Monday, September 27, 2004

Plugging Away


Day - 27
Temples - 51
Distance - approx. 940 km
Weight - ??

I usually hike around 35-40 km a day (21 - 24 miles). Today was a pretty light day, around 25 km (15 miles) into Matsuyama.

The road is definitely taking a toll on my feet, as the last few days have been a bit painful. Hopefully the rest here will reinvigorate me. I haven`t been meeting too many fellow hikers lately, but I did run into a nice couple the last couple of days. I first saw them at temple #44, where I stayed a couple nights ago (I think Friday, but the days tend to blur together). They didn`t speak much English (maybe a few more words then I know of Japanese), but we were able to communicate a little. I saw them again last night as I was getting into temple #46 after a long day of hiking. And then I ran into them again today at #51. They were very nice and even gave me some osettei.

The weather hasn`t been to bad, cooling off to the point where I might need a jacket before I`m done. It has been raining off and on, especially at night. Last night was the first rain free night in a while, so my tent and sleeping bag are finally (mostly) dry.

I also was able to hike a few good trails (aka marked trails) in the mountains the last couple of days. It`s been a lot more road hiking then I expected, so these forays into the woods are always welcomed. They were small short cuts (5-10 km), but enough to get me away from the roads and cars and people. It was very pleasent to get up into the pine trees and just sit there and relax and listen to the mountain. Very Zenlike (as opposed to dodging semis on the highway).

Timing-wise, I`m now aiming to finish in 40 days. I figure that`s a good round number. It`ll give me a week to recuperate, and maybe take a trip up to Kyoto for a few days.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Resting Up

Well, I`ve had a decent nights sleep, and am now well fed. Clothes are clean and dry (finally) and I`m all clean and shaven and presentable to the world. Of course, it looks like rain, so by the end of the day I`ll probably be another soaking, stinking mess again. I`ve double bagged all my clothes now, so hopefully they stay dry. All the water-soaked clothes I had really added to my backpacks weight. I feel like I`ve unloaded a couple kilos from my load.

Today is a short hike (about 25 kms) upto temples 41-43. I think I can stay at #43 for the night. From there I`ve got a 30 some km hike upto a town with some nice parks on the map, and then there`s another 50 or 60 km to #44. Not sure where I`ll stay in between, but I`m sure there`ll be something. After that, it`s on to Matsuyama and across the northern coast of Shikoku. It feels like I`m already in the home stretch, although I`m just over half way and I`ve got probably 3 more weeks to go.

So off I go, with another update in 5 or 6 days when I get to Matsuyama.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Over the Hump

Well, it`s been a long and tiring last week or so since I last logged in. Lots and lots of hiking, including about 45 km yesterday. Made it into the campsite just as the sun was setting, set up my tent, and went to the onsen across the street. Took a nice relaxing bath and had sashimi for dinner.

Not many big events to report. The weather has been cooling, but there have been several nasty rain showers. My tent is finally dry after being soaked for pretty much the last week.

Currently I`m just a few km outside of Uwajima and am looking forward to getting a hotel room (my first since Kochi 10 days ago) and doing some laundry (my first since Kochi).

I`ve moved up the scheduled meetup with my bike in Tokushima by two weeks, and plan to reschedule my flight to Bangkok as well. Other then that, the feet ache (or as they say in Japan `ite! ite!`), the shoulders ache, and everything else just stinks (literally that is).


days: 22
temples: 40
kms: 750
weight: 69 kg

Japanese 201

The `come on` wave is done backwards. i.e. with palm facing out and fingers waving at you. Confusing when they are saying `come on` in English. Down right mystyfing when they`re speaking in Japanese. After three or four shouts I figure whatever I`m doing is wrong and decide to follow them.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Grinding it Out


Days - 12
Temples - 30
Distance approx. 400 km (out of 1400)
Weight - 70.6 kg

1. Don`t wonder where that unmarked path goes
2. Don`t try to take that unmarked path
3. Don`t keeping going down that unmarked path when it ceases to be a path

3 Japanese words to know
and really, the only 3 you need to know

1. konnichiwa (hello)
2. hai (yes)
3. arigato (thanks)

3 best things about Japan
(besides the very nice people)

1. onsens (hot baths)
2. rice balls
3. high tech toilets with seat warmers and bidet/spray function. I plan to become the US importer and make millions.

