September 19, 2010 9:20 am: Carolyn and I head off on an adventure. Bikes packed (borrowed in my case!), helmets snuggly fit around our heads, sunscreen applied, we head off.
The Plan: Bike to Amakusa. Although we took the ferry from Kumamoto to Shimabara (in Nagasaki-ken), biked down the east side of the peninsula, and took another ferry from Nagasaki to the north part of Amakusa, we biked over 100 kilometers in two days.
Honestly, the biking part was pretty unadventurous. We saw some interesting statues… the goddess of freedom, some crude statues. After passing one statue of a frog next to a giant penis, I almost crashed into some pylons. They’re cemented onto the road, but luckily they are flexible, and nothing was hurt. On the way home, Carolyn also had a little spill, but she’s all right. It was really fun to actually be able to go fast on a bike. My regular bike is tiny, so I felt like I was riding a horse when I mounted Rob’s bike.
After we got off the ferry, we started the long haul down Shimabara. The first half of the trip was very hilly. But there was only one hill that I walked my bike up. And I biked up half. Yeah, what’s up. There were some beautiful beaches along the way, although I dont think any Japanese person would swim there. Maybe. There are sharks and jellyfish around, and Japanese people generally like to follow the rules, and swim in marked beaches. Proper beaches. In total, it took us about four hours to bike down Shimabara, after which the going was easy. When we got to Amakusa, I realized I had forgotten to bring the information about the camp grounds, so we asked the ferry terminal staff where to go. It turns out the camping “grounds” was only a kilometer or so away from the port. But the whole area wasnt bigger than a gymnasium in a school! It was pretty, though. So we parked our tent in between two other groups (there was probably only enough room for eight tents. Maybe.) and went out to find some food.
We asked the woman in a shop where to go, but she said there wasnt much. Maybe some ryokans (Japanese style hotels, where we also could have taken a shower) near the port. So we biked that way, but couldnt find anything. Being tired and hungry, we stopped to ask some fishermen if there were any restaurants around. Not many, but there was a ramen shop a couple kilometers down the way we had come from. So we bike, and bike, and bike some more, but nothing. Finally we see a convenience store and a yakitori (chicken) stand and stop there to eat. Good chicken, and the couple that we working there were really nice. We were talking, the usual, where are you from, are you travelling, no we work in Kumamoto, talking about Japanese culture, etc. And then the old owner of the convenience store stopped by and started talking with us. He couldnt keep his eyes off Carolyn, it was kind of cute.
The yakitori couple ended up inviting us to stay at their house, which over much deliberating we decided to do. We both wanted to stay in the tent, but there was the lure of a shower, and we were really stinky and sweaty. It was nasty. (Even though it’s the end of September, the temperature today was still in the 30s. This week the temperature is apparently going to be in the high 20s (!!), but it’s so hot still. Summer never ends in Kumamoto!!) And there were some other reasons involved (I did want to stay in a real Japanese house. There arent many opportunities to do so, but camping opportunities abound!)
By this time it was dark, and taking down a tent in the dark is no picnic. I put on my bike light, and the moon was bright, so it wasnt impossible. But we got it, and rode back to the yakitori stand. Now there was a group of middle-aged men eating yakitori and drinking beer (tea for me, please.) And we joined them until the yakitori couple took down their stand and were ready to go home. These yakitori stands are great. So compact. Of course, Carolyn and I helped a little in bringing it down, but we couldnt do that much. ^^ Anyway, their house was only another couple kilometers away, so we went with them (biking behind the truck), had a shower, and sat down for dinner. I wasnt really hungry, but Carolyn insisted that I had to try everything. I think I did. I even ate some of the pigs feet that was set before me. Gross. I didnt eat any of the figs though. I dont think anybody did. Around this time we learned each others names. Ahh, Japanese hospitality. Legend. Anyway, it was good food, and I was stuffed and almost falling asleep at the table before we went to bed.
It was so hot that night, the aircon didnt really work, and they gave us thick winter blankets, so I was terribly hot and sweaty when I woke up. We went downstairs, had some breakfast (leftovers from last night), the couple (Hiro-something and H-something.. I forget! @_@) took off early to drive to Kumamoto (they joked about driving us back, but that defeats the purpose of an epic bike trip), we stayed around for a few more minutes, talked with their daughter, Hitomi, and took off. Biked to the ferry, where it started raining, go figure. We didnt have any rain gear, and only Carolyn had rainproof bike packs. Mine weren’t, so I buried my cell and wallet in the middle of my bag, with my toiletries, and we gamanshita-ed. We stopped at the first combini to buy raincoats, but they had only one, and prayed to God to let it stop raining. It stopped soon after that (thanks God!!), Carolyn put her rain gear away and we went swimming in the “beaches” we saw on the way down. We took our bikes down a narrow staircase, parked among some litter, and made sure the water was passable before we went. It was just okay, but whatever, let’s go! Just a quick dip, then we went back to our bikes, and changed. Right there. On the beach. There were plenty of cars passing, but there was no way they could have seen us. And no one else on the beach. When I hoisted my bike back up the stairs, a big truck was passing, and the driver was motioning at me. I barely managed to see a thumbs up when he zoomed past me. Yeah, I’m awesome!! ^^
Too bad this time the easy bit was first. Or I guess that was good, got me in the zone for the hills. Oh, I lied, I walked up another hill on the way back. Oh, I was so tired. Of course, the trip back seemed much shorter, and it seemed in no time we were back at the ferry, and back in Kumamoto, on the last stretch home. We also managed to sing 99 Bottle of Beer on the Wall from start to finish throughout this trip.
For my next epic bike trip, I must go at least 150 kilometers. ^^ Large and in Charge.