After talking to my mom today I gathered up myself and decided to brave the weather for a bike ride. When it rains once up here you can almost expect to rain again or an infinite number of times. That was pretty much a spot on expectation for today. I really had it in my head that riding the road north would be easier after my two days of endurance building. Well that was a terrible expectation to have but it did trick myself into believing I could work harder. By the time the first gradual incline came up and I pushed through it, I was already feeling the burn and pain because of my 'mama chari'. As you know my bike is gear-less so its all brawn. Don't I get man points for using a gear-less bike though? I did manage to make it farther today without stopping. I got all the way to the elementary school that I will visit once a month. I passed through this small hamlet or village and it looked rather interesting. Handful of small food stores and other shops probably tucked in some corners. People had fish tanks in front of their homes with gold fish. The purpose? No chance I know. It's Japan after all and many things don't have explanations for the way they are.
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It was about 5km up to where I stopped riding. Right around 3 miles. Normally this wouldn't be that far but remember no gears and the grade on this road isn't friendly. I shouldn't have to reiterate that from now on. However, my day didn't end there. The past two days I rode up this away I just turned around and coasted back. I figured I should waste more time instead of sit around at home and be bored. So I started walking the bike farther north. My day was just getting started.
If you have been following along you saw the post about the park I went to a few weeks ago. This park is close to where I live, if you have a car. It's also up in the mountains. But I decided I would at least walk to the entrance (there is a long road after this though) with my bike in tow and then see how I felt. I thought to myself, "You came this far. You had better keep going and see what happens today." So I coasted on down another hill leading closer to the park. I stopped at a dam where the road heads up into the mountains. I was really exhausted and didn't bring any water. That's not surprising because not bringing water places is something we have excelled at in the past. I wish I could link to a blog story about that but oh well. There was a bathroom nearby and like anyone would naturally think, there is probably a sink with running water. I was right about that. But the sink had a placard chained to the faucet that said 飲料水不適. If you have managed to complete a year or two of Japanese you might notice that some of the characters stand for drinking and water. You would probably feel so cool you knew some kanji and could understand the Japanese. Wait a minute and think about this, why would they need to chain a tag to the faucet telling you it's okay? Actually I have a good answer to that. Around these parts there are water spigots people can get fresh mountain water from. This stuff is safe supposedly. Naturally there is just lots of water flowing down through the mountains. So it is good to tell people when the water being used has been treated, is spring water, or just plain old water collected off the mountain. If you didn't the know the remaining characters on the placard you would learn them quickly after getting sick from sketchy water. 不 generally means something not good or in this situation not suitable. I'm glad I didn't drink the water despite how tempted I was. Good for me and my bowels.
I walked farther up the road from here and contemplated how far I would really go. I vaguely remembered how far it was to the main park building and the clouds were looking a tad ominous but I kept pushing the bike along the road. It is amazing how much more steep things become when you are walking up them. The road really climbs. Before I knew it the rain was coming down. It wasn't much of an issue because I was soaked from my over zealous sweat glands anyway. This was the point of commitment. It was either come this far and take the easy way out or keep pressing on upward. I chose the latter and it seemed like an eternity until I made it to the park office. I was half tempted to try hitch hiking but I wanted the satisfaction and exercise of doing it myself. In short, I did end up getting there after who knows how long. The only thing that kept me going was thinking of the way back which was all downhill. You can see just how much ground I covered. I essentially walked 5km up hill and at one time it was a 14% grade. Not to mention I had to push the bike with me.
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I wish the weather had been nicer so I could have taken pictures along the way. There were some nice views on foot that you wouldn't notice when driving.
I parked by bike and sat down on a bench to recover. Last time I came to the park I saw a guy running around doing random things. He was there again today. He stopped to say hello and I asked him where I could get some water. I told him where I had come from and he was a bit surprised. But who wouldn't be? If I tell other Japanese people about what I did they would think I'm crazy. That goes without saying what happened in the evening too. The guy pointed me to behind the main building where I proceeded to inhale handfuls of water. I came back around and sat down in the front. The guy stuck his head out, walked over to me, said "puresento," and gave me really cold sports drink for free. Several minutes later he came back and sat down to talk to me. In the midst of our conversation I learned that he worked seven days a week and only had one day off per month. Yet, he said it was his dream job to work in such a place because he loved the mountains. He goes by the nickname Hasoyan but I can't remember his actual name. At one point in our conversation he started asking me about chili peppers and then yelled very loudly, "COME ON!!" I was a bit dumbfounded and had to ask for clarification. What he meant was that he wanted the band the Red Hot Chili Peppers to come play at the outdoor stage they have in another part of the park. Supposedly it has a 10,000 person capacity. I don't blame him, it's an awesome idea and venue for bands to play in. I would like to play a show there myself. I don't know how long we talked but it was a lot of fun. I feel like I kind of have a contact there at the park with him. This will probably prove useful for something in the future. Before I left he told me about a matsuri (festival) going on close to my town in the evening and pointed it out on a map. Sure it sounded like a good idea at the time but walking there would be the only option.
The ride back to my town was so nice. Courtesy of gravity of course. I had dried off mostly by the time I returned. I got back around 3:30pm and contemplated going to the festival. I figured that I had nothing better to do and could walk there. I tried to find it on Google maps but no luck. The only bit of information I could dig up was that it was a few minutes from my town by car. I'm not sure how that translates into walking. I believe it was 3.5km or more to the festival based on signs I saw along the way. Yet again it was up hill with the exception of it not being as steep. It rained most of the way there and I thought about turning back several times. I was encouraged even more so by the fact I would have to walk to back if I didn't find a ride or something. In the end I committed to walking there despite the lame weather. Half the time I was reminding myself how I could be relaxing at home where it was dry and cool. No, the whole time. There was a shuttle bus close to the festival grounds that took us up to the actual location because it was higher up in the hills. In all I don't have much to say about the festival other that there were torches along rice paddies and a band of middle aged Japanese men.
I'm not sure if it was good or bad. Maybe it was good just to be there. The weather once again prevented pictures. These convey the event just fine I think.
I didn't stay too long because I had to walk all the way back to my town and I was dreading it. It was getting pretty dark by the time I started walking. The walk back was quicker than going but the whole time I kept wondering why I had even walked to the festival in the first place.
I think the most redeeming part about the festival, though, was the following. Maybe it isn't what it looks like but...
Beer? Check. Kerosene? Check. Let's matsuri!