On two wheels in Rishiri Island

5 August 2013

I have been waking up rather early on this trip, i.e. 4-5am, simply because the sun rises earlier here. It feels great to have a leisurely long day stretched out ahead of me, with little rush and hurry. Caught the ferry again. This time, I was treated to a Russian performing troupe that was promoting Sakhalin Island in neighbouring Russia.

Reached Rishiri island around 8-ish. Immediately on arrival, the sound of what felt like a million cicadas chirping inundates – mother nature is shouting out a loud warm welcome. Found a nice campsite 1km from the coast to set up my tent against the backdrop of dandelion patches and Mount Rishiri. There was only one other person in the campsite at that time. In the name of testing my sleeping ground, I lazed around a bit. It was still early.

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The only shady patch at that time. Although still early in the day, the sun was already out in full force.

I walked down the hill to look for a bike to rent. It is a little disturbing to see seniors walking in the MIDDLE of the road.

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After picking up a bike – there weren’t really many choices – off I was on two wheels around the northern coast of the island. It took me a while to find the dedicated bike path, although riding on the roads was fine since traffic is sparse. Along the way, a siren went off. I half-wondered whether a tsunami was happening. Not sure. Kept on pedalling.

What a great dedicated bike path! I love it!!! It runs for about 20km along the northern coast of the island. The bike path meanders through windswept meadows and flower fields, rolling up and down the coastline, with Rebun island (where I was the day before) in the distance. And then the path turns inland in the direction of Mount Rishiri which has a visible patch of snow; it looks a bit like Mount Fuji. Most of the time, I was the only cyclist, passing by the odd one or two other who yelled out “Konichiwa!“. Konichiwa to you too sir!

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Alone on these wide dedicated bike paths.

Had these wide dedicated bike paths mostly to myself.

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Mount Rishiri in the background.

As I approached Kutsugata, the area seemed more industrialised. I missed the rolling hills and decided to turn back in the direction of Oshidomari. Had a simple picnic lunch by the coast.

The cycling path on the northern coast of Rishiri Island.

The cycling path on the northern coast of Rishiri Island.

Near Oshidomari, the bike path turns into the forest area, running behind the campsite where I had pitched. I decided to pop by the campsite to get some water. And also to check if my tent might have been blown away – I don’t have tent pegs. Plus the tent was a little bit crooked as I had broken a tent pole.

It turns out more people have come by to pitch their tents. Some even had large dining tents with tables and chairs! Suddenly my tent feels very small – well actually it is, I have to lie diagonally to fit in it. A conspiracy of noisy ravens were gathered around my little tent. My heart sank! Will I have to put up with these squawking birds the whole night?

Decided to worry about this later and continued cycling up to the lookout point. The skies are a little bit overcast now and I really wanted to complete the route before night fall. Going up the hill was tough, especially on the 25kg bike in an upright position. I miss my bike at home!

Nonetheless, this stretch uphill is beautiful, in a very different way from the route earlier today. Surrounded by alpine trees, spruce and firs, the smell of the forest, fluttering butterflies and chirping cicadas.

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Finally I reached the bridge, overlooking the port and a plunging gorge, surrounded by the lush forest. Interestingly, this bridge is only accessible by bike and on foot. I find it very unique that within tens of minutes of riding from the coast, one can be surrounded by an alpine environment.

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By now Mount Rishiri is hidden behind clouds.

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The port at Oshidomari.

Turned back to town to return the bike. Bought some beer from the Joyful Shop with Liquor (that is its actual name, I am not kidding) and then headed off to the onsen that is conveniently located opposite the camp site. Although the temperatures in Rishiri were actually very good in the low 20s, I had wondered why would anyone take a hot bath in the middle of summer. But after a whole day of rolling up and down the coast in the sun, a good scrub and a hot bath was a real treat. This particular one had an outdoor onsen, surrounded by pine trees. All for only 500 yen. I couldn’t have enjoyed it more. More about onsens in another post.

Went back to my little tent. The ravens were nowhere to be seen. Perhaps they went to bed. Only the sounds of the forest floated through the cool night’s air. I laid down, closed my eyes and reflected on the magnificent day I had.

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