Dirty. Day 11. No smart arse title to this one….

25 Jul

Shikoku 936

Day 11, Friday. 56 kms.
Pleasant morning starting around the reservoir towards Temple 39. Birds had built a nest over a toilet at the temple, turtles were sitting on rocks. Serenity ruled.

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Temple 40 was 26 kms away with a huge climb over a mountain.

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When we arrived, a Japanese henro with limited english gave me a sutra to read. He also helped me do the candle and incense thingy. Andy made some stupid excuse, like he had to go to the toilet, or he was too busy, so I managed to feel like an idiot all by myself.


I bumbled my way through the pages trying to sound authentic. I don’t think I looked or sounded that convincing, but I’m sure I was “blessed” for at least trying.
Left temple 40 hoping to get 15 kms up the coast. It was hot.

Passed a tortoise, possibly trying to bury her eggs on the trail.


We met Eduardo from the Philippines working with disadvantaged kids. He bought us a soft drink from a vending machine (osettai) and we went back to his work to meet some of the kids. Andy unsuccessfully tried a unicycle that was built for a five-year old.

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Finished the day with 56 kms and a henro room, sadly no shower… It’s been 12 days… socks do get washed out if they stand up on their own…. guessing we still smell better than these guys…


Beautiful sunset and fishing town.

Shikoku 1011Shikoku 1020A little cramped, but free with a view. No complaints tonight.

Conbene (convenience store) finally found a few kilometres further down the road after being refused by a lady not wanting us to eat at her restaurant.(closed apparently, or maybe our socks are standing up?)

Andy, with all his Japanese language skills, was convinced that the sign below said it was open “til 7″ ;)

… likewise, all the “self” serve petrol stations seemed to be open “til 7″ also…. (you need to be able to read katakana to get the joke…)


“Hey Andy, do my feet smell?”

16 Jul


Day 10, 76kms, no shower for 10 days….

Up early… (no shit Sherlock, did you read my last post?)
Today we could leave our packs for the out and back to Temple 38. Felt pretty good dumping them behind a hedge. Off we went in search of food.

7 kms later, with bellies full of coffee and onigiri, we ventured off to find Kongofukuji (# 38) supposedly 24 kms away. (yeah, right…)

Passed a couple of well dressed henros suffering in the heat.478

Temple 38 finally appeared on Cape Ashizuri-misaki after travelling 30 kms.

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The same henros were suffering even more so when we passed them on our way back from visiting the temple. We had done an extra 20 kms while they rested. My caring side emerged for just a second…..

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The locals played….


Smoked sardines…..


499and generally carried about their daily activities. (OK, that’s my attempt of an artistic shot of smelly fish.)

There was so much rubbish on the coast. The millions of bottles and cans in vending machines seemed to end up in waterways and on their way to the ocean. There were no public rubbish bins anywhere. Littering appeared to be accepted, making Shikoku look third world. The only disappointing part of the whole trip was the rubbish.

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Spotted a terribly fancy henro hut with beds, stove, table and chairs, even a washing machine! I was pretty close to curling up in foetal position and crying. They are never where we need one.

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Strolled past some dude dancing to Bob Marley. Two tents and a hut selling drinks that was advertising some Reggae night.

489After 55 kms, we were back to where we had breakfast for a late lunch. As we were not expecting any towns before tomorrow, we loaded up buying dinner and breakfast.
After all the trivial food was discussed, I asked Andy if he was buying any beer, as I was going to get a half bottle of red (seeing nothing was going to be kept cold) He said he couldn’t be bothered carrying anything for another 20 kms. He sure as hell wasn’t going to drink my rations!
We carried our purchases for the 7 kms back to our packs to continue north for a while.
After close to 70 Kms, what should emerge but a vending machine selling beer…. Andy smug. Me not so.

Not finding the advertised henro huts and being totally disappointed, we kept moving until we passed a park with a somewhat dodgy picnic table. Maybe it would do for the night.
After eating our banquet, it became obvious that Andy’s frame would not fit on one of the benches and could pose a problem if it rained. Andy went off in search of a toilet block that maybe we could call home for the night. Mission accomplished. 76km day.

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Woken during the night by rain. Oh how lucky was I to be tucked up in a disabled toilet. I had the room all to myself with a locked door. Andy was next door sleeping with the urinals. Happy days.