It's been a rather slow and uneventful week it`s been. One typhoon, an earthquake, and one near death experience on a mountain. Other then that the same old same old. Grinding out the km`s on the open road these days. My original plan was 25-30 km a day, and it has been more like 30-35 plus. Just trying to keep up with the old Japanese guys that are hiking. I`m not sure if I got ahead of them or got passed, but I didn`t see any of my usual companions today. Taking a rest stop in Kochi to recover.

The weather is starting to break a little. Days aren`t so hot and humid and the nights are definitely cooling down. Mosquitoes persist (and I did eat a big bag of pickled(?) garlic - 30 or 40 cloves worth - and that didn`t seem to help. At least the tent keeps them out, more or less.

Saturday, September 4, 2004

The Hike

I survived the typhoon from earlier this week. I'm back in Tokushima now - seems like eons ago that I was last here. The only signs of the typhoon are a lot of strewn branches and broken trees in the mountains. Life here is back to normal.
Hiking hasn't been too bad and I've been making good progress, although getting lost is frustrating. Spent all day yesterday hiking with two Japanese guys - one 61 years old and the other 22. They spoke a little English, so it wasn't too bad. I've found decent places to campout the last couple of nights. and even hit the onsen (hot bath) last night which was heavenly. I'm rewarding myself with a hotel in Tokushima tonight.

The legs feel lead filled and the feet are quite sore as are shoulders. nothing a good nights sleep won't cure. The only real concern is a nasty blister on my left pinkie toe that's been flaring up.

Time is running out on my internet time here. As always, I'm never sure when my next brush with an internet connection will occur. It's a bit different then on a bike when you can make 5 - 10 km diversions with no problem.


There's this whole outfit one can buy for the pilgramage - white shirt with some kanji, white pants, white sandals, peasent's hat, walking stick, beads, vestment things (or whatever it is those things that are hung around one's shoulder's are called), a little bag to hold your books (one for stamps and calligraphy and one for little slips of paper each temple gives you) incense and candles. One can easily spend $200+ getting outfitted. I went with a book for the stamps/calligraphy and a walking stick. Lost the walking stick (which was really just a cheap pine stick with a fabric handle and a bell on it) after 4 hours. Guess I wasn't meant to have that. But the book has become a driving force behind my journey. Must fill all 88 pages. Must fill all 88 pages.

At each temple, one does various things as well. water on the hands, go up to an altar and clap, chant, ring bell, light incense, light candle, drop coin, drop name sheet in bin, get booked signed etc, etc. Never having been a big ritual kinda guy, I just prefer to drop my name slip in the bin, drop a coin (good way to get rid of those 1 and 5 yenners) and get my book signed. Although after hiking all day over mountains and arriving half dead at a temple, I'm starting to feel the need to do a little more. At least ring the bell, maybe light some incense. whatever.

Usually the only people with the full outfit are the little tour groupies (usually elderly women) that arrive in their van. I'll be there on the bench, recovering, and in they came. in their pristene white outfits, they go around - water, chant, bell, book, whatever else. Back out they go, into their van and off to the next temple. Meanwhile, I'm still trying to see if I can move my legs, which feel like they're filled with lead. Not to be too critical (since Takuya's grandmother did it this way), but all I'll say is this - we may be on the same path, but we're on entirely different journeys.


Day: 4
Temples: 17
Distance: 124 km (this is camp site to camp site, so it includes double tracking, getting lost, wild goose chases, and things like that)
Wt: 72.5 kg