2012 Round the World Tour 

Charlene Barach
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2012 Round the World Tour

2012 Round the World Tour
2012 Round the World Tour - Starting in Asia


After discussing, saving, and preparing, we have decided to set off on an 8-month Round The World Tour. Our itinerary covers Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Europe, Canada, USA, Canada again, and Australia.

Our choices of countries evolved and grew over a period of about a year. The first idea was that we would take 2-3 months and do the North Sea Route. Then we wanted to include France in that plan. And I got the idea in my head that I wanted to spend Christmas with my family in Canada. While we were discussing these ideas, Rowan mentioned he'd like to go to South America too. So Rowan started looking at what was involved with purchasing and using a Round The World airline ticket.

The world, according to the Round The World ticket organisation we went with, is divided into zones. We were allowed a limited number of flights/stops in each zone, and we could only move forward in the direction we chose. We were also limited by weather/seasons, and my desire to be in Canada by Christmas.

With those limitations in mind, we started picking places in each zone ... and after narrowing and reworking our list of places we would like to visit, we came up with our finalised itinerary. Several places were dropped from the list because we just couldn't fit them in. But they are on the list for future tours ... some of the places that didn't make the cut this time include New Zealand, Peru, and the Canadian Maritimes.

I have started the Asia report below, and will link to the other segments as we go.

Asia Story

Europe - UK Story

Europe - Mainland Story

North America Story

Australia Story

More photos can be found on my Flickr site. Click the existing photos here, the Flickr Photo Gallery link on the left sidebar, or the links below ...

Round the World - Asia Photos

Round the World - UK Photos

Round the World - The Netherlands, Germany, and Luxembourg Photos

Round the World - Switzerland & France

Round the World - West Coast of France, Paris, and UK Photos

Round the World - North America Photos

Round the World - North America Photos Part 2

Round the World - Australia Photos

Hong Kong
Hong Kong

Round The World Tour - Asia


June 18, Monday - Rowan and I finished packing, storing, and cleaning everything. We had the carpets cleaned and the house inspection done. Then we loaded up all our touring gear into the van and set off to Melbourne, to a hotel next to the airport where we dropped off all our stuff ... and collapsed for a few hours sleep.

June 19, Tuesday - We were up at 4:30 am in order to drive back to our town, and make final arrangements with the van. We had just enough time to have a cup of coffee and chat with a coworker and friend who happened into the cafe, and then we caught the bus to Seymour, and then train into downtown Melbourne.

We spent the early part of the afternoon wandering around downtown Melbourne, doing a little shopping and acclimatising ourselves to a city environment. That amount of walking was probably the most I've done in a couple weeks, and it was the first time we had been in a city in a couple months. We're a little out of shape and will have to ease back into regular exercise again.

Once back at the hotel, we started packing everything for the first leg of our journey. While shopping earlier, I came across a backpack that packs down into a little tiny pouch, and we each purchased one. They match duffle bags which Rowan had purchased for us earlier which also pack down into little tiny pouches.

The backpack and duffle bags solved a problem for me. On previous trips, I had used my Carradice and handlebar bag as my carry on. But they were awkward to carry around the airport for any length of time. This way, I could pack my Carradice and handlebar bag into my checked luggage, and carry what I needed in the backpack and duffle, which are much easier to carry around the airport. And when I don't need them, I can pack them down into their little pouches and tuck them into a pocket of my Carradice.

But while packing, we also discovered that the bicycle boxes we had picked up were too narrow for our bicycles. So at about 6:30 pm, we walked across to the airport and bought two Qantas bike boxes and brought them back with us. They are a good size.

So packing complete, we collapsed again. The last couple weeks of packing and preparation have been exhausting.

Asia Story

Europe - UK Story

Europe - Mainland Story

North America Story

Australia Story

Hotel Room and Bicycle Boxes
Hotel Room and Bicycle Boxes


June 20, Wednesday - Our flight departed at about 2:15 pm, so we had the time to get up at a reasonable hour, get ready to go, and get checked in early.

The 8.5 hour flight was uneventful, which was good. And it was nice to do a flight of just 8.5 hours. My last 5 flights were back and forth between Canada and Australia, an incredibly long journey.

The plane landed, we disembarked, and before we knew it, we were through immigration, had our baggage and were out. I think that was probably the fastest I've ever done that part of a trip.

There was some discussion about the shuttle to our hotel and whether or not our bike boxes would fit, but eventually we were loaded onto a bus which took us to our hotel. And we were assisted up to our room, a beautiful suite. In fact, we have been treated royally so far - great service.

I knew it was going to be hot and humid here, but wasn't quite prepared for the blast of wet heat that hit us when we got off the bus. My glasses fogged right up!! And this is at about midnight. We'll see how we do tomorrow.

View from Hotel
View from Hotel

June 21, Thursday – We set off today without much of a plan and without really knowing where we were going. But we had some shopping in mind. The hotel shuttled us to the Sheung Wan Station, where we had a look around, had a very inexpensive breakfast, and picked up Octopus cards to make our travels a little more convenient. Octopus cards allow us on trains, trams, busses, ferries … just about all public transportation around the city.

Next we went to Central and had a wander up and down the streets there. Not finding quite what we were looking for there, we made our way to Causeway Bay, and had a good long walk around there looking at all the shops.

One of the things we’ve discovered about Hong Kong is that there are limited places to sit. No benches in the streets or in the shopping centres. And if you do happen to sit down somewhere, you’re quickly asked to move along. People in Hong Kong are generally not overweight – perhaps there is a relationship between the lack of sitting and the slenderness of the people.

By about 3 pm, we were both quite tired from all the standing and walking. I am definitely not used to it after spending all day sitting in an office working on a computer. About then, I spotted a park and made a bee-line for it. And in the park there were benches. It felt so good to sit and rest in a park-like atmosphere. We were in Victoria Park, and we spend a bit of time wandering around the park. A lovely oasis from the city. Yes, I’m probably more country than city.

We shopped our way back to the Sheung Wan Station, where we attempted to find dinner. I was after a simple bowl of Chinese noodles of some sort … not to be found. We ended up eating very American/Italian all day!!

A tram ride later, on a small, old-looking double-decker tram, and we were back at our hotel.

Rowan and Hong Kong
Rowan and Hong Kong

June 22, Friday – Today we decided to do some sight-seeing.

First we took a tram (same type as last night … there are heaps of them here), to Queensway, and then walked to the Lower Peak Tram Terminus. From there we caught the tram to The Peak.

That tram ride is amazing. The tram travels up a 14% or greater slope for 8 minutes to reach the top of one of the tall, steep mountains here. While travelling up, the buildings look like they are at an angle. It’s really quite a disconcerting feeling! The tram stopped twice and felt like it was just hanging there … again a very disconcerting feeling.