The “When will we shower?” game isn’t funny anymore.

13 Jul

Shikoku 837Day 9, Wednesday. 58kms.
Managed to sneek away at 6 am before anyone found us on the back deck of the restaurant. Yeah, I know. What losers.
Made sure fridge remained full of wine and beer and turned back on after charging our phones and GPS watches. Ventured next door to Lawsons to buy coffee. 9 days of bad coffee is better than no coffee. The little things you look forward to. Oh, and how exciting is it to find a real toilet instead of a squatty one!
Sat around in the sun before making our way to Temple 37.

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The ritual of having our heavy (well, you carry it for 1200kms…..) book stamped at each temple was a bit like a road block/checkpoint on The Amazing Race. We only had between 7am and 5pm to have them stamped and every one cost 300yen. Multiply that by 88 (temples) and there goes  Y26,400. That’s $300 Aussie dollars. Most expensive book I’ve got. Cheaper than a few marathon entries though.

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Long day, temps in mid/high 30s. We were pretty smashed by lunchtime, but continued along until we pulled up stumps in a small egg/ octopus restaurant around 2pm. Ordered okonomiaki and Andy also had ramen. We left the beer alone today. It was too hot and we had a fair way to go. Drank the restaurant out of water… consumed at least 2 litres each. Was going to leave this photo out but it tells a million words….totally stuffed by the heat.

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After filling up our water bottles, we ventured out for more hill and heat training. Found an old lady with an umbrella on the side of the road selling ice cream cones. Pretty sure she’d made the ice cream herself. Didn’t care if it was her breast milk. Anything to cool down.
Hot. Hot. Hot.



With a void of 82 kms between temple 37 and 38, we planned to make it to the other side of Shin-izuta tunnel, to a spot where we can leave our packs for the out and back tomorrow to Temple 38. Would be a luxury to ditch them for a few Kms and give our backs a rest.
After 58 Kms and going through the 1.6km tunnel we arrived at our destination.  There was supposed to be a Drive in Suisya restaurant but it looks like it’s been closed for years. There goes any chance of having dinner. There was however, a long row of vending machines and a toilet block!

Beside the disabled toilet was an area with benches. Score! No sleeping on the floor!

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Will feast on rice crackers as we are too stuffed to venture 3 Kms down the road to find dinner. That’s 3kms if you believe the guide book.

Pretty sure the sign next to our accommodation says “No sleeping here” or something along those lines, but gaijins can’t read Japanese. ;)

No beer, but had a good a choice of soft drink/coffee in a can……….

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Awake most of the night with cars idling, people talking, smoking and buying cans of drink.
4am… Old dude decides to use disabled toilet that has our washing strewn all over the place and my Suunto charging at the power point where the automatic hand wash water comes from. He hits the emergency button so sirens are going off. I go over to ask if he’s “Daijabu desuka?”  No answer. 5 mins later, alarms still ringing he emerges. The kind caring nurse that hasn’t been around for a while takes over, finds the cancel buttons to TWO alarms he’d set off and also manages to flush the toilet…. 😫

Let’s stop playing the game, “Where will we sleep tonight?”

11 Jul

424Day 8, 57 kms.

Pretty well expected to be woken up early by the toilet’s sensor light going off, which was getting a little monotonous. Happy to pack up, get outta there and make the climb to Temple 36. Disabled toilets are better used for their original purpose more than sleep.
Met a lovely 61 year old henro from Nara before stamp office opened. He looked no older than 35, this Buddha stuff seemed to work wonders with youth….
A monk going up to the temple with a statue in a baby sling asked us to touch it for happiness. Some rather strange sights were beginning to be every day occurrences….

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We had decided to take the harder trail and coastal cliffs instead of inland route and were rewarded with fantastic ocean and coastline views.

Plenty of wildlife. Passed a dead badger(? Got a photo but pretty sure you don’t want to see it……) turtle in river, stingray in bay. Stinking hot again. Should have gone for a dip. We stopped at a wood shop for a coffee…. weird place with a special chair for Andy….

432Shikoku 353

Met a Japanese and Chinese henro in a hut wearing every bit of pilgrim garb and offering us bean paste biscuits. I finally perfected my “Ki o tsukete” thanks to the Korean girl. It was a saying I had heard so many times and means “take care” (on your trip.) It can only be said to people as they leave on a trip, not to people that are staying in their normal surrounds. You can imagine how many times I said it to henros…. now that I knew I could.

