We had almost a full week to spare before we had to catch our flight from Sapporo to Tokyo, and we certainly didn’t want to spend it all in Wakkanai. At the same time, we had quite a few logistics to figure out, as we needed to decide what to do with our bicycles and camping gear while here in Hokkaido and then back in Tokyo for another week. Our first task was the bicycles: with those taken care of, we figured we could always handle the luggage.

Our first thought was that we could ship the bikes all the way back to San Diego, so we went off to a local bike shop to ask for help. Although the owner was very cheerful and tried to offer suggestions, there wasn’t much he could do on his own–however, he recommended trying a couple of shipping companies near the port area. Off we went to one of the larger offices, where after much confusion (and frustration on my part at not being able to explain fully what we were trying to do) we established that it would cost somewhere around $700 US to send the bikes home! We told them that we would think about it and return, and then biked away as fast as we could, feeling a little defeated. We checked at the Japanese Post Office to see if they could ship them instead, but learned that the upper size limit for packages through this service was far to small, even if we took the bikes completely apart.

Our next thought was to find some large bicycle boxes that we could use to package up the bikes and check in as luggage, which is what we had done to get them over here in the first place. Back again to the bike shop! This time the owner’s wife met us outside, and after some discussion we learned that (a) they don’t keep extra boxes from the bikes that they sell (no room in their crowded store), and (b) the boxes were far to small for our touring bikes. As we were talking, her husband came back out, and after some thought, suggested that we simply use the kind of bike bags required to take a bike on a train. We were pretty wary of checking our bikes on an airplane in a simple canvas back but felt that we didn’t have many options at this point, so we made arrangements to come back in a few days and purchase the bags.

After all this running around, it was already late afternoon so we decided to spend another night in Wakkanai and use the evening to plan out the rest of our time in Hokkaido. We had noticed a youth hostel on the map, so we rode up a very steep set of hills to check it out. It turned out to be a great find! The owner was very happy to see us, especially as the hostel was completely empty. We made arrangements for a small dorm room and dinner, and then started to unpack and clean up. It was a little sad to see this hostel so empty, as the owner was clearly working hard to make it a nice place to stay. We migrated to a common room after unpacking a little, and were just settling down to read a little bit when the owner came in. He asked if we would like to stay in one of the newly remodeled hostel apartments instead of the dorm room–completely free! He was working on a multi-year project to convert part of the hostel to a more upscale bed-and-breakfast type place, and wanted us to experience the changes. We moved all of our things down the hall, and were incredibly surprised by our new accommodations! The suite had a dining room, full tatami bedroom, full kitchen, and a huge bath! Needless to say, we were set for the night.

We went downstairs to thank our host and eat the dinner we had arranged earlier, and then spent the rest of the evening relaxing in our room. Vicky took a long bath while I caught up on our journal and email.