Toshinobu sent me on my way with a 4 pack of home made rice balls and a yogurt jelly drink to help me face my biggest challenge so far – Mount Aso.
After a decent hour of gentle climbing I thought about the heat and how I might be burning a bit, despite the haze. I thought at least my face is shaded by my helmet. My helmet! I slapped my unprotected head in self punishment. I can’t go back – I’d lose far tok much time and never make it up the mountain. Not wanting to assume other peoples kindness I felt that Toshinobu would spring to my aid if I called him.
If I called him. Without a phone I began scouring the countryside for a pay phone or garage phone. Nothing.
A lady with a big floppy sun hat and an umbrella to protect her from the rays strolled passed.
Excuse me. Is there a phone I could use around here.
Ooo no there’s nothing round here. What’s the problem.
Well, I’m cycling round Japan and I left my helmet with my host from last night.
Hold on, I’ll get my mobile.
Take your time. Try again. Ah, Hiroko. This chap has lost his helmet.
Ooo why don’t the three of us go an a little road trip to get your helmet back.
Yes! Ooo it’ll be fun. You don’t have anything to do, do you Hiroko.
Okay. Let’s go get your helmet!
So we drove back to where I’d started. Or almost, because while I knew we were in the right area I couldn’t find his house. All apologetic and out of ideas I somehow inspired another huge piece of luck: Toshinobu cycled right passed the car in his orange felt pajamas.
TOSHINOBU!! I FORGOT MY HELMET!
You silly boy. I told you not to forget anything!
You did. I’m sorry. Thank you again.
Then off we went again. Hiroko behind the wheel with her elbows out like chicken wings and Miyaki deep in the map on her lap (despite a talking satnav and an iPhone on the car).
After returning to my bike I began a grueling 3 hour grind to the top of mount Aso. What awaited me there is better said in pictures. It was like being on the moon.