Hokkaido – Lake Toya to Chitose

Days 26 to 30 – Clearest Lake – Escape to Hotel – Best Sunset – Back to Chitose…

We have a comfortable breakfast inside the cooking shelter and hit the road towards Sobetsu. We take #453 to reach #2 and then start climbing. We have lots of headwind today and it gets unbearable as we reach the top of the climb. At 500m elevation we stop to admire the view (non to be had) and stumble on a cycling couple from USA, coming from the opposite direction. They seem to be enjoying the tailwind. They are on the road for two days from Chitose, they are already here and not planning on stopping at Lake Toya – – too fast? They warn us about the raccoon family that stole all their dry food at Lake Shikotsu.

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Noboribetsu is a place of many onsens, next to sulphur spewing hills and lakes. We visit the scenic spots together with busloads of people and then continue on to Lake Kuttara on a steep narrow road. There is a small park near the shore for the view but the weather is not cooperating and it’s difficult to admire the beauty of the “clearest lake”. Though people keep showing up, exclaiming “sugoi!” and taking pictures. It’s getting late and we decide to wait out the crowds to pitch our tent just there next to a log that says “Kuttara Lake”. We have enough water to make some tea that goes well with a quick fish sandwich for dinner. Rain starts in the middle of night; a large animal wakes us up and darts into the woods when I train my flashlight on it, probably a deer.

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Rain continues through the morning, water seeping through our tent floor. We pack up and continue on hwy #36, reaching a train station on the coast, feeling wet and miserable. We follow the busy road until we reach an Ainu Museum near Tomakomai, which contains a couple of buildings made to look like native houses with various displays inside. The original Ainu settlement was on the coast and then moved here to make room for the city. Our original plan was to stay at the campground nearby but the rain is incessant and the urge to find a dry shelter is unstoppable. We quickly pick a hotel on the map in Tomakomai and make it our target for the rest of the day. Dormi Inn looks like a business hotel but we really don’t care. We pay the exorbitant looking price and get busy drying. They have coin laundry/dryer, a so called “onsen” bath on top floor, and a bunch of nice restaurants nearby. Works great.

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We lube our chains after the heavy rain and continue on to Shikotsu Lake early in the morning. The weather is improving and road is fantastic. It’s actually a 20km long cycling/running path converted from a rail road that was built to reach the lake for mining operations back in the old days. Our destination is the Morappu camp site which is at the south eastern corner of the lake. There are quite a bit of tent population on the beach and we manage to find a quiet spot on a grassy patch near the border of the tent area. There is a small convenience store nearby with beer and snack line up. The visitor centre is 5km away north of here so we cycle there unloaded to explore. There are lots of places to eat but they are mostly closed for the day. We satisfy our appetite with mochi and roasted corn cob. The sunset is amazing and we can see storm brewing on the other side of the lake. It never reaches here — good.

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Next day we stay put and hike through a tick infested forest path to the same visitor centre to explore more. At the end of the path there is a warning that says the path is closed to damage — hmm. We stroll back to campsite following the asphalt road and take it easy for the rest of the day. End of our trip looms closer.

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It’s raining late in the evening till morning but according to forecast the sunshine is due by 9am, and it arrives right on the clock. The path to Chitose is equally nice with a dedicated cycling path along the namesake river and it’s all downhill. We admire Aoba park just before entering the City. Amazingly, we end up at the door of Khaosan Hostel without even trying.

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