Thursday, 24 February 2011

Threading the Tadami River

One of the many streams that come down to the Tadami river  

The grey valley road and the now dark Tadami river are woven together through the long valley between Yanaisu and Tadami itself. The third strand of the braid is the great Tadami railway line, a very determined mole with a one track mind bobbing in and out of the mountains in numerous tunnels. It is now hibernating beyond Kawaguchi . The road crosses many bridges, swapping sides whenever convenient like a career politician. Slightly warmer temperatures had warmed the tarmac enough for it to shed it's customary winter coat of a few inches of compacted snow and ice. Bike ride! 

Island in the Tadami river

These are places I haven't seen for a couple of months. With remarkably effective 'stud-less' snow tyres it is quite possible to travel more or less as normal by car - something that came as a surprise to an Englishman. England rolls over on it's back and whimpers pitifully at a few inches of the white stuff. Tokyo usually furnishes some entertaining news items showing slick city hipsters slipping onto their arses in even slicker shoes on any spot of unaccustomed snow.

While people here are perforce equipped for metres of the stuff , life naturally compresses into a smaller area, so it is great to be able to get the sanity machine out and pedal out of the domestic zone and into the know, yonder.

Now breathe...

As you well know if you come from a childishly dualist tradition there are two sides to any road, street, idea, whatever: the sunny side - relatively free from patches of ice, and the dark side - shadowed and dangerous. Whilst Luke Skywalker (and various other archetypal fictional characters in stories so basic they only have two sides) may have had a choice, on an out-and-back bike ride there isn't one, and it takes a lot of care not to end up up-ended.  There is always a bit of shadowed ice around. Through the villages there were a few patches of snow to negotiate where householders had chucked their snow onto the road to clear it from their roofs and doorways. And in the shadows of the six foot walls of snow all along the road, stripes of ice.

Bird footprints on floating ice

It is important to hit the warmest couple of hours of the day, and on the way home it is a race against freezing point which returns rapidly with dusk even on sunny days. You are never quite on your own with the cold in Aizu, though. Getting back to my village and getting very chilly even with everything on, the cheery ba-chan in the shop was keen to know where I had been and how long it had taken. Outside a truck driver had stopped to get a coffee from the vending machine. I had never seen him before, he was just passing through, but without missing a beat he offered to buy me a hot drink. It is just what you do here. It almost makes you want to move somewhere cold, doesn't it?

The cold coming back to snow-jet and avalanche chutes near Showa. My bike looks small and worried. It's not a person it? I knew that

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