13-15//6/16. To be perfectly honest, the last three days haven’t been much fun.
The rain of Sunday afternoon increased in intensity and the wind got up so we experienced quite a wild night with us both being woken several times by the weather. However, the tent held out and by morning the storm had passed. The skies were still grey and things were a bit damp but we decided to get moving.
Leaving Ako, we had a brief spell climbing and then descending a narrow, main road around the edge of a national park (pretty but the traffic detracted from the scenery) before we hit the edge of the Kobe-Osaka-Kyoto conurbation at a town called Aioi (4 vowels! How about that?) and went around the southern suburbs of Himeji (“castle town” that we visited by train a couple of days earlier).
There were brief spells of “greenery”, views over the Inner Sea and a 12 km stretch of cycle “road” alongside a river, but, largely, we have been riding alongside main roads on foot/shared paths which has been pretty uninspiring.
As it turns out we have spent the last three nights in the KKK – Kakogawa, Kobe and Kyoto. (I grant you that Kakogawa is not as well known as the other two, but it makes a good story! But that is just about all it has going for it as far as we could see – not somewhere for the bucket list.)
We pitched up in Kakogawa because it was late afternoon and we hadn’t booked anywhere to stay. Riding into the centre of town we failed to spot anything resembling a hotel so went to the tourist information office in the station. They gave us leaflets for the only 2 hotels in town (or so they said – we are not convinced that there were no others – just not places that they think Westerners would not want to stay at). The first of these only had 2 single rooms while the second was a bit “grander” than we have become used to! Still, it had a room with a double bed (allegedly – but it was more a large single so Stephen ended up on the floor!) so we took it. And we managed to get the tent dry while we went out for something to eat.
Dinner was a real bargain! We couldn’t see anywhere that really took our fancy so plumped for a little place in the station building. The menu had some English and, with a bit of judicious pointing, we placed our order. We ended up with a large plate of stir fried vegetables, an enormous bowl of bean curd “stew” with chilli and two bowls of rice for £8. And it was all delicious! (So Kakogawa does have something going for it! We can point you in the direction of a good place to eat.)
Although we only cycled 47 km into Kobe on Tuesday we both arrived at the hotel exhausted. It’s not as though it was hilly – pan flat would be a better description – so it must have been the muggy weather (but no rain) and the uninteresting views. Kobe was nothing to write home about either (at least as far as we saw).
The 80 km into Kyoto on Wednesday were, if anything, even more tedious. The first 25 or so km were punctuated by traffic lights controlling the footpaths as well as the roads with monotonous regularity. Stephen got frustrated by the continual stop/starts! Things improved somewhat when we got onto the cycle road alongside the river but it was all too short!
We then had a spell of riding on top of a dyke/flood prevention wall which would have been wonderful but for the many barriers preventing cars and motorbikes from using it. There were gaps to allow pushbikes through but unfortunately these had not been designed with bikes with panniers in mind! We ended up using a variety of methods to circumvent them – taking off bags, lifting the bikes and going “cross country”.
Eventually arriving in Kyoto we were impressed by a couple of very large temples that we passed on our way to the tourist information office who arranged a room in a traditional style hotel located in an area that is a maze of tiny, narrow streets. The only downside to the hotel is the single shared bathroom that was continually occupied when we were wanting to shower before hitting the sack.
As Kyoto is a city packed with things to see (17 World Heritage sites) we will be spending at least the next two days here.