Today is a master-class in how to take the most circuitous, non-direct route to get somewhere. While we could have scooted along the paved Route 1117 from Tomamu to the base of Karikachi Pass, we instead sought out an interesting stretch of gravel on Route 1030 connecting Tomamu with Minami-Furano in the north. It turned out being an excellent choice – it was the best-maintained gravel of the entire tour.
The day started early again after a good sleep at the hunting lodge in Tomamu Village. As one of the few hunters in Hokkaido licensed to hunt bears, Tom’s friend regaled us with stories of hunting deep within Hokkaido’s hills and valleys. “Locating the animal is work enough in itself. But then you’ve got to haul it out of the bush,” he explained. It was with a tinge of nostalgia that he spoke. He was still involved in hunting, and he was planning on heading out after we left for the day. But he’d only just completed an aggressive round of treatment for cancer. “I’m on palliative medication now,” he explained in the onsen the night before. His willingness to share his little slice of Hokkaido backcountry paradise took on an extra sense of significance.
We set off in glorious sunshine, a nice change from the drab wet weather of the last two days. As we rolled down the hill from Tomamu Village towards Tomamu Resort, the iconic Tomamu towers came into view. Such a curious sight in otherwise very rural Hokkaido. We turned off the main road onto Route 1030, and were soon on some of the best gravel we’d experience on this 9-day trip across Hokkaido.
From the top of the pass, it was a screaming downhill ride into the busy little town of Minami-Furano. The gravel was in great condition, and the surrounding forest was superbly beautiful. This is what I was hoping the entire route across Hokkaido would be like. Indeed, just a few years ago, most of the gravel stretches would have been. This route itself was closed until only a month earlier due to typhoon damage. It is now (as of August 2018) open to general traffic.
We gobbled down some convenience store lunch in Minami-Furano, and set off under a very hot sun up the Karikachi Pass on a wide, paved, but quiet road. I pushed on ahead of Tom and Rick who took it a little easier on the pass. I wanted to get to Sahoro Resort as soon as possible to see if I could borrow some bike tools to have another go at fixing my front hub. It was still making noises, and I knew that Sahoro Resort hired out mountain bikes. Perhaps they’d have some tools I could borrow?
I arrived at Sahoro Resort about an hour ahead of Rick and Tom, and went straight to the Sahoro Resort activities center. Unfortunately all they had in the way of tools was a multi-tool. “Sorry, but we get a mechanic in Shintoku Town to do all our maintenance,” explained a helpful but stressed staff member, in between helping other (paying) guests with their activities. I would have to cross my fingers a little longer.
I got set up at the Karikachi Kogen Campground, and enjoyed the beautiful quiet surroundings. It was the perfect temperature – complete Hokkaido summer perfection. After Rick and Tom arrived, we all walked down to the Sahoro Resort onsen for a soak, and were in our sleeping bags just after 8:30pm.