Have barely ridden a bicycle since being a kid, let alone a road bicycle: check! Have not cycled any great distance, let alone 76kms: check! Promised ourselves we would take our time, stop for lunch and catch the later return bus, only to push ourselves to near death to catch the early bus back: check! So yeah, this was our tale of cycling the Shimanami Kaido from Onomichi across 6 bridges and islands to the final destination of Imabari.
Bikes rented at 7am and back to Onomichi U2 for breakfast buffet with Viola. This expedition only included myself and the Pyes. Thankfully I did not press Viola too much for joining us as I’m pretty sure one of our bikes would have ended up in the ocean.
8am on the dot! We mounted our bright yellow, 2 wheeled torture machines and made our way to the official starting point of the Shimanami Kaido via a short (5min) ferry ride.
The route was fool proof (more on that later): follow the blue line! Every kilometer of the 76km journey was clearly marked. And yes it took me 4kms in to realize this …
Bridge #1: the first and only bridge to have the cycling route built on a separate level below that of the car lanes.
The surrounding scenery varied drastically from island to island. One moment we were cycling by agricultural land, the next through heavy shipyard industrial and then beside tropical sandy beaches.
Bridge #2: notice the orange on the pavement, this region was definitely well know for growing citrus fruit. There were abundant images, paintings and over-sized monuments of oranges and lemons dotting the cycling route.
Follow the blue line!
Bridge #3 and home of the halfway 38km marker. By this point spirits and energy levels were still high, we were making great time (10:30am) and the decision was made to just continue on at this pace and make the 1:58pm return bus. The next bus was not until 4:30pm and with Viola on her own back in Onomichi the incentives were stacked to finish the job! Andrew stated on his instagram stories that “Lance Armstrong has nothing on us!” What could go wrong?!?
Bridge #4: the site of where cracks in our foundation started to show themselves. Hunger was kicking in and sugar levels were plummeting. We inhaled a pouch of dried apple and banana slices, and a bag of peanut M&Ms. Frustration was also rearing its head as a pinched water line almost escalated into the Pye’s camelbak being thrown off the cliff.
Bridge #5: a heavy headwind was our nemesis on this bridge. At one point my hat flew off and rolled with the wind like tumbleweed.
Our pit stops continued to increase. Water break, sunscreen, Advil for Andrew’s knee, any excuse to take a rest.
Bridge #6: the last chapter. A 6.4km long span of pure hell.
With time ticking down we made a final stop at the on-ramp vending machines. Brain freeze kicked in as I chugged down my cold green tea.
Back on the on-ramp, just follow the blue line!
The headwind on this bridge was fierce! Every pedal was a battle. The declines were of no relief as we were continuously pushed back. To make matters worse we had to endure ear piercing high frequency noise, screams from a hundred banashees, as the wind ripped through the thin metal guardrails.
Approaching the shipyards of Imabari. Follow the blue line! It has not led us astray yet. But as delirium started to set in we began to question the blue line. Paper maps came out, Google maps made an appearance. Only 20 mins left before the bus departed. We gave our heads a shake. Follow the blue line!
We learned a valuable lesson that day as the blue line led us directly to the bicycle return and exact bus stop: follow the blue line! And if you ever question Japanese efficiency, don’t, they are just that good. Celebrations were kept to a minimum as we rushed to grab a few seaweed wrapped rice pockets at the 7-11.
A 1.5 hour bus ride back to Onomichi to surprise Viola early and take in a sunset stroll along the harbour.
A before dinner donut treat. Viola was not to impressed by my choice of chalky coated soybean flour. Personally I loved it!
PJs provided by Onomichi U2, good night, wishing we had another day here! Will I ever saddle up on a road bike again? That remains to be seen …