Shikoku’s glorious mountains seemed less and less attractive at times while pounding the pedals to push on upward even higher, but a wonderful descent followed on the final day of riding on the smallest of Japan’s four main islands.
Leaving Uchiko later than most starts, it was a steady climb upward for the remainder of the morning.
The strenuous efforts of the climbs were rewarded by priceless views across seemingly endless mountain ranges, whose splendor was enhanced by the brilliant sunshine and cloudless skies.
More climbing continued after lunch (the day would eventually top 1,100 meters of elevation).
An exhilarating and lengthy descent followed, though, winding downward through mandarin patches and bamboo groves.
The latter part of the trip was at sea level, first winding its way through the rice paddies, then along the coast of the Seto Inland Sea before moving inland and following the river into central Matsuyama.
The tour’s ride ended adjacent to Dogo Onsen, Japan’s oldest and most-renowned hot spring bath.
Brommie remained banished in light of the hardcore climbing earlier in the day.
With the next leg of the tour being its steepest and hardest climb of all, it seems a fate likely to continue.
For the time being, though he is looking after the other bikes in the tour. They have been packed in a van ahead of the tour’s rest day, when the troupe travels by bus and ferry to Honshu.
Brommie’s planned Saikyo to Teito Trip is looking increasingly likely to be a washout, with rain forecast for the scheduled four days of the planned odyssey.
Glorious sunshine greeted tour participants as they woke in Beppu, coincidentally on the morning the Wallabies, Australia’s national rugby team, would be playing a World Cup match in the same city.
After a quick breakfast the entire tour assembled and hurtled off down the hill toward the beachfront.
A ferry ride from Kyushu to Shikoku awaited, and the team rode onto the huge ship, tied up the bikes and moved upstairs for the long ride.
Repairs and adjustments were made to bikes on the boat trip, but upon alighting, cyclists immediately rode off up the river until reaching a mountain standing in the way of the path to the destination of Uchiko.
A grueling, but visually stunning ride lay ahead up a series of switchbacks with mandarin and other types of citrus trees dotting the mountainside. Views downward became increasingly spectacular as the rugged terrain of Shikoku became increasingly evident.
The ride down was exhilarating, but cautious due to the large amount of debris on the track.
It was a ride along the plains from that point, passing through Ozu, with its castle overlooking the town, and hitting the river in the very extensive set of bike tracks in the area.
There was still a lot of time left in the afternoon as the tour rolled into town, but the time could have been spent better as luggage had been delivered to the wrong places.
Once things were sorted out, Kangaeroo headed off with the tour organizer to recce a possible route for the following day.
Heading up a mountainside offering spectacular views, hopes of a great ride were high, only to be dashed upon learning the mudslide that had closed the road some years ago remains perhaps years away from being cleared up.
It was back to Uchiko, a delightful town filled with Meiji (1868-1912) and Taisho (1912-1925) era buildings. There, we ate a delightful dinner courtesy of Ze Germanz, and spent a blissful night’s sleep.
Tomorrow it’s off to the Ehime prefectural capital of Matsuyama.
Brommie didn’t have the greatest of days today. Having struggled up the slopes the past couple of days, he was relegated to the reserves bench and spent the day idling away in the back of the truck. His day will come again, though.
Glorious weather greeted the tour today, paving the way for some amazing riding.
The group set out from the gloriously quaint hot spring resort town of Kurokawa.
Slowly but surely, the riders wound their way through forested areas, driving ever upward until reaching the Kuju ski ground, the highest point of the entire tour at 1,140 meters above sea level.
Despite reaching the tour’s literal high point, it wasn’t all downhill from there.
Travels along undulating roads followed over the next 30 or so kilometers along beautiful thoroughfares such as the Yamanami Kaido.
The group inched ever downward, though, until reaching the hot spring town of Yufuin.
Following a delicious lunch, the way out of Yufuin involved a brutally grueling climb at a back-breakingly slow pace.
Once the climb was over, it was for the most part a descent at furious pace along National Route 500.
Upon reaching the outskirts of Beppu, it was off the main track and onto a switchback for some more fun.
Brommie performed brilliantly in circumstances not ideal for him with so much climbing. He incurred his first problem of the tour when his chain tensioner flew off, but this was the result of Kangaeroo over-oiling him.
Once the tensioner was re-applied, it was all systems go again, but Kangaeroo is jeopardizing others’ fun, so it looks like Brommie will be packed away again for a while.
Mount Aso threw everything it had a tour participants today including heavy rain, strong winds, great elevation, mist, clouds, cold, storms…and kangaroos.
Kangaroos can be found grazing along the sides of Mount Aso.
But thanks to a heavy cloud of mist, little could be found as the tour crossed the active volcano housing a city in its caldera.
Participants made it safely up and across the top of the volcano to be rewarded with a descent of breathtaking beauty, including rivers, valleys, gorges and ending in a picturesque pastoral area of outstanding rustic beauty.
Brommie was resolute, struggling up the steep early parts of the climb, but eventually becoming the first non-electric bike to make it to the summit.
The resilient foldup performed resoundingly well on a slippery descent, too, though the climate must have hurt him. Kangaeroo is just knackered!
All the bikes were rewarded with a clean, chain wipe and air in the tires ahead of another huge day, the final complete one on Kyushu.
The tour kicked off on the bikes with a ride through a samurai household neighborhood in Izumi and then moved its way through mandarin groves while heading toward the coast.
Riders reached Minamata, which gave its name to one of the world’s best-known instances of industrial disease. Despite it’s bleak and tragic past, Minamata is quite quaint.
From Minamata it was a trek around the glorious Ashikita Coast. Roads were almost traffic free and the journey was peaceful and quite with wonderful views of the seas and Amakusa Islands in the distance.
The rode drew to a close with a tough climb and descent back down to the coast and along a railroad through to the destination of Hinagu. Tour cyclists stayed in the opulent Kinparo ryokan dating back to 1909.
The day ended with a multi-course banquet so full of carbs it makes the remaining days’ cycling a necessity rather than fun!