Wiling away time at work I’d come across a forest road in the neighbouring Chikuho District that looked as if it would give some decent views back across the local countryside so spent the week planning and re-planning a route to take it in.
I wasn’t sure what state some of the roads were going to be in so I wanted it to be light before I hit the new roads. At 5.30 on Saturday morning, the skies were clear and it was a few degrees below zero when I set off into the darkness, but it wasn’t long before the first glow of twilight started to brighten the sky. The long, shallow climb up to Genjinomori got me nicely warmed up, and as I got down into Oto it was just getting light.
It was up and over two valley ridges to the bottom of the main climb for the day. The first part of the climb was up through terraced farmland, and what had seemed like a good idea sitting in the office was feeling like much less of one as I trundled up the narrow valley and saw a wall of hills ahead. As ever with cycling, all it took was a teasing glimpse of the road I was heading for bathed in morning sun for me to remember why I’d come out here. Then, further up the valley there were a few switchbacks which allowed me to take in the countryside I’d just come from.
More encouragement arrived in the form of a sign for only 2 kilometres to the orchard near the high point of the road, and I was taking a slightly shorter if steeper way up. Lovely!
That thought lasted a few seconds.
Google street view from three years ago showed three road cones “blocking” the entrance to the climb, and they were still there along with a plastic barrier, well, they were in smithereens across the road, something far bigger than a bike having taken umbrage at their presence. Straight away it became apparent that this road was falling into a state of disrepair and I was in two minds whether to turn back and go up the other way. But it wasn’t as steep as I had imagined so I decided to plough on.
At the top of the climb it was back onto the main forest road, past the orchard, over a few rolling hills, avoiding a few startled deer and pheasants, and I was out onto the section of road I’d seen on the way up, stopping for a few minutes to take in the views and bask in the morning sun.
On the way down I had planned to take the old road down, but once I hit it, I had second thoughts. The road turned out to be leaf-covered loose gravel with steep narrow bends, so I decided discretion is the better part of valour and turned back. The main road down had its moments but I got back down to Route 67, albeit the other side of a golf course from where I’d planned. Now it was time for a bit of on-the-fly route planning and a sun-in-the face 20 kilometres home.
Back in the office and with some holiday coming up, it’s time to start thinking about exploring some of other roads in the same hills…