Special Edition = Guestblogger Chris Chistolm
So – after many procrastinations, I’m finally putting together my blog spot for this most visit to Japan and my trek on the Shimanimakaido trail.
First – some preamble…
Matt, Noriko and I met up in Busan n’ set off on a rainy morning for Fukuoka. After a night at Khaosan Fukuoka, a land-slide setting off rain storm in Kyushu and a manic Shinkanzen fiasco, we found ourselves in Mojiko – a kickin’ little retro town complete with a cool little hike to do, a crazy octopus play slide clubhouse, a retro beer restaurant and various other retro awesomeness. So yeah – I experienced a food-gasm on beer baked Japanese curry and micro-brew. Then we got on a ferry.
Keeping in mind the humidity and the amount of boppin’ around n’ retro rocking out we had been up to, I was one smelly dirty hombre… Which made it so that finding that onsen on the ferry absolutely ruled my life (that’s right – bath on the ferry… So good!).
So yeah – on to a chill stay at the guesthouse to beat all guesthouses – SEN! Many chill encounters were had, as well as some awesome hiking with Matt n’ chilling at Dogo Onsen. Much needed relaxation for what was coming next – The Shimanamikeido!
So I took off in the early morning, hitting the street car to the train station where I took an express train to Imabari. As I was a bit behind schedule, I just hopped on a cab to Sunrise Imabari – the second of the bike-up/drop-off stations on the trail, a full 70kms away from Onomichi.
The Sunrise has a great set-up for starting the ride – complete with a fluent English-speaking guide who’ll rent you the bike and explain everything. Also, by starting at that site, you get introduced to what the Shimanamikaido is all about right off the bat– the beautiful views of and from the many bridges connecting the islands. In fact, doing it in this way, you end up starting off on the longest bridge of the trail – something like 6kms just for this one bridge!
So yeah – on the trail and I’m on a big high. I couldn’t stop taking pics and just singing along to my tunes for the first 20kms or so. Truly awesome stuff! Honestly – even in the shape I’m in, the first third of the ride just seemed to fly by me. I guess I was just thrilled to be out on the bike in some really beautiful country-side just lovin’ it. I really can’t say enough about it! Not to mention, every other cyclist you meet gives you a solid nod n’ smile that just propels you through it. All told – it’s an exceptional atmosphere for riding.
Anyway – after getting through the first half, the heat was really taking its toll on me. I was sweating like crazy and compensating as best as possible on Aquarius and Pocari Sweat. I was also doing my best to keep the sunscreen on, but that was easier said than done with the amount of sweat running off me. I know you need to know this… hehe… But yeah – if I had the time back, I probably would have stopped around this point for the night. There are some seriously chill little beaches around this area – one called Sunset Beach, if memory serves, stood out a good bit. Seemed to have a guesthouse and a really nice little town to check out. But yeah – on this trip, my mission was to get all the way to Onomichi, so, regrettably, I didn’t stop off.
Anyway – the fatigue was starting to set in. I was still good for it, but being a bit out of shape, it became a pretty thick slog for the next little while. Still – I pushed on, taking breaks every 10kms or so until I hit the last 15. Once at this point, the ground seemed to even out considerably, and I was chewing up the kms, flying past chill little beaches and checking out the scenery. The sun had definitely taken a lot out of me, but I was determined to finish.
Around this point, another solo biker got out of a stop headed for Onomichi as well, so I just kept pace behind him and before I knew it, I was rounding up to the end of the island and the ferry crossing that would take me to Onomichi.
So yeah – all told – this was one of the best rides of my life. The trail is incredibly well marked and manageable – even if you’re out of shape or haven’t been on a bike for years, you can – AND SHOULD – do this ride!
Also – now that I’ve had some time to reflect on it, I’ll leave you with a couple dos and don’ts:
Do saturate yourself with sunscreen. I did my best in this respect, but managed to miss the back of my hands – seriously baked that skin and it’s only now (a week later) peeling off… again – you need to know this 😛
Do make sure you’ve got a lot of water in the heat. Seriously. You’ll sweat it out in that humidity like nobody’s business. Now – to that end, there are drink machines like EVERY WHERE! So don’t worry about it; just take advantage of them.
Don’t rush through this thing like you can’t wait for it to be finished. I’m not saying that’s what I did, but having set the goal of getting to Onomichi before the cycle shop on that end closed made me push through in certain sections when I might have been happier to stop off n’ enjoy a swim at one of the many beaches along the way. Again – if I had the time back, I’d take the trek in two days n’ camp out on one of the beaches in the middle. I’d say it’d make for a much fuller experience if you do!