mercoledì 28 marzo 2018

Day 13: The contagious smile of an old woman

The nice ending of yesterday evening has left a good sensation into our minds, and we have a positive feeling for today. We have booked our lodging for two days in Matsuyama, therefore we know we don't have to worry about the booking for at least one day.

When we leave the hotel we are surrounded by a light mist, and the visit to temple 43 gets a more mystical vibe. We then get back on the road and take the climb until the Tosaka tunnel, cycling between tall trees half hidden in the mist.
After the tunnel we'll descend to Ozu city , but first we have to cross it with its 1100 meters and no sidewalk from our side. While we are busy in it, we are involuntary witness of what an excessive politeness on the road can bring: a driver trying to overtake us goes completely into the opposite lane (good, as we won't have to worry about the wind caused by the fast car) but in making so forgets to check for any incoming traffic, which in this particular case is a truck loaded with logs.

The result is a loud horn playing in tunnel right in front of us, which continues well after the two vehicles have crossed. Since we are the only with the head unprotected from a layer of metal and glass we are also those who suffer the most from the noise, and as soon as we exit the tunnel we have to stop and catch some breath.

We then descend to the city, and for a short moment we think we might have taken a wrong turn somewhere: a Gothic style building, looking a bit German-ish,  is right in front of us.
Reassured by the kanjii signs, we recover from the cultural shock and proceed into the town. After spotting some walking henro we take a deviation which will bring us first in a valley following a river and from that on the coast.

The valley is gorgeously green, cluttered with farms and cultivated fields, with a railway running next to the road. We greet the farmers busy working on their land, and from their greeting back we have the feeling that it doesn't happen often that two gaijin venture in this area.
When we stop for a moment to drink some water, an old woman gets close to us. We greet her, and she greets us back with a shiny smile on her face, carved by the signs of countless summers spent working on the farmland.

She asks us where do we come from, and when we tell her that we are two Italian henroes and that we are cycling, she shows a big surprise on her face. Then she starts looking at our bikes, and is really curious about the cleats. We explain her how they work, and she is a continuous source of wonder exclamations.

She then looks at us and, mimicking the effort of pedaling, incite us with a "Fighto fighto!" while displaying her most happy smile which looks like the one of a young girl. We thank her for the nice words, and, amazed by her vitality, bid her farewell, while she keeps waving with her hands at us as we get farther along the river.

In case you are wondering, yes, she spoke only Japanese and we only English, but we both managed to understand each other!
Shortly after we reach the sea, and there we cross a small village with its harbor packed with fishing boats. Out of the village we spot, on the road, the blue line indicating the designated cycle routes: we have found a panoramic route which will take us until Matsuyama!

The vivid color of the sea water is simply amazing, here and there we see seaweeds harvested and put to dry under the warm sun of today.

The sight is so stunning that I find myself literally flying on the bike, while my travel mate has to shout to make me slow down.
We stop for lunch in a beach whose white sand is almost blinding, where there is a fair amount of people enjoying the sunny day: mostly cyclists, but also students who fill the air with their laughter while taking silly photos next to sea, and families relaxing with this nice view.

The place has also a restaurant which can prepare fresh fish on demand, but we don't feel like sitting inside with such a glorious day, and we take our place on a bench next to the beach and have our lunch.
Leaving from such a beautiful place requires a strong exercise of will power, but we cannot camp on this beach. After a short climb to a pass separating the sea from the city, we reach the outskirts of Matsuyama.

Getting used again to the traffic of the rush our is not really pleasant, but we treasure the road we have done so far, and keep going on.
Once we reach our lodging we find out that we will have it entirely at our disposal for both days: it is really an unexpected fortune. Not that we dislike having other people around, but being able to live in a traditional Japanese house alone is a new experience for us.
After getting a shower we reach the castle, few minutes after the ropeway taking to it has closed. We have no choice but walking the stairway bringing on top of the hill, and there we sit enjoying the view on the city while the Sun slowly sets.

There are only few other people there, mostly busy taking pictures of the blood painted sky while our eyes wander around the horizon, hopping from fishing boats to landing airplanes and the first dim stars appearing in the sky.

After walking down we go searching for a place where we can have dinner: we pick a small and almost deserted place where we have some Hiroshima style yakisoba.

We then walk back to the lodging, longing for some rest on the futon. The busy city center is just some buzzing sound far away from our room, and our eyes quickly close.

Where we slept:
Matsuyama, henro house Heiwadorii, via

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