Japan day 38
Japan day 38
Rishri-Wakkanai (by ferry)
Now I know thousands are anxious to know where I slept last night….well, read that as 2 or 3….but a fellow cyclist has ribbed me about giving cyclists a bad name by ‘dossing’. (He could remain nameless, but let’s have some fun….you’ll find his comment tagged on to the end of the last post… 🙂 ). So let me address the issue of ‘stealth sleeping’ or ‘free camping’.
Cyclists are well known for being ‘careful guardians of their money’….meaning, of course, that they like “owt for nowt”…..some would say unceremoniously ‘tight b*****s’. But dossing in Britain is not quite the same as dossing here in Japan. Most of my choices on this trip have been carefully chosen ‘up-market’ locations, such as shrines and temples, park gardens, marinas, lakesides, even the odd ferry terminal. Now, the fact that I slept in a bus shelter last night might seem to have tipped the balance of my choices irretrievably downwards. But not so…… Let me explain.
I know a lot of British cyclists who have slept in bus shelters, especially on Audax long-distance events. They do it for convenience, to grab a few hours of rest before continuing their ride (which could be anything from a 24-90 hour event).
Now think of the typical British bus shelter……it may have a roof, but one or two sides will be open to the elements; it will have a concrete or dirt floor; it will probably be covered with graffiti; there will be cigarette butts, sweet wrappers and even dog poo on the floor, if not evidence of boozers emptying their bladders before climbing on the bus. To sleep in a British bus shelter is what I call “dossing on a budget”. There are better, and free, places to sleep.
Now, the Japanese bus shelter is quite different, especially in the north, where they experience some weather….I think you know what I mean. I showed this one in a previous post
…..brick built, closeable door, completely weather-proof and clean inside. The one I slept in last night was not quite so sturdily built, but it had a bench seat, clean wooden floor (even a dustpan and brush in the corner), and here is the clincher…..it had double french doors that not only closed, but actually locked from the inside.
Because it measured about 3×1.5 metres, it fitted not only me, but all my clobber, and the bike inside. I bedded down about 7.30pm, an hour after sunset, and I wasn’t disturbed the whole night. And I made sure I had left well before the first bus at 7.04am the next morning….
In the league of bus shelter dossing, this is definitely 5*. And given that the gale force winds continued throughout the night, sometimes rocking the whole fabric of the shelter, I was comfortable, warm and safe…..and I slept surprisingly well.
Do I do this just to save money? No, not at all. I can afford hotel rooms. So why do it?
I have to say there is something very satisfying about going back to basics. It’s only the consumer, business orientated world we live in that appears to set the norm of where people should sleep at night when not at home….ie. that it should be inside, have a comfortable bed, perhaps with ensuite and fluffy towels, and a kettle for making tea….. Sleeping, in fact, is just a basic bodily need, and it can be done anywhere that’s dry and warm. Isn’t it good to remind ourselves that this can be done without all the ‘bells and whistles’ of paid accommodation? Why should there be a monetary value placed on a basic human function?
Why should skateboarding, playing frisbee or walking the dog be seen as acceptable activities in a park, and not sleeping? As you can see, I’m on a roller here, so I won’t tax your patience further on this….
But, if you have never tried sleeping free or wild, whether it be in the country or in the city, whether it be under the stars or under cover….pluck up some courage and do it. Some of the very best experiences on this trip (and I could name many) have been sleeping free. Many times they have led to meeting people, sharing friendship and being showered with spontaneous generosity. And none of it would have happened in hotels.
I rest my case.