Ohenro Day 9

Day 2 dawned clear and beautiful. I had a lovely view of the ocean as I made my way back down the mountain to the coast.

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One interesting thing about walking along the coast compared to walking inland is that I could clearly see where I was going and where I had been. By that, I don’t mean that it’s impossible to get lost, because I actually managed to get lost on four separate occasions (true story), I just mean that you could see the headlands and the edge of the island and it gave you mini goals to break up the distance.

Kochi prefecture has the fewest temples and the longest distances between temples. The longest distance is 90kms between temples 37 & 38, but there is also a 60km section and several 30km sections. It is these parts of the journey where you are doing nothing but doggedly walking for days with nothing to break up what is, on some levels, a fairly monotonous trail. I also chose to take the “long” way between temples 38 & 39 that hugs the coast and adds an extra 20kms, just because I have an endurance fetish and like to do things the difficult way.

Before starting my pilgrimage I had had grand plans of doing some serious walking training. Last time, I had very quickly learned how unfit and unprepared I was when on day 3, after making my way over some fairly impressive mountains, I was so sore that I could barely move. I didn’t actually manage to do much in the way of walking per se, but I figured that my daily 5km commutes and my regular gym classes, should prepare me reasonably adequately, but I’d forgotten exactly how tough it was to walk long distances and I regretted not doing more.

This day saw me visit two temples and walk about 26km. Walking along the coast of Kochi provided some interesting sites that you don’t normally see in Australia, namely tsunami evacuation areas and towers. Every hundred metres or so you would see a sign telling you where the nearest evacuation area was:

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And every so often you would see a newly built tower:

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Japan has apparently spent billions building these types of towers, particularly since the tsunami a few years ago. A lot of them have supply lockers with food and water for local residents and I heard that the tallest one is 25 metres high.

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Everywhere you look there are reminders that ground level is not where you want to be if there is an earthquake and following tsunami.

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And even on the mountain roads, there are helpful signs to tell you if you’re safe or not:

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My two temples for the day were 25 Shinshouji

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and Kongouji

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It was after leaving Kongouji that I had my first getting-lost-experience. I think Tokushima spoils you by clearly labelling just about every twist and turn on the pilgrim trail. In fact, I almost feel that you could probably get by without a map in Tokushima. Kochi, on the other hand, leaves you pretty much to your own orienteering skills and occasionally tricks you with signage pointing to the wrong way. I don’t think I’ve ever looked at a map so many times in my life and it actually prompted me to purchase a compass at the end of my journey which I intend to put to good use on part 3 of my pilgrimage.

After leaving the temple, I headed up the mountain and continued along the road for a while, but after seeing no signage or anything to show me I was on the right path, I got worried and returned to the base of the temple to see if I could see where to go. I found nothing so eventually sucked up my lack of direction and asked a lovely lady in a café at the base of the temple who told me that I had been on the right path. So I headed back up the way I’d already been and was eventually rewarded with a lovely view of the ocean over tea plants with some bonus cherry blossoms.

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The path wound through some grassy fields

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where I came across a random cat

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and passed through the town of Kiragawa with its Meiji era rows of houses & shop fronts

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and after one more hike over a mountain, then down a mountain then up a hill, I finally arrived at my lodging for the evening Hotel Nahari, which was a weirdly designed building that looked more like it should be in the hills of Switzerland.

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There was also a weird statue of a bonito fish wearing a pilgrim hat in the garden out the front of the hotel basking under the cherry blossoms.

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For some reason I didn’t take a picture of my hotel room. All I actually remember was falling onto the bed and not moving for several hours. I was completely shattered and horribly nauseated (which I’m assuming was from the build up of lactic acid after a lot of unaccustomed exercise.).

When I finally felt like moving, I had a bath in the communal bath after tatt patching and putting my clothes onto wash. (I don’t need to mention that by the end of my trip I was pretty damn sick of washing my clothes everyday!) My feet were absolutely killing me, but the hot water helped a bit. My clothes weren’t done by the time I finished my bath so I hobbled back to my room and then hobbled back to the washing machine 15 minutes later, only to emerge with my damp clothes to find that someone had taken my slippers and I had nothing to wear on my feet while I tramped all the way back to my room which was in another building, past the hotel lobby and up several flights of stairs. I was not well pleased – not only because it hurt my feet, but because I had to look like the stupid foreigner who doesn’t know how slippers work in Japan.

I was still feeling ill so I didn’t even bother with dinner. I was craving something salty and something sweet so I bought some potato chips and ice cream from the lobby shop and that turned into my dinner. Then I just lied down and seriously questioned my decision to walk 26km on the first real day of walking.

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