Day 12: Shimanami Kaido, Part 1

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Today, we left Hiroshima in order to cycle across the Shimanami Kaido, which is a route that connects Onomichi on the mainland to Imabari on the island of Shikoku via six small islands in the Seto Inland Sea connected by some really cool bridges. It’s a really scenic area with mountainous islands, farmland, and lots of citrus fruit trees (this area’s specialty), all surrounded by a really blue sea.

I first heard of this route from my Lonely Planet guidebook, which says it’s possible to ride across in a day. This must be a lie because we chose to do roughly half the route, but even then, we are dead tired and in pain.

The cycling route is roughly 70 km from start to finish. We stopped after probably about 40km, so just over half the route. Our reward was a stay at a lovely ryokan, or a traditional Japanese inn, on the island of Omishima.

We started in Onomichi on the mainland, renting bikes near the station. Their selection of bikes really isn’t that great. Since I wanted a bike that fit me and had a basket in front, I ended up choosing an old mountain bike that I later named Rust Bucket, for it truly is a rusty old thing.

The first part of the journey is easy – a quick ferry ride onto the island of Mukaishima. From there, things got harder…

About half the route is on flat ground. However, there are some steep inclines, especially approaching the bridges. I had to walk Rust Bucket up most of the inclines because it was simply too exerting to bike it.

We stopped at a viewing point just before the first bridge connecting Mukaishima to Innoshima to take some pictures. There was a cute elderly couple having lunch there and the wife offered to take pictures of the three of us and then chatted with us. Or at least she tried to, as she only spoke Japanese and I only know a few basic words and phrases and Katherine and Jr know even less. Before we left, she gave us each an orange! She was so sweet! She reminded me a little of my late grandmother, who would often hand us treats.

Top: the first bridge, connecting Mukaishima to Innoshima, seen from the viewpoint. Bottom: the same bridge, but within it! The cycling path takes you underneath the road reserved for cars. It’s really cool!

We kept biking but by Innoshima, the second island, Katherine and I were really feeling the burn. We also had to be at the ryokan by about 4:00 p.m. because they would be expecting us. As a result, we had to pick up the pace (or try to!) if we wanted to make it in time. That’s why there is a lack of pictures in this post – I was too busy trying to keep cycling despite the burn in my legs and my really, really sore butt! Jr has most of the pictures.

About halfway to the ryokan, Jr offered to switch bikes with me. I gave in and he took on Rust Bucket while I rode his considerably better bike (it lacked a basket, though!). It helped a lot but there were still some inclines I had to walk the bike up.

Once we reached Omishima, the island our ryokan is located on, we were hopeful that the end was near! Alas, there was still some odd 7 or 8 km left to go! To make it worse, most of it was uphill. Even Jr, who does a lot of cycling, was exhausted by this point (granted, he had been riding Rust Bucket…).

We dragged our sorry butts the rest of the way, finally reaching the ryokan, Ryokan Chaume, at around 4:30 p.m. This meant we had been cycling for about 6 hours. The staff greeted us warmly, allowed us to store our bikes in a garage, and led us to our rooms. I feel sorry for our attendant because she speaks only Japanese and we can’t really understand her. Still, she is really doing her best to make us comfortable. Gomen nasai!!

We showered instead of going to the nearby Onsen as we were just too exhausted to go anywhere else, changed into our yukata, and relaxed for a while. At 6:30, we had dinner. Ryokan are usually well regarded for their food, and this place was no exception! Dish after dish was brought out, mostly fish freshly caught in the area.

We ate until we were stuffed, which was great after a day of hard riding (and consequently, not much eating). Now to just relax and sleep!

My butt is still incredibly sore and I will probably be in a lot of pain tomorrow morning. Still, I have the rest of the route to cycle! Oh no! How do people complete all of the route in a day?!

Tonight is also the last night I spend with Katherine and Jr. Tomorrow, we split up with me going onwards to Shikoku while Kat and Jr return to Tokyo, as they fly back home in a couple of days.

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