There will be a before Shimanami kaido, there will be an after.
First, and to silence those who have made a few remarks lacking kindness, we did it: some 90 km on bike, 70 on the Shimanami kaido itself.
The first part we wanted just let you know that we were alive, now we take the time to talk about this road. It was a challenge, both physical and mental. We are no longer the same.
So, the Shimanami kaido, what is it? It is a road to bike on bike paths and roads connecting Honshu to Shikoku through 6 islands, Mukoujima, Innoshima, Ikushi, Omishima, Hakata, Oshima, making a total of 7 bridges. Technically 6 bridges, as the road begins on the first island. The trail connects the city of Onomichi to Imabari on Shikoku.
Things are very well done: you can follow the “blue” route, a band marked on the ground. At each kilometer, you know how many kilometers you have left to Imabari. Also indicated is the distance to the next bridge, the length of the bridge, the next “rest areas” with toilet and everything that goes with it (and, on Oshima, it is sorely lacking of toilets). On this road, everyone is nice and encouraging, everything is made for cycling: it is their entry point into tourism development. On bikes, in both directions, there are mainly Japanese, tourists are anecdotal. We rented bikes at Omishima and we have left them at the station of Imabari, which is why we had our luggage delivered directly to Matsuyama (even if it has wheels, we were not going to travel with it the entire Shimanami kaido).
We had a little false start in Onomichi, because the ending point is not exactly the same as the starting point, we were on the wrong road, but we quickly corrected this. The journey of the first day seemed relatively pleasant: we rode hard, but I have no memory of great difficulties, except the passage of bridges, I will return on it later. The sky was overcast, we feared the rain for a while, but it was only few drops. Anyway, it was not too hot and we took full advantage of the road. Seaside landscapes are fantastic, each island being a green mountain posed in the sea.
Our accommodation for the first night was quite far from the track (7 km) it was therefore necessary to ride it (and again the next day). It was exactly on the other side of the island. Island that is also a mountain. So to get to the other side, one must pass by a neck. And when one is not trained, well… the plain is easy, but the hill is very though.
For for the first day, the only strategic mistake was in the saddle: Xim had a bike with a saddle for girls and me a bike with a saddle for boys. The evening was very painful. The next day we exchanged our bikes, which was a very rich idea. Otherwise, I think it would not have been possible to put our bottom on bicycles. However, and it should be well noted: we have no aches. Because once arrived at the ryokan, after taking a shower, we went to the port to Omishima by walking (round trip: about 2 km) and we made great stretches recommended by Lucille, my favorite osteopath .
The evening meal was quite unreasonable, though totally delicious, and taken at the ryokan. And we learned that the next day there was a race. Yes, of biking. But starting from Imabari to go to Onomichi, and the bridges would be closed to traffic to let the flow of bicycles pass without harm.
So we hit the road, proud of having already done half of it, admiring the beautiful scenery. For me, everything went well until Oshima. Crossing the bridges is not easy, because you must first go on deck (the track is laid next to or below the motorway in a way well separated and very secure). Up on deck, it means a height difference of 50 meters over one kilometer. Well, it climbs. Honestly, I climbed on foot, pushing my bike, and who scoff just have to go do it. They will laugh less. Bridges are also false plateaux that seem endless. Our consolation: after it goes down.
Oshima was a terrible island, also because the weather was sunny on the second day. We took lots of sun. In fact, I made a sunburn that made a not necessarily funny part of the journey something that looks like a nightmare on the last kilometers. On the island, there were at least two passes to pass, then the climb up to a first bridge, and then the last bridge which is in two parts, so on the bridge itself, you go up and down twice.
It was hard, but we did it, and we’re proud of it. We arrived around 14h in Imabari, we gave back the bikes and ate before taking the train to Matsuyama.
We both feared this part of our trip, which was the most physical part, the sportiest. We were still a little driven by our walking pace, but it was still an ordeal.
We did it!