We woke to rain this morning, and it would stay with us for the whole day. But after a good night’s rest, the whole team was still keen to push on up and over the gravel roads to Shikaribetsu Gorge. The promise of epic wild onsen right next to the river was too great a temptation.
As far as getting from A to B, there’s not much point in coming to Tomuraushi onsen. It is at the end of the road, deep up in the Daisetsu range. But it is beautiful in a lost-world sense. And, if you’ve run out of camping gas, there’s always the open-to-all scaldingly-hot hot pools to hard-boil your eggs (as someone seemed to be doing when we were there).
The downhill from the onsen and campground seemed to do everyone some good, effectively wiping our memories of the previous day’s exertion. Smiles on faces, and we were even more excited to find that there was a small store in Tomuraushi Village. It was a store plus cafe plus post office. We promptly ordered coffee for three, and three Hokkaido venison sandwiches to go.
Just after the big red bridge crossing Higashi-Taisetsu Lake, we reconnected with gravel. To our immense relief, this road appeared to be intact and open to general traffic. It was quite the novelty to be cycling with not a care in the world. To make matters even better, my front hub was no longer making the clicking noise that had plagued me on the previous four days. I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing.
Unfortunately, that last photo on the right above was the last I took on my Olympus OM-D E-M1 camera (review here). Just before we left on this scouting tour, one of the strap lugs had come off the body, leaving a great big gaping hole in the side of the body. There wasn’t time to take it in to be fixed before we left, so I just packed it for the trip and hoped for the best. Of course, I hadn’t anticipated that it would rain almost every day on this trip, and clearly it wasn’t in the nest of shape in regards to weather-proofing. So today it finally succumb to the wet weather. It would no longer power on. I packed it away and hoped that I’d be able to get it fixed once I was back home. For the rest of the trip, I’d be shooting on my Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge smartphone.
UPDATE (2018/10/28): After getting back from the trip, I took it in to the Sapporo Olympus repair office here in Sapporo City (11th floor of the Fukoku Seimei Building – 札幌フコク生命ビル11階) . A couple of days later the verdict came back as ‘unrepairable’. There was water throughout the body. The body was one that I’d received as a refurbished unit after I paid for repairs on my original body though, so I though it was a bit unreasonable that less than 6 months later, the strap lug on this ‘new’ unit would come loose. “There wouldn’t be water in the camera if it wasn’t for this non-user related malfunction,” I insisted. I asked that they reconsider. About two weeks later, I received a carefully worded letter saying that ‘just this once’ they would replace the body with a brand new body. Thanks Olympus!
We arrived at the Shikaribetsu Gorge campground just before 4pm. It was quite a bit different from the last time I’d been there, in early spring during a ski touring trip (route guide here).
We spared no time in getting set up before heading along the forestry road to the wild onsen. I’ve written up a full guide about the onsen in the Shikaribetsu Gorge area here. Instead of grabbing the low-hanging fruit that is the Shika-no-Yu (鹿の湯) just 200m from the campground, we instead jumped on the bikes again and cycled 15 minutes along the road (closed to general traffic) to the group of hot spring pools just below the dam on the Shiishikaribetsu River. The Gakeshita-no-yu (崖下の湯 – literally ‘hot spring below the cliff’) was our pick of the bunch. Deep, perfect temperature, and right next to the river.