13 August 2009


I tried a longer ride yesterday from Uenohara station over Tawa and Tsuru pass, then over Imagawa to Ome Kaido (411) and then looping back to Matsuhime pass. All in all mid-range distance (120 km) but more than 3,000m of climbing. Why?

Because I had the wonderful idea to add the climb to Otoge from the reservoir on the road to Matsuhime. That means the backside Otoge approach and not the front side from Magi intersection at Kokudo road #20.

The road starts at a gated tunnel close to a picnic area at the lake and is in fairly good shape as long as it leads to the facilities of the dam. There are a amazing number of inspection tunnel entries, transformer stations and power lines in the vicinity of the dam - a true feast for the civil engineer in all of us, but especially inside myself.

There are also a lot of animals: I almost run over a snake curling on the road. Then the conditions of the road are becoming worse but some stretches have been repaired recently so it is possible to continue to climb.

The climb is very long, almost 900 meters to the top from elevation 600 to 1.500 meters. There was a second gate at 1.250 meters elevation and then the road forked into two with no indication where to go. This happened two more times and I had no idea if I was still on the right one. Going over 1.400 meter I was also in the clouds and visibility was very poor.

Then I arrived at a tunnel, perhaps 300 meters long, no light. There could have been an army of bears sleeping inside and I wouldn't have noticed it. I saw some bats later. Scary, no idea where I was going and how the surface was and only a faint light at the end.
The photo was taken almost at the end of the tunnel.

More mist after the tunnel and then a landslide that delivered half of a shotcreted rockface on the road below. Must have happened recently - perhaps because of the series of earthquakes. Another landslide, now I had to take my bike in both hands and start to climb over some really big rocks.

Another landslide. Hey, am I really on the right road or have I found my way by chance to the Tomei? I cross this one as well.
Another one. I can not even see how the road continues on the other side. So I lay down my bike on the right and start to climb and explore the area. The guiderails are handing free-fall in the air, but there seems to be some road on the other side ... I go back to my bike and try to pick it up, when I feel a sudden strong pain in my left hand .... hornets are flying around me (I assume that they were hornets because they were bigger than mosquitos and had orange/black stripped bodies). They were attracted by the orange handlebar tape and they also seem to like my Positivo Espresso jersey very much.

That finally broke my spirit and I went down the same way I rode up. I am still not sure if I went up the right road; Google maps is of no help as it doesn't indicate the tunnels in the area. Has anybody any experience?

Anyway, that was one of the most scary rides I did - much scarier than crossing Sasago tunnel with Tom - and I shouldn't have done this alone. Next time I will ride out on a double love suicide mission with Tom, Ludwig or David.

Otherwise the trip was very pleasant. Here are some important updates:
The roadworks at the Matsuhime / Tsuru intersection leading to the brand new tunnel are almost finished. In future, busy cyclist and drivers will be even more faster travelling between nowhere and next to nowhere, at least by the fraction of a second. As the shortcut has been built in a place where another road intersects the old one, I can only assume that the old road will be kept as well, leading to the slow but complete asphaltation of the village and huge budgets for road maintenance (which seems to be more required at Otoge), therefore many jobs for years to come.
Here is a picture of the responsible politician from Kosuge village. Much to my surprise it seems that the glasses which used to be worn by EVERY president of a traditional Japanese company in the Nineties are still very much in fashion out there in the country. They were also OK for department heads of bigger organisations, but definitely out of question for section heads (McArthur rayban likes were OK) or for rank&file salaryman (contact lenses).

How I wished times would never change.


Manfred von Holstein said...

Scary indeed! You went up the wrong road at one of the intersections where you should have turned left rather than going right towards Daibosatsu. There are no tunnnels on the ascent to Otoge, except for the tunnel at the entrance to the road at the lake. Of course you couldn't know - the only way of knowing is by doing Otoge once the other way round.

David L. said...

Bear to the left after the second gate, as Ludwig suggests. No tunnels and a very good quality road near the top of the pass even on the North side.

Best to take a map the first time you try this (or if not the first time, then the second).

I need a new pair of eye glasses. Do you need to be over 70 and a politician or bureaucrat to get a pair like that, or do they sell them in normal stores?

TOM said...

Michael, another try this Sunday? I'm your man.