lunedì 2 aprile 2018

Day 15: Night on the island.

The early Sunday morning in Matsuyama is as quite as we have experienced in Kochi, and this is good for our mood when we start riding. Few people on the road, mostly students on their bikes or motorcyclist on their motorbikes, getting ready to take full advantage of what seems to be a gloriously sunny day like it was one week ago.
Indeed once we reach the coast and we start following route 347 what we see in front of our eyes can hardly be described by words: the water of Itsuki-nada sea is calm and transparent as we have never seen, and through its clearness we can see the seaweeds growing till the surface and the fishes swimming in this underwater forest.

Also the pilgrims we pass along the way seem to be amused by the sunshine and the sea, and during our first stop to buy something to drink we meet an American henro, whose tanned face speaks more than anything else about his progress so far.
Leaving the coast to reach Imabari port is not something we are eager to do, but we accept crossing the relatively small industrial area as the necessary price we have to pay to reach our destination today: the Shimanami-Kaido.

Luckily the industrial buildings quickly turn into small houses which are pleasant to see flowing at the periphery of our view field, and even the harbor, once we reach it, has something nice in it.
We struggle a bit to find the right way in the maze of small streets, even though the first of the bridges is clearly floating above our heads.
When we finally get to the ramp taking the cyclists up on the bridge and we see from really close the real size of the structure, we understand why we have had so many problems: the bridge is so huge that it will always look close, no matter how far one is from it.

When we pass the artificial hills rising us from the sea level to somewhere midway of the final elevation, we start cycling in the narrow cycling ramp completing the climb to the bridge level. Our eyes struggle in deciding whether they want to look the narrow road the bike has to follow or past the barrier separating us from the void.

For me it feels like flying while pedaling, for my travel mate and her vertigo is somehow more fearful, but still she manages to continue.
The more we climb, the more our path becomes a slalom to avoid the cyclists who stop to take pictures.

I also cannot avoid the temptation of letting the pixels of my camera try the inane task of converting the scenery before my eyes: a gentle wind which becomes more fierce as we increase our elevation, the scent coming from both the sea, 70 meters below our wheels, and the aromatic bushes growing on the coast, the shimmering surface of the whirls created by the never-resting tidal flow and the warm feeling of the sun rays sinking into our skin.

These are sensations which no solid state technology can convert into memory signals.
When we reach the first island we see a statue of Kobo Daishi guarding the road, which we take as a good omen for the day, and then the cyclist version of the prefecture mascot, Mikan: a bear-bodied mandarin orange which, depicted on every signal board, gives instructions and directions to the cyclists while merrily riding its red bike.

With him there is also a green orange which, though I cannot read Japanese, I have the feeling represents the bad habits which should be avoided and probably is a sour orange. We find out later that Mikan is also the name of the fruit itself, which we have already tasted few days ago at temple 37.
The number of cyclists venturing on the path is impressive, but its length makes it also hard to find congested roads: everybody travels with his own pace, and it is easy to spread the crowd on the road. We meet lycra wrapped cyclists chasing the wind, old people slowly cycling to their fishing spot, sun burnt gaijin bumping on their mountain bikes and also a father going on the ramps with his young son still using training wheels.

The effort the young boy puts in challenging the road leaves an admired smile on our face, and the scene is so perfect that seems taken from a staged set. Midway in Oshima island we take a detour and stop into the Rose park to have lunch: also there we meet a lot of people enjoying the sunny day, and cannot help but reflect on how much the building of the bridge must have impacted, both on the good and on the bad, the lives of these people.
After our lunch break we cross the second bridge and reach Hakata island, where we stop to visit a small dolphinarium built in the bay immediately after the bridge. From there the third bridge takes us on the island where we will spend the night.

A quick deviation from the main road leads us to the hotel where we have the appointment with the tenant of the guest house. The hotel looks superb, and the woman quickly appears at the reception and shows us the way to the place riding a small scooter.
Her house is located in the small village, separated from the touristic area, and faces the hills at the center of the island. She explains us the facilities of the house and gifts us two tickets for the local onsen, before leaving us to get back to work.

We take a shower and change our clothes before heading to the onsen, for our first experience in a Japanese public bath. The place is built in the countryside, on the top of a small hill, and it is not a place designated to lure foreigners into it. Therefore we are confident that it will be a more true experience. We separate from each other and head for the designated area according to our gender, where we begin the preparation for entering the bath.
Soaking into the hot water is really beneficial for my muscle, and not being forced into the cramped space of a bathtub is even more relaxing than using the ofuro we have already learnt to appreciate. The more the time passes the more I become confident on what I am doing and therefore less nervous about accidentally breaking some of the etiquette which applies to the onsen, hence I can more thoroughly enjoy the relaxing bath.

Fully restored we get back to our lodging, but first we stop by a convenience store to buy some food for the dinner. We then sit in the living room of the house, calmly consuming our soba, while outside the door a concert of crickets is the perfect soundtrack for this evening on the island.
Before going to bed we take a walk to the coast, under the light of a rising Moon. Only some dog barks at our passage, but more to save the appearances of guarding the house where they belong than for a real will of threatening us.

The calm of this night on the island sinks into our soul, and the gentle sound of the waves on the shore whisper us the most heart full "good night"we have ever heard.
Where we slept:
Omishima, guest house Fujimien-shimanami,  0897 87 2025

1 commento:

Timo Nevalainen ha detto...

Note on the photo of plate with green orange riding bike. It just says to take care of your speed. Interestingly this seems to have been designed by 2nd grader(maybe just describing elements and text or he/she is bloody good drawer for that age)