Wrong Way Round – Day 20

Wrong Way Round – Day 20

Esashi – Hamatonbetsu (枝幸町 – 浜頓別) 40km

It rained all night and on into the morning, and not long after I set off there was a bolt of lightning and a crack of thunder, the drizzle turned to a deluge and I took refuge in this bus shelter.

During the next couple of hours the only person to join me was picked up ten minutes later by the only bus to pass by, and I wiled away the time sending emails to Mrs M, having a shave, studying Japanese, eating all of my emergency rations, and writing a list of every item of luggage I had with me to compare with a similar list from a previous tour (if you don’t happen to be a cycling geek bordering on the obsessive then feel free to skip this next bit. Notations are as follows: L = lighter than previous tour / H = heavier / S = the same / N = new item).

Bicycle – L (my trusty Transeo 4.0 GT 7005 City Cross Design, inherited from Tokidoki Tokyo)
Tent – S (my trusty Snow Peak, which I’ve written about before)
Foam mattress – L (on the last tour I took an inflatable one, which was a) unnecessarily heavy and b) got a puncture)
T-shirts – H (I brought an extra t-shirt this time to reduce the likelihood of having to ‘recycle’ the ones I had already worn)
Socks – H (ditto an extra pair or two, because wearing socks more than once can be even more offensive to the nostrils than doing so with a t-shirt)
Shorts – L (perhaps my strictest concession to weight reduction was to remove the drawstrings from the waistbands of both of my pairs of shorts)
Trousers – L (last time – cotton / this time – artificial fibres)
Sun hat – L (ditto)
Waterproofs – S
Riding gloves – N
Bar ends – L (last time – stainless steel / this time – aluminium)
Deodorant – S (Forever Living Aloe Evershield, which I can highly recommend)
Dr Bonner’s – S (see Day 12)
Sleeping bag – S
Books – L (lighter in the sense that this tme I didn’t bring any books at all, having realised that it’s actually rather impractical – not to say dangerous – to read a book while riding a bicycle)
Diary – L (last time – A5 / this time – A6)
Hammer – S (for banging in tent pegs, in case you were wondering)
Spare inner tube – S
Tools – L (the wheels on the Transeo 4.0 GT 7005 City Cross Design were quick-release, thus dispensing with the need for a spanner)
Pump – S
Lights – H
Water bottle – N
Mapple – S
Mobile phone and charger – S
Digital camera and charger – L (technology being what it is, the camera that I used on this tour weighed far fewer grammes and had many more megapixels than its predecessor)
Electric shaver and charger – S (I felt very pleased with myself when I found the super-lightweight National / Panasonic ES8815 electric shaver on a trip to Akihabara, only to discover when I got home that it came with an inconveniently humungous charger)
Bell – H
Mascot – N (see Day 1)
Chopsticks – S (while waribashi – 割り箸 / disposable chopsticks – are marginally less prevalent in Japan than they used to be, I still saved the equivalent of a small sapling by refusing them in favour of my own, reusable pair)
Spectacles – S
Business cards – N (as I had come to realise these are an essential in Japan, where even bikers carry them)
Mosquito coils – S
Bicycle lock – H

Despite the anally retentive enjoyment of compiling this list, in the end I reasoned that the rain wasn’t going to stop at any point before the end of the day, so wrapped my feet in plastic bags and rustled my way along the coast to Hamatonbetsu Town.

That night I went to a restaurant-come-guest house that was buzzing with diners, who every few minutes would stand up in unison, rush outside and start applauding. They would then return with an exhausted-looking companion in tow, who would sit straight down and tuck in to his or her evening meal. Each one wore shorts and a vest with a number on it, and had, as they later explained, taken six days to run here from Cape Erimo in the far south-east of Hokkaido. For some, their 550-kilometre odyssey would reach its climax tomorrow at Cape Sohya, but for a hardy few, that would merely be the halfway point on a 1100km round-trip. There were a mixture of men and women, most in their fifties and sixties, and having covered almost eighty kilometres a day, every day for a week, they had begun to resemble each other: short, wiry, and so heavily tanned that at first I mistook them for a visiting delegation of native tribespeople from the Brazilian rainforest.

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