The view from the top is spectacular. We could see all over Hong Kong and the Victoria Harbour. It was definitely worth the trip up, and the tram ride down, facing backwards was rather breathtaking too.

From there we walked down to the Star Ferry pier and booked a cruise around Victoria Harbour to see the city from a different angle. We stopped off at Tsim Sha Tsui (Kowloon) on the mainland.

While there we visited the Hong Kong Space Museum where we were treated to a different perspective on Space technology development, one which included numerous countries and contributors. I’ve only ever seen a more North American-centric perspective. It was quite interesting.

There’s another large shopping centre at the Harbour and we spent some time wandering around. This time we discovered a better mix of goods … everything from the very expensive to things which I would buy if I lived in Hong Kong.

And again, although we looked around for Chinese noodle places, we were unable to find any, and we ate American/Italian-style again. Perhaps I’m looking for the wrong thing.

As the sun went down, we continued on the Harbour Cruise. The first part was very quiet and pretty. There weren’t many people on the ferry and the skyscrapers were beginning to show their lights. On the second part of the cruise, the ferry flooded with people and shortly after we got going again, the ferry stopped in the middle of the harbour, and we were treated to “A Symphony of Lights”. A short light show to music put on by several buildings in the Central district of Hong Kong.

Ocean Park
Ocean Park

Saturday 23 June - Today we decided to visit Ocean Park. Ocean Park is a marine park similar to the one in Stanley Park in Vancouver, but with lots of rides and entertainment for the kids.

We got there relatively early, but already there were lineups and people everywhere. I was a bit concerned that the decision to visit Ocean Park might have been a mistake, but was pleasantly surprised by how fast the lines moved.

We saw all sorts of fish and other marine life, and a highlight for me were the pandas. We spent hours there walking around and looking at everything.

A couple more things we've noticed about Hong Kong ...

Music ... many of the shops and various other public places play classical or easy-listening instrumental music of various sorts. It is extremely rare to walk into a shop and find that loud booming music you find in many places in Canada and Australia. There we were in computer stores listening to classical music. It was great!! :)

At Ocean Park, as soon as we walked in the water fountains were dancing to a classical piece which played the whole time we were there.

And ... the children. They're quiet and well behaved. After spending several hours walking around Ocean Park, I expected to be surrounded by screaming, yelling, tantrum-throwing tired children being shouted at by their equally tired parents. Not a bit of it. I don't think I heard a single crying child all day.

I finally tried a few more local foods. Several things from a bakery which were really good, and a dinner from what was probably a rather westernised Chinese food place. That was really good as well.

In Australia much of the bakery goods tend to be rather bland, and either very dry or very creamy (i.e. dry as dust hedgehogs or custard tarts). The exception seems to be carrot cake which they usually do quite well.

Today, I had honeydew shortbread which was delicious ... moist, rich, and full of flavour, and a nut pastry which would make a good cycling food. Quite tasty and filling - packed full of all sorts of nuts. I'd definitely go back for the honeydew shortbread. In fact, I'm hoping to find some at the airport tomorrow.

Asia Story

Europe - UK Story

Europe - Mainland Story

North America Story

Australia Story

Round the World - Asia Photos

Round the World - UK Photos

Round the World - The Netherlands, Germany, and Luxembourg Photos

Round the World - Switzerland & France

Round the World - West Coast of France, Paris, and UK Photos

Round the World - North America Photos

Round the World - North America Photos Part 2

Round the World - Australia Photos

Rowan and our boxes and bags
Rowan and our boxes and bags


Sunday 24 June – We were shuttled to the airport where we set about trying to sort out our baggage issues. We had received conflicting information about the baggage limitations from Cathay Pacific, and when we finally arrived at the check-in desk, we were informed that we were limited to 23 kg each, or a total of 46 kg between the two of us. And then we had to pay for anything over that. We were over by about 23 kg.

That settled, we had breakfast at a Starbucks (lots of them in Hong Kong) and then made our way through the security check and immigration. From there, getting to our gate was quite a trip … long hallways, several escalators, a train, more escalators, and another long hallway. The flight was boarding when we finally arrived.

The airplane was not full and I had an empty seat beside me, which was really nice. I slept most of the way.

We made our way through customs quite quickly and this time everything, bike boxes and all, came through on the baggage carrousel.

Then we found our way to the hotel bus and were shuttled to a lovely hotel at the far end of the airport site. It was good to sit back and relax for an evening.

Mountains around Hualien
Mountains around Hualien

Monday 25 June – We decided to go to Hualien by train and then decide what sort of touring we wanted to do from there.

The hotel shuttled us to the train station, bicycles, panniers and all, and then I ventured in to arrange tickets. The process went fairly smoothly, despite the language barrier, and I was told that our bicycles would have to travel as cargo. That process was even smoother because the lady in charge spoke some English.

Then we waited in the station. We got things to drink for the trip, but should have picked up some food as well. We must remember to do that for the trip back. We are just getting into the swing of things, making sure we have enough food and drink with us as we walk around, go for rides, or use other transportation.

The train trip started about 3:20 and arrived at 7 pm (3 hours 40 minutes) and was quite comfortable. We got to see a bit of Taiwan as we travelled … mountains, the ocean, rice paddies, towns, and people. It’s the first time I’ve seen rice paddies in person.

It was just going dark when we arrived in Hualien. We collected our bicycles about half an hour after arrival, and then ventured out to find the hostel I had booked. Trouble was, nothing matched the map provided with the hostel information, and Hualien was quite different from what I had imagined.

I had imagined a small seaside town … not the large, hustling and bustling city we found ourselves in. We cycled and walked down a street to a T-junction, but did not come across a roundabout I expected, and did not come across any street names I expected. So we returned to the railway station. On our way there, someone stopped to help us, but couldn’t tell us where to find the place we were looking for. Back at the railway station, no one there could help us either. As we cycled around again, I heard someone speak English with an American accent so I stopped to chat to them, and they suggested trying a particular road.

We did, and found one of the roads on my instructions. So off we went quite some distance down that road … but didn’t find anything of what I was expecting to find. By then we had determined that it was getting very late, the hostel was likely closed, and our chances of finding it were very slim. I was tired and hungry (the last time I had eaten was breakfast), and feeling very frustrated with a fear that we would be sleeping on the floor of the railway station.

We returned the way we had come and were debating what to do. There were lots of hotels near the railway station, so we thought we might try one of those but they seemed loud and busy with people pushing the rooms on everyone passing by outside. I didn’t feel comfortable with that.

The street we were walking down was a quieter one with a park and city library on one side and some businesses on the other. Rowan had just suggested that we go and sit down in the park to collect ourselves.

