Shikoku Day 4
We made it a point to wake up early on Day 4. Looking at the distances on the map, we looked to be way off schedule, and being out in the middle of nowhere, there was really no train to get us back on schedule. Tomoe had to be back to work in a few days, and we wanted to make it up to the Sanuki area where I used to live in '95. We left the onsen in the middle of the mountains with a goal to make it as far as
To our joy and surprise, the entire ride was downhill. Looking at the map, we knew that most of it was, but it also looked like we had one big mountain to cross. If it was anything like yesterday, we would really have to haul-butt to make it to our destination.
Within two hours we had made it further than any other two hour span on the trip, so we began to relax and have fun, stopping more frequently to take in the sights. We were riding along a highway, so it wasn't as beautiful as the ride on Day 3, but the highway does have it's advantages too. We came across a rest area where the local farmer women were selling their veggies and homemade pickled goods. This is where I had the most amazing pickle in my life. A pickled loaf of tofu, bright red and steeped in shiso flavor. I ate three, and went back for three more.
Three oh-so-delectably sour tofus, three freshly made manjyus (sticky hammered rice with sweet beans in the middle -- these too were the best I have ever tasted) and going back for more. Maybe this was he beginning of the end for me. From the next morning until the day after I arrived back in Tokyo I had an endless stomach ache that hurt with each step I took.
Anyway, you can hear more about that on day 5, 6, and 7. For now, we are cruising down a mountain speeding toward our goal, actually arriving around noon, instead of the 6 p.m. we had anticipated. In fact, we arrived so early we now had a new dilemma. We didn't really want to spend the night in Kochi, a big city, so we had to find something else to do for the rest of the night without riding. We weren't really all that hungry, because riding downhill doesn't do much to build an appetite, but what else is there to do than eat?
We decided to ride toward Kochi, stopping at a small onsen we saw on the map just outside the city. Even riding slowly and stopping often, sometimes to take pictures, sometimes to let some rain blow over, we arrived way too early to take a bath. It just so happened however, that there was a little run-down driving range a couple hundred meters from the onsen. Tomoe, who is quickly being transformed into a corporate goon by her job, has recently begun to have an interest in golf, despite the many environmental problems with transforming biodiverse lands into chemical ridden playgrounds.
It was Tomoe's first time to hit a golf ball, so the first 500 worth of balls just kind of rolled far enough into the field that we couldn't retrieve it to try again, but by the end of the hour she was hitting quite nicely. I was in prime form (I used to be a caddy back in Michigan, so I have golfed three or four times in my life before I just got too sick of the monotony of it all... if only I had a camera back then, maybe golf would have been fun)
If you can't tell, I'm dragging this story out because not much else happened. We went to take a bath, ate some oden, had a few beers, and then it came time to find a place to camp. This onsen was more of a local bath than a tourist/traveler bath, so the surrounding area was very quiet. I asked the onsen lady if we could put up tent in her parking-lot, to which she replied, "No way, it's too dangerous with all the snakes!".
Now, Japanese (as well as Americans I guess) have a real problem with overreacting to small dangers. I imagined some garden snakes, and was sure that they cant get in my tent anyway, so we began to look for someplace to stay off of the onsen property. This led us back to the driving range, and the old man we had befriended earlier was just closing up, so I asked him if we could stay in his parking lot, under the roof in case it rains.
He refused, but insisted that we stay in the club house so long as we are out by 9 when they open. As he was moving the furniture to make room for our sleeping bags and preparing a midnight snack for us, he told us about the extremely dangerous snakes that live in the area. One bite and we could be dead within a few hours without medical attention.
As the rain outside gently lulled me to sleep, I noticed a huge gap at the bottom of the clubhouse door... I was about to say something to Tomoe about stuffing a blanket in there, but I was just too tired.