What a Grey Day – But We Still Got Sunburned!

26/5/16. The forecast had been promising rain for a couple of days but so far we had been lucky in that it had only fallen overnight. However, as we set off on our bikes, after two days of using trains to get about, it looked as though our luck was about to run out. The clouds were covering the tops of the mountains and the mist was doing a good job of obscuring the chimneys of the power stations and paper factories. The positive side of the change in the weather was that it was cooler – a very tolerable low 20’s.

The greyness of the weather was a match for the drabness of the scenery as we cycled beside the middle one of the three major roads running parallel along the narrow strip of flat land between the mountains and the sea as we passed through an unappealing industrial/urban landscape.

Although there was a footpath that we could use most of the way it was not much fun with all the traffic noise as it whizzed past. We decided to try the road nearest the sea, the one further inland being the expressway which is forbidden to bikes. The new route was a little better as the road was less busy and there was generally a strip of greenery between the path and the road, although we didn’t get to see the sea much.

All of a sudden the houses and factories disappeared as the mountains decided to get their feet wet – which, of course, meant that we were climbing! It was a long, winding drag up but the saving grace was that the view turned green and was much more pleasant.

Thankfully there was only the one climb (so in reality it was only the one mountain dipping its toes in the sea!) and we were soon freewheeling down the other side into the town of Niihama. It was marginally more appealing than Shikoku-Chuo but it was at this point that the rain started to fall. It wasn’t at all heavy and it took the temperature, which had started to creep up, back down a degree or two – so not even Christine felt the need to don a raincoat.

The road we had been following now turned inland and joined up with the middle one so the noise and fumes increased. To make matters worse there were two largish rivers to be crossed and the footpath disappeared on the bridges forcing us to join the traffic which was no fun. After the second bridge we jumped onto a network of (very) minor roads and zigzagged our way through the paddy fields that surrounded us.

All this time we had been heading west but suddenly the coast turned north and so did we. We joined a road with an acceptable footpath and no bridges which led us to our campsite just two the south of Imabari. It was shown as a campsite on Google Maps and we found a blog that said it was OK to stay there but it was more like a park with no camp “infrastructure” other than some public toilets. We waited for dusk to fall and a coyple of dogwalkers to go home before pitching the tent and disappearing inside for a free night’s lodging.

When undressing we both noticed that the tops of our arms had caught the sun. We had decided that suncream was unnecessary because of the greyness of the day and we saw blue sky and sun for what felt like no more than 2 minutes the whole day so this was a real surprise.

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