I was hoping for some sign of what to do next, when all of a sudden, I spotted that one of the businesses we were walking by was a hotel. At the same time that I realised it was a hotel, I noticed the English word "Welcome". And just then the automatic door slid open revealing a nice, quiet lobby. After a brief discussion, Rowan went in and asked if they had a room. They did! The room is small, but clean and quiet, with air conditioning. What a relief to find something like that, and the lady that runs the place is a lovely, friendly person.

(Cycling: Approx. 6 km)

Next we dashed out to a nearby McDonalds to get something to eat and drink … finally! It had been about 12 hours since we’d last eaten. A very long day.

And then we slept.

Lake Liyu
Lake Liyu

Tuesday 26 June – And slept and slept …

We decided to book the room for another night to spend the day looking around Hualien, resting, and kind of catching up on things.

In the morning we walked all around the area near the railway station, had breakfast, found a laundry, and visited a Giant dealership. The Giant dealership had prices quite similar to what you might find in Australia or North America. Some things here are very inexpensive, much cheaper than what you would find in Australia or North America, but some things are about the same price as what you would find elsewhere. Sporting goods seems to be as expensive as elsewhere, while household items and electronics seem to be less expensive.

Along the way, we stopped in at a Visitor Information Centre and picked up some maps. Upon looking at the maps we made a discovery. The hostel I had booked is located near a smaller town about 60 km from Hualien. No wonder nothing made sense the night before. The trouble was that when I looked up Hualien using Hostelling International, HI gave me everything for Hualien County which is quite large, rather than Hualien City. Oh well, I guess mistakes get made along the way.

As we walked about, we also observed that sidewalks mean nothing here. Lots and lots of people ride motorcycles and scooters, and they park them on the sidewalks, or ride on the sidewalks. Other motorised vehicles park on the sidewalks too. And if a vehicle is not parked on the sidewalk, they are used as a living/working area for restaurants and other businesses. So much so, that the pedestrians walk in the street.

Walking or cycling is an interesting experience. You’ve got to keep looking in all directions and pay attention. Motorcycles and scooters will zip out of side streets or travel the wrong way up the road, and cars try to fit in wherever they can. Motorised vehicles seem to dart and dash everywhere.

Upon returning to the room, we napped. Wrapping up all the packing and preparation, and this first week of our travels has tired us out. It was also quite hot and humid walking around this morning which also tired us out.

Then we did laundry!! It feels so good to wear clean clothes again. We only have a limited number of clothes with us, so we’ve spent several days in ours, travelling, walking around in the heat, etc.

And then we went for a ride to Liyu Lake. We weren’t quite sure where it was or how far away, but we followed the signs. It is about 17.5 km from our hotel and took us out of the busyness of the city and into the country, past banana plantations, jungle, mountains and rivers. The lake area is quite lovely and was very quiet when we were there … hardly any people around. A beautiful lake with lush green mountains all around. At times, the ride reminded both Rowan and me of a combination of Queensland and lower mainland BC … a tropical version of lower mainland BC.

If we were to come here again, Liyu Lake would be on our list of places to visit again, but earlier in the day. Apparently there is a good bicycle route around the lake.

(Cycling: 35 km)

By the time we returned to Hualien, the sun had set and it was dark. But the darkness is cooler.

Rowan and Charlene in Hualien
Rowan and Charlene in Hualien

Wednesday 27 June – We are sleeping a lot here. I think it is a combination of heat and general exhaustion from the business of packing and setting off on this trip.

Today we did a little shopping/exploration expedition, walking around parts of Hualien we had not seen yet, on the hunt for a particular shopping centre. The shopping centre wasn’t there, but there were lots of other shops and we were able to find a few things we had been looking for, such as an electrical outlet adaptor which should also work in Japan and North America.

There is quite a mix here of traditional and modern. A modern electronics shop right next to a traditional Chinese or Taiwanese restaurant. Moments after we walked past one traditional restaurant a collection of firecrackers were set off, startling us! We had seen them preparing something, and had smelled the incense, but weren’t quite expecting all the firecrackers to go off.

And speaking of noise, as I write, we’ve got fighter jets going over. There is a military base near here, and they go over, quite low, several times a day.

After a little rest from the heat, we went out for another bicycle ride, our third since we got here. This time we made straight for the ocean, through quite a bit of traffic, and discovered a wide bicycle trail along the ocean. We cycled as far as we could in one direction before reaching a blockade. Seems a bridge is out. Then we cycled quite a way in the other direction, and back again.

We stopped lots to take photos and to watch the ocean. It was very relaxing and cooler, and not very busy. Although having said that, it was nice to see quite a few people of all ages out walking, cycling, playing volleyball and being active.

Riding the last couple evenings has reminded me of cycling in Manitoba on summer evenings. It can get quite hot and humid in Manitoba in the summer, and cycling in the warm (rather than hot) humid evenings was a welcome relief there. The evenings here have been similarly lovely.

Now about cycling through traffic here … it’s quite an experience! Rowan handles it well and has fun with it, but I seem to end up in all sorts of difficulty. Vehicles (mostly scooters or motorcycles) shoot out from everywhere, and cars make their turns quickly to try to fit through teensy gaps between the scooters. Rowan could get through an intersection just fine, but by the time I got there, it was usually chaos. You’ve really got to pay attention, and be on the brakes, and then on the pedals racing forward, and then on the brakes again.

(Cycling: 18.2 km)

In the Hualien area
In the Hualien area

Thursday 28 June – As mentioned earlier, there is a library across the street from the hotel, and so we’ve gone in to get internet access to make arrangements for our trip back to Taipei. Much like libraries in North America and Australia, it appears that the libraries here also have computer labs for people to use.

Which brings up a point … Taiwan has surprised me. I expected the traditional aspect, but I didn’t expect as much modern, and didn’t expect such a contrast. One minute someone cycles slowly past on an old bicycle wearing traditional clothing, the next minute a couple zips by on a scooter, with the person in the back texting on her iPhone.

The last couple days we have waited until after 4 pm, when it is cooler and cloudier, to go for a ride. Today we decided to go earlier so we could do a longer ride. It was quite hot to start, but we made a dash through the traffic to the ocean where it was cooler.

We located another part of the bicycle path which runs along the ocean. The bicycle paths have been something else which has surprised me. There is an extensive network of bicycle paths and bike/scooter lanes around Hualien. The path was lovely. There weren’t many people around at that time of day so we had it almost entirely to ourselves, and it followed the ocean and then a river that empties into the ocean.

The bridge across the river was again quite surprising. It provided a bicycle path for cyclists paved in marble stone, or something that looks very much like marble stone. We have noticed several quarries which produce this marble stone, and many paths and sidewalks are paved in it. There are also numerous stone/marble sculptures dotted all over the place.

Across the bridge, we explored a little lane, and then returned to the main highway along the ocean. That was also a very pleasant surprise. The highway is a big, beautifully quiet road with wide, smooth shoulders for cyclists and scooters. It’s exactly the kind of highway I think the Great Ocean Road should be. It was amazing to me to find something like that in Taiwan.

