The last five weeks have been the toughest out of London so far, 200 days ago. Russia to Japan by bike and boat: physically, emotionally, logistically – it was one of the biggest efforts of my life and at no point a certainty that I would actually make it, my own body, weather and logistics throwing hurdles at every opportunity. Both in spite of the toughness and because of it, this leg also sits up there as one of the best, too. It has been beautiful, wild and rugged and to have made it through the battles, mostly healthy and mostly grinning, is a happy thing indeed; the tears and the grit and the wobbles now just written in memories, film and weary muscles. The completion of this first phase from Tower Bridge to Choshi, from where I will head out to take on the Pacific with Gulliver, is just a few weeks away. Then the winter and a rest await.
Noodling with sleep monsters
One of the greatest battles happened this last week – me versus the sleep monsters and my own body as I cycled south down the length of Hokkaido to make a tiny weather window for the final kayak leg to Honshu. For the first few days out of Wakkanai at the north of the island, Hercules and I trudged down the west coast into fierce headwinds and crosswinds whipping in off an enraged sea through landscapes much like the rural rolling hills of home, peppered with dairy farms and pastures.
Then the mountains arrived and with them a maze of roaring tunnels, transporting us into and out of the light. (I say ‘us’ as Justine joined me on a bike once the headwinds disappeared, providing happy company and a pretty fierce pace at times.) An overnighter with some lovely Kiwis in the capital of Sapporo set me up for a long climb out over the mountains – a welcome feast of rich colour setting off the lactate burn as I pedalled upwards, looping round and round into a crisp blue sky. A final day of cycling brought us to a little harbour in Hakodate at the southern tip, from where Tim returned to Sapporo in an overnight driving double marathon to get Hercules some TLC and return Justine’s bike, and she and I set off for Japan’s main island the following morning in our kayaks.
The Tsugaru Straits
That crossing was tougher than we expected. I was already exhausted and woke up feeling like I had been run over by a truck, my body not at all excited by the thought of a day’s paddle. The shortest distance from our harbour clocked in at 15 nautical miles so we anticipated a 4-5 hour crossing, helped by what we believed would be a strong east flowing current. But, alas, was not to be. After 8.5 hours of grunt we landed on Honshu, having been slowed by what turned out to be a very strong north and north easterly flowing current , meaning that every time we stopped to eat and drink and pee we were whisked away from our landing spot. Frustrating to say the least.
No time to rest, not yet
Ideally I would have rested a few days after that monster 39 mile paddle from Sakhalin but the weather out here is changeable at the moment and so resting for anything more than a night time sleep and the odd roadside power nap here and there sadly wasn’t an option. (That said, I did sleep for 90 minutes on a massage couch in Sapporo while a sweet Japanese lady kneaded my screaming muscles.)
Now though, the pressure has dissolved. I am currently in Mutsu, Aomori on Honshu for a few days of R&R with some new friends, having bade a sad farewell to Tim and Justine on Sunday as they drove to Tokyo ready to fly home. When I feel like getting back on to Hercules for the final miles south to Choshi, Chiba on the east coast I shall do so slowly, taking the time to stop at beautiful and interesting places, clocking miles rather more slowly than I have done this last two hundred days since I first splashed out under Tower Bridge.
After a quick dip in the ocean, Hercules and I will head up to Minakami, Gunma prefecture, where I have been kindly loaned a house for the winter, to snooze, recover and prepare for the North Pacific in the spring. Bring. It. On.
PS Thanks to Karel Vissel for his weather forecasting on the paddling legs
PPS Thanks to Rob Thomson for his support and bike mechanic genius and to Leon Roode of Japan Adventures for the loan of a bike and for taking us all in
PPPS Thanks for all the ‘Ask Sarah’ questions lately and requests for satphone link ups with schools. Now I am safely in Japan we shall get back onto organising those in coming weeks. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like me to ring in to your classroom or if you have a question to ask
well done, and keep going
Hope your hands are recovering!!! Take care. BIG HUGS xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Just about time to ease off until spring, to refill your soul with energy and stock up on delight and purpose. You’re doing it, Sarah. You’re doing it.
-love from Canada
Hope you have a new iPod Sarah – I understand the last one died on you? As many Rad Mac shows as you want on my Dropbox folder. Love the blogs, so inspiring
You are held in high regard here in the Baldwin household. We continue to think of you often. Louise & I look forward to reading your blog and charting your course.
Yea for you Sarah…You will truly love being in Gunma area, and I am really envious, as that is near where we used to spend part of the summer operating kids summer camp on Lake Nojiri…you will find that sooner or later. Also, a winter wonderland…skiing and more….! The cultures…food and beverages… You won’t want to leave…well you will always want to return…Cheers, Currin
Hi Sarah thanks for the compliments and anytime you need something let me know.
Well doneSarah.I bet you are looking forward to that stay in the house.Should recharge your batteries.Until the next time.God bless.Peter Nottingham.
Mud, rain and wind OK, but pushing on after your Kindle bust? That would have had me calling in the helicopter for the trip home. To carry on after that, you are one hard woman.
I pity those sleep monsters, mixing it with you!
Oh Sarah, your eyes show how tired you are on the ‘Mission complete’ photo. 6 1/2 months though and look at what you’ve achieved? Brilliant! Don’t burn out though, get in some serious R&R, Japan is one beautiful place for that. Hugs to you, Maureen.
Well done – you deserve all the R&R you can get. Enjoy it
Much love xxx
Another leg Nailed Sarah. Well flippin done! 🙂
What a star you are, its wonderful to know that you are there safely and we are glad that you had company for some of the way. Do take your time and enjoy your R & R you so deserve it. Your reports have bene fantastic and really good to follow.
Hope your hands and toes improve quickly and you feel better. Are you on track for the time you thought you would reach this wonderful place.
All good wishes for now
C & K
WOW you continue to amaze me. Some R and R after that lot is definately called for!
lOvE the fact that you have time now to re – charge your batteries, give your body a nice rest and gather your thoughts together for the Spring, when you prepare for your North Pacific crossing …
Here’s to your meeting with Gulliver, to move forward into the next stage of your L2L …
Well done Sarah on completing the first leg of your 2nd adventure. We’ve been monitoring your progress and have had a few updates from George.
She mentioned about the unveiling of the plaque in Mauritius on 1 Oct. and as we were there from 3-19 Oct. we arranged a trip to Bois des Amourettes to see it under the shadow of Lion Mountain – very impressive!
Will show you the photos on your return.
Bonne continuation (after a well earnt rest),
David & Ann
Sarah you’re doing soooo well. You’re such a brave and inspiring person, who just will never give up. What a great idea to take your time cycling the last bit, it looks beautiful where you are and you should take in every bit of it. Speak to you when you’ve finished this last leg. Big hugs and a i hope you find a huge energy boost to propel you to the finish. Love Tealey xx