Noboribetsu onsen to Lake Shikotsu
Distance: 50 miles
Total Distance: 1742 miles
Photo Album

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We took our time getting out of our nice hotel in Noboribetsu Onsen, but finally managed to get on the road after enjoying many cups of tea from the fancy tea set provided in our room. A short steep descent took us down to the coast, where we slowly made our way north and east towards Tomakomai. Neither of us were feeling especially motivated to ride, and the scenery wasn’t helping–lots of heavily industrialized villages and factories stretching for miles along the shore. Eventually, this changed into a short but beautiful stretch of coastline: black sand, the remains of artificial breakwaters worn down by years of pounding surf, white foam, and water in many vibrant shades of blue and purple.

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Remnants of breakwaters along the coast to Tomakomai

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Gathering clouds and sea

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One more for my collection of pictures of Vicky taking pictures

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Sample statuary along the road to Tomakomai

Eventually we headed away from the coast for our big climb of the day up to Lake Shikotsu. We stopped and ate lunch on the edge of an elementary school playground, much to the amusement of the curious students, who came over to watch us and ask questions. After lunch, we started a great (but tough!) climb up to Lake Shikotsu–very little traffic, beautiful mountains, and one of the best road surfaces we have experienced in Japan. After quite a while, we eventually hit the top of the climb and coasted a few kilometers down to the lake.

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On the climb up to Lake Shikotsu

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Watch out for bears!

We intended to stop at a campground on the south side of the lake but didn’t have any food for dinner so we ended up riding all the way around to the other side to find a campground (and store?) we had seen marked on a road sign. For the second time in a day, we found ourselves riding along an amazing stretch of shoreline. Lake Shikotsu has beatifully clear waters and is surrounded by some very picturesque mountains–late in the afternoon, their tops were shrouded in fog and clouds but their slopes were bathed in warm golden sunlight. We stopped for lots of pictures along the way, and got to the supposed campground in the early evening.

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One of the volcanoes around Lake Shikotsu

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Fisherman on the lake before sunset

The campground (at a small boat landing) had been shut down long ago, but the lady at the small restaurant there told me that no one would complain if we put up our tent. We walked down to the old campground to find a spot, and discovered an entire community of fishermen lodging along the shores of the lake. This was a part of Japan we had not seen before–people living out of their vans and RVs in semi-permanent camps. Clearly, most of these men had been here for at least a couple of months, and would probably stay until autumn snows forced them out. A few waved as we passed, but most were intent upon their fishing equipment and boats, discussing the day’s catch and tomorrow’s strategy.

We found a spot at the end of the long line of fishermen, and pitched our own tent. After a long climb, we were a little tired so we cooked a simple dinner with what little food we had left and then crawled into bed. Unfortunately, we couldn’t sleep well due to the massive number of bugs that had somehow made their way inside–I spent quite a while squashing flies and evicting spiders before we could finally settle in. Still, once things calmed down we enjoyed the sound of the waves on the shore and the cool breeze. Tomorrow, we had a relatively short ride into Sapporo, and then a couple of rest days!