Weather: Sunny and very, very hot. It was 36 degrees today … AGAIN!
MP3 track of the day: If - Monkey Majik
The breakfast buffet consisted of many different things, including a fruit salad. Not being able to remember the last time I ate fruit, I had two bowls of fruit plus a bit of meat, some vegetables and a couple of pancakes. Once I'd had my fill, I went back to my room and collected my bags. I left my hotel, and the city of Kochi, at 7:40am.
Today I would be taking the '56' all the way south Nakamura. In Nakamura I could continue along the '56' to Uwajima – my stop for the night; or I could switch onto the '321' which would take me in a loop around the most southern part of Shikoku. I decided there and then that I would drive as far south as possible, even if it would add a further ninety minutes onto my journey.
Once out of Kochi, the '56' became bearable. Traffic died down and the road hung so close to Shikoku's southern coastline that I had a sea view all the way along it. I did wonder that, if you drew a perpendicular line from Kochi south, what landmass would you hit first? … I couldn't think of a single thing until the south pole (I think Australia is too far west to come into contact).
All was well in my world; the sun was beating down and there had been a huge accident on a plateau of a large mountain range (the plateau was beautiful; rice fields walled in by forested mountain peaks) however, I had air-conditioning and the queue of traffic heading south was tiny (the queue of cars heading north past the accident was massive). Along the coast I made a few stops to take some photos of the coastline. One such stop saw me walk onto a beautiful sandy beach. It would have been lovely, if it wasn't for all of the half-naked 'surfer dudes' with their, well tanned bodies, muscular arms and long locks of hair. They were riding the waves without fear. I quickly looked into my t-shirt and what I found wasn't 'beach body ready'. I wanted to build a sandcastle however, I didn't feel very welcome. I therefore took a few photos before retiring to my car to enjoy a couple of pieces of 'animal shaped shortbread'.
I finally made it to Nakamura where, though the weather was hot, I was feeling good about life. Whilst waiting at a set of red traffic lights, an old man knocked on my window. I couldn't tell what he was saying so we both pulled over. Now, he was speaking pretty quickly and his accent was quite thick; the only words I caught were 'scary' and 'tire'. What he was trying to say to me I didn't know, but it sounded like the below...
“... GET OUT OF THE CAR NOW! SAVE YOURSELF! QUICK, QUICK COMMANDO ROLL AWAY … YOUR CAR IS ON THE VERGE OF EXPLODING AND YOU WILL DIE … NOT A QUICK DEATH EITHER BUT A HORRIBLE SLOW PAINFUL ONE. DON'T DRIVE YOUR CAR A KILOMETER MORE!!!...”
This put me on edge somewhat. We did drive on – I was following him to a Nissan garage as my car is a Nissan – and as we did, I looked out of my right side-mirror and I could see my rear-right wheel wobbling a bit. Even with the air conditioning on I was sweating … I couldn't be further from home.
The local Nissan garage was shut. Once parked up I tried to move the wheel myself but it seemed sturdy enough. I told the guy that I had to drive another 70 kilometres to my overnight stop of Uwajima. He cringed and told me to drive very, very slowly. As there was little more that could be done here I thanked the old gentleman and gingerly went on my way. It was here that I decided to forgo my trip to the most southern point of the island and instead, try to get to my over-night stop as quickly as possible.
Over the course of the trip to Uwajima my confidence in the car started at rock bottom, but ended back at it's previous level. I spent as much time looking at my rear-right tire as I did looking out in front of me. I checked the total mileage on the car and it was very low. Finally I made another stop to take a photograph of the beautiful coastal line before me, and to get on my hands and knees to look at the rear of my car. Now 'Mat's rule of car logic' dictates that, if the underneath of the right-hand wheel looks the same as the underneath of the left-hand wheel, then all is good … and it did. On closer inspection, the rear-left hand tire's plastic hub cap wasn't properly fixed all the way around the tire. Part of it was slightly away from the tire and I wondered if this is what gave the illusion of the tire wobbling about.
I got to Uwajima without incident and found my hotel. I called my local branch office with what had happened. They in turn passed the query onto the head office which meant – being a head office – a reply wouldn't be coming soon. Feeling confident that the tire was fine, I dropped my bags off at my hotel and pressed on into the mountains. I wanted to see the Shimanto-gawa; the longest river in Shikoku.
The drive through the mountains was lovely and it wasn't long before I was following the Shimanto up stream. Once again stopping places were limited however, I managed to get a few photos here and there. Once I'd got enough photos I returned to Uwajima. I didn't go to my hotel; instead I headed north to a small town called Uwa-cho. There was the 'Museum of Ehime prefecture's History and Culture' there which, my guidebook had praised highly.
On the way – and two hours after I'd raised the incident – my company's head office called back. A lovely lady asked me to go to any petrol station and get them to check my car. I did as I was told to discover that all tires – not just the rear-right – were … completely fine. Even the air pressure hadn't gone down. Glad that I'd checked, I paid the main the £8 fee required however, I kept hold the receipt as, once home, I can claim the amount back off my insurance.
I drove to the museum at my usual speed and arrived at around 4pm. The museum closed at 5:30pm however, I still paid to go in. Having been in the car all day, I wanted to walk around somewhere which wasn't boiling hot. Besides, the displays – which went through the ages of Ehime's history – had no English translations therefore, it only took me forty minutes to wander around. I did enjoy it a lot; there were loads and loads of models plus life-size reconstructions of ancient housing to look around. My favourite model showed an ancient settlement with a huge wall protecting the entire village. It was a lovely way to spend the later part of the afternoon.
On the way back to my hotel I stopped for dinner at 5pm. Having had nothing to eat since breakfast, I was famished however, I was also worried that my tonkatsu meal (fried pork) wouldn't keep me full all evening. After eating I therefore went to 'Mr Donuts' (First time this trip) for an evening snack.
Once back at my hotel I checked in, chose the 'western style' breakfast for tomorrow (no buffet then) and went to my room to relax and to go to sleep. Tomorrow I want to have breakfast at 6:30am so that I can hit the road by 7:30am. I have two small towns to see - Uchiko and Ozu – before staying the night in one of Shikoku's largest cities; Matsuyama. Here I would like to see the castle and possibly do a bit of shopping. Again there is quite a lot to do however, I'm only a ninety minute drive from the city of Matsuyama so it's all quite possible.