- Day 32 – Itoigawa to Sobama campground (Sado Island)
- Distance: 68km
- Ascent / descent: 774m / 760m
- Weather: sunny and hot
- Accommodation: camped at Sobama campground, ¥900
Today was a great day!
I didn’t sleep well (again). It turned out I chose an area very popular with fishermen who were fishing all throughout the night. So I was up at 4am (it’s light here now from around this time), hoping to be able to cycle the 50km to the ferry terminal to try and make the 9:40am ferry to Sado Island. I left at 4:45am and watched the sunrise ahead of me as I cycled. Soon I was on the Kubiki cycling path which runs between Itoigawa and Joetsu and it’s one of the best cycling paths I’ve ridden here. There was no-one around and I was flying along it parallel to Route 8, then sometimes above the highway through a series of tunnels, sometimes along the coast and through small rural areas. I passed many elderly people tending to their neat gardens and veggie patches as early as 5am.
I surprised myself by making it to the ferry terminal in time (I’ve never cycled 50km before 8:30am)! I didn’t know if there were any tickets available so I joined the queue, and was in luck. The price was also cheaper than I was expecting considering I didn’t want to have to carry my bike onboard in a bike bag, but wheel it on instead (I don’t know how I could physically carry my bike in a bag on one shoulder, and my panniers on my other shoulder – I don’t have enough arms)! The price for me and the bike was ¥5760, which was ¥1400 more than if I had carried the bike on, but for that price, I’ll wheel it on any day.
Waiting for the ferry I met a couple who had cycled 70km from Nagano that morning and they were planning on cycling around the whole of Sado Island just over 2 days with one night accommodation – hard core!
On board the ferry I was able to charge my electronics, have a rice ball for breakfast from the ferry shop, and then I met a group of elderly people who were on an outing to Sado Island. One of the men was blind and his carer said he had touched my bike while I was queueing for the ticket – the butterfly handlebars are a bit unique in Japan so I often get people asking me about them. It turns out this man was an avid cyclist before he lost his sight, so we had a good chat about cycling and shook hands before they left.
I went straight to the tourist office near the port in Ogi on Sado Island and the helpful staff gave me lots of good tips about where and where not to cycle. ‘Up-down’ was mentioned quite a lot. I was recommended to visit Sado by a ‘Cycling Japan Facebook group’ but not one person mentioned the ‘up-down!’ The staff also told me of a campsite that would be good for tonight and arranged for someone to come by when I was there to collect the fee – you’re supposed to call the caretaker at the campsite when you arrive, so I explained I wouldn’t be able to make a phone call from my phone without wifi. I left the tourist office very excited for the upcoming days of exploring Sado Island.
Of course I had to have a go in one of these ‘wash-tub’ boats called a Tarai-bune, it was ¥500 for the experience and great fun!
If you met me in Japan, you’d know that I love Taiko drumming and will go out of my way to find an arcade with the taiko drums game… so it made my day when I realised there was a Taiko Centre on the island and that I would be riding right past it. I called them initially from the tourist office to see about booking an appointment and thankfully they said just to come along anytime. It’s located ON TOP of a decent climb that I was half riding and half pushing my bike up and maybe cursing a little bit about the fact it was on top of a hill… until I got there and saw the beautiful building, incredibly friendly staff and found out I could have a private lesson banging on all the drums for only ¥1000. It was soooo much fun and the teacher was amazing.
I arrived at the campsite just in time to watch the sunset. The caretaker came along and I paid my ¥900, then he showed me around. The shower was coin-operated with hot water; ¥100 for 3 minutes. I definitely wasn’t planning on having a shower assuming it was just cold water as it gets pretty cold here as soon as the sun sinks. However, with hot water I decided it was probably a good idea. I was also able to charge everything with the outlets in the bathrooms, sweet!