Chris and I woke up early this morning as we had to be downstairs for breakfast at 7:30am. It is a danger of staying in Japanese Inns as the Japenese people do seem to like an early start! I had not slept very well as I could hear some drunk people making a racket until 2am in the morning, not something common in Japan. A hot coffee and some delicious breakfast soon woke us up. Jerome could not wake up that morning so we left him to sleep for a little while longer.
Once Jerome was up and ready we cycled into our what would be the longest cycle ride for Jerome in a day. We had decided to get as far along the route as we could.
We started back past Setoda sunset beach, which seemed still empty at this time of day, towards our first bridge on The Shimanami Kaido for the day.
We had already passed a few cyclist doing he same route, some of them appear to have been on their bikes for longer than us. We pedalled up the winding path, broke out into a sweat and kept on looking for the next vending machine.
The next two islands on route, Omishima and Hakata-jima, we barely cycled on, the main route cuts the corners off although you can go right round any of the islands if you want to extend the rides.
The three bridges and short hops quickly got us to the longest part of our route, Oshima.
Oshima has the most climbs and elevations on the entire route and therefore we decided to cycle along the coast road, which we thought would have less cars and also perhaps be less hilly. We soon found out how wrong we were, it was a pretty and interesting ride around the coast but there were two hills, the first was easy, however, the second was steep and too long to manage in the heat. Jerome was getting exasperated by the stifling heat, and combined with pushing his bike up the “mountain” he was getting tired and angry. We stopped a lot, worried that the sun and physical work out might be too much for him. Thankfully there were plenty of vending machines on route, even in the oddest places; we must have spent a fortune on drinks that day.
The great thing about a hill is that once you climbed up, there’s always a way down. It was a long bendy road, which we cycled down in the warm wind barely cooling us down. Jerome loved the decent and the bad mood lifted.
We had Okonomiyaki, Hiroshima style for lunch at a little restaurant 一休 in Yoshiumicho. The mama-san prepared the tamago pancakes on her tappan and we then ate them directly off the hot plate in front of us. It was worth making the detour.
We pedalled past quiet villages, through stunning countryside, a dockyard where 2 massive container ships were being built. In the end we turned a corner and finally got an amazing view of the last bridge on The Shimanami Kaido, the Kurushima-Kaikyo-hashi bridge.
At 4015m Kurushima-Kaikyo-hashi is the longest suspension bridge structure in the world. Constructed with six soaring towers and suspending the bridges on their thick steel cables it made it exhilarating to cycle across and definitely the absolute highlight of The Shimanami Kaido.
There was a gentle breeze and we stopped several times to take in the views of the Seto Islands and the sparkling sea beneath us. Jerome and Chris wondered at the engineering on the magnificent structure, even the route up took us round and round a twisting path that gave fantastic views.
At the other end we went to the Sunrise Itoyma Center to find out about buses back to Setoda. The friendly gentleman at reception told us that it was possible to take the bus but only if we had Rinku bags for the bikes, he even could have found us last minute places, even though you should really book the bus the day before you cycle. Unfortunately we did not think to bring them and therefore had to look at other options. If you do plan to cycle and get the bus back make sure you check this in advance.
After some help from the man at the cycle centre it became clear out best option was to take the ferry back to Innoshima-jima, leaving from Imabari port seemed the easiest option.
The downside? Well, this meant an extra un-planned few hours of extra riding would be needed on already tired legs. We would have to cycle into Imabari port for the ferry, and would then have to continue back from Habu on Innoshima-jima, via the Innoshima-hashi bridge all the way back into Setoda and on to our minshuku.
In total this added another 15km to our already long cycle ride, the only good part was a lazy ride on the ferry for about an hour and a chance to pick up some refreshments as the sun went down in Habu.
After eating we had to complete the last part in the dark we had not brought our bike lights with us either, so I propped up the iphone in my basket and used its torch as a light to guide us through the darkness on the winding trail up to our last bridge of the day. Thankfully the cycle route back was almost all on a dedicated cycle path the whole way and after the food Jerome treated it like an adventure. So in the end we got to cycle all bridges, including Innoshima-hashi bridge, completed a ride as long as the whole route in one day, and it truly made a lasting impression on us, one we will never forget. In every holiday there is always one special day – perhaps this was the one for us on this visit.