I woke up quite late today because I’d tried to watch the race earlier in the morning. Still, I somehow made myself do a load of laundry, shower, and get out the door.
I left the apartments at ten minutes to three, which was a lot later than I had wanted to leave, but I felt that I might as well go for it anyway.
I saw O-sensei, also biking, on the road in Kitajima, and he asked me if I was out shopping.
“No, I’m going to Naruto!”
“Yes, to see the whirlpools!”
He could scarcely believe it. I told him that I’d biked to Anan and back before, so this would probably be okay. Still, this time I was on a time crunch – I needed to be at the whirlpools at 5:20pm.
I went through Matsushige and reached Naruto without incident. Naruto! It’s a lovely city. I really liked the lay of the streets there. But then the city gave way to dramatic scenery and fascinating infrastructure. I was really only halfway to my destination.
I crossed a bridge just north of the city that ran parallel to the expressway bridge. I figured since it was a regular road bridge and the only way to get across that I could see, it would have a bike lane or sidewalk or something. Ha-ha. I walked across the bridge on the elevated base of the railing, pulling my bicycle along on the road below me, the pedal facing me in its high position so I could get it as close to me as possible while trucks whizzed past me.
But this vexing crossing was worth it – the little hilly island on the other side was simply breathtaking. And the road I was on tunnelled under a ridge, but fortunately a pedestrian-bike tunnel had been built nearby as an afterthought. And on the other side I found lots of hotels, and eventually a gorgeous beachfront.
And off – way off – in the distance, I could see the Onaruto Bridge.
I snaked my way towards it through Naruto Park, which meant walking my bike up steep hills underneath giant expressway viaducts. Inside the park, I noticed that I was the only person with a bicycle – everyone else had driven a private car or taken one of the many, many busses. I had thought getting a bus would be a hassle, but if I saw correctly today there’s actually a direct bus from Tokushima Station – silly me.
I got to the portion of the park with the bridge promenade just before 5:00 – perfect! I parked my bike between the back side of a map stand and a guardrail where no one would run into it or care about it.
The bridge promenade was really cool. I mean that in both ways; most of it was open to the air, probably for structural reasons. Some of the Japanese there were visibly cold.
The whirlpools themselves were so-so – I saw a few baby ones, but I don’t think I got any really good photos of whirlpools. The walkway was actually the real hit with me. It would have been kind of cool if it kept going and people could walk to Awaji Island. There were service corridors that could theoretically facilitate this and as these sorts of things ought to be they were locked.
At length, I left the park, but not before gawking at the huge lineup of tourists waiting to get back on a bus. I was happy to have my good old mamachari. (Here’s one that puts the “mama” back in the name.) I happily coasted down the windy access road and out of that part of the park.
I decided to leave by the road heading west, as I didn’t want to go over that crazy bridge again. But before I knew it, I was walking my bike uphill. I went on to spend almost two hours on hilly island roads as darkness set in. But I really enjoyed these hours. (Although I was a bit disappointed to find all the vending machine Gatorade at the highest point was sold out – in fact, almost everything up there in the middle of nowhere was sold out.) And the descent from the highest point? Whee. I was going so fast I might as well have been driving a car.
After dark, I got out of the hills by taking a convenient narrow access road that twisted and turned its way back down to sea level. (Good thing I had my maps.) At the bottom, I suddenly found myself in a picturesque Japanese fishing town. The road I was looking for hugged the shore, and sometimes it was one lane and sometimes two, and the town was built on it. It was a really, really long one, too – I mean, both the town and the road were quite elongated. It’d be an interesting drive to work in central Naruto.
And that’s where I ended up myself, at great length. Oh, but I saw that another bridge not far from my first bridge did have ample pedestrian / bicycle access – of course, I wouldn’t have really thought to have tried it before, even though I knew it was there. I was glad I didn’t take it in the end, because I would have missed the fun pedestrian tunnel, the crazy fun little mountains, and the cute fishing town.
I ate at a CoCoICHI in Matsushige, left there at nine and got home just before ten o’clock. What. a. day. And tomorrow I’m going to do it all over again – it’s time to check out the first five or so temples on the 88. Seeing all the temples in Tokushima Prefecture seems like a worthwhile summer-spanning diversion. I can probably reach all but two or three of them by bicycle. And like today, I’ll be certain to find surprise and adventure.