Matsuyama was originally going to just be an emergency stop for us on our way from Niihama to Yawatahama. However, as the appeal of doing two 100-120km ride days back to back faded, we decided to make a few changes to the route.
Our latest change was going straight from Marugame to Matsuyama. Going to Niihama would be a nice short trip, but it would have left us with a long ride with annoying elevation changes the following day on the ride to Yawatahama. Plus, since we planned on getting on a ferry right after arriving in Yawatahama, this would have put more pressure on us to get there at a specific time, which was something we didn’t want to commit to on such a long ride day.
Unfortunately our decision to change the route came a bit late in the evening and meant that we would be riding longer (about 130km total) and on less than optimal amounts of sleep. But we figured that it was doable.
The ride from Marugame to Matsuyama was fairly uneventful to start. The weather was a bit chilly, but overall not bad. We rode by a castle on our way out of town, stopping to take a few pictures before continuing on the mostly flat route. Riding past Niihama we passed a few small clusters of mountains which were fairly beautiful. We could see the clouds descending, slowly enveloping them and obscuring them from our view.
We only had one real big climb to do, and that was a mountain road which rose to about 200m in elevation over a short distance. We’d tackled bigger climbs before so we figured it would be pretty easy. While the elevation wasn’t a huge problem, the lack of decent sidewalks or shoulders on a tight winding mountain road was. In addition to that, there were two tunnels waiting for us at the top (which we had known about from our planning, but were still an unwelcome sight). Further, as we made our way up the mountain, it began to rain. Just our luck.
The tunnels ended up being both fairly short (tunnel #1) and having a decently wide sidewalk (tunnel #2) which made them more bearable. Another bonus was the nice couple kilometre-long descent afterwards. It was still raining, but zipping down those roads after a long climb was such a great feeling. We got into Matsuyama and grabbed some food from, you guessed it, a conbini. We made our way to our AirBnB where we were greeted by our host and his mother/father, who were all very kind and accommodating. We cleaned ourselves off, washed our wet and dirty clothes, and settled in for the evening in preparation for a nice ride the next day to Yawatahama.
The plan was to ride along the north-western coast of Kyushu from Matsuyama to Yawatahama. Once there we would get on the ferry to Beppu and spend the night there. The ferry times for the Beppu ferry were more flexible than our Kobe-Takamatsu ferry, so we weren’t stressed about getting there late or anything and missing the ferry. Besides, the ride was just a bit over 60km with less elevation than the previous day.
I’d been looking forward to this ride simply because I’d taken a good hard look at the roads on Google Maps over the last year during our planning and it looked to be a nice ride. The road was right along the coast and offered some beautiful views, in addition to nice flat, wide sidewalks that we could ride on (and mostly smooth roads). The day was nice and sunny, though being right along the coast meant some annoying headwinds for much of the ride.
Towards the end of the ride was our main climb, as we made our way into the mountains and away from the coast. This climb also included a couple of tunnels that I was quite nervous about. Actually, it included one extra tunnel that we hadn’t spotted in our planning phase (curse you, incomplete Google Maps data). That one was relatively short (~540m) and we were able to zip through it pretty quickly on the sidewalk. The next one was a bit longer (~650m) and we opted to take the very narrow sidewalk and just walk through it. The last one was the one I was most concerned about, since it was 2,156m long (yes, that’s just over 2km). Fortunately though the sidewalk was very wide, and it was entirely downhill so we just rode our brakes and took it easy.
We arrived in Yawatahama and went straight to the ferry terminal to buy our tickets to Beppu, on the island of Kyushu. With those purchased, we went across the street to a local supermarket / cafe and grabbed a bite to eat. This was the first time we’d come across a restaurant where you order your food from a kind of vending machine, and it was pretty neat. There was a wall of pictures (and surprisingly, English descriptions) with numbers. You would put your money in the machine, press the number for what you wanted, and then get a ticket with a number, and when they called out your number you would go pick up your food.
We grabbed our food (a couple of bacon pizzas) and ate on the patio in the sun. When we were finished we walked over to a park on the water and killed some time before the ferry by drinking some fresh, local beers and tuning our bikes up a bit.
When the time came, we boarded the ferry, secured our bikes underneath, and went upstairs to find a place to sit. This ferry’s seating was the same as the last, with most of the seating being in tatami mat areas. We sailed into Beppu a couple of hours later after the sun had set and made the quick ride down the street to our hostel where we unpacked, ate some food, and went to bed.
The next day we were originally planning to start our ride to Fukuoka. The ride was supposed to be two days long and included an climb of around 800m right off the bat. Based on our experiences so far we knew that it was just a terrible idea. Further more, our accommodation options in between the two cities were extremely limited, and the weather wasn’t conducive to camping so we opted to just take a train straight to Fukuoka and use the extra day to relax in Fukuoka.