F(r)ee Camping

Although the heavy rains from the night before eventually ceased, the winds howled on through the night. This did at least have the pleasant effect of drying out the tents thoroughly, though sadly not the clothes.

When we set off on the road again, we found the wind as strong as ever. My eyes were watering from the sting of the dust-laden wind blowing un-relentlessly against us, as the blizzard barriers creaked under the force of the gusts.

We saw several cyclists today, all shooting past us in the opposite direction, but all waving as they passed us by. It was only when we pulled in beneath a penguin, that a Japanese cyclist stopped by for a chat. He was the first cyclist we’d met who was really able to speak English, and so the first we were able to have a nice long chat with. Although we were happily stood around, sharing crackers and stories, the wind never stopped and was sending a cold shiver through us. We said our goodbyes, and continued the short way until lunch.
The way North had taken us past a 7 Eleven, where my hopes for tasty treats had been raised. Finally, on the way back today I saw what I had been hoping for- Nikkuman! These delicious steamed buns are usually only available during colder seasons, so finding them at the endof July really made my day!

After only a short distance further down the road, I heard my name being called, and although at first I thought I was imagining things, I turned around to see illuminous yellow gloved hands waving to us. It was the hitch hiker we met in Rumoi, who in his stuttering broken English had helped us uncover the location of the fisherman’s rest house in Wakkanai.
He had only just left Rumoi, and was now working his way North as we headed South.

After a brief chat, we headed on our way again, stopping at the local museum we had found exhibiting local historical artifacts and the biggest attraction it would seem; the enormous stuffed bear collection. Not the cuddly kind (well, mostly not), but the large ferocious kind responsible for the worst bear attack in Sankebetsu, nearly 100 years ago. There was a truely bizzare collection of items on display, from logs, to old fishing nets, to cameras, to modern chainsaws and circular saws on sticks (which people across Japan seem to revel in wielding). It was a very good museum, I’m sure, but given that all the information was in Japanese, I can’t help feeling that we didn’t quite get out 300 yen’s worth.
To make matters worse, when we left the museum we came upon several crows making a feast out of the loaf of bread strapped to the back of my bike.
I hate Japanese crows. They’re the size of dogs. Perhaps even cows.
Massive. And they ate our damn bread.

After searching for a new loaf of bread for breakfast, we headed to the campsite we spotted earlier, and paid for a pitch- the first time I’ve done this I think since Austria. At only a few pounds each it wasn’t the cost at all which bemused us, but rather the fact that it was called free camping. Both the information, and the man at the desk referred to it as such, but before we headed off to happily find a spot on the “free” campsite, he then indicated a sign showing 500 yen. Free camping, I imagine, refers to the lack of a car, more than anything else.
Still, given the nice spot on the cliff edge (overlooking the rather sadly misty horizon), and the short stroll to the beautiful natural salt water onsen, it’s a fair price to pay.

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  1. Nikuman in July..that’s possible only in Hokkaido, I think.

    Show us some photos of onsen. Salt water onsen (overlooking the cliff as well?) sounds interesting!

  2. I was wondering about sitting under a penguin!

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