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Part3 - Kurama
Along the hilltops, a late season snowfall leaves pockets of white amongst the trees. We are now far from the maddening crowds of city life, a road sign says road closed for the winter, our route takes a forest road over another mountain, very little chance of traffic. A long long pause while Watanabe fixes his puncture, this part of the route is seldom used by cars. Rock and tree debris lay strewn across the road. Yano and Uchike presciently joke about,” What if a rock falls”? Kabang! Down comes a small boulder bouncing right beside them.
Long Shadows cover the road as we creep up through the moss, snow and rocks. A constant flow of water covers the road surface. We reach the pass, pause and look out over that blanket of ridges to all points of the compass. Yano is next to puncture and he being last in the group, leaves us all wondering the worst during our wait at the bottom. The descent is slowed with so much debris and leaf litter scattered by wind across the surface.
A side road but actually the old road, takes us between road sides houses and rice fields. The village is bypassed, giving people back their space and time not to be interrupted by intercity interlopers. A nicer place to pedal and observe the surroundings. We cut across the main road onto another back road which slaps us all in the face again with it’s short but steep passage to the pass.
The other side we form a pace line and like spawning salmon we work our way up alongside another stream. There is one last obstacle in our path. We have the 10 km climb over Hanase pass before we can return through Kurama and down into Kyoto. The climb is on the gentle side of Mount Kurama, partners in crime we slowly forge our way up and we soon splinter. The last of thatched roofs disappear as we climb back into the forest. Legend has it, Mt Kurama was home to Tengu, long nosed demons who would come down and terrorize Kyoto. We didn’t linger at the top for long not wanting to meet with these shifty characters. A wicked shaded descent down through Kurama and back into towns.
We end our ride back in Kyoto. Next stop a visit to a neighbourhood bath house, an old institution dating back centuries. In the past people did not have hot water or bathing facilities in their homes. You would visit the community sento. Here your standing in society is put aside like your clothes and you become equal. We are ready for a good hot steamy bath with a small sauna on the side. Time to soak away the weariness and savour the memories. I look across at tired but smiling faces.