And it was absolutely beautiful along there … jungle on one side, and the ocean on the other. A relatively flat highway but surrounded by hills and mountains, and little settlements now and then along the way. There was a temple with a god high on the hill, an enormous spider web complete with enormous spider, foods being dried next to the road, fruit trees (banana and papaya (I think)), and long stretches of wilderness.

(Cycling: 43.75 km)

We had decided to do a hub-and-spoke tour based in Hualien, and that was nice, but having seen this beautiful highway we are now talking about returning to Taiwan and cycling the highway. We had thought about doing exactly that this time, but we were rather limited for time, and weren’t sure what to expect of this area.

On our way back we noticed that a storm was brewing over the ocean. There is supposed to be a typhoon blowing toward Hong Kong, and it is quite possible that an edge of it could hit this area. And within a couple hours it began pouring rain here … but the rain is cooler.

In Hualien
In Hualien

Friday 29 June - – It poured most of the night and the morning was a little more humid (if that’s possible) but cloudier and ever so slightly cooler. It actually drizzled a few times during the morning which felt really good!

We packed up and headed for the train station, but as we were leaving the hotel, the lovely and friendly lady who ran the place came over and chatted with us, gave me a bit of a hug and told us to “be careful”. She wished us well. I was touched. We had not expected to find that hotel on our first night in Hualien, and didn’t expect to stay there 4 nights, but we enjoyed our stay there.

A bit more about the traffic in Hualien and Taipei. As I mentioned earlier it looks like chaos with scooters, motorcycles, bicycles, and cars all trying to negotiate their way down the road and through intersections. But amazingly, it seems to work. For one thing, traffic travels slower than in many Australian or North American cities. Intersections are negotiated through a series of dashing forward, and coming to an almost complete standstill as someone else dashes forward. And no one says a word. There’s no swearing or gesturing at each other. It all seems like business as usual.

And sort of traffic-related … the garbage trucks play a cute little tune. I kept hearing this tune on the first day we were in Hualien, and noticed that the tune prompted people to get up and look like they had to get something. My first thought was ice cream truck because that’s the sort of tune it is. That repetitive happy little tune designed to get kids to line the streets with money for ice creams. It wasn’t till our last day that I saw what was making that tune. I think I’d want ear plugs if I were the garbage truck driver. It was just the sort of tune that’s appealing the first few times you hear it, and then starts to drive you crazy.

I saw more on the train ride back to Taipei because I got to sit next to the window, and our position in the train was better for seeing out. That was great because there is a lot of beautiful scenery in Taiwan. It is a pity, however, about many of the cities which are not particularly attractive.

We arrived back at the train station, and the hotel shuttle was there to greet us. Unfortunately, we had to take a later train than we had hoped (the earlier ones were full) and we arrived back at the hotel later than we had hoped, and so it was a mad dash to get ready for our flight in the morning. Dinner, putting the bicycles into their boxes, packing up, etc. We would have liked to take advantage of the swimming pool and other services on offer, but just didn’t have the time. But we were treated to a serenade while we packed up the bicycles – Spanish style music from the hotel’s lounge.

I have to say that the hotel was brilliant. The staff were so helpful, the rooms were a good rate, the restaurant was excellent, we were shuttled where we needed to go, and they stored our bicycle boxes for us. We were assisted all the way along. It was so convenient to have a place like that at the start and end of our time in Taiwan.

Oh and … yes, there are 3900 7-11s in Taiwan as one Bikeforums friend said. Well, if not 3900, then pretty close, possibly more. They seem to be on every street corner, complete with little café areas outside. They were a welcome retreat for us because they are heavily air conditioned and provided us cold drinks at relatively inexpensive prices. And while there were pharmacies, electronics shops, clothing shops, and several other types of shops, there didn’t seem to be much in the way of grocery stores. So we shopped at 7-11s.

(Cycling: 3 km)

Asia Story

Europe - UK Story

Europe - Mainland Story

North America Story

Australia Story

Round the World - Asia Photos

Round the World - UK Photos

Round the World - The Netherlands, Germany, and Luxembourg Photos

Round the World - Switzerland & France

Round the World - West Coast of France, Paris, and UK Photos

Round the World - North America Photos

Round the World - North America Photos Part 2

Round the World - Australia Photos

Airport Displays
Airport Displays


Saturday 30 June – Off to the airport, and we spent another day flying. First into Nagoya, Japan and then up to Chitose (near Sapporo) Japan.

I struggle a bit with the flights now that I have to use Clexane before, after, and sometimes during my flights to ward off DVT. First of all, carrying boxes of ready-to-use Clexane needles is a pain. They aren’t heavy, but they take up a lot of room. Next, getting a series of injections in my abdomen isn’t a picnic. They often leave me with a burning pain for about 10 minutes and a metallic taste in my mouth. And Clexane seems to make me tired and lethargic for the day of the flight and a day or two after.

All this island hopping (Hong Kong to Taiwan to Japan) in close succession with so many Clexane shots is taking a toll on me. Fortunately, we do have 10 days in Japan so I’ll get a bit of a break, and then we’re 3 months in Europe, so I’ll get a longer break from them there.

About the airports … I’ve been impressed! After you get through all the check-in, security, etc., the Tao Yuan airport in Taiwan puts you into a wing full of a wide variety of shops (and not just cheap souvenir shops), interspersed with theme waiting rooms (Hello Kitty) and other areas … a relaxation area where travellers can lie down on lounges, a Reading Room, and a historical area.

Nagoya had an old Japan themed market place area selling a wide variety of foods. Chitose has a huge, and very busy shopping area.

I’ve been in airports where there’s next to nothing in the way of shopping, food, or any sort of cultural heritage displays. In comparison, these seem to go all out.

When we arrived in Chitose, we did not have a room booked. We were given two options: try the hotel attached to the airport, or try the spa area upstairs where guests can either rent a bed for the night or can stay on lounges in a main area. We opted to try the hotel first, and got in. There was a cancelation. Pity about it being a smoking room … cough, cough. However, it was good to have a room for the night.

We took a stroll around the airport to see if anything in the way of food might be available, but by then, everything was closed. So dinner was a few little cakes we had picked up in Nagoya.

Oh, but on the flight from Taiwan to Japan, we were served dinner and they served those shortbread squares I had in Hong Kong and liked. :)

Figuring out Where to Go
Figuring out Where to Go

Sunday 1 July – Happy Canada Day!

We decided to set off on a bicycle tour during our 10 days here.

It took us a while to put together the bicycles and get everything packed and ready for cycling. As with the hotel in Taiwan, we were able to book our last night in Japan there, and we were able to store our bicycle boxes with them. That was good.