Saw some great Henro huts including one with a bed in it! If only one of these could pop up around 5pm. Even 3pm. Just not to tease us when we still have 30kms to do. One really does wonder why there isn’t a beer vending machine next to the hut……

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Our day got a whole lot longer when the route we were taking was closed because of logging. We were sent up a road and through 5 tunnels on one climb. It was still stinking hot. We continued up, and up.

With 59 kms between Temple 36 and 37, we knew we couldn’t get to Iwamotoji (Temple 37) before the stamp office closed at 5pm.

We were given osettai of 100 yen from this lady with three teeth, then, another 100 metres along the same street, we were also given two small cakes from a bakery.


Around Shimanto town we thought we’d have shelter at the roadhouse, but it was too open and busy. Lawsons across the road was an obvious choice to buy dinner and then a walk to stalk a home for the night. After stuffing around and finding nothing, we manned up, got gutsy and found ourselves outside a closed restaurant called Loggers. To cut a long story short and leaving my dignity intact, I would have been happy on a toilet floor tonight…… anyhoo…. no toilet.

The back verandah of Loggers Restaurant became home for the night.

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Bonus fridge on the verandah, full of beer and wine was left alone, its power point though, was most appreciated….

Hey, you know that photo of a badger… maybe you do want to see it?421

Wooo hooo!!! Week no wash!!!

2 Jul 404

404Day 7….

How excited can one get about clean socks? :)

We collected all our stuff, including our rubbish, that we seem to have to carry every morning till the next 7-11 or Lawson, as there are no rubbish bins in the streets. None. Sadly, we do notice an abundance of litter in the streets, on the beaches, trails, forests…. everywhere.

We arrived at Temple 30, ZenrakujiI before 7am and waited for the stamp office to open. Andy was starting a ritual of enjoying the temple toilets. I waited for the stamp…then I waited for Andy… no photos, thankfully.

It was only 7kms to Temple 31, which was the best so far. Walked behind a bell ringing pilgrim up a steep trail to Temple Chikurinji, located in the beautiful Makino Botanical Garden. We had been taught how to wear our Sugegasa (hat) the correct way and got a kick out of spotting a Japanese Henro with his hat on backwards. I said “Mae” to him, telling him he had the front of his hat at the back… 😉 Smart arse alien. He thanked me.


Smart little henros read the guide book each evening to prepare themselves for the surprises thrown at them every day. Sometimes the book helps, sometimes it doesn’t…  like when shops have disappeared….

Today was a good day to be prepared. Between Temple 32 and 33 was a stretch of water. What could have been quite stressful, became a moment to sit, move and eat icecream. Taking us from Tanezaki Port to Nagahama Port with locals that had ventured over to do their shopping, we knew the ferry left 10 minutes after each hour during work hours. A few moments in shade with our packs off.

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We left our packs at the bottom of hill to make our way up to Temple 35, Kiyotakiji. A relief to get the weight of out backs and cool down a bit. Weird guy in car offering us sweets with ventriloquist looking doll in passenger seat… mmm?
Flea markets/commercial stalls outside and inside temple gate just didn’t seem right. Surely there is a more honorable way of respecting this way of worship?

Temps in the 30s was beginning to take its toll. It was hot.

Pushing on to a couple of Kms before Temple 36, we had read about a bus shelter that sounded better than the last few night’s accommodation… we found nothing.
No sign of a decent shed/bench/hotel(Ha!) to sleep, but found a park under Usa-ohashi bridge. Enjoyed watching the burning sun finally go down while eating dinner (yup, from 7-11) in the park with lots of feral cats hanging around. We had washed out some clothes in the disabled toilet and hung them under a pagoda. That’s where we thought we’d be sleeping, on the benches where we’d had dinner, but it just didn’t feel safe.

This was the only other option……..

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Disabled toilet that had a sensor light that turned on every time there was movement (;)). That bus stop from last night looks good now, doesn’t it?

Stench on a bench. Day 6.

1 Jul


Day 6. Sunday. 63kms
Bus shelter etiquette #101. The thought of some clean, well dressed Shikokan having to sit next to someone who hasn’t showered for 6 days (moi?) would not help Japan/Australia relations. We were getting savvy. We knew that the last bus left at 8:30pm. Time to roll out the mats and god forbid….. take off our shoes. Plenty of banter between the smelly Pom and the Potpourri Princess. ;)


We would be sure to leave the door open to rid evil aromas when we left.

