Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Typhoon Fever

Slowly, but surely, the typhoon moves upon me. As I rode into Kito Saturday afternoon, there were occasional sprinkles as I dodged through the tunnels. It started raining there Saturday night and rained almost all day Sunday and Sunday night. The Uemoto's were giving me a ride into Takushima as Takuya had to come near here to get his driver's license renewed. We decided to make a break for it this morning (Monday) and as of right now (3:00 pm) the typhoon is bearing down on Takushima city. Previous encounters with typhoons here were of little comparison to this. Wind is blowing, and rain is falling quite profusely. I'm dreading the three block walk over to my hotel after I get done here.

Anyways, hopefully it blows through tonight. It's suppose to hit the jet stream and pick up speed and be gone by tomorrow. We'll see. If it is, I start my hike not far from here. Should be able to get through the first 8 or 9 temples pretty easily in one day. There are a lot grouped in the big cities, with large gaps in between. So after Thursday I'll be done with 20 or so (out of 88) but with a lot of hiking left.

But the couple days I spent in Kito were nice and relaxing. Ate a lot of Japanese food, some of it new, some of it I've had before. Fried octopus is better then the raw stuff. Had various other sushi and sashimi dishes, and Japanese prepared vegetables. A very good time, and they were very nice. They're even bringing me my bike after I get done, so that I don't have to catch the bus back to Kito.

As for garlic (to ward off mosquitoes) - I haven't seen any around. If you can tell me what it is in kanji, maybe I'll try to find the garlic pills. Other things I can't find in Japan: a loaf of bread, peanut butter (found something that looked like peanut butter, but it had a picture of a fish on it. Decided against trying it), and vending machines with chips in it (thousands with drinks, numerous ice cream vending machines, even a few with cup-o-noodles, and a couple sushi vending machines (one was out in the boonies that didn't look like it had been used in a few years), but none with chips, candy bars, and things like that. weird.).

well, must go brave the weather and get bunkered in for the night. I can hear the wind howling up the elevator shaft up here on the 6th floor.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Getting Closer

I've arrived in Kochi, one day earlier then planned. Tried to make it here between typhoons, but I think I got caught in one yesterday. I ended up having a hairy descent down a 300m hill in the pouring rain. My break pads will definitely need to be replaced once I get to Bangkok. Looks like another typhoon is headed this way, although it's hard to predict when it will get here. Hopefully I can get up to Kito sometime Saturday and weather out anything there.

Had a great campout the other night, as I accidently discovered an onsen (hot bath) across the street while I was looking for dinner. Very relaxing. They even had a sauna (90 C, as if I haven't had enough heat). Afterwards, I found the restaurant portion that I was originally looking for and had a great sashimi dinner for only Y1200 (around $11). One of the workers there spoke English and helped me out immensely. Even tipped me off to the approaching typhoon and the hilly nature of the road up to Kito (which is one reason why I'm going to get a chunk of it done tomorrow and then finish off Saturday).

Ended up camping out at this playground that I used two weeks ago. Seems such a long time ago that I was last there. The weather is cooling down a bit, and the bugs are either getting tired of eating me, are dying out, or I'm just getting used to them. Ended up busting a couple spokes this morning in an act of stupidity, but fortunately I was only 30km from Kochi and was able to wobble in safely. Got the bike in a shop and they're working on it now. $30 to fix the spokes and realign the wheel, but it's got to be done. If that's the worst that happens, I'll be happy.

The hills aren't as menacing as they once were, although I still look ahead with a little intrepedation at the 1500m climbs I'll have in Laos. But that's several months away, so I don't need to worry about that as of yet.

Other then that, everything is moving right along. I've been passing hikers along the 88 temple route, so people still do walk it. Seems like a few more convenience stores, and a few more hoterus when you're along the route, so that's a good sign.

Most of my clothes are wet from either rain or sweat, and I just hope others can't smell me as badly as I can smell myself. Been several days since my last shower and a good week or so since my last load of laundry. Staying in a hotel tonight, so the shower portion is being taken care of. I guess I'll wait until I get to Kito to do my laundry. A great first impression that'll surely make.

Anyways, three weeks down, 23 to go. The journey continues...

Tuesday, August 24, 2004


The last couple days have seen a couple long rides. Yesterday's trip looked like 50-60 km on the map, and turned into 90 km.  Curved around the coast, in and out, up and down. But it was quite the scenic journey. All these little Japanese fishing villages hugging the side of the mountains. Often with only enough room for a row of houses and a one lane road carved into the side of the mountain. It would be interesting to know when they actually built the road connecting the villages, as it seems like most were built as sea accessible spots only. Going up the sides of the mountain were little lime groves. They had rails with little carts that ran up through the groves to haul things up and down in. Quite impressive how they've managed to make use of every available inch of land.

