Ohenro Day 15

It was the first time I’d been in a reasonably sized town for a while and when I saw that there was a GUSTO family restaurant just down the road from my hotel, I knew that’s where I was heading for breakfast.

Lots of Japanese restaurants and cafes have what they calling “morning” , which, funnily enough, is on offer in the morning. Mornings are uberly cheap breakfasts that can range from simple things like toast and coffee to slightly more elaborate cooked breakfast options. This was the morning menu at GUSTO that included French toast, pizza toast, a few Japanese options and various egg & bacon combinations:

gusto

I ordered the scrambled egg, bacon & sausage set and a banana (girl needed her fruit) and this is what I got for the princely sum of 499 yen for the set and 80 yen for the banana (which is about $7)
gustbrek

You’ll notice the scrambled eggs come with tomato sauce on top (that’s a Japan thing that I totally agree with) and I had the choice of toast or rice so I went with toast (that’s once slice that is about an inch thick) You can choose just to have the food, which would be 399 yen, but for an extra 100 yen, you can get access to the drink & soup bar for all-you-can-drink self-service goodness.

drinkbar

I’m not really a soup person, so I guzzled several cappuccinos and juices and definitely got my money’s worth.

After GUSTO I headed back to my hotel, packed up and hit the road again. After getting out of town, I had a pit stop at a road station. They had hung netting over the toilet entrance to stop the swallows from building nests inside.

swallow

I was heading towards a mountain and one of my first major mountain passes for this trip. The weather was lovely with beautiful blue skies
blue

but I was super nervous about the pass. I had read some slightly hair-raising stories about it and based on my experience that mountain passes in Kochi are something to be feared, I couldn’t get rid of the knot in my stomach.

First there was a tunnel without a footpath (just for a slight scare) and then some lovely coastal views with spring flowers in bloom:

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then another tunnel without a footpath (for a slightly larger scare)
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This tunnel actually had some sort of sensor to flash a warning to drivers when there is a pedestrian on the road.

I was getting closer and closer to the beginning of the pass and could see it in the distance:

iwa

I saw on the map that there was a convenience store a little off the path so I decided to stop for some food (melon bread) and have another pit stop.

After meandering through a residential area, you come to the base of the mountain and this sign which basically says “Ahead is the Yakizaka Ohenro path. It’s 0.5kms until the start of the road to the pass then 1.1km to the pass. 4.9kms of natural beauty lies between here and where the path joins up with the main road!” But what it actually means is, “Shit is about to get real.”
sign

It all starts innocently enough as you walk alongside the railway line
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then this happens
trail
After that it’s a couple of hours of steep, slippery paths that require you to hold onto ropes and chains to climb

pathrock
pathrock2

with the odd fallen tree
tree

And you get to what you think is the top of the pass when it levels out a bit and you think you’re past the worst of it, then you see this sign:
danger
“Caution: dangerous sections ahead.”

What I just passed, wasn’t dangerous??

I was drenched in sweat not only from the climb, but the fear of sliding/falling off the mountain and decided to take a break as soon as I saw that sign. There wasn’t anywhere to sit, so I kind of sat down on a tree trunk and had a drink and again questioned my life choices. A couple came walking towards me from the direction I was walking towards and the wife told me that the path ahead was pretty rough. I think they were just out for a casual stroll and had bitten off more than they could chew from the comments the husband was making. I certainly did not envy their descent over the steep AF path I’d just ascended.

I totally understood the negative stories I’d read about this pass after walking it. It was only 288 metres in elevation, but the roughness of the path was ridiculous. Coming down was equally scary and by the time I’d gotten down, I was so tense from concentrating on not slipping that I was exhausted. Fortunately I’d booked myself a luxurious hot spring ryokan for the evening and although it was my most expensive night’s accommodation (about $300) it was worth every penny.

The ryokan, Kuroshiohonjin, was perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean and I could see the unusual shape of the building in the distance.
kuroshio

I could have called reception and had them come and pick me up because it’s quite a ways off the pilgrim path, but I decided to walk up there as it was still a bit before check-in time.
kuroshio2
The service was what you’d expect from a ryokan: staff carrying my bag and taking me to my room for a sit-down explanation of the hotel, hot springs & meals while I sipped tea. I’d booked a western room (on a special henro plan price), but they also have tatami and futons if that’s your thing.
kuroshio3

The only negative thing about this ryokan for walking pilgrims is that they don’t have a washing machine. I ended up doing a handwash in the basin in my room and hanging my clothes up in my room to dry while I went for a hot spring.

There was a long wooden corridor with signs for the women’s and men’s baths:
bath

and at the end was this view:

view2

The outdoor bath overlooking the ocean was also superb and I ended up having it all to myself!
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After the bath I stopped by the massage chairs for a 30 min massage which was sorely needed before heading up for dinner.
On my way I had a pit stop and marvelled at the selection of toilet slippers
toilet slipppers
And laughed at the toilet choice, which is really not a difficult choice at all.
no choice

You know you’re in for a dinner treat when the chef prepares a delightful menu for you with 8 courses of magical goodies
menu
And you eat it while looking out at this view. There were so many planes flying overhead and making visible jet streams that it was even more beautiful.
jetstream
The food was kaiseki style, with each course being brought out separately
sashimi
food1
bonito
rice2
tempura2
Look at the care in arranging that onion!
onion
end
dessert

During the meal, the couple seated behind me came over and offered me a glass of sake. I accepted and sipped it with my food. When I had finished I went over to their table and thanked them and they asked if I was walking and where I was from and soon asked me to sit with them and chat for a while.

They’d originally lived in Kobe but had moved to Shikoku to get ‘back to nature’. We talked about the pilgrimage and why I liked Japan and all sorts of things including the meaning of life.

I actually find mealtimes to be the hardest part of the pilgrimage because you’re always by yourself with no-one to talk to so it was nice to have a chat and the couple were lovely. The chat continued for half an hour or so and then I excused myself saying I needed to get some rest and I headed to bed. The next day I had another mountain pass on the agenda and I was dreading it already.

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