Monday 25 June Day 17
Tomakomai to Lake Toya (97km) Total 1528km
A fairly relaxed start to the day (after staying up to midnight skyping, blogging, emailing, and route-planning!) ended up resulting in a loooong day in and out of the saddle, only arriving at the camp-site at Lake Toya just before 6pm! Plus, I saw a bear!
The hotel breakfast was quite good, and I ended up sharing a table with a nice man called Tsukioka-san from Tokyo, who was in Tomakomai for business. We had quite a good chat, and he was very interested in my cycling around Hokkaido, because he had motorcycled around Hokkaido almost 20 years ago. He even invited me to lunch, although I had to decline because I knew I had a jam-packed day planned already. I was really tempted, though – he was going to a seafood restaurant… At any rate, Tsukioka provided me with his contact details and asked me to please let him know if I was in Tokyo, because he would like to catch up again and take me to lunch or dinner. I gave him a postcard with my details J.
Today I was really interested in going to the Ainui village and cultural museum in Shiraoi. I am so glad that I went – it was fascinating and I spent over 90minutes looking at the restored village and museum displays… I even got to see three bears (in cages, but still scary!). I would certainly recommend a visit to Shiraoi to anyone staying in Sapporo or Niseko. Ohh, and there is a café in the village that sells Hokkaido ice cream – how could I resist? It was noon already and I still had 20km before reaching Noboribetsu for lunch…
I then cycled straight down the coast to Noboribetsu, a cute mountain-town where I had a yummy lunch of katsu pork, rice and curry sauce at a café near the station. Yum! By now it was 2pm.
Then, the real work began… a 22km climb on the way up to Sobetsu/Lake Toya (50km from Noboribetsu). It was tough, with many sections 9-10% gradients. It took me 2 hours to climb and I drank 1 litre of water. But, the view from the top was amazing and the ride down was exhilarating! It was after 5pm by the time I rolled into Sobetsu, but luckily the information/service centre was still open and they were able to advise me on campgrounds around the lake. Unfortunately the one in town was closed, so I needed to travel a further 10km (in either direction around the lake) in order to reach a campground. Not really what I wanted to hear, seeing as I was feeling very ready to stop for the day. Even more unfortunate, the shop in the service centre had turned off their soft-serve machine, so I had to settle for a packaged ice cream instead sob.
By the time I limped into the recommended campground, it was 6pm, and I was DONE. Happily, there was a really nice lady at the shop administering the campground and onsen. So, I quickly pitched my tent and headed for the onsen to clean up and relax. Ahhhh!
It was only when I returned to my tent just after sunset that I appreciated how beautiful this campground is! It is right on the lakefront, and just has the most stunning view across to the islend in the moddle of the lake, mountains in the back ground, and at night you can see the lights from the villages on either end of the lake. Beautiful! It really is a special place.
Tomorrow is my last day cycling and camping before I return to Sapporo. It seems to have passed so quickly, although I am really happy about how much of the island I have managed to cover.