Haidee and I work at Hokusei Gakuen University in Sapporo, and we try to get to as many work social events as we can to get to know others outside of our respective departments. One group we’re involved in is the work outdoor recreation group, and the other is a much larger school-wide staff social group. On this long weekend, the outdoor group was planning a camping trip to Akaikawa, and the school-wide social group was planning a cherry-picking event in Yoichi, only 30km from the campsite. That made our weekend cycling plans easy – cycle to the campground on Saturday, lounge about on Sunday, and go cherry picking on the Monday.
We weren’t keen to cycle the gauntlet from Sapporo to Otaru, so we opted to catch a local train from our nearest station – Atsubetsu Station – all the way to Yoichi station. Taking almost 2 hours it was a slow journey for only 50km, but it was relaxing enough. The main road from Sapporo to Otaru can be busy and noisy, as we’d found out a few years ago.
We arrived bright and early at 7:30am, and we were unfolding out bikes alongside at least a couple of other cyclists who had clearly had the same idea as us. They didn’t have as much luggage however, so it appeared they were heading off on either a daytrip around the area, or were planning to cycle back to Sapporo – both perfectly nice options.
We stocked up on some snacks at a convenience store in town, and regretted it no less than 10km from the station, where we came upon at least a few road-side stalls selling cherries, strawberries, water melons, and a selection of vegetables. Many were honesty-box style stalls, where customers would drop the required payment into a box.
Never has the inside of my handlebar bag looked so good!
The route we took from Yoichi to Akaikawa went over the Resisui Pass, which culminates in a long downhill tunnel. It is a Hokkaido-standard tunnel with no walkway on either side. But the tunnel spits you out into one of Hokkaido’s more pretty villages, Akaikawa, nestled in the bottom of a massive ancient caldera. The aptly-named Caldera Park in the middle of the village would make for a nice free camping spot if there at the right time.
We had a quick lunch at the park and carried on via the Akaikawa michi-no-eki (roadside stop with local produce) to Tomo Campground. The campground itself has been there for a number of years, apparently. It was closed over the last few years, and only this year re-opened under new Singaporean ownership. The lodge at the entrance has to be seen to be believed. Extremely tastefully done rustic-style. Apparently the plan is to open the lodge up again in the winter also for accommodation – think upscale backpackers with individual rooms.
The campground itself is a little overpriced for what you get – 1,000yen a night. For that, I’d expect at least coin showers available. But I do expect that they’ll be improving the services as the years go by. Most of the others from our work’s outdoor club were already there when we arrived at 1pm. We quickly settled in for a night of eating and chatting.
The next day, Sunday, after our workmates had left, we lounged around inside our tent all day. This was not difficult owing to the torrential rain. We did, however, discover that our Montbell Minitarp HX was no longer 100% waterproof. We’d bought the tarp second hand a number of years ago, and it seems as though the silicon-impregnated nylon had now lost most of its silicone. We made a mental note to order a new tarp once the weekend was over.
Dinner was fresh sweetcorn on the cob plus a tomato stew with pasta.
The following day we packed up and headed back to Yoichi, via the Nikki valley. This gorgeous valley also offered roadside stalls with melons and plums. If only I’d had more room on the bike…