Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Lost in translation


I have been learning some phonetic or Romaji phrases in preparation for my trip. What trip is this you ask? Well, tomorrow my friend Mick and I set off on an adventure. We go east my friends, east to Nihon, the land of the rising sun. Mick is a Japanophile and this will be his seventh trip to Japan. For me it is the first time. I am very, very excited.

Despite his six previous visits Mick's Japanese vocabulary is rather limited. He claims his Korean is better although that, I suspect will be of limited use. He can say 'kudasai' (please), 'aragato' (thank you), and 'domo arigato dozaimasu' (thank you very much). That is pretty much it. So the other day I called into Itchy Feet in Bath and bought a Japanese phrasebook.

We are now adding a few new phrases to the repertoire although the pronounciation is not doubt a little off. Perhaps I will be lucky enough to sit next to a Japanese speaker on the plane (lucky for me not him/her) and can practice a little.

We are planning to cycle around Shikoku, the smallest of Japan's four main islands, following in the footsteps of Kobo Daishi on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage. The 1200 kilometre circular route is Japan's most famous pilgrimage, around150,000 pilgrims follow the route every year. Mostly pilgrims travel by bus or car. Some walk. We, however, plan to cycle the route, allowing six weeks for the journey. Even allowing for the climbs (the temples are mostly situated atop mountains) 200 kilometres a week should be achievable even for slowies like us.

We are taking our bicycles with us - I'm taking the same trusty Dawes that carried me from Lands End to John O'Groats and around Ireland last year. I've had the bike for ten years now and she is looking a little tired. Mick is taking his Cannondale, which did the same trips but, at a mere four years old, is looking less raggy than mine.

Mick's Cannondale
I decided it would be prudent to take my bike in for a service before setting off on this adventure. The first quote from a fancy bike shop came in at over £300. Horrified, I decided to seek a second opinion.

The Old Girl
I dragged the old girl into the fancy bike shop. She did look a bit sorry for herself amongst all the fancy road bikes with four figure price tags I must admit.
'How many miles have you done on it?' asked the proprietor disparagingly.
I shrugged. 'Dunno. Ten years old - must be about 10,000 miles,' I said.
I have, I hasten to add, had plenty of work done on it over the years. My bike is like Trigger's Broom or the Ship of Theseus. Only the pedals, the saddle and the frame are original.
'Yes, that's a lot. Not worth repairing. I can do you a new bike for £500.'
Aside from the fact I had not budgeted for a new bike the thought of setting off on our trip on a new and unfamiliar bike did not appeal. I don't like change, especially when it is forced upon me. Eventually I agreed that he would order in a Dawes as similar as possible as mine for a test ride. It would be in the shop in three days time. Back at home I recounted the sorry tale of my written off bike to a neighbour.
'Have you asked Gordy?' he asked.
I looked at him blankly. 'No. Who is Gordy?'
Gordy, it turned out is the bike man of Barnstaple. If you want a gleaming new machine and an empty bank account forget it. But if you have an old bike you simply want to keep on the road then Gordy is your man. I asked how long he had been fixing bikes in Barnstaple and he told me he thought it was about 55 years. Anyone who can sustain a bike repair business for that long has to be doing something right. Sure enough it took a while  - strictly on Devon time - but two weeks later Gordy had given my bike the once over - serviced, new brake cable, new inner tube and Schwalbe back tyre - £17 total including parts. So much for the bike being a write-off!

Gordy's Bike Repairs

Gordy inside his spares shed
Packing the bikes proved to be something of a trial. The airline required us to pack the bikes into boxes or bags which in turn required dis-assembling the bikes. Off came the wheels, the pedals, the pannier rack, the handlebars, the mudguards. Lower the saddle and job done! That was Mick's anyway. My pedals seemed to be welded in place and took a whole lot of violent kicking to remove. Finally though both bikes were in pieces, packed in bags and ready for the off. Tomorrow the taxi will (hopefully) arrive at 5.30am and take us to the coach station for the start of our epic journey. I can't wait.

Mick's Cannondale being prepared for flight

1 comment:

  1. All the very, very best of luck to you both.
    Have a brilliant time.
    Let's hope the bikes make the journey there (& back) all in one piece.