Horokanai to Sakkuru
Distance: 56 miles
Total Distance: 2061 miles

We woke up early the next morning, slightly nervous about our exposed campsite behind the road station bathroom, and very groggy from a restless night’s sleep. Despite the early hour, the mosquitoes were already active and attacked as soon as we emerged from the tent. We grabbed our equipment and went inside the enclosed road station waiting area (nice benches and easy access to the bathrooms) to pack up and have breakfast. While inside, we met a friendly older man who had slept in his van in the parking lot that night. He was doing 7-year trip around Japan and this was his third time through Hokkaido, he said. We chatted for a while before finishing our packing and heading out on the road.


Photographs on the road

The first 15 miles of the day were relatively flat–we went over a few small rivers and through plenty of farming towns and by 8:30 had already covered 15 miles. From then on, we climbed steadily up to a viewpoint over the shores of Lake Shumaranai, where we got some great pictures of the lake and surrounding areas. The road dipped up and down a bit as it took us around the lake, but we were never too far from the water. Today in particular stood out for how quiet it was–perhaps it was the slightly overcast day and humid air, or perhaps it was the tall hills around us, but for some reason we felt very isolated, as if the rest of the world were standing still and we were the only two people moving through it.


Lake Shumaranai

After riding on the (relatively) major highway 275 for most of the morning, we planned to take the smaller 688 over the next pass and down into Bifuka. We decided to take a short break before starting the next climb, so we started looking around for a good spot to stop–preferably somewhere without mosquitoes! Just to the north of the turnoff, we saw what looked like a park, so we rode on to investigate. The Moshiri Crystal Park was quiet and well maintained, and and had some interesting–and completely unexplained–sculptures in the center. We took some pictures and explored for a few minutes, discovering a small administrative building behind us. Nobody seemed to be inside (although we could hear the sounds of a maintenance crew off in the distance), and with our water bottles nearly empty and our bladders nearly full we stepped inside to use their bathroom, feeling guilty for taking advantage of the facilities without permission.


Break in the Crystal Park

After our short break, we rode up a nice pass–the lack of traffic made it very enjoyable despite the heat–and then had a refreshing downhill into Bifuka. The climb took a while, so we were ready for a real lunch by the time we got into town. After resupplying, we went to a nearby park for lunch, where we ran into Helen (a bike tourist we had first met at Lake Toya) again. We caught up for a little while, and then headed on our way again to a campground onsen about 12 miles north along highway 40. With a short distance left to cover in the afternoon and the sun beating down on us, we took our time, stopping along the way to get some tomorokoshi (buttered corn) ice cream. It tasted much better than it sounds!


Downtown Bifuka


Corn-flavored ice cream!

We reached Teshiogawaonsen (near Sekkuru) in the mid afternoon, and set up our tent in the free camping area up the hill. With plenty of free time on our hands, we enjoyed a long bath in the onsen and then took over a corner of a common room to catch up on our reading / napping / journal writing. It was early evening by the time we made our way back to the campground to cook dinner. Unfortunately, this was just when the mosquitoes decided to make their appearance again! Vicky stayed inside the safety of the tent while I covered as much skin as I could and stayed outside to boil some pasta. I found that the best strategy (now that we had run out of insect repellent) was to pace back and forth as quickly as possible, which gave me a brief window of time to stop and check the status of the dinner before the bugs caught up again. I wonder what the onsen staff would have thought if they saw me? Probably just ascribed it to more bizarre foreign behavior. We have been wondering though–what to local people do to escape the mosquitoes in the evening? We see plenty of people out taking walks and they don’t seem to be bothered very much…

We slept well that night, but woke up early again from the loud birds outside and the already hot sun beating down on our tent.