The plan was always to get to Nakagawa and hole up in the hotel at the onsen there, so that Haidee had a quiet place to present her research at the online conference. We’d not planned to be here quite so quickly, but in the end, it made sense. If we’d stuck to the original plan, we’d be arriving in Nakagawa in the morning of the day of Haidee’s presentation, which was less than ideal.
As it happened, smashing out the original Day 3 and Day 4 in just one day was great. We were pretty pooped when we rolled into Nakagawa, but it had been a stunning day of paddling.
The day began with a few easily navigated rapids punctuated with ever-increasingly longer periods of flatwater-esque sections of river. The river was still clearly moving quite fast – our average speed was about 9-10km/h – but the river was clearly going through a change.
We looked with great interest at the Teshio-gawa Onsen canoe port as we passed by. The hotspring onsen facility was only a few steps away from the canoe port – surely a perfect place to camp. Next time.
An elderly couple was clearly staying there, camped up in their small van.
Part way through the route we entered into where the river cuts it way through a mountainous area of northern Hokkaido. It was almost as if the river had carved its way through a low range of mountains, cleaving the range in two.
As we approached the Place where Hokkaido was Named, it started raining. I’d been quite looking forward to taking a look at this historical place. But with the rain, I completely forgot about it.
“Hey, what’s that?” asked Haidee as we passed by the point (here).
“Some historical place,” I replied. It was only later that I recalled what that “some historical place” was.
It was where Matsuura Takeshiro, the early Japanese explorer, came up with the name for the island. This was 1857, when Hokkaido was still very much a frontier for the Japanese colonialists. Hokkaido was well settled by the indigenous Ainu way before the Japanese pushed up into Hokkaido (see a very brief history here), but Matsuura was the first Japanese from the mainland to travel up the Teshio River – guided by local Ainu – surveying and documenting as he went.
It was still raining as noon came around. We were both ready for lunch. As we pulled up to a small beach, the rain only seemed to get stronger. It wasn’t windy, which was a blessing. But the rain. Oh was it raining. We’d put off putting rain jackets on for a while – it wasn’t cold. But as we scoffed down a loaf of airy Japanese bread and a whole jar of apple jam, we put on our jackets to keep a creeping cold from getting too far into our bodies.
As if on cue, and according to Murphy’s Law, the rain stopped as soon as we finished our very hurried lunch.
The rain did, however, leave low clouds that hung on the hills, giving them a rare atmosphere of ‘Asia’. Low, pointy hills, covered with dense green forest.
At parts, the river felt as wild as it ever had. Big gravel islands. Wide branches in the river. The river felt unencumbered and free.
At points during the paddle today, we really started to get a feel for the change to a flatwater paddle. We’d read in multiple guidebooks that in the last 60km or so of the river, the wind and weather become the paddler’s nemesis.
“Beware of headwinds,” maps warned.
“Open-deck canoes should carry a double paddle,” another admonished.
And to be sure, today there were some very flat sections.
They felt like paddling on a lake.
As we approach the small village of Saku (佐久村), a small river flowed into the Teshio, clearly cooler than the Teshio. The cool water caused an atmospheric mist to hang over the surface of the water. A gorgeous way to keep us entertained for the easy 8km paddle into Nakagawa.
The Nakagawa Canoe Port was a bit overgrown and muddy. Steep. Not ideal as a canoe port. But understandable considering Nakagawa Town sits high up on the banks.
We patted ourselves on our backs for a solid day on the paddles. Almost 60km. Easily our longest day ever paddling since taking up canoeing last year.
We were now in for two full days at the little town of Nakagawa. We spent no time debating whether to check into the hotel tonight or tomorrow – there was a campground nearby after all. We checked into the hotel and Haidee got her online conferencing setup sorted.
We were in for two full days of well-earned rest.