We reached the Kirishima area from Kagoshima, as one of the first destination of our three months bicycle trip in Japan. If it's true that the range is amazing, nevertheless the road to reach it is worth the journey itself, here is the chronicle of our trip.
To have a panoramic of our Japanese bicycle touring project, check our itinerary on this other article.
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At the bottom of the page there's a map of our ride from Kagoshima to Miyazaki, click on the track to see the elevation profile.
step 1: Sakurajima to gloomy waterfall - 54km
The road is beautiful (km34), slowly climbing, the river always besides us, with some amazing pools where to swim and many small waterfalls. Although we are just 100msl seems to be in the Alps. Pristine pine woods left and right. And hot springs everywhere, very cheap, some for less than 1USD, but is still too hot to enjoy the Onsen. We stop to eat some eggs slowly boiled in thermal water, by the umpteenth free foot Onsen, here Daniel leaves us.
step 2: gloomy waterfall to Onami lake - 16km
Just 6 km after our camping spot there's the village of Makizonocho Takachiho (i think), where there are the last convenience stores, a camping and an information center where we meet a nice girl who gives us the usual unnecessary maps, poorly made, it is not clear where the places are, too many comics (cute but not very useful), of course in Japanese only.
The climb goes on, a monkey tosses an acorn on my head. We cross an area full of abandoned hotels and onsen (hot springs), the windows are shattered, perhaps by the Shinmoedake's eruption of 2011 when the volcano, awaking after 52 years, exploded violently, damaging buildings up to 8 km away. Since then the path to this crater is closed, before it was a beautiful lake in an extinct crater. Now is a lava lake.
There is a trail that goes all around and even to Mt. Karakunidake but we are tired, and it's too late. We'll climb the Karakuni tomorrow from another trail.
We get back to the shelter to set up your tent, safest place around. As we go fill up our water bottles to the bathroom on the other side of the road (there's always a public toilet in Japan) two deer cross the road, one is a puppy and nails in the middle of the road to look at us, maybe the first time he saw a human, it looked really amazed.
Ebino Plateau and Mt. Karakuni
In the morning we get to the Ebino Plateau, just 4 km of easy climb further along the road. We park the bike and begin to climb the Karakunidake, about an hour's walk. We first meet the Io caldera (Ioyama), with it's smell of sulfur and red and white landscape. The climb is harder than the Onami one, but needless to say the view is stunning, epic quality. From the top at 1700msl we can see the crater who erupted in 2011, Mt. Shimonoedake, the Onami lake and three more crater lakes, and even peek inside the dormant (for now) crater of the Karakuni.
Thick smoke comes out from Shimonodake, brought here quickly with the wind, filling the crater near us in an unreal waterfall of steam. In a few instant we're enveloped in a soupy mist, time to rush down the ridge, before being totally blinded. We leave with a longing of night time up here, maybe with a clement wind there could be a chance to spot the lava lake inside the Shimonoedake.
Ebino Plateau to Miyazaki - 90km
The next day is a basically flat ride, for 60km, down to the coast and the city of Miyazaki, we sleep in a Buddhist cemetery, calm and peace pervades us.