Monday, October 7, 2013

Day Five.

After such a good night of rest we went downstairs for breakfast and ate our meal above the port, watching the ships come and go and the city come alive. From our vantage point in the sky while sipping our green tea and eating our morning rice, everything looked like little toys. There were little toy bikes, little toy cars, and little toy cranes hovering above the water. The only reminder that they were in fact the real thing, was that they were all moving.

Since our hotel was at the very top of a steep hill, the descent into town was through a winding walkway that took us past bamboo groves, residential areas, and the local school, all with the foreground of the morning sun glistening off the water. It felt as though we were descending into a painting.

Onomichi is known for their 6 main islands, all connected by biking archways. So we rented the transportation of choice and boarded the ferry to cross to the first island. To get across, it cost one dollar each and then an extra whopping ten cents for the bike.

As soon as we were off the boat and began our trek, I was so thankful that we opted to view the land in this way. Up until this point I had really only seen Japan's countryside and farming houses from the viewpoint of a plane, a train, or a taxi. But on a bike again and in this type of environment it was so different from my first bike ride full of moss and forests. Now I was towns and plains, a part of the landscape itself. And what smells! Such a rich variety of things to take in-the scent of the fruit trees, the smell of the sea, the incense burning by the wayside for the ancestors...It all seemed to come together and form some kind of special incense all it's own. It was intoxicating. So much so that I didn't realize how far we had ridden already when we came to our first stop.

We sat for a while to take a break on a dock overlooking some old fishing boats. The sound of the waves lapped steadily onto eroding, stone steps into the water. We looked at the map and drank our peach juice. It was cold and sweet. My dad pointed out that from this point on out it was going to get quite steep and hilly, and we had a long route to travel to get up to the connecting bridge to the next island. But the guide map had written in English next to the route, "You can do it!". So we pressed on.

And as we rounded the bay we saw what could truly be comparable to something like the Golden Gate bridge. We pedaled for what seemed like an eternity, but all along I kept thinking of the Japanese word I had learned while watching one of my many documentaries on the plane. The term Gahmen, which means "to persevere in adversity" and the verse in Hebrews that tells us to "stand firm and run the good race" were what called me further towards our goal. And we made it!

The bike path continued by being suspended under the main road. The inland sea was beneath us and we could hear the sound of cars rumbling above. As I road my bike over boats and fishermen and the churning currents below, I had the sensation that after all these years of dreaming,I had finally learned to fly.

Once we crossed the bridge we immediately began our descent back down into town. We soared, turning and winding with the path along the way. Once we reached the bottom we cycled along the shoreline. There was water on our right and fields on our left, full of rice and fig trees and Japanese cabbage. Women were pouring over their gardens, men in hats trimming trees, and individuals on mopeds zipping wildly through the streets.

We somehow found ourselves in the middle of an organized 3-day walk that was taking place along the same bike route we were on. As we rode along for the next hour or so,the pedestrians would see us and immediately smile and wave. My dad would tell them in Japanese to hang in there, and they would in turn say thank you and wish us well on our way.

As the morning went on it continued to get progressively muggy. So we decided to stop for a moment before pushing any further up. We were talking about nothing in particular and catching our breath when an older gentleman on the walking tour crossed over from the other side of the street. Without a word or any further formalities he held out a bright green Mikan and placed it in my hand. Then he bowed and went on his way.

Completely taken off guard, I couldn't shake the image of this gesture and contemplated its simplicity the whole way back. Through harvested rice fields with its' crop standing upright like tepees, while cooling our hot feet in the sea and watching the fisherman, and further still on the ferry ride return this moment continued to stick with me.

Hunger soon took over though and I quickly forgot about the piece of fruit in my purse. We found a place to sit right after we ate where there was shade and a cool breeze funneling in off the water. As an added perk there was free wireless! (The traveler's haven! Any spot with fresh air and internet! We have even decided we are going to write a traveler's guide simply based off where to go on any given trip to pick up free wireless signals. We are going to entitle the book "Four Bars, Four Stars", so be looking for that;) We sat there for a good hour or so, working on our writing and people watching.

For dinner we decided on Ramen again since Onamichi is famous for its Ramen dishes. Our 25 mile day meant that dinner was inhaled, and to be honest, I don't quite remember the atmosphere of that place. Only that they food was fantastic and the soup even came with potstickers. Sweet bliss.

Since we were leaving early the next morning we strolled to the train station to buy our tickets in advance. Then we just sat by the docks and watched the lights of the boats on the water and listened to the steady back and forth of the ferry boat as it traveled from bank to bank.

Back at the room we were barely able to stay awake to call home. But as I cleaned out the remnants of the day from my backpack, my hands stumbled upon the gift that had been given to me earlier that morning. I placed the Mikan on the table and stared at its' simple beauty-the beauty that this small, green sphere represented a currency of kindness around a much larger sphere. And so I went to bed, thankful that gestures like this are not at all void from the world and that the sweet offering does not have to disappear when it is eaten. I can still carry it with me and pass it on to someone else.

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