As expected, Temple 27 was up a huge hill. We left our packs near the bottom and felt as free as a bird for the 4 km uphill!


Skirting the coast for the rest of the day, we got harassed / adopted by some woman who would not let us out of her sight. She was worried that we would be in danger on the road… I had to pretend I understood everything she said or she’d just raise her voice and almost hug us. She just would not go away, driving off, then stopping her car further up the road.  Andy found it so funny he filmed the conversation from the toilet. When we finally thought we’d brushed her off, she offered us osettai…. lemons.

We spent some time on a cycle path where we were passed by a couple of henros on bikes. We had been playing leap-frog with them for the last couple of days. They would laugh as they passed each time wondering when they would finally shrug us off. I was now quite envious of their panniers.

After heading inland and being 38kms past  Temple 27, we found Temple 28. Now it was a do we, or don’t we rush to Temple 29 before the stamp office closed at 5pm. Of course we do.

Dinner bought at Family Mart included a couple of Asahi for when we finally stopped for the night. It was becoming some ugly game to see what we could find. Dreaming of sleeping on something soft, a BBQ, spa, masseur and a power point… there was supposed to be a numbered henro hut called Kamohara around the corner, we were hopeful for something special.
Walked a further 4 kms before we found a bench. (OK, so the numbered henro huts aren’t so special anymore.)


Made of bamboo slats with trickling water and a POWER POINT, it was the perfect opportunity to do some washing and charge up the phones and GPS. No privacy from the road, no toilet, but at least we found a couple of brooms to sweep out the cigarette butts. The ashtray was full and a permanent fixture that we couldn’t move. It was immediately covered with a plastic bag to stop the smell.
Mozzies everywhere…..

Total distance for 6 days, 342kms.


Bus stops, beer and Buddha.

30 Jun


Day 5. Saturday.

So happy to roll off the bench and pack up our stuff after a bad night with no sleep. At some stage we are going to have to catch up on some much needed sleep if we are going to finish this in 21 days. The info we had found before we started, was that most people took over 40 days to complete all 88 temples. In one questionaire, only one person had recorded a fast finish in 29 days. Who the hell did we think we were expecting to finish over a week faster?? We had no idea what the trail or weather was going to be like. No idea, no clue.

We dusted ourselves off and headed down the coast for 21 Kms to get to #24, Hotsumisakaji Temple, located down on the tip of Cape Muroto-misaki.

We found Mikurado Cave where Kukai (Kobo Daishi) trained. It was a pleasant cool down in the cave before we made the steep climb up to Hotsumisakaji.339

351Steep climb up, steep climb down….

There was only 6.5kms to Shinshoji Temple, one of my favourites so far. Located in a fishing village (well that’s what it looked like) with friendly locals and interesting wildlife.354



Lovely small shopping street with great atmosphere where we bought an ice cream from an okonomyaki shop. We should be eating there. It was lunch time and I’m through with eating bentos from 7-11, Lawson and SunKus.
Lunch wasn’t going to happen here. We only had 4kms to get to Kongochojo with a short but sharp climb of 250 metres. Let’s get it done. Business before pleasure.


372375There was a pleasant, peaceful atmosphere here, above the hustle of Muroto City.

With almost 30 Kms to the next temple, and no way we’d get there before 5pm when it closes, we went and explored Kiragawa Antique street, where the area looks the same as it did in the late 19th century. There was a red banner flying which was a sign to an Okonomyaki shop, all in Japanese. I followed it down a little alley to a tiny restaurant. Two tables with hot plates, an old couple who own it with no English . Pure gold. Lots of laughter and broken Japanese and Asahi Beer. Andy’s first experience with the delicacy. Pleasure.

In the end we paid 2,000 yen for the beer and were given the meal free.

Happy, refreshed and full of beer and okonomyaki we continued on our way in the heat.
Back on the trail to get as close to #27 following some beautiful coastline.


The weather started to close in and we were pretty keen to get shelter before our packs got wet. We had plenty of food in our bellies and packs.
We had done 57kms, it was raining and after the disgraceful choice of accommodation last night, we hedged our bets when we found this…..

