The ride from Nagoya to Kyoto was going to be a long one – about 136 km by our calculations, one of the longest ride days we had planned. It involved passing through a small mountain range, but fortunately the maximum elevation was only around 200m or so. Much better than our last mountain pass.
We worked our way out of the city and onto a surprisingly nice and long bike path which led to the outskirts of the city. Slowly, tall buildings gave way to rice paddies, rivers, and farmlands. As we got closer to the mountains, the head winds got stronger and stronger. For a good distance we were riding on what are essentially levees with narrow paved roads on top. Higher than all the other roads around and nothing protecting us from the wind made for a frustratingly slow pace.
Making our way through the mountains, we found that the elevation was surprisingly manageable. While it was a bit steep in parts it was nothing compared to what we had already done, and it made the ride much more bearable. Near the point of peak elevation we stopped for lunch at a conbini (Lawson Station) where we grabbed some fried chicken and snacks and ate them in the warm, sunny parking lot.
The mountains soon gave way to open, sprawling countryside. We passed through many small town-like areas which were filled with traditional Japanese-style homes. It was quite serene and peaceful, and I really enjoyed the juxtaposition of the old, traditional homes and rice paddies with the shiny, sleek Shinkansen zipping along the nearby tracks as they ferried people from one city to the next.
The tail end of the ride had a few more sizeable climbs, but we powered through them and made it to Kyoto just after the sun had set, about 12 hours after we had set off from Nagoya. Our hostel was located in the East end of the city in a quiet residential area with a quaint little river running through it. We checked in, dropped our gear off, and grabbed ourselves some dinner (and muscle relief patches) from the nearby Family Mart. We ate, discussed our plans for our rest day, and went to sleep.
The next day was our rest day in Kyoto. A chance for us to do a bit of sightseeing and rest our sore muscles and bones. Naturally, we decided to start by riding about 10km across the city to the Arashiyama Monkey Park, aka ‘monkey mountain,’ and hiking up it for 20 minutes.
After seeing and feeding some monkeys, we went over to the Tenryu-ji Temple and checked out the gardens. Unfortunately most of the flowers weren’t in bloom yet, but it was still a nice relaxing walk, despite the smell of the nearby bathrooms. Just outside of the garden was the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. It was pretty crowded but still a cool experience, especially as I’d never really seen bamboo growing in the wild before. The bamboo shoots were dense, thick, and tall but still managed to let a good amount of light in.
We made our way back to our bikes and headed back towards our hostel. Two restaurants that we wanted to visit were closed, so we opted for a light meal at the closest recognizable place – a McDonalds. As it turns out, everything tastes pretty much the same. We were hoping for some crazy new dishes (I’d heard rumours of chocolate fries), but the fanciest things we got were an orange chocolate mcflurry (it was like eating ice cream with chunks of terry’s chocolate orange-flavoured crispy rice in it) and a melon-flavoured drink that Mateo got.
We headed back to our hostel and began preparing for our ride the next day, to Osaka.