My sister came on her second big trip to Japan to hang out, so I really wanted to make this trip awesome for the both of us, especially since she’ll be going back to school for a pretty long time.
When I posted a link to a website about cycling on the Shimanami Kaidou, she seemed excited to do it, so I held out on riding the 70km expressway with 5 bridges that connects 6 islands from Shikoku to Hiroshima so that she could come with me. We rented some nice road bikes at the Imabari Giant store to make the trip a bit faster and more comfortable, as the standard bike rentals are heavy mama-chari, which I can’t imagine are fun to do long-distance rides on. What I didn’t realize was that people would stay at different islands on the way to the other side, but we had no time for that. Instead, I planned our trip to get our bikes, leave by 9:30 or 10, and get to the other side by 3 in order hop a train to catch the last ferry that leaves at 4:30 to nearby bunny island.
People finish the ride on average in 7 hours, but we wanted to finish it in a little more than 5… crazy much?
The worst parts of the ride were the slopes that led up to the bridges, the steep inclines on a mountain or two that had us walking, and the strong headwind that came at us on the bridges. The best parts were when the sun came out, waving at bikers coming from the other way, coasting down cherry blossom lined paths…
And absolutely no rain.
Before the trip, I was checking the weather forecast, which predicted light rain or clouds, after a day of sun. I was so afraid that it would turn out for the worst and rain hard, which would have made our ride probably the most terrible idea ever, as well as a rough start to my sister’s visit (we biked on the second day of her arrival). Thankfully, there wasn’t a drop of rain on our parade.
Also, we both had backpacks filled with about 2kg of things for two days, which adds to my joy that we actually finished the ride in about 6 hours without a complete and utter breakdown.
As it was my sister’s first time on a roadbike, I was a bit concerned about her safety and how comfortable she would be riding on the road, but I reassured myself, knowing how safe Japanese drivers drive around bicyclists, especially in the countryside. My sister noticed this as well, and felt at ease when I led her to ride on the road.
Since things got pretty tough towards the end, there was no way we could hit our expected time, so I had to accept the fact that we’d have to get a taxi to the ferry port. We still did our best to get to our destination as soon as we could.
Once we returned our bikes at the Giant store in Onomichi, my next goal was to find a taxi, but the station was half a mile from where we came from, and our legs just couldn’t walk anymore. Luckily, the Giant store is part of a small tourist hub for cyclists doing the Shimanami Kaido, so after I frantically asked someone nearby — who looked like he was just leaving work from one of the stores — where I could hail a taxi, he went with me to the nearby upscale hotel where you can bring and hang your bike up in your room, and the front desk people were happy to call one for me. I called the ferry port, and learned that they had a couple more ferry runs every hour after what I thought was the last one of the day… Oy!
So for about $70, we rode our taxi from Onomichi to Tadanoumi Ferry Port to get to our hotel at Okunojima, bunny island.