We just had a long weekend here, so I headed on up back to Hokkaido for a road trip. Our destination: THE most northern point in Japan! On Friday morning, I woke up early and was on the first flight out, up to Sapporo.
Arrived in Hokkaido, and got the train into Sapporo where I was meeting Fi and Debs to begin our road trip. Perfect timing as their car pulled up right as I was exiting Sapporo station. A long drive ahead from Sapporo to Wakkanai. Was feeling like I had a cold coming on so I grabbed a Vitamin C drink for the road. This was a bit excessive though. The equivalent of 50 lemons’ worth of Vitamin C. Either lemons contain very little vitamin C, or I was about to OD on the vitamin.
Hokkaido has such beautiful scenery. It’s God’s gift to cyclists. Lots of flat terrain that stretch on forever over vast expanses of green fields and rice farms – popular with cyclists and runners.
We made several conbini stops for toilets and snacks. Did you know there are a ridiculous number of Seicomarts in Hokkaido! We must have passed a good few dozen over the long weekend. We stopped for a late lunch at Big Boy – a hamburger steak restaurant with salad bar! Just a family chain restaurant which wasn’t too bad.
Fi and Debs posing with the Big Boy:
Fi and Debs are friends from my days when I lived in Hirafu (Niseko, Hokkaido). Fi now lives in Sapporo and Debs still lives in Hirafu. More scenes from our Hokkaido road trip up north.
We spent 11 hours on the road on that Friday! Lots of conversation, some napping in the backseat on my part, a few pit stops along the way, some Glee music to pass the time. We took only the main roads and avoided the toll roads (which would have gotten us there faster). Going north, we took the central inland Hokkaido route. The drive should have only taken us 6 hours, but we drove 2 hours off-route. We were so close to the peak…and then we found ourselves taking a wrong turn and driving 2 hours back south! Yabai! It was dark, and around 7:30ish. We had been on the road since 10am. We pulled into a random hotel to get directions. We also had no accommodation planned. We had tents and sleeping bags and were planning on just camping somewhere. But it was also pretty cold up north. At the hotel we stopped at, we rang around for some hotels near Wakkanai to stay at.
We consulted the Lonely Planet book I had carried along (for emergency use). The first hostel in Wakkanai wouldn’t take us because it was already 7:30pm and we were still two hours away, and we were pretty much just booking then. Tried another youth hostel in Wakkanai, and they told us we could stay there only if we got there and checked in before 9:30pm. It was already after 7:30pm and we had over 120km to get to Wakkanai! We put the pedal to the metal and arrived in Wakkanai just after 9pm. And we didn’t really know how to get to the youth hostel. We called up the guy at the youth hostel to get directions and to kind of stall him, so that if we arrived after 9:30pm he’d let us in. We arrived at the youth hostel literally right on 9:30pm! What a blessing. We had lodgings for the night after 11 hours on the road, including 2 hours of “being lost”.
This was the best youth hostel I’ve ever stayed in. It was pretty palatial for a backpacker joint. They had either dorms or private rooms. Private rooms being more expensive. We opted for the dorms, but I swear the room we were in had to be the private rooms. It was basically a self-service apartment. There was a dining room, our own shower, own washing machine, fridge, microwave, kettle, and stove, tv, and a tatami mat room that could sleep 5-6 people. All self-contained and private. I couldn’t get over how nice it was! And for 20 buks each for the night.
What followed next was a most awesome surprise! So, Fi knows how much I love afternoon tea and so she had packed her own little afternoon tea for us. I had no idea. Bless her. She had brought along some fancy cakes, teabags, and even really nice mugs so we could enjoy a proper cup of tea. And these weren’t any ordinary tea cups. These were Tiffany & Co tea mugs!!!! She had packed along a set of cups nicely wrapped in a box. (The Tiffany & Co mugs were a set that she had received as a gift for attending a wedding). How awesome is that. I’m not much of a jewelry wearer or into labels, but Tiffany mugs are pretty special! And after a long, long day of sitting in a car, roadtripping up Hokkaido, a cup of tea was a welcome treat, as was a little Youth Hostel afternoon tea, courtesy of Fi. (Thanks, Fi!!!)
How cool are the Tiffany mugs – in their signature blue with the ribbon as well! And they, of course, came in a cool Tiffany box! Cups of tea for three:
I so want to get me a Tiffany mug. I know they’re just mugs, and it’s not like they were spectacularly designed mugs, but still fancy nevertheless. I googled the Tiffany website today. The mugs are not available on the Japan or Australia site…but you can get them on the US website. They cost 35buks! And I think that was for one mug…although it could have been for a pair.
It was so thoughtful for Fi to do this. So we sat down to tea and cakes in our fancy youth hostel.
We crashed out and fell asleep soon after. We were all utterly exhausted. Day 1 of the northern Hokkaido road trip was mostly driving. We were officially in Wakkanai – which is the biggest most northern town in Hokkaido and Japan. Wakkanai had been on my Japan bucketlist for a while – even though I’ve lived in Hokkaido twice, I never managed to get up there. Tick. It’s also a cool name for a place. The next day is when the real adventures began, as evidenced by the 500 photos that I took. Plenty more installments to come from the Hokkaido roadtrip.