed my first beers with dinner in a long time – unlike Tokyo, Matsumoto still allows alcohol! Then I took some great night-time pictures of Mastumoto castle before turning in for the night.


  • Bike Trip 2021 – Day 1

    So feeling a bit down due to the incoming weather forecasts, I waved bye to my friend Edith, who was off to Okinawa for the week and had kindly offered to lend me her bike, a KTM750. I decided to at the very least do a quick loop on the bike around Tokyo before going home. Finding a park near Kanagawa River as my destination, I set off. Despite city-riding and traffic, HUGE SMILE!

    Enroute I found a small shrine and looped back to take a picture of the bike in front of it, then asked for safe riding from the local deity. Just before reaching the park, the heavens opened up and my jeans were soaked through to the balls in no time. So I guess the prayer backfired? I still stopped at the park and sheltered under a tree until the rain slowed and then stopped shortly afterwards.

    Riding back I stopped at a couple of spots to take some pictures and by the time I got back to Edith’s I went “stuff it”, packed a couple of tshirts and a toothbrush, found a cheap hotel somewhere in the mountains, and headed off.

    Best decision ever! Weather stayed dry and even though most of the trip was along city roads, which did eventually get wearisome, I was still very happy to be on the road on a bike again. Just bliss not having to think, just ride. At one stage I went over some hills with giant TV antennae which seemed to be a bit of a built-up version of Mt Cootha back in Brisbane. Unfortunately I was past it before I could think to find a spot to stop to take a pic.

    Eventually though the city roads petered out and things got awesome as I slowly climbed into the mountains. Especially the 299 is a really nice road once you get past any traffic – a bit tricky since it’s all yellow-lines, but there are a few traffic lights.

    With only 20 minutes to go to my destination, and my clutch-hand feeling decidedly sore after all the earlier city riding, I saw a big dam and shortly afterwards a road leading up to it, so off I went. Pretty spectacular! I was going to do a complete loop of the reservoir, but it turned out that the road on one side of it is blocked off for some reason. Still an awesomely scenic spot.

    I kept going and found my hotel – a very traditional-looking japanese inn nestled high above the road. Upon entering the first thing is a common room with a wood-fired stove, rather rustic looking. The owner is a youngish-chap though (I was expecting a fossil to be honest) with two young girls and made me welcome. We managed to communicate and I got shown to my room. After that I sat down for a bit to relax, then hiked down to the river and had a swim. Great, now not only are my jeans still damp, but my only pair of shorts is wet as well… but it was worth it!

    By the evening other guests had arrived and we enjoyed a small fire outside while chatting and eating dinner – home-cooked chicken which was very delicious. When the rain came back we all went into the common room where one guy kindly shared some sake and, later on, some food. Despite my lack of japanese it was an enjoyable evening.

    Time for bed, going to try to go to Matsumoto tomorrow to have a look at the famous black castle!


  • Poland Day 1 – Berlin to Jarosławiec

    Click to view the pics

    Had a coffee with Jürgen and then breakfast with Julia before packing the bike up.  A quick photoshoot with Ella and I was on my way.

    First stop Hein Gericke, then Louis, Polo, and finally an Army Disposal store to find a bag large enough to fit the tent and chair.  4th time lucky.. From there to the Brandenburger Tor for a couple more photos and then out of Berlin around 2pm – only 4 hours later than planned!

    Lovely ride through countryside to the Polish border (unfortunately no opportunity to stop for pics at the border). The roads had gotten progressively worse, especially in the towns coming up to the border. Just over the side was a run-down little town consisting mostly of cheap shopping. Just pastthe border the roads in Poland got a lot better and despite a rain shower I quite enjoyed more countryside and forests.  A lot ofthe towns remind me of east Germany with tumbledown houses and factories mixed in with newly renovated or built houses.

    Stopped for dinner at a roadside restaurant just on the E28. Borschtsch and Peroggi. And a beer! Still aiming to get to the coast tonight..But nowhere near as far as planned. At least it’s dry, if chilly.

    The E28 was a great road. Quite open compared to the windier roads earlier and more traffic but brand new surface. Lots of modern amenities all along it. The dense forests from earlier were replaced by rolling countryside and rapeseed fields.

    I finally turned off the E28 onto the 203 to get north to the coast and the roads were wir a mixed bag again from new to little more than a patched up bit of tarmac over a dirt track.

    I made it to the town I had put in to the GPS but there was nothing much there so I went on to the next town which was even sign posted. Jarosławiec turned out to be a bit of a holiday town with tons of little shops and cafes, although almost all were closed by the time I got there. I asked in a souvenier shop about a hotel as the tourist info was also closed and the lady rang someone up who runs a hotel on the other side of the street. A short while later the guy, Andy, cane over and offered me a room with breakfast for 120 zloty, or about £22! With seaview. Needless to say I took it.

    After a quick cuppa I had a short still through town and down to the beach but not much to see – I’d just missed sunset by half an hour or so.

    Bedtime! On to Marlborg tomorrow.