Sasado Onsen trip #1 (Toyota City)

[1-2 January 2024]

A belated Happy New Year to all! Returned yesterday from a NYD ride to a public campground, mentioned by the owner of the local bike shop. The plan was to visit a temple in a historic village then push on to the camp site. Things didn’t go quite as intended! Here’s a desultory thread on this tiny adventure, with the usual smattering of poorly composed photographs. For starters, a countryside meeting point for students walking to school, passed early in the trip.

About 4km out, I passed Nagoya Prison, with this inviting sign at the entrance.

About 15km out (??) I arrived at this fork in the road. These small tunnels to allow foot traffic and bicycles to pass under expressways and train lines are common in the countryside. As I would discover on the return journey, this marked a crossroads between the relatively easy ride straight on leading more or less directly to the campground, and the nightmare of mountain huffing and puffing awaiting to the right. Of course I turned right here.

There aren’t a lot of photos for what followed. The BikeMap app recommended a shortcut detour that turned out to be a wash (literally) where timber, rocks, and mud had sluiced down what I guess was once a road. After a good hour of to-ing & fro-ing, I found a barely navigable path that led down to a point within reach of the intended route. At the bottom a sign said more or less “None shall pass”. I was now beginning to think about turning back to avoid getting stuck in the woods somewhere.

As I pushed on, it became painfully clear that I’d set myself up for a frustrating series of climbs over mountain ridges and plunges into gorges on the other side. I was nonetheless beginning to feel cautiously optimistic when, near the top of a ridge I hit this sign and gate on the ONLY route forward. With a golf course in the way, I was forced to retrace my tracks, cursing and swearing, back down to the main road. Go on, ask me what I think about the game of golf (better sit down first).

After the country club disaster, the app decided to omit a dog-leg that would have led to a temple at Asuke village that I had wanted to visit, and that was just a fine by me. By this point there was only a modest distance remaining (like 15km or so), but each grade was steeper than the last, and I found myself pushing the bike, taking breathers at that, and using the brakes to keep from backsliding. No pictures, but imagine if you will a seemingly endless expanse of cedar forest.

After cresting the final ridge, and with something like just 2km to go, I enjoyed a whizzy descent to the Yahagi river basin. I worried that I might not be able to find the campground, but it was unmistakable, a large flat area along the river, with four tents pitched here and there by others who also fancied spending the New Year holiday out of doors. I spoke with a young couple that smiled as I walked by their tent to take in the river, and we exchanged holiday greetings.

Astonishingly I arrived with daylight to spare and had the tent pitched before sundown. I’d had only some bread midway through the nightmare climbs, and despite being pretty tuckered, dinner was very welcome. The two traditional New Year items (black beans and sweet & sour salad) were courtesy of a kind neighbor (who I now fret over having saddled with completely inappropriate homemade bread on the 31st). I had two not-unexpected bouts of leg cramps in the evening, but slept well otherwise.

A kind man accosted me at the campsite when he spotted the cargo bike, and we chatted. He knew a lot about the area and camping in general, and directed me to the best road back to Nagoya, downstream along the Yahagi river. There was some mixing with car traffic, but it was a smooth ride, always with the calming sound of the river on the left. This view from the Inubushi Bridge (犬伏橋) was nicer than this photo suggests, but I hope it at least gives the general impression.

The ride home was mostly downhill (of course!), and so much easier. When I passed a large unmanned vegetable stand that I’d seen on the way out, I stopped to pick up daikon, negi, and sato-imo. A steal at 350 yen.

… and then I clicked my heels … and I was home!