Monkeys and Mountains

So far the riding is going well, but Tokyo looms ahead of me - the most crowded city in the world.

I have been riding the coast roads and the mountains; in the Nagano area, I went to an unlikely tourist mecca - the spa monkeys. These are a troop (200 of them) of Snow Macaque monkeys who come down out of the forest to relax in the hot springs. It's an amazing sight watching them lopunging in the warm water, the baby ones having to swim while the larger ones can wade through, the juveniles (acting not so differently from humans) diving in from all sides.

you can google great images of them - Japanese snow monkeys.The best pictures are taken during the winter when the steam is billowing around them and the snow is on the ground.

Kosta is riding with me, he is on a Kawazaki Drifetr (except I keep referring to it as a Grifter like the 80's bicycle). Basically it is a big chopper - 440kg which makes Thelma look like a lightweight in comparison. We chose to avoid the main towns and have crossed Honshu island following its line of mountains, spotting shrines, temples and statues of buddhas as we ride the curving roads enjoying the fantastic views.

It is good to be back on roads with a decent surface as it means I can relax a bit, enjoy the views and look around me as opposed to eyes glued to the road, desperately trying to avoid the worst of the potholes, deep gravel, small animals, people and random objects scattered on the road. We can see snow on some of the higher peaks, but luckily nothing on the actual roads we are riding on.

We were camping out at 1600 metres- a bit chilly but it feels like nothing after Siberia -Kosta borrowed my "spare" sleeping bag to get through the night and as it was a very windy night and a hard surface we were attempting to camp on, I had to anchor my tent using two guy ropes attached to my panniers and a thrid tied to Thelma's front wheel.

A night camped out at the beach beside Japan's largest lake -Biwako. It felt odd to be so far from the sea and yet on a sandy beach watching the waves breaking.

Camping in Japan is apparently allowed anywhere- even in the city parks (though I haven't tried this option), this is useful as accommodation is very expensive  - five and a half months on the road has depleted my carefully saved money. So I am camping as much as possible, which also allows me to enjoy the countryside and the best that Japan has to offer such as the  views and outdoor living. Obviously I am not leaving my tent set up during the day, so far I have been moving on each time. Plentiful spotlessly clean public toilets make the camping easier as well as the multitude of convenience stores, handy for food and drinks when on the road.

I've spent the last few days in Kyoto, staying in a backpacker's hostel where I've been visiting tamples, castles and shrines. We rented bicycles yesterday for a spin around the city with a difference. It’s a dog eat dog world on these two wheels with no engines, people whizzing past on theior bikes, switching between using the roads and the pavemeents with little regard for direction of travel. I soon got into the swing of it though I have got confess I was very wobbly on the bike at first. It is a classic Japanese shopping bicycle with a basket on the front, extremely low seat,  incredibly squeaky brakes and a non-functioning bell - I used my brakes as an audible warning of my approach.


Made me smile

As always your blog has made me smile - i google the snow monkeys as instructed (adorable). Glad you are in warmer climates now. Love Vicks.