Here we are! Like a fresh slice of salmon sashimi, todays update is being dished out to you from Nighthawk HQ in Niseko! One taxi ride, 2 flights, 1 sleeping pill and 1 picturesque car ride later and I have completed the transition from concrete and humidity to the super sweet fresh air and beautiful surroundings that are Hokkaido!

Now, I know its VERY early to call this and I am hardly an expert on day 0.5, but this place is pretty rad… I know, I need to prove it and substantiate my claims, which I will endeavour to do so over the next week, but I feel already I have a pretty strong case.

In a cliche type fashion it really starts off early at the airport and on the flight when you realise how polite and respectful everyone is… Yes, I know everyone who comes to Japan says that, but today I could actually feel it, which was pretty cool. Everything felt pretty easy and polite, which makes a nice change! There is definitely a style and class here that you can sense.

The first shock was at pick up time, I was expecting to be picked up by the Nighhawk, but what appeared before me was something different… something I hadn’t seen before… I recognised the face, but OMFG, it was the combat version of the Hawk that greeted me. So much so I may now have to refer to him henceforth as the IRONhawk:

"I AM coiled steel"

“I AM coiled steel”

Seriously, the mofo is trim, fit and tanned and it wouldn’t take long for me to feel the wrath of his epic training load being brought to focus on my lazy nomadic unit.

The drive from Sapporo to Niseko was great, a lot more scenic than I first had expected… At times its reminded me of being in NZ, especially when we passed through small towns or villages. Stopping for some surprisingly tasty road side food (it was ridiculously good to be honest), I ticked off the first item on my Japan list – Vending machines:

They looked like they could become self aware at any moment...

They looked like they could become self aware at any moment…

Then there was the ordering of lunch… Thank god for pictures, lunch ordered via a machine as well, robotic:

ah... I will have... hmmmm...

ah… I will have… hmmmm… fuck

Arriving at Ironhawk HQ there was only one thing to do – Build the bike and get out amongst the awesome scenery and hills that I could see all around us, I was super pumped for this first ride. Luckily for me, I had assistance from Ray Parker with bike set up:

"Fuck... I can't decide if I want to piss on your Evo or shit in this Italian bike case..."

“Fuck… I can’t decide if I want to piss on your Evo or shit in this Italian bike case…”

Yes, I know I have publicly lambasted people for posting pics of their pets on social media channels, but, to be fair: 1) He isn’t my pet and 2) this isn’t really a social media channel per se… So I am safe from my own criticism. And at last, it was time to RIDE, how else to celebrate this occasion other than a FULL Rapha porn shoot:

Fuck yes, it IS matching, by DESIGN... Smells like team spirit

Fuck yes, it IS matching, by DESIGN… Smells like team spirit…

Off we go, another country ticked off the ride list! Just a short 50km’s today, but a significant one as we headed out to do a dirty recon of the Hanazono climb that we will be racing on Sunday. A few observations straight away within the first 20kms:

  1. The roads are super smooth – Even better than Singapore, its like someone in the local council is taking the piss here, especially when you consider how low the traffic volume was, which leads me to the next point;
  2. The drivers – OMFG, they are even more courteous than the Italians! Say goodbye to your driving stereotypes, today was awesome in terms of being given space and feeling safe, the SEA team could learn a lot from their NEA brothers and sisters
  3. The scenery – Killer… Total contrast from Italy, but still killer… Allow me to elaborate:
Is this shot for the next newsletter?

Is this shot for the next newsletter?

That would be Mt Yotei in the background, which is omnipresent at all times here… Majestically so as well. Further evidence?

Back into the hills...

Back into the hills…

Yes, I am not complaining at the moment that’s for sure. It took about 3km’s up the climb for the Ironhawk to work out that the best way to fuck someone up that is 10kg’s heavier than you is to vary the pace and mess with their shit completely… Like a fatter version of Bradley Wiggins (vomit that I just made that comparison), I had trouble following his bursts, case study right here:

The evil offspring of Clarsen...

The evil offspring of Clarsen…

After being smashed by steep Italian climbs though I was enjoying being on a 14km climb that averaged only 4.4%, with no cars and a smooth surface… Life was good. We cruised our way to the summit before a high speed return to Hawk HQ to regroup. Along the way, it was time to get some fresh mountain water… Straight from the bears mouth… yes, bears… just when you thought it was safe post Whistler, turns out that bears dominate this place. Here is one giving me a pelican:

Give me your goodness Bear San

Give me your goodness Bear San

In addition to bears, we also saw two foxes today… Nope, not super hot women that look a bit nasty, but actual foxes as in the Fantastic Mr Fox, literally cruising along the road side, I didn’t expect bears or foxes, so a bonus. To balance that out though, no Ninjas today, but there was a good spot of bowing.

So, the first half day in Japan was pretty awesome… Loved the first ride and can’t wait for some more tomorrow. What else to do in Niseko to get into the local theme? Go to a French restaurant of course, super good work:

Bonjour

Bonjour

Thats all for now, I have to turn in as we have an ‘easy’ 4 hour ride tomorrow (fart) to relax before racing on Sunday! Bonzai.

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