Unfortunately, after finally getting the bicycles together, which seemed to be OK, we attempted to find something to eat elsewhere in the airport, we were escorted out. Bicycles are not allowed in the airport … at least not rolling around the shopping and food area. I was getting very hungry by then!! I did go back in, leaving the bicycles outside with Rowan, to get a few things, but the shopping area was so big and congested that I ended up just grabbing a few things and fleeing.

They have interesting little cheesecake things here, but not like the cheesecakes you might get in Canada or Australia. A little bit hard to describe. They are quite small and more cake-like but they do have a bit of a cheesecake flavour. And they come in little packages which you can take with you on the bicycle.

We had an idea that there was a bicycle road or path in the area, and discovered that there is one right from the airport. We used it to cycle into Chitose where we quickly found the path we were looking for out to Lake Shikotsu. However we decided to stop in Chitose for a bite to eat … finally! All I had for about 36 hours was a few small cakes, and I was starting to feel like I couldn’t pedal a bicycle.

The part of the city of Chitose we were in is very different from Hong Kong and Taiwan. It’s lower than Hong Kong (no sky scrapers), roomier than either Hong Kong or Taiwan city areas, and it is cleaner and less congested than the city areas we saw in Taiwan. If you were standing in Chitose, you’d think you were in a small city in Canada or Australia.

The path from Chitose out to Lake Shikotsu is beautiful. I don’t normally like bicycle paths, but this one was smoothly paved and took us through some lovely scenery. The Chitose-Lake Shikotsu path is 22 km in total, but the bit from the airport, and a bit at the Lake Shikotsu end added more.

(Cycling: 37.44 km)

Because we were late starting and stopped for something to eat, and because we are a bit slow and lethargic on the bicycles (or at least, I am) just now, it was getting dark when we came to the end of the Chitose-Lake Shikotsu path. I thought we’d be at the lake and that there would be camping or something right away, but no, we had to cycle some distance through dark forest before we finally spotted the lake down below us.

Fortunately, in the darkness, we discovered quite a large, virtually empty campground on the edge of the lake.

We have set up here, and are in our tent listening to the waves of the lake against the shore. I am looking forward to seeing what this area looks like in the light. We could tell that there is a mountain across the lake, Mt Eniwa-dake, and we can see the lights of a little settlement over there. I think there’s a hotsprings on that side. We may have to check these things out tomorrow.

At Lake Shikotsu
At Lake Shikotsu

Monday 2 July – It rained on and off all night. In fact, it started shortly after we got into the tent. Good timing there. But when we got up, the rain (a heavy mist or drizzle) had settled in for the day. We couldn’t see halfway across the lake.

It is much cooler here than in Hong Kong or Taiwan. In Hong Kong, temperatures were in the high 20s or low 30s, and quite humid. In Taiwan, temperatures were in the low to mid-30s, and very humid. Here, temperatures seem to be in the high teens so far. I’ve been in long-sleeves and jackets since we got here. And the nights get quite chilly.

Because of the rain, we decided to stay at this campground another day. Only one problem … food. Seems to be a recurring theme. We didn’t bring a lot with us, so we had the last of our cakes for breakfast, and then set about trying to find more food.

First, a walk around the area. We discovered a shop and a motorcycle/bicycle rest house, kind of like a hostel. The shop was closed up tight and the rest house didn’t have food. However, there are a couple vending machines outside the shop, and we made an interesting discovery, they’ve got hot coffee. Cans of hot coffee. Just like how you would select a can of cold coke, you can select a can of hot, black or white, coffee. That hit the spot just then!

So, fortified by coffee, we decided to cycle through the misty drizzle to a Spa (hotsprings) area on the other side of the lake to see what was there.

It was a nice little ride there and back, all on the bicycle paths. The bicycle paths (they are for pedestrians too) are incredible here. They’re everywhere. They are usually located next to or near a road, and they go useful places, not just meandering around a park. They are wide and well-paved (sealed like a road), so if we happened to encounter other users, there would be ample room for all of us to pass each other.

The Spa area had what we were looking for … food. It also had very friendly people, an interesting information centre, and lovely scenic views and walks on that side of the lake.

The information centre explained that Lake Shikotsu is a caldron lake created by an ancient volcano. Since the volcano that created this lake, there have been several other volcanos around it creating the mountains around the lake. Two of those mountains are still active volcanos which regularly emit steam/smoke!

Now, if only we could see the mountains. They have been shrouded in mist all day, but I did manage to get a few photos when one of the mountains showed itself a little bit. Tomorrow is supposed to be rainy too, but I’m hoping it starts clearer so we can see more of the area.

And speaking of the scenery in the area … it reminds me very much of the lower mainland BC or Vancouver Island area. So much so that I almost feel like I’m there, and I expect everything to be in English, with certain things available like they are in southwestern BC. I half expected there to be a Tim Hortons in the Spa area! The vegetation is very much like BC – thick, lush, and green, with both pine forests and leafy green plants. The hills and what we can see of the mountains also look very much like the hills and mountains in BC. And even the buildings are built in a log cabin style.

We had a good look around, ate some food, and collected some bits of food for tonight. There were no grocery stores, so we made do with a few items which looked promising. In fact, I’ve yet to see a grocery store here. The closest we’ve come is a 7-11 in Chitose. Apparently, 7-11 is popular here too, although not quite as much as it is in Taiwan.

Back in the campground, I was wandering around taking photos and having a look at the buildings that make up the campground, when all of a sudden very loud music was played over the loudspeaker system at approx. 5:30 pm. The same music was played over a loudspeaker system yesterday late in the afternoon as we cycled past something that looked like it might be a school. I passed it off then as a going-home music selection for the students, although did think it was a bit of an odd choice of music at the time.

Moon River
Moon River

It was even odder out here at this campground in the middle of nowhere. When I say that the music was played very loudly over a loudspeaker system, I mean that there are huge megaphone speakers at the top of a pole and on top of at least one of the buildings (I took a photo) and the music is blared from these speakers for all the world to hear.

And the musical selection? Any guesses? If you’ve never been here and heard it, you would probably never guess. OK, are you ready?

The musical selection is “Moon River” … “Two drifters, off to see the world, there’s such a lot of world to see ….”

I have no idea why Moon River is played loudly late in the afternoon in these parts, but I think it’s interesting, funny, and somehow appropriate that we’re hearing a song with that line in it about two drifters off to see the world.

We’ll have to listen for it again tomorrow … and I must try to find out what it’s all about!

Which brings us to dinner. We picked up an assortment of items for dinner, and Rowan put something together that worked to fill us up, but we have no idea if that’s how the items we collected were supposed to be served or not. We had roast corn on the cob, which was quite similar to how we would have it at home. And then we had noodles with a very salty, spicy bean paste which we turned into a kind of soup with the noodles. I really don’t know if that’s how it was meant to be or not, but it worked. After the meal, Rowan heated a bottle of green tea. It was rather bland cold, but tasted really good heated. Creative cooking.

