Sunday, August 30, 2009

Yubari Forest Youth Hostel to Furano Highlander Onsen


We woke up again at 5am, still slightly jet-lagged. I walked around while Mark went riding, looking for a place to shoot the valley with fog rising from the bottom.

Breakfast was at 7:30am, and the food was again wonderful, but light. Seeking to get the 100km day over, we left at 8:30 to ride up 452. 452 was billed as the loneliest highway in Hokkaido, since apparently you could ride it from one end to the other without finding any food and water. We expected a fairly rural ride, but at the intersection saw a super market and a half dozen camping cycling tourists in front of it enjoying breakfast. Whhat I did not realize at the time was that the summer vacation season was winding down, and this would be last of the camping cyclists we would see for quite some time.

Past the supermarket, 452 lived up to its reputation, offering us rural but not lonely riding, first along Yubari river, which led to a dammed lake, and then a series of rolling hills punctuated by an occasional tunnel.
From Hokkaido
Near the second lake, we stopped for a snack and were captivated when a fox came out of the hills to beg us for food. It was so tame and fearless of people that Mark was able to get several shots of it almost eating directly out of his hand!
From Hokkaido


At the intersection with 116, traffic started getting heavier, with cars and tour buses coming past us at regular intervals. Yet Japanese drivers were so polite that it was never uncomfortable --- most drivers would use the oncoming lane to overtake, and buses would do likewise. When it was unsafe to do so, they would wait patiently for an opportunity without honking or otherwise behaving aggressively. Japan indeed lived up to my expectation as a mountainous country with polite drivers. After a series of tunnels, the road took a big dip and dropped us onto rest stop with a 3-sectioned water-fall. We took that opportunity to take a rest break and eat the rest of our food.
From Hokkaido
Not long after that, we hit highway 135 and turned off, beginning a brisk descent into Furano. Once in Furano, we found the visitor center, where the helpful receptionist provided a list of onsen in the area to choose from. We picked a cheap one but that required backtracking. Thinking ahead, we also booked an onsen at the Tokachi-Dake area, not the most expensive one, but one just below that.

Highlander onsen wasn't all that high, around 200m or so, but it had both indoor and outdoor onsen looking towards the mountains we would be riding the next day. Dinner was typically Japanese, accompanied by a glorious Alpenglow over the hills around us.
103km, 886m of climb.
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