Journey I

lake haruna 1

ascent to lake haruna

lake haruna 2

lake haruna

shiga-kusatsu 1

shiga-kusatsu road

shiga-kusatsu 2

into the clouds

the highest point

the highest point

shiga-kusatsu 3

moment of clearing

the journey there took about 7.5 hours from start to finish.

my first planned break was at lake haruna in gunma prefecture.  i had estimated that leg of the trip to take about 2.5 to 3 hours; it ended up being closer to four, as i got lost– or rather, uncertain– a number of times.  unlike in the u.s. where every little street has a name making turns easy to find, only major roads are given numbers in japan and the rest are identified by intersection and those only the key ones.  to confound the issue, roads with the same number sometimes diverge, converge, and run parallel to each other.  so i got in the habit of stopping to ask about my current location lest i miss a turnoff.  i don’t know that i’ll ever get used to this…

to catch up on lost time, i pressed ahead after only a brief break.  down the other side of mount haruna (lake haruna is a caldera lake) and along through agatsuma and onto the shiga-kusatsu road.  no matter how fatigued i am, when i start on those twisty, mountain roads, i naturally become re-energized and re-focused, as if deriving some sort of power from the air…  but just as i was falling into a nice rhythm clearing those curves, i found that there was construction going on along here this summer, and at one point, fell behind an agonizingly slow dump truck.

on the bright side, the slower pace gave me a chance to enjoy the scenery.  from forests to highland plains to rocky, no-vegetation zones with volcanic steam vents and a pervading odor of sulfur, the shiga-kusatsu road offers all sorts of spectacular views.  be warned, that there areas where hydrogen sulfide– a poisonous gas– is present, so it’s important to be mindful of the signs.

as i drove farther up the mountain, the clouds started to increase and in no time at all, i was enveloped in white.  the temperatures had dropped significantly too; so much so, that i was considering putting on my inner down jacket.  hard to believe that just a few hours before down on the plains, it was 35 degrees celsius!

just as i reached the highest point of the national highway, the clouds thinned enough to be able to see the valley below.  and what height!  even when i was astride my bike i thought my legs would give way– if it had been totally clear…!

from there, it was straight to nakano and onto my destination.







This entry was published on September 3, 2016 at 10:18 pm. It’s filed under On The Road and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

2 thoughts on “Journey I

  1. What a lovely trip. Thanks for sharing!

  2. What beautiful scenery. I think you are brave to travel where the roads aren’t marked clearly. I get lost even when using a GPS.

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