It’s not too far from Austin’s in Tokushima to Toshi’s in Akashi. I said this to myself when looking at my maps on Sunday evening. And there’re these two huge suspension bridges to cross – that’ll be fun. Oh, wait. Oh, I can’t cycle over the bridges? Oh. Oh, crap.
After interrogating the tourist information staff in Tokushima and asking everyone I thought might know I discovered there is, in fact, know way to cross the bridges other than in a four-wheeled vehicle.
Step up Norm. Norm is the man who brought pizzas the size of a tractor tire to Tokushima. He is also an avid cyclist and Triathlete. After hearing about my trip he quickly offered to give me a lift over the first bridge (connecting Shikoku and Awajishima).
We met at 9.30 and off we went, the swirling Naruto whirlpools below us. Unfortunately, a plan to ride through Awaji together was cancelled last minute as Norm had to get back to Tokushima to take a delivery. Still, I shall endeavour to pass forward his kindness.
Awaji island is a quiet place. A long spit of land between Honshu and Shikoku it has become, since the completion of the expressway in the late 90s, a land bridge between the two bigger islands.
The small towns are tired looking and any attractions are either fading and dying or long dead.
The most intriguing of these attractions is Heiwakannon-ji. Built in the 1970s the 100m tall statue of the Bodhisattva looms in the haze from some distance. Up close she looks cheap and ugly and it is understandable that both locals and tourists were unimpressed. Now, she stands on a derelict site next to a ten-story pagoda and a shrine gate that nature seems slowly determined to claim.
Instead of plagiarising any more, I will direct you to Austin Smith’s excellent piece on the site.
The bridge at the other end of Awaji, the Akashi Kaikyo Ohashi, has the longest central span (1,991m) of any suspension bridge in the world and may be familiar to some Brits as it was very close to England’s base camp during the 2002 Football World Cup. However, it’s not for cycling. With no Norm to give me a lift I wrote a very kiddy-looking sign (‘over the bridge with my bike’) and stuck out my thumb.
I’ve turned a few heads in my time but 20 minutes of standing in my orange shorts with my orange hair and my pink skin and a hiragana sign made a few owls out of the passing Japanese.
Then up rolls Mori-San. In his workman’s overalls he hops out the cab of his truck and checks that I just want to cross the bridge. I quickly fold up my sign and we throw Chari on the back. We cross the bridge and quickly fly through topics of conversation: my trip, his job, the impending rainy season and the Football World Cup.
On Honshu again for the first time in 17 days I thank him as best I can and roll round the corner to Toshi’s.
Toshi is a ball of drunken energy and we take advantage of a all-you-can-eat-all-you-can-drink feast at the local Yakiniku joint and pass out.
To my saviours Austin, Norm, Mori and Toshi – arigato gozaimasu!!