(Cycling: 19.64 km)

Hot Canned Coffee
Hot Canned Coffee

Tuesday 3 July – I had just enough time in the morning to go through my “first thing in the morning” routine, when a group of cyclists descended on the campground, and lodged themselves at the BBQ shelter we were using, and all around our tent. I don’t know if they thought we were setting something up, and that’s where they should be, but we kind of suspect that might have been their idea given that it’s a large campground area and there were two other BBQ shelters within sight.

We continued to pack up, when another group of people arrived on foot, mates of the group of cyclists. We had no sooner packed our tent, when the area where it was, was filled with more cyclists, and more people on foot.

We were nearly finished packing , when I heard the roar of a crowd. I looked up, and it looked like half of Japan was walking in, complete with two large tour busses of people as well. We were engulfed by people. We had to squeeze our way through the crowd like salmon swimming upstream in order to get out of what had been a completely empty campground about 30 minutes earlier.

We discovered the University of Hokkaido was paying the park a visit for the day.

Fortunately, the path to Tomakomai was very lightly cycled. For the most part we were on our own out there. This path, like the others we had cycled on previous days, was lovely. Wide, smooth, and surrounded by greenery.

Tomakomai, however, is a different story, and Chitose was also like Tomakomai. These cities are grey. Characterless grey box buildings. The houses are even grey boxes which are a little bit difficult to distinguish from the businesses. The buildings are well spaced out, and not crowded, but they all look much the same, with very little advertising or anything to alert a person to what they are. And very few people seemed to be walking around. There are lots of people driving here, but the buildings have a deserted appearance.

We cycled onward down a path next to a main road that ran parallel to the ocean looking for some sort of accommodation. I thought that if this town is situated on the ocean, there should be hotels and a campground or something overlooking the ocean. But it is almost as if the ocean is ignored here. The industrial area is near the ocean, and some rundown residential grey boxes.

We did find a hotel that looked somewhat promising, for one thing it was bright purple and pink rather than grey, so we cycled over to it, but then things became almost spooky. Imagine this bright purple and pink building sitting among rundown residential grey boxes near the ocean, with no one around. No cars. No people. No activity of any sort. The paint on the ocean side of this building was badly weathered and the place gave the appearance of being completely deserted.

Except for a little tune playing from somewhere around the building.

Moon River.

Well, it started with Moon River, and then went into several other little tunes.

Rowan walked around the building and when he reappeared some time later, he told me he had been to “reception”. Only it wasn’t the sort of reception we’re used to in a hotel. I went in and saw what he meant. It’s all done via phone and remotely. I have actually seen this sort of thing in a hotel in France where there is no reception staff, you just pick up the phone and talk to someone at some other location, and make selections by pressing buttons. Very impersonal. Also very difficult to use if you don’t speak the language. You can’t make hand signals and draw pictures for a phone.

As we left, I glanced up at the building, and saw someone watching us go. So it was occupied.

After quite a bit more cycling up and down streets, we finally got a place with real reception staff. I’ve come down with some sort of cold/flu so it was a welcome relief to have a room for the night.

We went out to find dinner in the evening, and still the streets were deserted. After Hong Kong and Taiwan, it’s a little disconcerting to see no one around. Everyone must go home for dinner.

(Cycling: 50.75 km)

On the Path to Tomakomai
On the Path to Tomakomai

Wednesday 4 July – Today I took a “sick day”. I managed to get up for breakfast, returned to the room, and was asleep till noon.

When I got up the second time, Rowan got me connected to the internet, and while I was sitting there doing some updates, all of a sudden there was a ringing noise.

Now, here in Japan, unexpected things have bells and whistles and features. Take toilets for example. You’ve got two choices: plain, ordinary squat toilets such as what you’ll find in places like Hong Kong, Taiwan, and quite likely elsewhere in Asia, or toilets that are so high-tech you almost need a degree to operate them. You’re faced with a panel of buttons for a wide variety of options such as heating the seat, playing a little tune while flushing, and an array of bidet options.

So when I heard this ringing, my first thought was, “What now? What have I accidentally bumped that has set off this ringing sound?”

And then I saw the notice on my computer … my father was calling! It took a little while to set it all up, but Rowan and I were able to talk to my parents (and the cats!) face to face. How nice to be able to chat to them from the other side of the world. Hopefully we will be able to do that several times over the next few months.

While that worked for me, loading photos did not. Hopefully I will be able to load photos the next time we have internet access.

And then I collapsed and slept again for a couple hours.

We did venture out for dinner to the nearest 7-11. The 7-11s here have quite a good selection of food, so we were able to put together a passable meal.

AutoResort Campground
AutoResort Campground

Thursday 5 July – With internet access at the hotel, we discovered that a caravan park/campground/holiday resort we were hoping would exist in this area did indeed exist. In fact, if we had just gone a little bit further when we were hunting for a place to stay on Tuesday, we would have found it.

So that’s where we cycled, and found ourselves in a lovely, very well-kept campground called an Auto Resort.

There are log cabins in one section, set in pine trees, which remind me of what you might find in the Banff or Jasper area. There is a large main central building where campers can come and watch TV or use the computer. And there is quite a large camping area.

The only other big event of the day was going shopping. We cycled back into town to pick up groceries at a large grocery store called, “Big House”. It is similar to Canadian or Australian grocery stores in some ways, but there is a much bigger fish section, and very little other meat. There also isn’t much in the way of canned goods. There is, however, a wide variety of packaged, dried foods.

It was a little bit of a challenge picking out items Rowan thought he could cook with his little stove. Just about everything is in Japanese, so it was a matter of looking for pictures to see what it was and how it was cooked. But we did quite well, and Rowan did up a tasty meal of rice, spicy noodles, and veggies.

And speaking of packaging … in Canada and Australia there is a push to get rid of packaging. Consumers are encouraged to bring their own shopping bags to stores, and many stores charge for plastic grocery bags in an effort to get consumers to stop using them. Bulk food places and buying in bulk are also encouraged so that Canadians and Australians will use less packaging.

Here in Japan, or I should say, in this part of Japan (perhaps other parts are different), so many things are packaged, and packaged, and packaged some more.

(Cycling: 27.25 km)

Lake near AutoResort Campground
Lake near AutoResort Campground

Friday 6 July – We saw by the maps of the area that there was a lake nearby so we decided to find it and cycle around it, if possible.

The trek around the lake was only 3.5 km, but it was on a mountain bike type of trail so it took us almost an hour to get around. Plus we were taking lots of photos, of course.

The lake is quite picturesque, surrounded by trees and tall reeds. Birds sing noisily in the trees, and we saw a little bit of wildlife … a chipmunk! I didn’t think there were chipmunks here.

