zaterdag 21 april 2012

Misty Yakyu-toge

In my 27 years in this country, I have never experienced spring weather as chilly as this year.  Sunday’s popular Kusatsu Hillclimb event was reduced to less than one-third of its original length due to vast amounts of snow refusing to melt.

I was reading this article about the findings made by a research team belonging to Japan’s National Astronomical Observatory which concluded that the solar poles are in the midst of some major shift that last occurred 300 years ago.  Since July last year, the sun’s magnetic field polarity has been reversing and is expected to become “quadrupolar” sometime next month!  I find all this stuff quite earthshaking.  In the 17th to 18th century, a similar situation occurred when Earth’s average temperature decreased by 0.6 C.  On Saturday, though, it felt like temperature had fallen more than 10 C lower than average!

I left home a little after 6 a.m. wearing Uniqlo heat-tech long johns under my Belgian tricolor bibshorts.  At Sekidobashi there were already many hardcore vendors (including a truck full of bicycle frames and parts) bringing in their ware.  They had apparently refused to be intimidated by the warning signs put up along the river bank a couple weeks ago.

I continued at a leisurely pace making no effort to break personal or STRAVA records.  For the first time, I noticed a sign demarcating the border between Tokyo and Saitama prefecture around the middle of Ozawa-toge tunnel hanging from the ceiling.  Once in Chichibu territory, I turned left to Ogano over the Muze Park hill.  Following a curvy downhill section, I crossed 299 and turned left direction Tsuchisaka-toge.  After a couple fast rollers, I took another left turn over Kakkaku Dam.  It was on this little curvy climb between the dam and the Bishamonsui water springs that they suddenly appeared out of nowhere.  Some 5 or 6 miniature rhinoceroses were gingerly crossing the road at a gallop right in front of me.  It all happened too quickly for me to snapshot this most amusing but otherworldly spectacle.  When I told my better half what I saw, she explained I was either experiencing the first symptoms of Alzheimer – seeing things that aren’t really there or I had happened to run across a herd of uribohs!  Oh well, I take it they were only baby boars not hornless rhinoceroses.

It was getting increasingly misty as I rode through one sleepy shūraku after another.  The gray of the mist served as a beautiful background contrast to the pastel pinks, yellows and purples on both sides of the narrow rindo.  At around 750m elevation, I passed and greeted Lady d’Arbanville walking her dog but somehow she made a younger impression than usual.  Yakyu-toge crested, I turned left again back to 299.  The mist had become quite dense reducing visibility to less than 30 meters and putting dewdrops on my eyelashes.  Futagoyama was nowhere in sight and the end of the tunnel near the 299 turnoff was one hazy white spot growing bigger towards the exit.

On my way back to Chichibu near Hisanaga along R37, I did some bicycle worshipping and a little photo session at the dilapidated yet handsome Hiraishi Batō-mikoto temple near Hisanaga (久長 平石馬頭尊)…