Day 6 – Fukiage to Asahikawa – Downhill – Storm aftermath – Into the City…
The storm seems to have died down by morning and we checkout by placing our bed sheets and pillow cases by the door. After a quick breakfast we get out and walk around to take in the beautiful morning air. There are a bunch of hiking trails heading into the forest and we take one of the short ones. Blue gentians at the edge of the vegetation takes some time to get over with. The trail is well marked, or rather, you can’t even leave it due to thick dwarf bamboo undergrowth. We walk about an hour among what I assume to be fir and birch trees. The vegetation seems to have a lot of variety here; my eyes are accustomed to see uniform groves of cedar and spruce… It looks more lush compared to the Pacific coast.
It’s getting muddy as we go further and we seem to be getting a bit of rain. A viewpoint further up reveals mountain tops ahead and you can see the steam rising between crevices. I wish we had more time to explore more around here. Before it gets too wet we walk back down the same trail and enjoy some scenery when clouds move.
It’s still early and quiet on the road as we start our ride. Absolutely no traffic for a while and we occasionally see a few cars parked at trail heads. Some maybe out just for hiking, but we do see others collecting stuff, probably berries or maybe mushrooms. We sample some snow berries ourselves. Our next stop is the Shirahige Waterfalls with its much advertised “blue water”, which is kind of blue, yes, but come on… There is a small town formed around this attraction, and not much activity at this hour or season I guess.
Just after the waterfalls, we find a cycling road with a gorgeous tree canopy beside the motorway and jump to it. The aftermath of the recent storm is apparent here with blown leaves and broken branches all over the place. We dodge a few but soon get blocked by bigger and bigger obstacles. We switch a few times to the road and back before reaching the next attraction: the Blue Pond. Or at least that was the plan. A policeman is standing by the entrance and of course making the sign. Apparently it’s been flooded or something.
We arrive Biei around noon and it’s quite hot with open skies. The first ramen shop doesn’t serve seafood, the second is almost closed, letting us in as their last customers. We glance over the menu and place the order as if we know what we are doing. Bengul gets a cold noodle soup with scallops and I get veggie tempura with rice. Not a bad outcome.
For the rest of the way towards Asahikawa we move on farm roads to have some quiet time. We inadvertently find a few tourist spots too, including the “Ken & Marry Tree” and pretend we were looking for it. Asahikawa is a large city and we arrive when schools let their students out for the day. Kids in white uniforms are riding their bikes on the wide sidewalk under tall trees. We join them and get closer to our day’s destination, the Kaguraoka Park. From a fancy fruit & veggie store we pick up a melon (delicious), some peach (delicious) and banana (normal). The campsite at the park welcomes us with a closure sign, “due to recent rains” according to my phone and advises us to choose one of the other two parks, both at least an hour away. We see another person camping (looks like long-term) and he says the drinking water is fine and the restrooms are open, so why not stay here. It’s also free. Thank you. We contend with a lot of bugs, a red fox tries to get friendly, and a classical melody fills the air whenever we step into the restrooms.