Then another voyage into town to get supplies, and eat at a donut shop we found. Since moving to Australia, I have missed Canadian donuts … they are just not the same in Australia. Well, we discovered a place here called Mister Donut which has donuts comparable to Canadian ones. Mmmmmm!!

We also ventured into a pharmacy to try to locate healing anti-itch cream. We have been eaten alive by something … ants, mosquitoes, some other bug? Our legs are covered in bites. Poor Rowan counted approx. 30 on one leg and 20 on the other. The bites swelled up so much his whole leg was swollen. I counted about 20 on one of my legs, and about 10 on the other, so mine weren’t quite as bad. But these bites are nasty. Not only do they swell up, they itch something fierce, and cause our legs to tingle and ache when we walk.

We picked up two kinds of anti-itch cream, and I’ve got my Ozonol, all of which we’ve been applying regularly to try to keep these bites under control.

A word of warning, if you come to Hokkaido, bring or buy insect repellant. It is an absolute must!

There are heaps of Spas/Hotsprings all over this part of Japan, and perhaps the reason for that is because this area is volcanic. This Auto Resort is attached to a Spa and golf course, so since the Spa is right there within walking distance we thought we would pay a visit.

I have been to Hotsprings in Canada, in Jasper, Banff, and at Radium, and they are similar to swimming pools. There may be a larger cold pool for swimming, and there is a smaller, shallower hot pool for soaking. And that is what I had in mind when we entered the building and paid our money. I was in for a bit of a surprise.

These Spas are segregated – men have their area, women have their area. And while they are hotsprings, they are treated like public baths.

So I figured, why not. We’d paid our money and we were there, so off we went into our sections. I had been soaking a few minutes, when one of the older regulars took me under her wing. Evidently I was doing it wrong. Although she didn’t speak a word of English, she ran me through the whole process.

There’s an area where you soap, shampoo, and rinse. Then there’s an order to the pools … a very hot outdoor one, a couple other slightly cooler pools, and a cold one for dipping in between if a person got too hot. And one which she tried to explain by showing me the sign. That didn’t help me because it was all in Japanese. Then she tried to tell me herself. Finally, she reached into the water and lifted up what looked like an enormous tea bag. I was essentially sitting in hot tea. Then there was the rinse and dry processes.

That whole experience was a first for me, and I never expected to be taught how to do it.

Late in the evening, the strains of Auld Lang Syne came drifting over the air from the Spa, presumably announcing the end of their business day. We haven’t heard Moon River in a couple days, but I did discover that it is played in many places in the area to announce dusk. Why? I still haven’t found out yet.

(Cycling: 23.64 km)

Ocean near Tomakomai
Ocean near Tomakomai

Saturday 7 July – On our way back from the Spa last night, we saw a sign that pointed out some tourist attractions in the area, and decided to stay another night and do a bit more exploring today.

Our route took us straight down to the ocean where we stopped to have a look. There it was … the beautiful blue-green ocean, looking similar to what it does in Australia, with a few metres of black sand between it and the road. Dirty black sand. Not because the black sand looks dirty compared with Australia’s almost white sand. We knew that the sand was black because of the volcano influence in the area. But dirty because of all the junk lying around.

When we cycled around the lake yesterday, there were “No Littering” signs up here and there, and everything looked pristine clean and lovely. But when it came to the beach, what a difference. The beach looked to be a dumping ground for all sorts of litter and junk that may have washed up in the last tide.

We continued to cycle along the ocean, and the beach/foreshore continued to be a dirty, industrial area that no one seemed to care about. Lakes, streams, ponds, and other bodies of water seem popular here, just not the ocean.

Our first stop was a gorge which appeared on the tourist attraction map. It was pretty, and there was a tour bus of people who had stopped to look at it, as well as what looked like a photography club standing in the bottom of the gorge. If I had my good camera, I might have been tempted to go down and join them.

Our next stop was a town further down the coast – Shiraoi. We wanted to visit at least one more town in the area. As we cycled into town, we could see some sort of parade ahead.

It turned out to be a group of high school students who had put together some projects and were presenting them in a parade. Some were a modern theme, and some were of an older Japan with traditional costumes. Rowan filmed it, and I took a few photos as they went by. And as they went by, many of the kids waved at us and yelled, “Hello!” So, of course, we waved back, which triggered more waving …

Shiraoi is smaller than Tomakomai, but consists of the same non-descript grey box buildings. I guess I just expected more traditional Japanese architecture and more colour. I was not expecting such blandness. But perhaps other parts of Japan have the architecture and colour.

We cycled back out to the ocean and took some photos of the rubbish on the beach. The ocean here is definitely not a playground like it is in Australia. In places, walls have been constructed so that the view of the ocean is obscured. But perhaps the ocean is considered a dangerous, uncontrollable body of water.

As we were cycling along the ocean, we spotted two young men trying to dig out their car. They had driven onto the beach, as you might do in places in Australia, but the beach isn’t wide, and the black sand is very soft, and they had bogged. We stopped to help, but the car was high centred with the tide coming in and there was nothing that could be done without a tow truck of some sort. As we left Japan’s equivalent to the RACV or CAA arrived on the scene and urgent phone calls were being made. We don’t know whether the two young men lost their car to the ocean or whether their car was rescued.

Further along, closer to our campground, I was looking at the mountains and noticed that I could see the top of a tall one. Most of the time we’ve been here, the tops of the mountains have been covered in cloud. As I looked at it, I realised that the cloud around the top was actually emitting from the top of the mountain, and that there was something sliding down the side of the mountain from the top.

These are live volcanoes here, and this one appeared to be letting off a little steam. On a couple nights we’ve heard what sounds like thunder, although we couldn’t see any lightening there were no other signs of storms. Now we’re wondering if maybe we heard some rumbling from the mountain.

When we returned to the campground, it was like a whole new world. When we left in the morning, there were about 3 filled campsites. When we returned a small town had sprung up, dwarfing our little tent. Probably about half the campsites were full, and each campsite contained a large sleeping tent and a dining tent at a minimum. Often there were a whole cluster of living and sleeping tents. It would have taken hours to set it all up.

Later in the evening, I noticed that there were small fireworks on the other side of a stream through the campground area. We walked over and discovered that an area had been set up for families to play with sparkler and other types of small fireworks. It was interesting to watch.

(Cycling: 42.5 km)

Rowan and Charlene
Rowan and Charlene

Sunday 8 July – The time has come to start making our way back to the airport. 10 days was nowhere near enough time to visit Hokkaido. We would like to return again and spend a month or more here, cycling all the way around the island.

As we packed up our little tent, we watched as most of the families who had set up their enormous tent collections the day before, packed them all up, and loaded everything into vans to go home or drive on to the next destination. It took some of them hours to dismantle it all … all for one night’s stay at the campground.

When we finally left, there were only 2 or 3 campers remaining. All was quiet again.

