Wrong Way Round – Day 36

Wrong Way Round – Day 36

Oh-arai – Hitachi-ohta (大洗 – 常陸太田) 39km

The man next to me in one of the ferry’s communal dormitories had some kind of sleep disorder, and kept me awake for half the night talking, walking around and even singing. He was so noisy that eventually I gathered up my things and moved to the next room, although he soon sleepwalked in to join me, and come the morning was complaining that his wallet had been stolen, when what he had almost certainly done was to leave it somewhere on his nocturnal wanderings.

After breakfast I got talking to Mr Pure Hemp Spine, who was originally from Osaka but now lived in Tsukuba. He worked for ten months of the year on events and exhibitions as a carpenter, he said, and spent the remaining two months on holiday, this being his twentieth time in Hokkaido. Even though it was ten in the morning he was already on the beers, because, as he explained, a friend was coming to pick him up from the ferry terminal and would drive him and his bicycle back to Tsukuba.
‘To be honest I probably carry a little too much luggage with me,’ said Mr Pure Hemp Spine. ‘I’ve even got a ukelele. The most unusual thing I ever saw, though, was a cyclist who was in Hokkaido to pan for gold. He had all of the tools with him – you know, the sieve thing and so on – and they were really heavy, too.’
‘Had he found any gold, then?’
‘He had but it wasn’t much – not enough to pay for the holiday, anyway.’
Having disembarked from the ferry at Oh-arai I stopped to make one final call to Mrs M, this time pretending that I was at the Ainu museum in Shiraoi. Because she has aunts, uncles and cousins all over this part of the prefecture, I planned my route to her parents’ house so as to avoid being spotted, and a couple of hours later she came to the front door to find me back a day early: not as tanned as expected, perhaps, but a couple of kilos slimmer and marginally more proficient in Japanese than when I had set off five weeks before.

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