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Shikoku Day 3

When we last left our heros, they where sleeping soundly in a tent down by the river as packs of wild dogs surrounded their tent.

Then, on day 3, we woke up and headed back to the Dogo onsen for a morning bath. The previous night we had taken a bath at Dogo II, which is a second onsen they build to capitalize on the popularity of the original one which was way too packed at night to get into. The morning was relatively empty.

It should be noted that this onsen is quite famous due to a novel by Natsume Soseki. For a couple of blocks around the onsen there is nothing but hotels and junk-shops. The main reason everyone comes there of course is to take a bath in the famous onsen, so it gets pretty crowded. At night the streets are also packed with people wandering around in their yukatas (Japanese pajamas).

So, getting back to the adventure, we took a bath and hit the road west. Our goal was to make it to someplace mid-way between Matsuyama and Kochi. Although we had no idea if there was anyplace to stay along the way, we were thinking we should try to get to Yanadani. This would leave us enough time to get to Kochi the next day. I don't know if you're paying attention, but the area between Matsuyama and Kochi is further than the distance we have travelled in the past two days, but this time it is over an entire mountain range. Still, for some reason I thought we could do it if we left early enough.

It wasn't until around noon that we turned south to start heading over the mountains. We decided against the easy route, which would have taken us along a busy high-way, and instead chose a small winding farm road over one of the higher mountains. Our success hinged on our hopes that once we got over that mountain, we would be able to go pretty much downhill untill we reached Yanadani.

The uphill ride/walk took about two hours longer than we expected, but it was the greatest leg of any trip we have taken so far. Along the way we were passed by a handful of cars, and the view all the way up was amazing. It was warm, partly sunny, and the road was flanked by farms and rice fields on each side for the first three hours until we hit the undeveloped forest near the top. Stopping for a lunch break to take it in, we looked at the map and hopeful of the great downhill ride we would have on the other side, we figured that it may still be possible to meet our goal.

The road went through a short tunnel near the top, taking us from the north face to the south face. As soon as we exited the tunnel, helmets on, packs secured, brakes tuned, ready for the wind in our hair... the road became a pothole filled dirt and gravel road with rocks and tree branches strewn all across the path.

Now, if it wasn't for the heavy packs we had on the back of our bikes, this would have been great fun, cruising down the off-roadish trail at high speeds, catching some hang-time jumping off of especially tasty rocks and potholes. but the fact is we did have the heavy packs, and we were looking forward to a smooth cruise down a winding mountain road.

The going was slow, and about five minutes down, it got even slower. As a matter of fact, it stopped when I noticed I no longer had any air in my back tire. Now, I don't know how smart you think we are, but I bet we're not even that smart. Although we had some patches in the bag in case of a flat, we didn't have an extra tube, nor did we have an air-pump for one of my tires, which was English make. Tomoe's tires, and one of mine are French make, and Tomoe has a portable pump for that, but if that English tire blows at the top of a deserted mountain, we would really be screwed.

Lucky for us, the French tire was the flat one. Now we just have to hope that old cheap patches we had would work. Just after I got the wheel off, a truck came driving by (the only vehicle we saw on that side of the mountain that day). He just drove on by...

Patch number one failed, probably because it was so dang old, and now we were down to three left, and there were three holes in the tube. about fifteen minutes later the man in the truck came back. Apparently he was out looking for a river for water to brush his teeth and felt a little guilty having passed us by. He hung out until we got the tire fixed, making sure that we were OK to start riding down the mountain again, which was a load off our minds, and we were back on the road again... this time going even slower than before.

About halfway down we ran into paved road again, and all was beautiful, just as we had imagined, until we ran into a tiny village which was better than we imagined. It is almost as if the area around these mountains are the forgotten Edens of Japan. It would make sense too that if such a place exists, it would be on Shikoku. Unless you live there, there is literally no reason to even be passing through the farthest corner of the smallest island of Japan. Even any tourists would probably be on the highway or taking the coastal road around the mountains. I am now torn between buying a house here, or back on Oshima.

As the sun began to set, we were nowhere near our goal, but we did happen to reach a great public onsen in the middle of the valley where we stuffed ourselves, took a nice bath, and set up tent under the stars in the middle of the mountains of the eden of Japan.


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