We left Sapporo early on the 11th of August, catching a 7am-ish train bound for Wakkanai JR (Japan Rail) station; the northern-most train station in Japan. Like usual on train-trips-with-bicycles in Japan, this required dismantling the bikes and putting them in bike bags (remove pedals, front wheel, and handle-bars). One of these days I must invest in a folding bike.
The train was packed with holiday-makers. We had unwittingly chosen to travel on one of the first days of summer holidays. This included a host of cycle-touring types with bikes. Arriving in Wakkanai around 5 hours (and around US$100 each in tickets) later, we saw why there were so many bikes: Wakkanai, at the northern tip of Japan, is a natural hub for cyclists either finishing or starting length-of-Japan rides.
It wasn’t raining when we arrived, but it started bucketing down as soon as we had reassembled the bikes. It was a wet wide up the steep hill to the Wakkanai Forest Park Campground – a free campground directly above the city. We quickly set up camp, happy we had taken on the extra weight of a tarp (Montbell Minitarp HX) for that extra covered outdoor camping space, and space to hang sodden jackets.
We checked the weather forecast, and saw the next few days were going to be more of the same. We decided there and then we’d stay in Wakkanai for an extra day. Haidee was still officially on term-time (doing a Masters degree in TESOL by distance) so she could cram in some much-needed get-ahead work before heading off to the islands, where Internet access would be much more scarce.