Windy.com was forecasting stiff winds for almost every coastal area in the vicinity of Sapporo City…except for this one section of coast from Isahikari heading north to Mashike, on the Japan Sea coast. A glorious oasis of calm, no doubt due to the sheltering effect of the Mashike Range to the east. We’d not heard anything about this particular section of coast south of Hamamasu in relation to sea kayaking, and it wasn’t in the old Japanese guidebook we have on hand. But Google Satellite was suggesting some beautiful, remote scenery, so we decided to give it a go.
The weather was looking the most settled for the Saturday, particularly in the early morning. Since the sun comes up at 3:30am in Hokkaido in summer, we all took a deep breath and agreed on a 3am wake-up, to be on the water at 5am. To make things less arduous, we all camped at the free Hamamasu campground on Friday night.
We were up at 3am on Saturday morning, and quickly broke camp. We’d already left a bicycle at the take out the previous day, so all we had to do was get the kayaks ready to go. We were on the water by 6am.
It was a somewhat subdued morning, with shadows still long on the water.
The initial destination for the day was a small cove I’d spied on the Google Satellite images earlier in the week. It was a well-earned break after about an hour of paddling.
Ahead of us was about 4km of paddling along an impenetrable coast of cliffs and bluffs. What Google Satellite was not able to tell me was the existence of a beautifully deep cave, about 1.5km south of the cove.
It was too narrow to turn a sea kayak around in, so we each backed in, keeping an eye on the swell as we paddled backwards into the dingy murk of the cave. At the terminus of the cave was a steep, rocky beach. Just wide enough for four kayaks.
A common theme in this route was the murkiness of the water. We don’t have any definitive reason for the murky, cloudy water in the area, but I mused that it might be because this area is downstream from the Ishikari River mouth. The Ishikari is Hokkaido’s longest river. It ends its journey from the Daisetsuzan Range to the Ishikari coast after picking up all sorts of sediment – the Ishikari river mouth is not exactly pristine (see our canoeing route ghide here).
Despite the murkiness of the water, however, the coast along this route continued to amaze us.
Arguably, the highlight of the trip came in the form of the Gokibiru Falls. We didn’t really know what to expect from this waterfall marked on Google Maps. On a hot day like today, however, it was a god-send. A perfect place to cool off and wash the salt of our clothes.
On the previous day, we told the Gokibiru Campground caretakers that we’d likely be arriving at the campground at around 10am. By the time we’d made our very leisurely way to the end of our route for the day, however, it was past noon. They seemed very happy to see us arrive.
“It’s a long way from Hamamasu,” they said concerningly. “We though you’d got lost or sunk!”
We’d left two bikes at the takeout – Ben’s bike and my bike. We’d locked the bikes to railing.
Upon arrival at the campground, however, I realized I’d left the bicycle lock key in the car at the put in. Ben’s bike was very well locked to the railing, with the lock going through a wheel and the rear triangle. My folding bike wasn’t as well locked up though, and we were able to extract the bike by half folding the bike.
Thus it transpired that I would cycle back to Hamamasu on my own, rather than with Ben’s company.
In the meantime, Ben, Haidee, and Saoka did some kayak drills in the sheltered little cove in front of the campground. We were all reunited about 1.5hrs later.