Hitting the Heights

21/5/16. As the weather has been warming up we set off relatively early (for us) at just after 8 along the road on top of the dyke. It was glorious with almost no traffic and no climbs to speak of.

The Yoshino Valley reminded us of ones in Switzerland with the expressway, the old main road, the railway, the river and minor roads all running in the same direction below steep mountains. Up to now it has been a wide space so these various conduits are not on top of one another but as the morning progressed the mountains drew closer together making things a bit more of a squeeze.

As a result, our very quiet road joined up with a busier one, but still OK as there was still room for the expressway and the old main road. We stopped at a cafe/tourist information point and Stephen continued his experimentation trying the various cans of cold coffee available from the vending machines, which are everywhere, often 3 or 4 together. The orange juice was sold out so he bought Christine a peach flavoured yoghurt drink which hit the spot.

Coming to a T junction we were stopped at some roadworks where, instead of using 3 sets of traffic lights to control the different streams of traffic, there was a team of 8 people waving red (=Stop) and white (=Go) flags. This was a similar “make work” arrangement as the baggage carousel unloading team in Osaka airport and made Stephen wonder why Japan has such a reputation for labour productivity!

The previous evening Christine had phoned a youth hostel to make a reservation for the night. She was pretty confident, but not 100% certain, that communications were successful and we were sorted. However, the hostel was in an isolated position a long way up the mountainside on the north of the valley so we went into the town of either Awa-Ikeda or Ikeda (we cannot work out which!) to buy dinner and breakfast before starting the climb.

It was a long, hot drag climbing 250 metres vertically in less than 3 km. Not much fun! We sat around outside for nearly an hour as we had read that checkin was from 3 o’clock and there was no sign of anyone. Eventually Stephen’s impatience got the better of him and he rang the doorbell which had, up to then, escaped our attention. A lady appeared and we were sorted thanks to a smattering of words in each other’s language and some hand waving.

Our room was a traditional style bedroom with tatami matting and futons but thankfully there was a more Western style sitting room where we could eat and read. The toilets were interesting with a built in hand basin on top of the cistern, knitted seat covers and shoes at the door to use.

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