Cycling Kyushu: Day 4 / by Ryan Mundt

BEACHES, FORESTS AND ONSENS

Day Four: Fukuoka to Omura  |  130km

I woke up around 7:30am and had my oatmeal. Skipped the coffee as I figured I’d go enjoy the view at Starbucks in the park before heading off.

I went outside to fix my rear tire. While I’m working on the tube Doug and a friend pull up to the house. We chat for a while and then they head off.

Today’s weather is just right. Nice and cool, and best of all, no rain in the forecast!

With the bike all packed up, I head over to the park. I grab a coffee and the same hot sandwich I had 12 hours before and relax for a bit.

I get on the bike around 9:30 and head straight out the city stopping only for water and painkillers. My knees are screaming! But the weak Japanese painkiller do nothing.

The plan today is to get around Sasebo City and find camping. But before that I will take a scenic detour around the peninsula of Itoshima just outside of Fukuoka. Doug and Nick had highly recommended it the night before. It would add about 30km to my day but as I found out soon, it would be well worth it!

About 20 minutes outside the city I took a right turn and began the detour. A quarter of the way around I could see what they were talking about. At this point the beaches were ok but it was getting pretty rural already. When I got to the half way point it felt as though the city was hours away: great coastal views and lots of beachside cafes.

Because it was pretty early and a weekday, I was the only one on the road, with the exception of the local farmers speeding around in their little white Daihatsu’s.

Beautiful Itoshima

On the back side of Itoshima there was a huge crescent-shaped beach that stretched for miles. Wow! It reminded me of a beach in Oahu…and no one around. What a great little gem just outside the city! The closest area like this from Tokyo is three hours away.

Beautiful Itoshima

This is what cycling is supposed to be like; nice up and down roads, beautiful beaches and great weather…and tires with no leaks!

I finally reach the end of Itoshima but luckily I ride along the coast for several more kilos. Next city is Karatsu in Saga Prefecture. The roads wind along the coastal countryside.

Outside of Karatsu I turn off of Route 202 and continue along the coast through an amazing forest preserve. The two-lane road goes for about 5 or so kilos. The trees actually canopy the road and the bright sunlight shines through the leaves. The temperature is notably cooler.

Fantastic forest preserve near Karatsu. Would’ve been a great place to camp.

Then all of a sudden there is a roadside burger stand…which also reminds me of Hawaii. There is a counter and one table and chairs outside. When I stop, there are two other day cyclist eating there. I ordered the “special burger” with egg, bacon, and cheese. That should take care of my calories for the day. I also get a can of Coke, which I rarely, if ever, drink. The place is really popular with lots of people stopping and getting take-away.

The “special burger” was special!

After lunch and a quick charge of the cell phone I head off through the forest and meet up with Rt. 202 again. From here I head inland away from the coast and directly toward Sasebo City, which is still a good 60km away.

The temperature is really starting to heat up, plus my left hand is really cramping up from all the shifting. On the map I noticed that 202 does a big S shape in one section and then when I see these huge mountains in front of me, I understand why. I’m still about 30km outside Sasebo and stop at a small local grocery store for water and a toilet break.

Sweating up a storm, I buy an apple and a bottle of water. The woman at the register was super friendly! She was really surprised when I told her my route and where I was headed. I think she may have even told me my Japanese was great, as well. I got my snack and went to sit outside. 30 seconds later she came outside and told me to come back inside and sit in the cooler store…which wasn’t much cooler but I did it anyway because she was so nice.

When I finished my apple I bought another two bottles of water and took off. The lady at the store really lifted me up! It’s the little things that make huge impressions on you. I couldn’t help but think that both of our days were better because of that simple exchange.

Before I go again I lather on some more sunscreen and shake my hands out.

Tonight I’m planning on camping again. However, I don’t really have a specific spot picked out. I knew I was heading to the north part of the giant bay between Sasebo and Nagasaki. It looked pretty rural on Google maps when I looked, so I figure I will do a bit of wild camping near the water out of sight from passersby.

I hit the 100km mark before I get to Sasebo. I’m starting to see a lot of churches around too. This area is famous for its European influence. The Dutch first settled here and the remnants are still very visible.

I keep cycling further around the east side of the bay stopping to check how far I’ve gone on the iPhone. I zoom in on the area I’m at and find a campground very close! Fantastic!

Omura is a little peninsula that pops out into the bay which I can clearly see as I get closer. I climb to the top of the hill and take the turn off that leads me down a windy road to the campsite.

I get to the bottom on the hill and pull into the parking lot of the campsite. This one has a section for auto camping and regular tent camping. There were a couple cars in the parking lot but when I cycled through the place not a single group was staying there tonight.

I go to the check in counter and it’s closed. Huh, that’s weird. It’s a weekday, I know, but I thought someone would be here. I finally see a door open in the building and pop my head in to find a young guy working. I ask him if I can stay and he says its ¥500 per night. Plus he gives me a discount ticket for the onsen. Onsen!?!? Score!!!

After clocking up 130km today, I’m definitely ready for a soak!

It’s around 6pm at this point and still a bit of sunlight left. I don’t bother unpacking and cycle over to the onsen which is part of a resort hotel on the other side of the small peninsula.

I check in and wash up and get in the bath. Ahhh, this feels AWESOME after such a great long ride! I go to the outside bath on the balcony and the sun in bright red and falling fast. I sit and watch it fall totally behind the horizon. What a fantastic day! FINALLY!

Does it get any better than that!?!

After a good soak I get out. Realizing at this point I’m running low on clean clothes, I notice that the locker room has one of those fast spinning drums to dry your towel out. And next to that is a sink with soap, so I scrub one of my long sleeve shirts clean and then put it in the drier. That’ll do for now.

I grab a chu-hi and snack from the vending machine and go to the relaxing room to do just that. I sit down, plug in my phone and crack open a drink. What a day!

I start to upload some photos to Facebook and a status update and almost immediately people start commenting. It’s been really nice to wake up every day and check all the positive comments people leave. But I’m also a bit reluctant to check it too much…as I’m already on Facebook far too much!

I don’t have any food with me so I planned on eating something quick at the onsen restaurant. However apparently I spent too much time relaxing and when I got up to go, it was already closed. With no stores on the peninsula, I’m left with the snacks from the gift shop. I also grab one more beer to enjoy after I set up camp.

So I head back down to the empty site and set up my tent right by the water. After that I crack open the beer and sit on the picnic table and listen to the sounds of the small waves. In the distance I can see what I think are the lights of Nagasaki. It’s an extremely peaceful night. It’s times like this that I wish I wasn’t traveling alone. With no one to talk to and no dinner either I hit the hay at 10pm.