Rain and Steam

Kyushu is the southernmost island of those five big islands that mainly form Japan. It is also the last island we push our bikes across in Japan since Jela is going to fly back home from here soon and I’ll take the ferry to South Korea. Still, when we arrived, we had plenty of time left. Quite fortunate, because Kyushu is definitely worth it.

However, to finally reach some more interesting, very likely steaming, parts of the island, it took us a bit longer than we originally expected.

Already to get from the southern tip of Honshu to Kyushu itself, we actually needed three attempts. First of all we tried the large bridge in view over the Kanmon-strait but soon found that’s an Expressway and, hence, strictly forbidden for cyclists. Than, according to a website, for little money cyclists may use a tunnel to get  across the strait. Nice try. Either the regulations changed or the website was simply wrong, but there really is no way to use the tunnel as a cyclist. Ridiculous though it may seem considering the lavish traffic routes, as cyclists we still had to fall back on the relatively expensive ferry!

Then, after we made it to Kyushu, we didn’t make much progress neither since Jela hasn’t completely recovered from her cold she got recently in Hiroshima, yet. Thus we decided to have another day of rest that we simply spent camping – luckily we found a suitable place in the quite populated area in the island’s North-East.

Eventually we reached our first destination we were aiming for, Beppu. A city on the East-coast and sitting on one of the world’s  geothermically most active grounds. Consequently steam rises all over the city from thousand holes. Most popular attractions are the Jigokus, Japanese for ‘hell’, some bright blue some reddish simmering lakes, mud holes etc. The other main activity here are the numerous Onsens. An Onsen actually is nothing else than a Sento, i.e. a public bath with showers and most of the time a hot pool, but the water is heated by a natural hot spring and in general layed out more neatly. Even our hostel, where we spent a day of rest and sit out a rainy day, had an Onsen itself. Unlike Jela, however, the outside temperatures were simply to high for me to be able to savour sitting in a hot pot.

The rain ceased and two days of fine weather lay ahead that we took advantage of to get from Beppu to Aso along a scenwas quite recentmountainous route. Aso is a little city embedded in the world’s largest caldera with a radius of approx. 20 km. The view from the rim, about 200 m above the fertile planes of the caldera, was excellent – mainly, because of the Aso-san, five rugged volcanic peaks lined up in the caldera’s centre. Among them Naka-dake, one of the most active volcanoes in Japan that we could easily identify by the large steam billow that constantly belched skywards.
Unfortunately, however, the day after our arrival in Aso, everything was covered in thick clouds and rain set in again. Consequently, we were forced to wait for the rain to cease for the next two days. Time we spent mostly up in the woods at a lonely campground, happy with the roofed shelter underneath we pitched our tent. It proofed to be very handy because on the second day the rain strengthened considerably and was accompanied by very strong winds. Still, we filled the waiting time easily with hours of reading, cooking and eating as well as daily visits to the neat and reasonably priced Onsen in town.
Finally our ‘patience’ was rewarded at least with a sunny morning on the third day within the Aso caldera. Just sufficiently enough time to pedal up the road to the volcanoes, do a short hike and take in the fine views. Already in the afternoon, however, grey and thick clouds covered the sky again and we finally left the caldera to the opposite side again in light rain.
By the way, although it would have been exciting to peep directly into the smouldering crater, it was not permitted to get closer than 1 km to the rim of the still active Naka-dake because its last eruption was of recent date – in November last year.

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