Takayama to Norikoura
What a day? It is surprising how a day can change so dramatically. We set off from town with a bit of cloud, which soon turned into a clear sky and getting warmer as we travelled up the quiet road with a hillside on our left with houses having well manicured gardens and lovely shaped trees. On our right were small tractors preparing the ground ready for rice planting. All too soon we were on the main road and climbing into the hills. Our first stop was at a small Tofu factory for our morning break. We had coffee, nuts, oranges and of course some delicious warm fried Tofu. Onward and upwards we pedalled for what seemed forever past snow ploughs and snow blowers, which was an ominous sight. I was nearly dead from the effort of the climb until we saw the support bus and had more nourishment. After this we passed through the gate to Mount Norikoura, which was only opened yesterday and is only open to coaches and taxis. Just as we were about to go we had the news that the snow was still too deep on the other side of the summit so
we could only go to the top and then return the same way. Away we went up the relentless climb of 10-15 degrees, which is hard when it goes on for 15k on a bike with a compact gearset and a strong wind. My body was telling me to give up on several occasions, even with gels, haribos and sugary sweets. I cannot remember the number of times I got off and walked up the hill. This was the first time, I think, since 10 years ago on the Col de Madelaine in the French Alps when I was again overgeared. The total ascent today was 2,300m in 32k (47k from the town). Near the top the wind whipped up from behind and took me from 9kph to 12kph in an instant. Once at the summit at 1.45pm I had a cup of coffee and a pig pit, which was a small dumpling with pork mince. Quite nice but not big enough after all that climbing. As I came out 30 minutes later the cloud had descended and I could not see across the large car park. It was a different world with poor visibility and a very strong wind.
As I descended I realised that my fingers were about to drop off so stopped to put on my long gloves and struggled to stop them blowing away. I was also being blown that hard by gusts of wind that I was being forced right across the carriageway. Luckily there was very little traffic as I took the road space to avoid being blown over the edge. The climb from the gate took 2 hours and the descent took 25 minutes. Quickly into the awaiting bus to get a bit warmer and wait 20 mins for the others to come down the mountain. Apparently we were expected to come down together - far too dangerous, especially in those winds. Once the bus was underway we had a one hour journey to our Ryokan at Rising Sun Yamayuri. We must have passed through 30 tunnels on our way travelling through very steep gorges and past a hydro electric power station with massive pipes feeding it almost vertical down the mountainside. We passed several sets of roadworks where all traffic was controlled with men with flags. A much better idea than the stupid traffic lights used in England which hold up traffic
unnecessarily and I expect just as expensive to operate. Also they leave the road safe every night and do not leave traffic control on for days. Their roads and total infrastructure for that matter is light years ahead of ours. I hope someone from the County Council Roads Division is reading this. The Ryokan is in the Alpine area and we are surrounded by trees and rivers with a natural sulphur Spring supplying the Onsen. We have been boiled alive in a milky substance with a serious pong.
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