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.

今回は行き。

最初の休憩地点と予定していた群馬県の榛名湖に着いた時には予測していた二時間半から三時間を大幅に越えて、家を出てから四時間も経っていました。何度も迷子になったからねぇ...と言っても正式には迷子になった訳ではない。行き過ぎをおびえて曲がるべき道に辿り着く前に現在地を聞くクセがついちゃったのです。その原因は日本の道には名前がないから。アメリカではどんなに小さな道でも名前があるので、簡単に目的の道が見つかるのですが、ここでは国道・県道と主な交差点以外は番号や名前がないし、同じ番号の道が分かれたり、一つになったり、平行したり。これにはいつまで経っても慣れないな...

遅れを取り戻すため、一息ついたらすぐまた出発。県道28を下り、国道145で吾妻を通過して、その日一番の目的、志賀草津道路(国道292)へ!疲れていても、ワインディングが始まると自然と元気が出てくるのが不思議。でも残念なことに今夏の292は工事中の区間もあり、風を切って走りたいところダンプの後に付いちゃったりしてうんざりしていた場面もありました。その分ゆっくり辺の景色を眺められたとも言えるけどね。

志賀草津道路から楽しめる風景は様々。森があり、高原があり、荒い岩肌から蒸気が吹き出ている殺生河原もあり、そこでは強い硫黄の臭いが鼻にツンときます。有毒の硫化水素ガスが出ているところもあるのだそう!

登って行くうちに雲もどんどん増えてきて辺一面真っ白。温度もぐんぐん下がって、走っていると寒い!と思うぐらい。数時間前の平野では35度だったのがうそみたい。ダウンのインナージャケットをだそうか迷っていたところ、国道最高地点に辿り着きました。と、ちょうどその時。雲が薄くなり下の景色が見えたのですが、バイクに乗っていても足がすくむような高さでした。これで晴れていたら...!

あとは292で真っすぐ中野まで、そして目的地へ。家を出て七時間半で無事到着しました。

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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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