We spend three days biking from Takamatsu to Matsuyama (where our next ferry leaves) and are a little disappointed in the road conditions on the island that is supposed to be quiet and picturesque. We are heading through the industrial heartland where the big trucks go back and forth and it is harder going than we thought, but it’s time to put our heads down and get there! Luckily, there were some really nice highlights, especially off-bike:
1) Shikoku udon: amazing, cheap, and the local specialty of Shikoku, there are tons of great little udon shops where you can choose if you want hot or cold noodles and broth, and then get to top it yourself with green onions, fresh grated ginger, a range of spices and sauces and sesame seeds, and can add an egg or any kind of tempura you want, all for about $5-6. We had udon every day for lunch in Shikoku and loved it.
2) Our first night in Niihama: we had found a spot that said campground on Google maps we thought we would check out which was up a very steep hill away from the busier roads. We got there just as the sun was setting spectacularly, and although it was closed (actually turning out to be a kids camp, not a campground), there was a large reservoir with a boardwalk around it and some great sunset views. It was very quiet, except for the sounds of tennis balls being hit back and forth, coming from the tennis courts we had passed on our way up the hill. We found a great little spot under a shelter near a playground, had another weird dinner of dehydrated corn soup and calorie mates (I am so ashamed!) and slept like royalty.
3) Minetopia!! Yes, we went to Minetopia and it was amazing. It was actually kind of an accident that we went there because we thought we’d just check out an onsen and sleep in a park again, but the onsen was mapped inaccurately on Google so we went all the way uphill to this beautiful spot in the mountains on a road along a river. An old copper mine made into an attraction park/museum/michi no eki/onsen, we had arrived too late to check out the actual mines, but got to enjoy the random bits of rusting mining equipment and the old buildings by the river we slept at.
Check out the video of the descent down the next day.
4) Wild monkeys! While sleeping by the river at Minetopia, we had heard some strange noises but I didn’t really put two and two together until the morning when the trees across the river from us were shaking. There were wild monkeys in the trees! And at a safe enough distance from us to not bother us, we watched about 6 or 7 of them crawling along a fence and then marching along together
across a bridge (towards us, but still quite a ways off). Very cool.
5) Matsuyama: a very cool city with an interesting European vibe where the ferry to Kyushu left from, we thought we’d take a couple of days here and stay at an Airbnb as we were now ahead of schedule. We had our first evening out of all-you-can-drink karaoke which was a blast. We had a great little okonomeyaki experience in a hole in the wall restaurant we stumbled across
and enjoyed watching some dudes with mad football skills.
And Christian enjoyed watching some Blue Jays games at the apartment while I worked on my applications for grad school. A good place to enjoy some R&R off the bikes.
6) Dogo onsen: the oldest onsen in Japan, crazy tourist hot spot we checked out before we took the ferry to Kyushu. Lots of opportunities to buy towels and sweets (of which we bought neither. Sorry friends and family: we will not be returning with the souvenirs.)
7) Tunnel to the Ferry to Kyushu: 1.7 km of lit, smooth, quiet, tunnel bliss.
8) Ferry to Kyushu: we were a little worried about a 7 hour ferry ride overnight, but according to Christian “that was the easiest ferry ever.” We slept the entire time like little babies and were very happy to have our air mattresses to supplement the futon (essentially a thick sheet) they give you to sleep on in your berth (the floor). We both really didn’t want to get up when we arrived and could’ve done with a couple more hours sleep.
And just like that, we were on Kyushu!
Musician, teacher, traveller. Currently on a year-long journey around the world. Bronwyn is one of the founders of onlyamazingdays.com.