A Difficult Day

31/5/16. With a ferry to catch from the other end of the island, we were up relatively early on Tuesday morning. A heavy dew meant that Stephen’s tent drying duties took longer than usual so Christine was ready to leave first.The route took us across the middle of the island rather than the much longer coastal road. It was agreed that Christine would set off and, if Stephen didn’t catch up on the road, we would meet where we joined the coastal road.

The inevitable happened! Christine reached the road and waited while when Stephen got to the junction there was no sign of her so he started tearing along roads backwards and forwards looking for her.

It transpired that the cycle route, which Christine followed, diverged from the road part way along while Stephen stuck to the road, not noticing the cycle route going off on its own track. Thus we joined the coastal route at diffferent points!

When we finally met some 20 minutes later it was almost time for the ferry to leave and we were nowhere near tthe dock.Marital equilibrium was temporarily disturbed!

However, as it took us 40 minutes to get to the ferry port it was clear we would have missed the boat even without the confusion and the planets resumed their steady path around the sun! We faced a 4 hour wait and settled down to read.

The lady running the ticket desk gave Stephen a severe ticking off for recharging various electronic devices in the waiting room when she returned from her lunch break. Oops!

Eventually the ferry arrived and we boarded with one other cyclist and two cars for the 25 minute trip. As the weather was again sunny and there was little wind, the journey was beautiful reminding us of island hopping in Finland 10 years ago.

The town at which arrived seemed to have little to offer. Certainly we could see no sign of a food shop to supplement our lunch of a packet of cappuccino biscuits so we headed off down the road.

We were now in Hiroshima prefecture on a chain of smaller islands that are connected by a series of bridges that do not have separate provision for bikes but the roads are really quiet so this is not an issue.

Riding along beside the blue sea we could see a largish town on the next island which had several sights according to a leaflet which Christine had seen in the waiting room. We reasoned that there had to be somewhere for people to stay but, three bridges later, we could find almost no sign of life in the town. The tourist information was closed and, when we bumped into a group of 4 of our fellow passengers, 3 of them walked off wanting nothing to do with us. The fourth showed us the lication of a hotel on a map but it was many miles away – fine if you’re in a car but useless to cyclists. He then spied someone emerging from one of the houses and asked her. She pointed at a place on his map of the town so we headed off for the place indicated.

Shut!

It was as though the whole town was on holiday. We jumped on the bikes again and enjoyed the views, all the time growing worried about where we were going to sleep. Entering the next town Stephen spotted somewhere that looked a possibility until Christine discerned that the first 2 characters of the name on the door were the Chinese symbols for hospital.

Nothing else looked even vaguely likely so we carried on as the road signs seemed to show that we were nearing another largish town, Toyohama.

Crossing onto the next island, we arrived in the town and passing the “city office” (place where the Japanese do all sorts of official business) we walked in hoping they might be able to help.

The office workers looked puzzled about why 2 foreigners would want to renew their car tax or register to vote or any of the other things they did there. However when we explained what we wanted using Christine’s very sparse Japanese, miming sleeping and saying hotel very loudly (Stephen’s contribution!) they understood and produced a print out of a hotel from the web with a picture and they pointed on the map. One of them phoned the hotel but returned indicating that we couldn’t stay there.

More consultations followed and the map was pointed to again, this time a place halfway round the island. Again a phone call was made and again a negative reply received.

We were starting to get concerned but at this point the boss man intervened and made a phone call. After about 5 minutes he waved to us to follow him and we walked about 200 yards up the road to find ourselves outside the first hotel they had phoned. A flustered lady appeared and we were shown inside and a room presented for our consideration. We nodded our heads vigorously, a (high) price was agreed and we were sorted. We were the only guests so it appeared that the hotel was closed but the boss man had persuaded her to open up just for us.

The lady flapped around producing futons and sheets from somewhere and then talked away for a long time with the only understandable word being “shower” and much pointing at the clock. Eventually we understood that we would have to wait until 6.30 for the water to be hot enough for a bath.

Refreshed from the Japanese style bath (similar to an onsen, you shower and wash yourself thoroughly before dunking you body in a deep bath of hot water. This water is then left for the next person.) we needed to find somewhere to eat as we had only had the packet of biscuits since lunchtime.

The lady looked puzzled when we asked about a restaurant and didn’t seem to know anywhere. Finally she led us into the small shop which was the ground floor of the hotel and eventually we twigged that she was asking us what we wanted. She would then cook it for us! There wasn’t a huge choice (or at least that we recognised) but we understood “ramen” (thin noodles) and left her to choose what to add (hard boiled egg, radish, spring onions and some sort of “greens”). It was very welcome.

We crashed into bed exhausted by the nervous energy expended rather than the physical exertion. Tomorrow we should get close to or reach the city of Hiroshima where we are hoping things will be a bit more familiar and where the whole place won’t be on holiday!

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