Monday, August 31, 2009

Furano to Tokachidake Hot Springs


Waking up early once again gave me a chance to walk around in the forest around our hotel/onsen, and then take in the onsen again. The Highlander Onsen was unique in that overnight, it would swap the male and female baths, which meant that the morning bath would be a different bath than the evening one.

Since the day was going to be a short one, we decided we would visit the cheese factory to see what they have. We arrived too late for the cheese-making class (which took 2 hours and started promptly at 9:00am), but enrolled for an ice-cream making session. It was my first time making ice cream, and all the utensils in use were very cute (tiny bottles of milk, for instance), and we got to even make the waffle cone as well as eat the ice-cream.


After that delicious morning, we headed back to town where we had to find a drug store for Yana's contact solution. After that, we prepared for the afternoon ride by eating at the cheese Ramen place in town, and then stuffing ourself with pastries at the local pastry shop.

Mark wanted to visit the Rokugo highlands, which looked real close on his tourist map, but didn't look very close at all either on my GPS map or the touring Mapple. Nevertheless, we had ample time, and arriving late was not an issue since we had reservations. I plotted a course in the GPS and soon we were on another gently rising road. Rokugo was featured in a well-known Japanese TV series, but since we neither saw it or read about it, all we saw were signs in Japanese pointing at interesting set locations during our ride.

Once past Rokugo proper, at about 400m, we started seeing beautiful views which needed no knowledge of Japanese to appreciate.
From Hokkaido
I recognized a signboard from Mark's tourist map and pulled into the publicly available spring, where car drivers filled bottle after bottle of what was billed as the best tasting spring water in the region, complete with regular testing to prove it.
From Hokkaido
We then descended a fast but straight road back to the North end of Furano, where after a short flat section we started climbing to Tokachidake Hot Springs under cloudy skies.

Like most gentle Japanese climbs, Takachidake's grade changes subtly, until at 700m or so, I found myself in my granny gear for the first time on this trip. At the intersection with 966, I dug out the brochure to show to the Inn at the corner, and the receptionist's desk pointed me up the hill, past the 13-14% grade sign. I was familiar with similar grades from years of touring, but this was everybody else's first tours, so there was no shortage of declaration as to the steepness of the climbs by the time we arrived at the Onsen at 5pm.

Any complaints faded away, however, when we saw the outdoor onsen which looked down from 1100m into the Furano-Biei valley. Lit up by evening light, it was a sight to behold, sitting in a lovely and well-constructed Japanese bath which we practically had all to ourselves.
From Hokkaido
From Hokkaido


Dinner was a self-administered BBQ, with lots of toppings and additional food.
From Hokkaido

69.1km, 1272m climbed
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