Summer 2014: DAY 3 – Slow and low

Turn off your mind, relax and float down stream

– The Beatles, Tomorrow Never Knows

DAY 3 – Around Lake Yamanaka (August 7th, 2014)

Fuji from Yamanaka Campsite

View of Fuji from Misaki Campsite

Wake up feeling rested. At last.

I’d arrived too late the night previous but a phone call to the campsite owner got me permission to pay the morning after. He seemed a bit rude when we met, but I figured it was just the rural Japan meets gaijin phenomenon – a peculiar thing that happens mostly in the countryside: you walk into a shop/restaurant/whatever, smile & speak perfectly acceptable Japanese; there’s a moment of wide-eyed confusion before the person you’re talking to realizes the words are Japanese, despite what the visual may be advertising. It almost never gets old.

Later, I would see him going a little rain man while tidying up the camp: muttering to himself, squealing, grinning and pulling his hair. The final piece of evidence that his behaviour was due to something other than rudeness came when I was reading in my tent. He popped his head round the side to wax lyrical about my bicycle and how beautiful it was. After my heart started beating again, we had a chat about bikes. Then he decided he was going to save up and buy one just like it. I gave him and his social skills a little more leeway after that.

Today’s plan was simple: do nothing. Intermittent muscle spasms in my left leg made that the only option, but, I’m really not very good at doing nothing, so I decide to cycle around Lake Yamanaka. It’s flat, and it won’t take long.

There is a cycle road around the lake and you’d think that that would make life easier, except that it hasn’t really been looked after. You just need to pay a bit more attention and watch out for potholes. Although I soon realize it’s simpler just to watch out for bits where there aren’t potholes.

It’s a beautiful day. You can’t really see Mount Fuji once the crisp cool of the early morning has passed, and the clouds have rolled in. But I’ve seen the mountain once or twice before, so I don’t mind.

Bird party

There’s a lot of people cycling around the lake. I see one couple taking pictures of each other with a clouded over Fuji as their backdrop. The girl holds her bike up in the air triumphantly, but her boyfriend can’t work the camera and her arms give up. She settles for a shot leaning on the bike instead.

I’ve been to this lake many times before, mostly by car. The touristy side of the lake is one main drag of souvenir shops, bicycle rental places, a few schools where you can learn to waterski, windsurf, wakeboard and some other things that don’t begin with ‘w’. There are plenty of restaurants too; bizarrely, most of the non-chain restaurants seem to be Italian.

As the road curves around the lake and takes you away from tourist land, the buildings peter out and the trees take over. That side is all about the green; this side is all about the greenery. I’m enjoying the breeze and the view when I round a bend and find myself right back at camp. It was a shorter ride than I thought it would be.

I chill out in the tent, then go for lunch. On the way back, a particularly fearsome pothole decides to liberate the air from my back tyre. I walk the bike back to camp, and console myself with the fact that at least now I have something to occupy me for the rest of the afternoon.

That night, the university students who have descended upon Lake Yamanaka with their various sports clubs for summer training demonstrate how well sound travels across water. They also provide some free firework shows that I enjoy with a beer and my headphones in. Fortunately, these university students appear to have chaperones – they’re done by midnight, and I get some proper sleep for the second night in a row. Bliss.

DAY 4 coming soon…


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