One thing that I have noticed is the lack of any "yards". Even in the smallest of village, the houses are packed in one next to another. All over there are those concave mirrors that allow you to see around corners, as the houses extend right out to the street. If there is any space in front of a house, there will be a small flower or vegetable garden. And occasionally there's a larger space, which will also be used to raise some sort of crop.

This morning I've been putzing around the covered mall area, as it has been raining most of the morning. Hiked up to the Uwajima castle, and it wasn't very impressive. Didn't even pay to go in as it looked so much smaller then the other castles I've seen. The rain seems to have let up, so I should get going and make on to my next stop. Doesn't look too far on the map, maybe 20 - 30 km. But one never knows for sure until we get there.

Saturday, August 21, 2004


So, I was in a typhoon. I guess, technically. I was camping out on the island of Miyajima, enjoying the first decent night I've had here, weatherwise. Albeit a little breezy. The next morning, the ferries were grounded due to the typhoon passing to the north of Japan. Not much to speak of from where I was - just a bit windy. So that set me back a few hours, but fortunately it blew some of the heat away and I was able to ride all afternoon.

Speaking of Miyajima - beautiful shrine on the water. Nice campsite area too, except for the evil deer. Some..grrrr...stupid deer came about · · close to making dinner out of my stash of cash. Fortunately, he just decided to munch on some maps that I didn't really need. Almost killed the #%&! with my bare hands.
Routewise, I decided to bypass the westward push through Kyushu (as if anyone is following on their map at home) and head back to Shikoku. I'm back in Matsuyama today and plan on heading south to Uwajima tomorrow and then work my way around to Kochi before making the final drive to Kito.

It shouldn't be too difficult of week, as I'm sticking mainly to the coast. The last day from Kochi up to Kito will probably be the hilliest.

The only complaints I have are the mosquitoes, ants, other biting insectii, ravenous deer, and the humidity soaked nights. Hopefully they all begin to fade as the weather turns to fall soon.

Anyways, that's what's new for now. I'll try to work up something more profound for next time - too tired to think much as I was kept awake last night by rising tides, mosquites, and humidity. Fortunately, I've got a spot at the hostel here tonight, so I can get a shower or bath in, and a good nights sleep.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004


The ride into Hiroshima was just as bad. No shoulder, too much traffic for the street, and terrible sidewalks. Nevertheless, I made it here and even found a hostel. It's very nice, and well within budget. Plus - they have a washing machine and dryer and internet access!! I've been spending too much on hotels, as the night air is oh so hot and humid. End up laying there in my own sweat,swatting at bugs,or at least what I think are bugs. Maybe it's just heat rash. Although I killed a big ant that took quite a chunk out of me.

The A-Bomb dome has been the most moving thing I've seen in some time. Just a reminder of the destruction, so impossible to fathom just over 59 years ago. Comparing to 9/11 is impossible, but Hiroshima lost almost 1/2 their population that day. It took about 13 years for Hiroshima to recover to it's pre-war levels of industry and population. Today, it is quite a bustling metropolis. The Peace Park and Museum were also very good, as was the castle (with a little better planning I could have done a nice tour of Japanese castles).

I have seem to have hurt myself since I arrive here. My guess is the little slippers that only cover about half my foot and require me to grip onto them with my toes. Which has lead to some serious Achilles pain in my left leg. So I'm ditching the slippers for the rest of my stay, whether or not it's proper etiquette to just wear socks. For trying, just trying to keep stretching it and hoping it doesn't effect my riding.

Beyond that, I'm slowly starting to achieve relaxation. Freeing myself of the hustle and bustle of trying to always be somewhere at a certain time, the constant menacing fear of being berated by an over emotional boss, the general anxieties of everyday life. But I've been slipping into modes where I can just go with the flow. Stopping at little towns and just wandering. It's a very blissful feeling, one that I'm seeking more of along this trip. After all, it's not just a journey of the body but of the mind. Mind and body. Duality of one. As I've been finishing up reading _Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance_, which is the book I'll write when I return. Good to know it'll be a best seller.

