Japan day 20

Japan day 20
Joetsu-Niigata 115 km
I had made an arrangement with a Warmshowers contact to stay with them in Joetsu, but their commitments had got in the way, and they put me on to a guy called Matt. I was told he was a cycling fanatic…..but that was all.
After exchanging several texts during the day, the final arrangement was to meet at a station in a suburb. When Matt turned up in a long hatchback car, I knew immediately he was used to carrying bikes. We loaded up and headed for an onsen (hot spring), where we had dinner, followed by a long therapeutic soak in natural hot volcanic spring water. If I could export one thing back to the UK, it would be an onsen. In fact I’ll probably have my back garden drilled in the hope of finding a hot spring…..
Matt, born in Toronto, has lived in Japan for 8 years, is a fluent speaker of Japanese, teaches English in a Junior High School, and has the improbable qualification as being an expert and producer of sake, a bottle of which was opened in my honour.


This has led to an invitation to speak at a local Rotary group, obviously not on how to make sake, but more to do with the international perception of sake as a drink. Could it have more success as an export product, he wondered?
This morning, after all the cycling chat, Matt was prompted to cycle into work, but we had to peel off in different directions after only 200 metres together, me down to the coast, he to the centre of town. It was a pleasure to know him, and be hosted by him.


Now, about today’s ride, I am definitely not going to mention the headwind….even though it’s behaviour was again criminally offensive…… ūüė¶ But the delightful coastal route produced two major happenings, one very positive, and the other stopped me in my tracks and made me turn around and back track, looking for an alternative route.
The first was like the Clapham omnibus: for the benefit of non-Brits out there, you wait all day for a bus, then two arrive at the same time. I hadn’t seen another long distance cyclist for nearly 3 weeks, then 2 turn up on successive days. After Yamaguchi of yesterday, I met Zenda today, again going in the opposite direction and, of course, with the wind behind him (where did I go wrong?).


Now Zenda Is a major world traveller. Born in Hong Kong, after living in the UK for 8 years and qualifying as a teacher, he set off from Cardiff 20 months ago, and tracked his way through northern Europe, Scandinavia, Russia and the Baltic states, the Balkans, Turkey and the ‘Stans, Tibet and China, and into Japan.
Now look carefully at the load on his bike. I guess he’s carrying 40-50 kilos. But that’s not all. Yesterday he sent home more than 17 kilos….that’s 3 kilos more than my own entire luggage….and that’s only what he sent home, because it is now superfluous to his needs.
The other amazing attachment on his bike was his Kindle.


He has it mounted so he can read while he rides…… I have seen many weird things in the world of cycling, but never this. Please don’t try this at home….. it comes with a health warning. He will finish his adventure in Hong Kong, after crossing Korea and part of China.
An impressive young man, to say the least. Would you employ him in your school as a teacher?

The other incident was much less pleasant. I was flagged down by a policeman and told there had been an accident in the tunnel ahead, and he asked me to turn back.


Of course, I was not well pleased, because it meant climbing back up a very steep descent I had just come down and find an alternative route.
As I was studying Openstreetmaps on my phone, the ambulance went past, prompting me to see my frustration for what it really was…..an extremely minor irritation. For the person in the ambulance, this accident could be life-threatening, or life-changing at least.
I pen this post lying in my tent in a tiny public garden overlooking the sea……and my tent posts (ie.that keep the tent standing up, and not collapsing on me), have just snapped. Damn it! There must be a message in this somewhere. Oh, well, let’s leave it till the morning….it’s only the feet-end of the tent that’s partially collapsed…..and hope it doesn’t rain tonight….if it does, I’ll be migrating into the nearby public loos…. ūüė¶

And for those who like tunnel photos, this is what it’s like as you enter one, and I guess this could be my 200th tunnel of the journey so far….and counting……



About Frank Burns

Looking for the extraordinary in the commonplace‚Ķ‚Ķ‚Ķtaking the road less travelled‚Ķ‚Ķ..striving for the ‚Äėfaculty of making happy chance discoveries‚Äô in unremarkable circumstances. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on April 9, 2015, in End-to-End of Japan 3000kms and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. what a brilliant tunnel photo!

  2. That’s really bad news about your tent pole! It’s not your week wrt that tent is it? If it snapped near the end of the wide end one section see if you can find someone to saw off the broken end and then the poles should fit together again. I did this and then got some gaffer tape and lashed a small piece of hedgerow to one end to make up the difference. This served us well for the rest of a two week tour.

  3. A few typo’s in there Frank – sorry! You’d lash the make up piece to the very end of the whole pole, not to the end of the re-cut section.

  4. enjoying your travels in Japan. I hope you encounter some days that are not as windy as those you are experiencing lately.

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