27 March 2009

To the edge of Chichibu

Ludwig and me started to explore the trail of Chichibu in autumn last year. Although Chichibu is a massive landmass, second in size and roughness only to Wales, we already felt that we have explored almost all trails in Chichibu by now. So this time we ventured out further to the edge of Chichibu.

As some of you may know, the edge of Chichibu is called Gunma and sometimes Nagano and is basically identical with the end of the world. A guy called Tanaka had built in the seventies a town behind the edge of the world which is called Niigata. This is even behind Itoigawa.

And as it can be very far to the end of the world, Ludwig and me decided to meet (relatively) early and head out directly to Chichibu city, without trying any "shortcuts" or adding any numbers of interesting climbs.

Of course we could not pass through Ome without stopping at the Aurore bakery; a Pavlovian Reflex for every Positivo Espresso rider by now, just as the 7-eleven in Takao. I guess that if someone of us is called on the phone and the other party says: "I am standing in front of the 7-eleven ...", then before even listening further one would assume that the person is standing in front of the 7-eleven in Takao. Even if we know that the call is from Mozambique.

And of course we could not ride up Yamabushi Toge without starting a competitive time trial which Ludwig won easily. The last time I saw him on the slope was when he was pedaling with his hands and whistled "Yankee Doodle Dandy" while sitting upside down on his bike. Yankee Doddle Do or Die.

After a fast ride into Chichibu and a short break we rode further along road #140, the same one we had taken with our sherpa David in autumn, when we dared the climb to Mistumine Toge. But shortly before we went ride on road #210 in direction Otaki dam.
Now, here it starts to get impressive. Shortly before the dam, there is another loop which I assume would be a nightmare for Laurent.Wow. If this is not impressive, I don't know what is [I don't mean the shitty plastic bike with integrated ashtray in the foreground, but the magnificent engineered dream in the back]. Still I have the feeling that there might have been a less costly solution feasible for this road construction. In particular considering that this road is mainly connecting the industrial centers of Chichibu and Ensan.
Here we can see a very impressive Cervelo bike, mainly in orange. Further we went, riding along the lake towards the edge of Chichibu. It now became also a little bit colder. After coming home I found out that the Ciclo has recorded a max. temperature of 27 and a minimum of 4 degree on this ride. How to you dress for this?Then the road forks off, one direction Ensan, the other one up to the edge of Chichibu and road #299. Here the roads there are not in too good a shape, so that's why there are many construction sites along them. I somehow have the suspicion that the roads are in bad shape BECAUSE they are misused by heavy construction equipments to transport concrete, gravel etc. to these construction sites. This is in contrast to three brand new (2003) concrete lined tunnels, all in impeccable shape.

Of course all this road construction is absolute necessary for the benefit of Japan and its population for the following compelling reasons:
  • Ludwig and me can ride these rodes and brag about them later (most important)
  • There is one village with about 42 inhabitants (probably all 72 years old or more) which needs to be stably connected to the outside world for the next one hundred years
  • There is substantial industrial development in the area (I will come to that later)
  • The road is essential to the vital nationwide activity of "Indian summer leaves watching"
  • It connects a not important road to another one AND
  • One can easily hide Patriot missile launchers there to shoot down North Korean ballistic missiles (I can only hope that North Korea as some ISO9001 certification for their missile program)
Well then the serious climb starts and one gets to a nice example of industrial decline in Japan, which is so well documented in Deathopia. Thirty years or so ago, this must have been a quite big Nicchitsu mining operations, perhaps for iron, zinc or other ore, perhaps for Sauerkraut [actually the biggest mining operations in Germany, conducted by dwarfs with red jelly bag caps in the region of the Sauerland]. I wish that Meinolf will read this one.
old wooden workers d
Beautiful dilapidated architecture on both sides of the roads, dormitories, a small post office, but still there seems to be some kind of activities ongoing, probably gravel or concrete for the road construction.
Another long push and we find a branch of the road leading to another Mikuni Toge, possibly in direction of Nagano prefecture. We need to check this one out in May or June when the climate is more accommodating. Another push. The road drags on forever, finally at almost 1.300 m height we arrive at Haccho tunnel (not only bloody long with more than 800 meters but also useless).
We are pretty much done. After a short rest and the obligatory memorial photo (otherwise nobody will believe us), we ride through the tunnel which seems to go on forever. There is not much light inside, then we arrive finally at the other side,almost in Gunma. It is cold and there is still snow next to the road. But what a view:This time not obstructed by any plastic. Absolute fantastic - this must be the edge.

We then continued our ride back to road 299 and made a fast run for Chichibu station. Quite a long ride with 187 km plus and we are glad that we can hop on the train home which will anyway take hours. I phone home to say that I am late and exaggerate the situation to my son, telling him that I am in Gunma. He completely misunderstands me and tells my wife later that "I have immigrated to Gunma and will not come back." Perhaps forever
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http://www.mapmyride.com/route/jp/kanto/660123790261187997

1 comment:

TOM said...

What a ride...absolutely breathtaking! Almost out of this world that last shot you took of Gunma ! Wish I could have joined. I guess this ride is not recommendable to people with vertigo though...