• Tag Archives travel
  • 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!


  • Last minute ski trip – first afternoon

    So I eventually made it to the Chalet and met up with FiSH and John after checking in. Brief spot of lunch, sort out ski hire and lift pass, and a short while later we’re heading up the mountain for my first attempt at nreaking bones in 14 years or so.

    With a shout of “No guts, no glory” I launched myself down the slope. The first turn was a bit iffy (I had completely forgotten how to) but then muscle memory kicked.in and it was all good.

    Had a great arvo skiing even hitting some red runs. Weather and surroundings just gorgeous and surprisingly empty slopes.

    After the lifts closed we headed back to the Chalet for a warm-up in the Onsen before heading to dinner at a local Izakaya. Highlight was horse sashimi – delicious and so tender it melted in your mouth.

    Then back to the Chalet for and early night.. brekky at 7:30!


  • Last minute ski trip – departure

    So a mate of mine, FiSH, texted me around 5pm saying the skiing was great up in Yamanouchi and that it would be great if I could join fir the weekend.

    A few clicks later and I had a reservation at Chalet Shiga, the place he’s staying at. Then off.to ask my boss if I could.take the Friday off – to which he surprisingly agreed 😀

    Next priority – down to Bar82 where I was meeting up with some old friends. A few beers later and it’s to the JR counter to get a Shinkansen ticket to Nagano.

    Back to the apartment, pack, shower, set alarm, sleep. Too few hours (6) later and I’m up – 10 minutes before the alarm!

    A short while and a pic of sunrise later and I’m on the Yamanote line bound for Tokyo where the Shinkansen stops. In typical German style I’m on the platform 40 minutes too early – time to write a blog entry and have a coffee!


  • Poland Day 9 – Tatras to Wildalpen

    Got up early(ish) and had a lovely brekky before anybody else was around.  The lovely lady brought me my washed clothes which weren’t quite du yet. Oh well. I spread them out in the roof outside my window while I packed the rest and fit the bike ready.

    The roads and views once I got going were absolutely stunning, with hardly any traffic about to spoil things. Soon however I was out of the mountains and into the plains where summer asserted itself with a vengeance. The temperatures climbed well into the mid thirties and the roads got ever more boring.

    Things did not really improve once I hit Austria, if anything worse as I encountered several roadworks with long waits in the scorching sun. Eventually however I found mountains again and took advantage by taking several detours along promising looking roads. One of the highlights was the Höllental, only slightly spoiled by a slow bus in front of me which I couldn’t get past.

    Eventually I reached my planned stop for the night though, the Wildalpen, which were in even more stunning scenery than any I had driven through so far.
    First stop was a restaurant where I had a well deserved beer. They helped me find a bed for the night in a B&B just a few doors down.

    While sorting out my room a couple of bikers pulled up at the servo opposite and I got to chatting to one of them. Markus and I ended up having a beer before he had to keep going. I had a great dinner of red deer steak followed by a childhood delight, Kaiserschmarrn.

    Then it was trying to sort out the home Internet connection with Dana’s help before heading to bed.


  • Poland Day 8 – Wyjście Salt Mine

    Hot hot hot!  Rode to the salt mine and got a ticket. Nice and cool down below.
    Pretty impressive underground tour. Did the extra museum tour as well.

    Came out of mine to find it had rained heavily. Helmet was soaked, great.. and it had cooled of a lot. Still the roads down to Zakopane were pretty good although heavily trafficked. Zakopane itself I didn’t like to much. Way too commercial and touristy.  And every piece of dirt had some dude hovering over it waiting to charge you parking while local cops ensured you didn’t park on the side somewhere.

    I saw a bunch of bikers in a cafe and pulled up. They had just come back from a training ride and one suggested I keep going to a town called Smokovec in Slovakia, which I did (after coffee and cake) and glad I did so! Once in Slovakia the roads were perfect and the scenery amazing.

    I ended up getting a room in Penzione Koliba with a great view of the Tatras. Dinner was red deer steak, then to bed to plan the ride for tomorrow.  I’m sorely tempted of going to try to get to the Hochalpenstraße in Austria after seeing some pics from some friends who rode that road a few days earlier.