Monthly Archives: October 2014

Safety First

I went for a ride this weekend, I ended up going 72km. Fortunately…because right at the beginning of the ride a car pulled out of a side street directly in my path. It happens more than it should. The annoying thing is the woman in the car definitely saw me. She looked right at me, hesitated, then pulled forward. She probably thought, “It’s just a bicycle, it can’t be going fast…I am a car, quicker, bigger, I must have the right of way.”

Luckily I have been riding motorbikes and bicycles for over 25 years and I saw her. I could see what she was going to do and slowed down from 30km an hour to 20km…twenty is plenty. So when she did pull out I had JUST enough time to stop.. JUST.

The thing is…if she had kept going I might have managed to swerve around the back, but no, as most people would she just stopped and blocked my exit route.

Did I get angry and shout? Scream obscenities? no, absolutely not. I decided if I did that then she would just think of the gaijin who was rude to her not what she did. She nodded and drove away, maybe not to think of it again. Hopefully she will remember the foreigner she might have killed and to think a bit more next time she sees a bike coming her way.

And to prove it, here is a video of the incident.

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Cycle and a hike up Mt. Tsukuba

Last night myself and a few friends decided to climb Mount Tsukuba in order to observe the sunrise. Yes, this entry has a few other people in it which makes a nice change. There are plenty of websites with information about hiking around this area, here are a some: Here , Here and Here. The latter site has a handy map and you can see the route we took, following the cable car starting at Tsukubasan Shrine.

Now, in order to get there in time I had to set off at midnight as I was cycling to the shrine. I tried to catch some sleep before then, but I just couldn’t drop off. So by the time I had to set off I had no sleep and was heading into a 2 hour plus cycle up a mountain, then a 2 hour hike up and 2 hour down, then a cycle back..I was surprisingly chipper.

Here is my bike all ready to go, with and without the use of flash. You can see it was quite dark as midnight tends to be.

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The roads were completely empty and most didn’t have street lights like this area. I was wearing a bright yellow coat to make myself more visible and made sure I had spare batteries for my front light (I had just changed the back and it uses less power). The route to the shrine was about 18ish km and the first 14km or so are pretty flat so I manage that in just over an hour. Our meeting time was 2:30am…so why set off so early?? Because it is a mountain and the last 3km or so are steep and I am not fit enough to cycle up, though I did manage more this time, so walk and push it was.

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The tori gate was a welcome site as I was done with pushing. Now to find somewhere to park the bike?? I couldn’t see any signs for bike parks, just car parks. My friends said put it anywhere, which I was a little uncomfortable with. I saw a couple of Japanese guys getting ready for a night hike too and asked them what to do. They said I could chain it near their car and they would say it is theirs if anyone asks..nice Japanese people.

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Now I had to wait for the others to arrive…Yeah I was first, I win..wait..that means I have to wait in the dark at a shrine eeeeek. Actually I am totally unafraid of the dark so it was no problem, I am afraid of a few things, but dark is not one of them which turned out to be a good thing on this walk.

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Two other people were supposed to be cycling, but alarm clocks, oversleeping etc meant I was the only cycler and the others were slightly late…apart from Blue Coat Man who was prompt and prepared as usual. As this is a public blog here are the codes for my friends.

Blue Coat Man
Sleepy McSnorey
Over Prepared Man
Tree Hugger
Solitary Man – not in any pictures as solitary man is also quite speedy.

As you can see from the pictures below the path is quite tricky and covered in rocks and roots. So my headlamp and neck LED were quite handy and handsfree.

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As the route was pitch black I didn’t bother taking many pictures, except when I saw this toad..in a hole! That was Tree Hugger’s joke. The toad is a famous symbol of this area and the oil from its skin is used to make a cream. Legend says that if the toad is placed in a mirrored box it begins to sweat because of the terror caused by its own reflection. Our toad looked very relaxed considering the sight of Gaijins shining torches on it in the dead of night. Sleepy McSnorey would have liked the box story as she kept us entertained with stories of different occasions when she screamed or caused screaming.

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The hike seemed to go on for ever and at one point it descended for a worrying amount of time, but Solitary man assured us it was the right direction (I was tempted to look at my GPS though). We got to the top with about 20 minutes to spare before the sunrise. I am a surprisingly slow walker on all occasions and often get left behind when hiking with a group, so it was very nice that Tree Hugger and Over Prepared Man stayed with me the whole route up and down. There was another small hike to to summit, but I was done. My back was really hurting and I was cold. Layers, layers people!!

Plus this was the view, quite misty and the peak for the usual view of the sunrise was covered in a steady mist. So I decided to stay put near the vending machines with hot coffee and toilets. By this time we had seen nobody, but the car park people. Then from nowhere a whole group of older hikers appeared from all directions and started calling out to each other. It seems in these parts the pensioners hike up this route regularly and are very spritely. Put our group to shame.

Anyway, Tree Hugger and Over Prepared man stayed with me and the others went to the summit.

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At this point we had time to kill and checked out the backpack of Over Prepared Man. He had forgotten to clean a few pockets before setting off and there were still work related items in there…plus parts of a washing machine, toothpaste, a billion pencils…you never know when you will need these items.

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By the time the others came back from viewing the shadow of the sunrise we had 3 hours to wait until the first cable car ride down. So choices, wait for the ride down, or brave my bad back and walk back down the 2 hours route. We went to the start of the route down and the first step down was agony, a sharp spasm. I said no, I couldn’t do it. But waiting 3 hours in the cold??

So I tried again and this time it wasn’t so bad. I was so glad I had my hiking stick with me. With each step we got closer to the bottom and my back became less painful…and the return of light cheered us up no end.

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Again I have to say thanks to Tree Hugger and Over Prepared man, thanks for sticking with me. Solitary man went ahead and left little notes along the route.

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And here I am closer to the end of the route.

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Of course there was still the matter of the 20km cycle home. Blue Jacket man offered to put my bike in his car and drive me home..but cycling down is the best bit and doesn’t take much effort. The ride back took half the time of the initial ride and was awesome. I love cycling down this route.

When I finally got back I had a hot bath which helped my back and I promptly fell asleep on my couch. Totals for the day 40km-ish cycle, climbed up and down a 877m (2,877ft) mountain = 21,000 steps = eat all the crap I like.

 

References
http://tsukuba.wikia.com/wiki/Gama_abura
http://japanhike.wordpress.com/2008/04/19/mt-tsukuba/
http://yamaonna.wordpress.com/2009/10/14/hike-mt-tsukuba/
http://tsukuba.wikia.com/wiki/Gama_abura