The blue expanse of sky pushed away the heavy clouds that had lingered over the past few days, finally casting the Furano-Biei landscape in hues of greens, yellows and browns. Feeling somewhat cheated at the bad pictures of the rain and all-around miserable weather, I thought to re-discover the patchwork circuit again.
Then, panicked at the thought that I wasn’t ever going to make it to Asahidake in time, I decided to pay Shirogane a visit (the famed Blue Pond looked a murky green in the dim light), only to realise that the exhilarating roads go straight up to Tokachidake.
The Onsen at Tokachidake lodge itself was a disappointment but the drive was the highlight of the day – the roads were windy, twisty, relatively empty…and a driver’s dream (or nightmare) come true. What made it unexpectedly delightful was that the mountains were only just starting to thaw in the spring weather. So patches of white everywhere – I hesitate to call it snow because it resembled hard chunks of ice up and personal – and still quite cold to boot.
Unfortunately, the route to Asahidake meant a complete U-turn after that and an additional distance of 30km. The ropeway, according to the receptionist at the hotel, only opened today. After a period of closure for whatever, I didn’t ask. All hopes of doing the trail around the ropeway station were dashed when I was unanimously told by everyone who worked that that the snow was still at least three metres deep.
The views at least were breathtaking, but it could be my mountain fetish talking.
It’s my fifth night in Hokkaido and mid-way through this trip and finally, finally, I got my first dip in a private onsen. It’s fairly rewarding after a long day in the car, ruined only by my apparent inability to take heat.
I climbed hurriedly and prematurely out of the baths, only to find myself in conversation with several staff at La Vista Daisetsuzan, all of whom have travelled extensively, some around the world, and some in Hokkaido. That was when I jumped at the opportunity to ask about lunch places and speed checks.
Mileage of the day: 173.3km