As my little timer runs down, I end my%

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Crossing the Bridge

So, it's been almost a week since my last post. I finally found an internet cafe, as I've arrived on the more traveled island of Honshu (the main island). The crossing over the islands / bridges from Imabari to Onomichi was quite cool. Very easy 80 km with only a few hills. Speaking of hills, I've found that adjusting my seat up to where it's suppose to be really helped. I guess when I got my new rack installed the guy must have moved it down a bit. Although, biking in Chicago never quite prepared me for this.

BridgeCurrently, I'm in Higashihiroshima, which is about 25 km east of Hiroshima. I plan to bike over to Hiroshima later this afternoon once the sun starts going down a bit. From there, I've changed my plans to bike over to Kyushu, the island on the southern tip of Honshu. After a few days there, I'll take a short ferry ride back to Shikoku, and head east towards Kito, Where I'll meet my friend, Takuya, on the 28th. So that's the plan as is, always subject to change of course.

Thus far, most of the roads have been really been good for biking. Except of course for the current road I've been on today. Usually, there's been a separate bike path next to the road, or a wide enough shoulder. I've been straddling the little white line for the last 4 hours as trucks fly by me. Of course, the drivers are still much nice then in the US, and will try to give a little breathing room if they can. Just experiencing much more traffic then on Shikoku. I'm sure once I get on Kyushu, it'll be back to a more relaxed pace.

Current smell level: 4. First, internet cafe, next, laundr-o-mat!!

Weather is still hot and humid, and the bugs are out to get me. A little saddle sore, sun burn, heat rash, and general aches and pains. But otherwise feeling good. Down to 165# last I checked.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004


I succesfully arrived at Kansai Airport. I also succesfully took the train to Wakayama (which included a transfer). From there, it took a slight turn down as the hotel I planned on staying at was full, and then I unpacked my bike to discover a wickedly bent rear rim. Fortunately, I was able to find someone who showed me to a capsule hotel. Like a hostel for business people. You get a little capsule to sleep in (about 7'x3'x3'). They had a bath in the basement as well.

The next day I was able to find a bike shop where the old guy who owned the place was able to replace my rim and even adjusted my derailleur for me. Deciding to escape the belching Osakapolis, I took the ferry over to Takushima on Shikoku. The only problem now was that my rear panniers kept banging into my tire. Eventually, I was able to find a bike shop where they had a better rack, and the owner even installed it for me. So now I was all set, just needing a place to sleep for the night. I eventually found a nice little business hotel along the roadside (called the Roadside Hotel). Total ride was about 20-30 km - my GPS was going out so I didn't get an exact reading).

Aug 8 proved to be a fairly successful ride, as I finally managed to escape the sprawling suburbs of Tokushima and ride straight down Rte 192 into the heart of Shikoku. Taking a diversion to the south with the hopes of crossing to the western side of the island , I set my sights on a campground not to far from where I was. I even found the information center nearby with a little brochure and map. Only 10 km or so more - I figure a good half hour or so. Two hours later, as I'm pushing my bike up the side of this mountain, I give up and sail back down the mountain. I found a nice little spot off the side of the road, near a river, where I was able to pitch tent and campout for the night. It rained so I had to keep all my gear inside, and that little one-man tent is quite crowded. All told, about 120 km for the day. And I was soaked from head to foot with sweat. It is hot and humid here. I'm probably drinking several gallons of water a day and still have nothing left to go the bathroom with.

Today, Aug 9 I was going to continue my western push through Shikoku, but decided to head south into Kochi. Unfortunately, I took the scenic route which crossed over a 850m pass. I'm seriously glad to still be alive after that fiasco. Not enough energy, not enough water, and not enough leg strength to pedal it. Hopefully the Japanese mountain stream water isn't too contaminated. Ended up pushing my bike for 4-5 km and then from the pass raced down with brakes on full tilt. I can only imagine what people passing me were thinking (something like - "crazy gaijin" is my guess). After struggling across another hill, I was able to sail down to the seacoast town of Kochi. I was lucky enough to find this hotel with internet access, especially since the big dance festival is starting today. Total riding - 60km (including probably 5-8 km of pushing).

My next step is continuing my drive west, probably along the coast as to avoid to any more mountains. I'd like maybe another day of recuperation in Kochi. Most of the hotels are full, but there's a couple of campgrounds near to town. Pushing that bike, with all the gear is quite exhausting. I tried to purge a bunch of stuff the other day, but definitely need to see what else I can manage to get rid of. A nice shower and dinner will probably do wonders for me. Laundry would probably be in order as all my clothes from the last two days are still soaked with sweat. I'm surprised the hotel workers don't take me outside and hose me off. I offend even my own senses.

Anyways, enough for one day. Check in time approaches.