Kanazawa to Shirakawa-go
Climbing into the Japanese Alps
Wednesday 08 April 2015
In hindsight we should have gotten underway much earlier today. On paper though, the modest distance of 80km seemed well within our grasp as we left Kanazawa around 10am for our first day in the saddle.

The drizzle started as we passed through the suburbs and into the country, so we made the first of several stops to don waterproofs.
Though flat for the first 30km, we were catching glimpses of the snow capped mountains into which we were headed and after passing through the small town of Nanto the road began to climb.

Snow patches soon appeared at the side of the road and we found ourselves enclosed by drifts on either side. Then, as we neared the top of the climb, our first puncture! Stu & I stopped to switch his front inner tube and look for what caused the flat but could not identify the culprit.
Back on the road, the mountain pass came by way of the 3km Gokayama tunnel. Once through, we descended to the main attraction of the day, the Gassho hamlet of Ainokura.

This UNESCO world heritage site is part of a wider group of Gassho villages in the Shirakawa-go and Gokayama regions that line the Shokawa river valley. Ainokura has many traditional Gassho-zukuri farmhouses, some of which are more than 250 years old.
It was gone 2pm and we were cold, hungry and in need of sustenance so stopped at a small cafe in Ainokura and settled in for some local cuisine - in my case, my first taste of pickled plum - highly potent stuff!

Leaving Ainokura recharged and refreshed initially down a snow-blocked road! we hadn't gone far before our second flat, this time Tamsyn's front tyre. By the time we'd switched tubes it was approaching 4pm and we still had more than 30km to go. Once on road again we followed the Shokawa River but only a few km's further on and Stu punctured for a second time. Grrrr!
Darkness was falling as we cycled into the village of Shirakawa-go. Must be time for another puncture! Tamsyn's front again but it seemed a slow one and with no tubes left and only 5km's to go, we put air in the tyre and hoped it would hold. One last sting in the tail - the final 5km's were up a 10% climb. By the time we finally rolled into the Toyota Shirakawa-go Eco lodge, it was pitch black!

The lodgings were our most extravagant and expensive of the trip but perfectly timed after a long first day. We enjoyed a 5 course, fine-dining meal at the hotel (including Fugu for me!, which was completely at odds with the rough and ready day we'd had. Less appealing than our meal were the 4 inners we had to patch before hitting the sack :o/