All’s well that ends with all-you-can-eat food

So I spent most of today in a rather grim mood, after realizing that the reason I had no place to stay was ultimately the deaths of a hundred thousand people sixty-four years ago.  Moreover, since the place I stayed last night was right next to the bomb hypocenter and far away from downtown, I spent the morning and part of the afternoon wandering around the monuments to that event.  The charred remains of the old Urakami Cathedral and the clocks frozen at 11:02 were probably the most immediately striking, but the abstract Peace Memorial Hall was also quite well-done.  Also, everyone should learn about Dr. Takashi Paulo Nagai, look him up.

Then I wandered to the train station, found out the trains I need to take to get back to Tokyo, and on.  Eventually I stumbled upon one of the hostels I had unsuccessfully called earlier; it seemed nice.  After wandering a bit more, I went back there to ask for advice on what to do, but a Polish family kept coming in and out of the door and so I stood outside for a while.  Apparently I looked so forlorn that they came out to call me in; now I get to sleep in their library today, and tomorrow I’ll be in one of the real rooms.  They also have lots of helpful information, such as where to find an all-you-can-eat buffet for 1000¥.  Eating there made me even happier, so now I can write about yesterday, which was more exciting than today.

Throughout my trip I’ve been getting promises that soon the rain will end and it will get hot and summer will begin for real.  Thankfully, that kept not happening.  But yesterday, it seems, was finally the first day of summer.

I started out going 30 fairly flat kilometers to a ferry across a narrow bay, intending to climb Unzen, an active volcano on the other side.  On the ferry, I glanced at the TV as it was showing a map with a dot somewhere on Kyushu labeled 35C.  This made me reconsider, but my restless side countered that then I would have 7 hours to do 60km, and what would I do?

Also on the ferry, I went down to the lower deck where my bike was parked and found myself being sprayed with water.  Turning to the source of the water, I saw a truck with two levels full of stereotypically pinkish pigs.  As the water passed among them, it would turn brownish.  The pigs were trying to drink the bits dripping down the sides of the truck.  Urgh.  Since then I’ve been afraid that my bike was sprayed with pig water, and occasionally I feel like I catch a whiff of it.  But only occasionally.

Well, so I forced myself to climb all the 900m to the pass at Unzen, resting almost as much as I rode to avoid heatstroke that felt alarmingly close.  It was worth it though, partly for the pleasing symmetry: on this last day of cycling, as on the first at Osorezan, I ended up at a cluster of volcanic jigoku, “(Buddhist) hells,” similar to the formations at Lassen, if a little less colorful.  Here, in the 17th century, Christians were thrown into the hells if they refused to tread on pictures of saints.  The symbolism of human judges condemning people to hell seems questionable, but I guess it didn’t bother them.

What made the day painful, though, was the road from Unzen to Nagasaki.  I’d been warned that it was a “scenic coastal” road.  I knew this meant it would go gratuitously up and down cliffs; in the vocabulary I’ve developed, such behavior is called treacherous, in the sense of “deceitful,” not “dangerous.”  (A single treachery is a slope where there is no ultimate elevation change, or a slope going briefly the wrong way.)  But if I’d seen treacherous roads before, this one had no sense of decency at all–either its standard deviation from horizontal was about that of the road up to Unzen, or it seemed so in the heat.  Moreover, at the end, I tried to take a small road over the last range of hills on the way to Nagasaki that was supposed to bring me near the Catholic Center.  Of course, I got lost repeatedly and ended up at the hostel, completely exhausted, after eight.  Then I found out that, whereas I thought I’d had reservations for that day and the next, it was actually that day and the day after the next.  The rest has already been described.  Yes.

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