So, back through Tomakomai to find our way back to Lake Shikotsu. And wouldn’t you know it, but all of a sudden, I flatted. First flat of the trip.

Some of the beautiful bicycle paths within the city limits, aren’t as beautiful as others. Some are riddled with frost heaves, and damage from tree roots which make for a rather rough ride in places. And along the ocean yesterday, the width of the path varied considerably, going down to only about a foot wide in places.

My flat was a pinch flat caused by going over one of these ruts or bumps. But we were soon back in business again.

The path from Lake Shikotsu to Tomakomai was all downhill. It was a lovely ride down, but now, of course, it was all uphill … a long, gradual climb back up to Lake Shikotsu with fully loaded touring bicycles. I felt like those semis you see slowly trudging up long hills with their 4-ways blinking.

About 6 km from a fork in the road where you can pick which side of Lake Shikotsu you want to go to, we stopped for a breather, and another cycletourist came up behind us. He was an American named John, and he had been living in Japan for about 3 years teaching English. He was doing some touring before returning to America. We had a nice chat, and he filled us in on a few things.

Apparently Hokkaido is quite different from the rest of Japan. In Hokkaido, there are lots of bicycle paths and the roads are generally wide with shoulders. In other parts of Japan the roads are very narrow and although the drivers are decent, cycling among the traffic can be a bit dangerous. I got the impression that the scenery in Hokkaido was somewhat different too, perhaps more nature.

He also told us that the average Japanese person knows about 1500 English words, but that they speak them in a Japanese way. That explained something which I had wondered about. On a few occasions, I thought I could understand what was being said, like if I just adjusted the words a little bit so that they sounded a little bit more English, the conversation would make sense. One particular word I’ve noticed is the word “hot”. It seems to be said something like “oat” here, but “oat” and “hot” aren’t really all that different. A slight adjustment to “oat” and you’ve got “hot”.

It would have been really helpful to know that at the beginning of our stay here. But as I mentioned before, we would like to return, and before we do, we would like to learn a little bit more of the language so that we can communicate better.

John had just recently returned from touring Korea as well, and now we’re thinking that perhaps we might plan another tour which includes both Japan and Korea.

At the fork in the road, John went to the side of the lake where we stayed on our second and third nights here. There is the campground and a rider house on that side of the lake. Rider houses are cheaper alternatives to hostels and are used by motorcyclists and cyclists. We saw the place and thought about going there, but decided that this time we would stay in a hostel on the other side of the lake.

The final climb to the little settlement where the hostel, spa, and a collection of shops is located really took it out of us. According to our altimeters, it varied between 6% and 8% and went on for about 2 km. I was definitely in my granny on that one!

There were lots of people around on the roads and in the area, but the hostel was (and still is) very quiet. It’s quite big too. It could probably house 100+ people. But because it was quiet we had no trouble getting a private room.

Rowan took the first load of luggage (panniers) up, while I sorted the rest and moved the bicycles. When he returned, he told me I would be in for a bit of a surprise.

First of all, there’s the shoe thing. As a Japanese style hostel, you change your footwear for different rooms. You don’t just walk in wearing your outdoor shoes. So I was issued slippers for indoor wear (Rowan’s crocs are fine for indoor wear so he was fine). It was quite a challenge getting up a long, steep flight of stairs in those slippers carrying cycling gear!

Next, the room is a Japanese-style room. You walk in on the same level as the hallway, and there’s a little sink and entryway. Then you step up to the sleeping and living platform. The platform is covered in a grass mat and the only real piece of furniture is a low table. We sleep on mats (mats with some padding) on the floor, and sit on cushions around the table.

It is actually surprisingly comfortable.

I had the best night’s sleep I’ve had in a while with the large window wide open (but covered with a mosquito screen), the sound of rain outside, a comfortable mat on the floor, interesting and very comfortable pillows filled with something unusual (Rowan is guessing some sort of husk) and a large fluffy duvet.

They played Moon River here last night. Apparently it is something which is played at dusk in various places in this area of Japan (and possibly other areas as well). But I'm not sure why or how the tradition started. I should have asked John if he knew what it was about.

(Cycling: 43.38 km)

Japanese-style Hostel
Japanese-style Hostel

Monday 9 July – We’re staying here at Lake Shikotsu another day, and then cycling back to the airport tomorrow. We were thinking of going for a ride today, but may spend it resting and recovering for a long flight and the Europe portion of our trip instead.

And that's exactly what we did. It was a very nice relaxing day.

Tuesday 10 July - We got ready to go without any urgency. The checkout time was 11 am, and we didn't have far to cycle back to Chitose and the airport.

Incidentally, Chitose is pronounced something like 'chee-tosay'. It's got a bit of a French flavour to it.

The ride back along the trail was lovely again, and it was interesting to see it from a different angle.

We arrived back at the airport in the middle of the afternoon, got our room at the hotel, collected our bicycle boxes and Rowan dismantled the bicycles to prepare them for the flight.

Then we had a rather Italian dinner in the airport. It's interesting that there is such variety in food types everywhere we've been. In some places it has been difficult to find foods I thought would be common. In Hong Kong, I had a very difficult time finding noodle dishes. In Japan, we discovered that rice is surprisingly expensive.

We are a little bit sad about leaving Japan already. 10 days is definitely not enough to get to see much of a country. We felt quite comfortable in Hokkaido, and would like to return for a longer time in order to see more.

(Cycled: 33.3 km)

So all up, we cycled just over 383 km in Asia: 106 km in Taiwan, and 277 km in Japan.

View from Airport Hotel
View from Airport Hotel

Wednesday 11 July - We were up very early and down in the airport ready to go before the check-in people arrived. However, when we did line up to check in, the process of checking in the bicycle boxes took so long, that when we got through and almost jogged to the boarding gate, they were just starting boarding. I don't like feeling rushed like that.

Some airlines charge for the bicycles, and some don't. We knew that when we booked everything, so we were prepared to pay for the bicycles when flying with Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines. Fortunately Qantas doesn't charge for bicycles, and I think some other airlines we're using don't either.

The first leg of the journey took us to Tokyo. Unfortunately, we were only there long enough to change planes and go. Maybe next time we'll have the chance to see a bit of Tokyo.

And then we had a 12 hour flight to London, over Russia.

Our story continues in the UK and Europe Story section of the website. See the links near the top and bottom of this page.

Asia Story

Europe - UK Story

Europe - Mainland Story

North America Story

Australia Story

Round the World - Asia Photos

Round the World - UK Photos

Round the World - The Netherlands, Germany, and Luxembourg Photos

Round the World - Switzerland & France

Round the World - West Coast of France, Paris, and UK Photos

Round the World - North America Photos

Round the World - North America Photos Part 2

Round the World - Australia Photos

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

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© Copyright 2000-2014 Charlene Barach (Machka)
Modified: 2014