After leaving the meditation retreat at Antaiji, and retrieving my bike (I had left it parked in a train station), I resumed my journey. The brave North Sea coast of Japan is dotted with shredded rocks with strange shapes. Magnetized by its rugged beauty, especially at those winter days, I continued traveling westward until the weather said that’s it.
I woke up one morning surrounded by a completely white landscape, a delight to behold but not that pretty for my bones. While checking a minus sign before the figure of the temperature in my alarm clock, I thought it was time to head south, to the Pacific coast, considerably warmer.
But that implied I had to cross the mountains in between. The vision of the menacing dark grey sky above those mountains, plus the road covered with snow, and the sight of my feeble bike, made me hesitate. But just then, something amazing happened: the clouds that covered the mountains opened for a moment, and a ray of sunlight hit me in the eyes. It was the sign I needed.
A snow-plow passed me so I could put my wheels on the track it was leaving behind. The few vehicles equipped with chains on their wheels that ventured on that road that day threw over me a barrage of dirty snow, for sure wondering who was the madman traveling by bike towards the ominous mountains.
I started to climb curve after curve, some on the bike and some walking on the boots soaked by the icy floods that often crossed the road. Finally, late in the afternoon, I reached the highest point, where a very long tunnel would take me to the south side. I was elated, thinking the worst was over. I was wrong.
The descent without pedaling and at such low temperature caused my whole body to get frozen almost immediately, specially my hands, face and feet. In the first village of the valley, when I got off the bike I was stiff as an icicle, and the pain in my hands and feet was so intense that it took me several minutes to remove my boots.
I entered a lounge area and ordered a bowl of soup (ramen) on which to inhale, dip my fingers, and even rub my feet, among the pangs of the blood reconquering the skin. After having sensations again, I went out to kick the bike, but not as a punishment for its behavior, but to free it from the ice that imprisoned it.
With the last rays of the sun, the same who had invited me to this side of the mountains, I could enjoy the views of a pristine mountain scenery. Finally, I reached a small town where I could dry my clothes, boots and sleeping bag in a laundry shop. That night I found a small temple particularly calm and cozy where I had a very restful sleep (and above freezing temperature).