The Great Shimanami Kaido Bikecamping Adventure – The Final Day

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The view from this camp-ground is stunning.  It’s sheltered from the wind, and so compared to the previous night’s tent-in-a-tempest-rest, I slept like a baby.  More or less.  Less because the camp-ground is also a very popular spot for the locals, who wander past late at night walking their dogs, and then starting at roughly 5:30 a.m, weave their scooters through the NO BICYCLES PAST THIS POINT gate and ride down the footpath past your tent and along the cliff edge to their favourite fishing points.  I walked down this footpath.  It’s barely a footpath – I don’t think even my craziest dirt biking friends would try riding down it.  But, holding a 7 foot rod in one hand and a bucket in the other?  Why not, eh?  It doesn’t look so bad in this photo, because you can’t see around the corner where the paving stones are falling into the sea.  Oh, and it’s not dark out.

WP_20151229_15_00_17_Pro.jpgI sat at the end of a concrete pier and watched the sunrise while I ate a lovely breakfast (read: the rest of my peanuts and some octopus jerky) with some hot coffee and a bottle of orange juice from the camp-ground vending machine.  To say I needed it was an understatement.  I still had to ride 30 minutes back to the nearest convenience store, where I planned to sit down and eat a “real” breakfast (onigiri and French fries and fried chicken and another coffee) before riding the last 40 or so kilometres to Matsuyama.

It was a good plan, except I decided to stop at the convenience store across the road from the one I had been at the day before…and this conbini didn’t have seats.  Or kariage.  Or fried potato.  Fail.  No matter though, I ate some cheesy croissant thing and then I hit the road, Jack.

The road I took wasn’t the ideal cycling route.  At one point I was sandwiched between a high guard rail and large trucks.  It would have been fine had I been well-rested.  Instead, I was exhausted after about a thirty minute ride and desperate for the next convenience store.  So exhausted that when I spied one across the road, I misjudged the speed of an truck behind me before cutting gleefully across the road toward the LAWSONS sign, like iron to a magnet. Fwip.

Thankfully, there was no harm done, not even close, the truck was just a little faster than I figured.  I made a note to make sure I was 100% alert before carrying on.  (Not really up for dying just yet.)  Anyway, I refuelled myself and had a good long rest at the Lawsons café style seats, charged up my electronics at the provided plug-ins, watched through the window as a couple of older men discussed my loaded bicycle at great length.  I think I’d do the same, if I were in their place.  It’s not the kind of loaded bicycle you see every day…

After carrying on, my different route choice turned out wonderfully.  I happened to ride past (or possibly through!) a shipyard where I was shocked to see a brand new sister ship to the brand new ship just built in Innoshima.  They appear exactly the same except for their names, GLOBAL HIGHWAY and ORION HIGHWAY.  These ships are absolutely monstrous.

WP_20151230_10_50_05_Pro__highres.jpgGLOBAL HIGHWAY, near Onishi, Ehime Prefecture

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ORION HIGHWAY, Innoshima, Hiroshima Prefecture

Just past this shipyard, my route rejoined one of the recommended cycling routes from Imabari to Matsuyama.  There are two promoted routes – one is a mountain route, and one is a nice, easy coastal ride.  Guess which one I rode?  Once again, I had the beautiful blue line to guide me.  The weather was perfect, the ride was great.  There are no hills, just a few slight inclines along the coast.  Once the route juts inland towards Matsuyama, there are only a couple of large hills, but all in all it was a very enjoyable ride.  I found the ride preferable to the Shimanami Kaido proper and all its bridge ramps, from an ease-of-use-whilst-pedalling-dead-weight-bicycle perspective.  Once inside the city, the blue line will take you directly to Dogo Onsen, so I had a little bit of navigating to do before I reached the JR Station (due to one-way streets and lack of bicycle crossings this was slightly trickier than it would be by car or on foot).

I picked up a nice selection of Matsuyama maps at the tourist information booth, had the attendant circle my hotel for me in red, and off I went.  I was ready to fall over and being self-sufficient was nowhere on my priority list at this point.  (My priority list, incidentally, was this:  1 – Don’t get in an accident. 2 – Don’t fall over. 3 – Find hotel. 4 – Shower. Lots.  5 – FOOD!)

I wish I had video of my arrival at the hotel.  It has a very posh lobby with marble tiles and gilt lion statues at the door, and plush carpeting and leather sofas inside.  I parked my bike on the marble and went on in, sunburned, sweaty, helmeted, cycling tights, disgusting 10 year old shoes, and checked in.  And asked where the bike parking was.  Around the back somewhere.  And apparently I was supposed to bring my “luggage” into the lobby first.  So, I did that.  It was a fantastic moment.  Suited, immaculately groomed clerks watched as I hauled in my trash-bag-reflective-taped camping gear and deposited it on the lobby floor along with my tent and backpack.  That was that.  I had arrived.  I enquired if I might have a box in order to ship my camping gear home.  I was done bike camping.  My knees had had enough.  I would ride back to Imabari on a bike about 5 kilograms lighter.

After a fantastically long bath and well-deserved beer from the hotel vending machine, I took a stroll down to a magical restaurant and had the meal of my life.   A long visit to the hotel onsen ended the last day of my Great Shimanami Kaido Bikecamping Adventure.

I would do it again in a heartbeat…on a different bike. 😉

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