|We prise ourselves awake at dawn (5am) ouch.
As we are placing our kit out on the path a jogger runs by, he ignores us but it is the incentive we need and we pack up in record time. We are in the car park having cereal when the next batch of joggers and dog walkers go by, boy these Japanese get up early. Now on the road by 7am we have plenty of time to stop to look at some stone Budha’s carved in the cliff face. We have tourist signs to follow but they stop suddenly and after riding backwards and fowards for a while I decifer the Japanese symbols on the map ‘we’re here’ I anounce. Parked up we walk across to the beach a sign shows their positions so we walk down the steps in the cliff edge, we begin to think we are on some wild goose chase so turn to return to the bike and like a mirage the faces appear out of the rocks. They are quite subtle as they were carved in the 1800′s and erosion has faded them. Once tuned into spotting them it became a challenge to find all 16 no mean feat as they were spread over 200m of cliff edge and rocks. We came away in awe at the dedication of the sculpturs, they must have looked amazing when they were new, the erosion of the sea has removed some but amazingly most have survived the constant pounding of the Sea of Japan.
As the day is still young we head further north towards the Oga penisular we spot a tourist information centre mainly by the two hugh 15metre high ogres outside. It is obvious they feature heavily in Oga’s tourism industry, they are evil ogres who used to come and steal things and cause mischief. The story goes that one day the villagers challenged them to build a set of 1000 stone steps to their temple in one night or be banished forever. The ogres agreed, this was an easy contest they thought, just before first light the ogres were laying the 999th step when a quick thinking villager inpersonated a cockerels crow and tricked the ogres into thinking they had lost.
Armed with a map we look at what to do. It has started to rain again we don our wet weather gear and employ the British stiff upper lip attitude. The penisular is smaller in scale than we first imagined and good thing as in the peeing rain the lovely twisty coast road is treacherous, it almost kisses the coast in places and on a sunny day would be an absolute joy but now I’m almost clenching my knees as we drift towards the sea. We pull into a car park there are five almost identical ladies in bright red rain gear in five seperate booths selling sea food. We engage in conversation with one this ends up in an almost comical exchange of food when we sit in the toilet block overhang cooking up our noodles. Fully nourished we head for the temples. It is a long walk up 999 steps that the ogres built, these are stone and lined with cedar trees, our reward is five beautiful temples in a woodland clearing no road access and all to ourselves, we marvel at the ornate wood carvings on the overhangs. It is a magical place and lovely to have to ourselves even the rain has eased slighty.
Back at the car park the wind has got up and it brings more rain, we head for a campsite marked on our map. We pull up it is still pissing with rain and almost dark I go to check in, the fee is 2800 yen (approx £25) a lot higher than our last campsite. I try to pursuade him to go half, no other soul is camping and the place is deserted but no its all or nothing. I don’t think anyone has turned around and ridden away before judging from the look on his face, we pull off on a side road and within ten minutes have found a suitable free camp, the rain continues all night and into the morning. Most of what the penisular has to offer needs good weather so we visit a very small temple with ten thousand carved budda heads on the walls and reaching up to the ceiling before heading inland.
Petrol has been sporadic and for the first time since Russia we are glad of our emergency fuel although changing the pipes over in the rain was no fun. We pull into a 7/11 and treat ourselves to a hot coffee only this one comes in a can on the hot shelf. These Japanese think of everything, we also have lunch here of noodles as not only does it sell them but supplies the hot water, a bar area to eat from and a choice of chop sticks or spoon complete with wet towel to cleanse. We are heading for an area called lake Towada but spot a sign for stone circles so make a small detour, on arriving we see we will need to return tomorrow to do them justice so ask if there is any camping nearby they give us a fairly specific map and directions so we head off it is virtually dark when we pull into the area. Roof is convinced it’s the campsite it has a large grassy area surrounded by buildings but I’m not so sure, we raise a lady but the language barrier is too great. We decide to take our chances and sneak off round the corner to an out of sight area where we begin to pitch camp. Just at the point of no return a car pulls round the corner the old lady has blabbed we are rumbled…….