20 August 2009


Last night I dreamt that my father was checking my body temperature. I had a high fever and so I called Tom, who had taken a day off from work, to cancel the planned North side Ootoge ride. That was how I scared I was.

Of course I had no excuse not to come and to undertake a renewed approach on this monster of a climb in the middle of nowhere, with hornets big as A380s, bears on amphetamine and silent strangeling monkeys.

So I dressed up in complete Positivo Espresso wear, kissed my sleeping wife and children, put the files with the life insurance policies on my desk so that my wife would find them easily, deleted the history of my web browser and left for the station.

As usual Tom was riding out on his bike while I took the train and we met at Saruhashi Station. Then we proceeded quickly up the slopes in direction of Matsuhime Toge until we reached the picnic place and tunnel at elevation 650m that is the entry to Ootoge. Riding up as a pair is much less scarier than riding up alone. Although Tom was as usual in good form and went to ride in front which I thought was OK because then the bears wouldn't be so hungry when they met me and might be content with an arm or (worse) a leg.

Luckily we went up on a weekday, when the road is not that crowded by monkeys, snakes, deers and foxes driving with their families to the river in the valley. Also the trucks driven by bears, transporting food for the hibernation period up on themountains can be a real hassle.

And so Tom and me were completely alone.
We climbed up the first 600 meters until we reached the gate and we started to discuss how to proceed, left or right. Tom was in favor of going left, I was also in favor of going left because going right is definitely very scary; but the map mounted at the side of the road clearly indicated right. Then suddenly we heard a noise: No, not bears raping Japanese hiking groups or a swarm of hornet in low flying attack formation, but the sound of a car. A Tokyo Power (Tepco) 4WD was moving down the road in our direction and stopped at the gate. So we asked one of the guys where to go and they said that going right was impossible and that we should turn left. This used to be the right information at precisely the right moment, almost like a miracle. Thank you TEPCO. I will take care from now on to pay my electricity bills in time.

Then the rest of the climb was a piece of cake, only some 250 meter up with a splendid view on the mountains in less than 30 degree temperature before we reached the gate at the top of Ootoge. We had made it. By the way, there are no "semi" (cicada) up there so the noise environment is completely different than on the normal lower climbs.
We went down on the South side where the road is in much better shape and also much wider, also like a race track. But definitely is the North approach the more beautiful one.

After a lunch of cold Soba in a nice traditional restaurant close to Otsuki station (The type of restaurant where they have photos of the emperor in his car .. driving by) we continued on Route 20 and then climbed up Suzugane Toge and Hinazuru Toge following road 35 and 517 all the way to Hashimoto. As I said, Tom is really in good shape and he had to wait all the time for me, but it wasn't that long that he had grown a beard or so. I mean, this is the pleasure of riding out with friends one knows now for so long, such as Tom, David, Jerome and Ludwig.
As a final piece de la resistance we added a North Tsukui lake ride before coming to Hashimoto where I took the train home and Tom made a final run on the One Kan.

More than 200 km for Tom and slightly more than 100 km for me, but close to 3 km of climbing up for both of us in the sun made this a very exhausting and happy day.

Once home, I put the insurance files back in the shelve and called my father.

A more factual account of the day is written here.

Also Tom and me had the same idea, that we should make some investment to enjoy future trips by having something like this. I heard that every Belgian has one, it is like Takoyaki grilling pads in Osaka. As I have studied in Aachen, city borders touching Belgium, I might also be eligible to buy one.


TOM said...

Now at long last every Belgian has one of those; check it out!

mob said...

Great. I definitely would like to make a test report and also hear your comments. This is the gear we need to expand the roads to the top of Daibosatsu and other places we onlyhave heard of so far.