Thursday, July 16, 2009
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
At 4am, the local dogs began to call to one another, presumably to see if anyone was still sleeping. Several goats housed on World Ranch joined in, making it necessary for the crows to proclaim their presence. Finally, the horses in the barn next to our tent complemented the cacophany with a round of impressive neighing.
Sho, blessed as a sound sleeper, stirred only briefly, while I spent the next 2 1/2 hours creating a sound map of the local animal population. At 6:30, Sho sprang up excitedly, asking if we could play golf at the ranch. "As soon as we get the tent broken down and the gear loaded on the bikes," I answered, and Sho helped to complete these tasks in record time.
We took advantage of all of the major attractions at World Ranch, which was spookily empty early on a Tuesday morning. After 18 holes of practice golf in an hour (using the billiard-size balls, just as we had in Muroran), we tested our archery skills (not so impressive), made it through the country maze in 32 minutes ("pretty average" commented one of the workers) and drank some "orange juice" that was really orange coloring added to water, mixed with high fructose corn syrup. Sho was in heaven.
As we left World Ranch, one of the employees gave us a stack of post cards and wished us luck on our long journey.
We didn't have cell phone coverage there, so as soon as we got back to the main road, we paused for a snack at a 7-11 and called Eiko. It was nice to hear her voice, and Sho shuffled his feet and smiled into the phone, obviously missing his mommy. While he was talking to her, a 4-foot long brown snake emerged next to his feet. All three of us were surprised, and the snake beat a hasty retreat down a nearby hole.
The ride from Mori to Hakodate, our last stop in Hokkaido, was an easy 2 1/2 hour ride that included some comfortable long down hill coasts out of the lush forests of Onuma Quasi National Park into the coastal town of Hakodate.
Perhaps it was the sunny, warm weather, but I immediately liked the town, with its broad streets, beautiful ocean views, historic landmarks and the looming Mt. Hakodate in its midst. We rode into the heart of town, stopping at the main train station to get information about hotels and a ferry to Aomori. We decided to give ourselves a rest day and time to explore the city, so I booked 2 nights (at 5,000 yen or $50/night) at "Smile Hotel", a 3-minute walk from the station.
Leaving our bikes locked up safely at the hotel, we rode a tram to the base of Mt. Hakodate and took the cable car up to the summit. The view was stimulating, encompassing the town and harbour, although the summit was blighted by a collection of TV towers.
On the way up, we met Wu Chia Li, a music teacher from Taiwan, and her 12-year old daughter Yu Ching. They were on a 12-day vacation in Hokkaido, and we enjoyed comparing notes about our experiences. After taking in the mountain views, the four of us rode the cable car back down, soaked our feet in the fabulous Hakodate Bay Bishoku Club outdoor foot bath, and shared dinner at a kaiten sushi restaurant.
Sho and I fell asleep in luxury, appreciating the difference between a wind-blown tent and a hotel, and looked forward to a day of down time in Hakodate tomorrow.