386 Yep, another bus shelter for the night.

64 km from Princess to Pauper.

29 Jun


Day 4 Friday. 64 kms.
I enjoyed my second beer, celebrating like a princess in our palace before retiring for the night. We were pretty relaxed about leaving our phones and GPS watches charging in the toilet. Happy to say Japan hasn’t disappointed us in the honesty stakes and we felt incredibly safe.

After a peaceful night, we climbed down from our beachside henro shelter to do the 10 kms needed to reach Temple 23. Hopefully, there will be a Sun Kus shop (like 7-11) a kilometre past it… Yay! 11 kms till breakfast… maybe.
Lots of stair training, pretty much every day.


There were loads of school kids out and about today. They were acting like they’d never seen a gaijin and were getting a kick out of saying “harro”. We played the total alien, saying “gidday” and acknowledging their attempts at Engrish.
A strange rustling in the bushes gave us our first encounter with a monkey! No photo proof, hopefully we’ll get another opportunity in the next 1,000kms.
Mid morning, we spotted a brand new Henro hut on the side of the road and went to investigate. Inside were two old ladies who insisted on making us green tea and giving us some rice crackers. The hospitality of the locals was amazing.  We were pretty keen to get moving as the next temple was not within reach today. Surely we could get to Temple 24 tomorrow morning some time….. If we believed the book it was 76 kms from Temple 23…..


Today was pretty much about skirting the coast with lovely beaches and  views.


Along the coast there were signs to tsunami shelters and what the height above sea level was. I had expected more tourism and towns along the coast, but it was pretty much deserted. Every once in a while we’d hear loud alarms ringing out. Should we be running for the hills? We had no clue.

Fireflies littered the skyline as we started to case the joint for free accommodation. It wasn’t looking good. As the light started to fade we were going along a road that wasn’t  offering any options. No choice but to put on our head torches (for safety) and keep moving.

So, this was the best we could find…
Bunkered down in a crappy bus shelter.  Dirty. Haven’t showered since Sunday. Worst hotel yet.

The view.. not quite like last night. The only excitement overnight was a few hoons (yep, Japan has a few..) racing down the street 2 metres from our bench and a truck that stopped to deliver papers to the foot of my sleeping bag. Like 10 centimetres from my feet…

Total distance in 4 days, 222kms.



Shikoku ain’t flat…. I Shikok u not.

27 Jun 264

Day 3. Thursday

The best thing about sleeping beside a major highway and being awake all night with road noise, rain, wind and one eye open, was knowing there was a bad coffee brewing at the 7-11 just down the road.
We stocked up with plenty of food weighing our packs down as we would be leaving Tokushima city and venturing back into the mountains.
Temple 18 and 19 were on the flat before we found hills, bamboo trails and mountains for Temple 20 and 21. Tough trail, but stunning.


Big climb up, meant big climb down. Took a wrong turn coming out of Temple 20 which involved a lot of elevation… No thanks to the bus driver that sent us down the wrong way… back to Temple 19. Nearly lost my zen like state. We’d seen this from Temple 20….


That little arrow was where we were heading. Down we went to the beautiful Naka river crossing and followed the river up towards Temple 21. Really pretty but beginning to question if we could get 67 more temples done before hitting Nirvana if this was what we were in for.
Beautiful tough trail, temps in the 30s and with a pack that was running out of food again.


Hot and struggling after over 50 kms, we knew there would be shops as we neared one of the prettiest beaches on the island…. or so we thought. Had delightful conversation with two old ladies (or I think it was delightful?) they directed us out of Tainohama beach in search of food….
An old Japanese guy started having a chat with us in his broken English. We  asked if there were any cafés or shops to buy food. He said “Japan very small country, no shops”
Great. We wandered on our way south until we heard him running up behind us “You need food? Bread?”
Ahh, YES! “Follow me”.
For 10 mins we followed this guy through some tiny streets. Everything was closed . He opened a shutter to reveal a FOOD SHOP!

Andy couldn’t get past the ice cream he wanted 5 hours ago. I went for inari.
Paid the lovely old boiler for all our supplies, except the inari that she gave us as “osettai”. (gift for pilgrim) Did we really mention beer would be good? ….. Oh o….
Off we went along the street with the old guy to the closed beer shop ….

4 Cans of Asahi in our possession, we bid a fond farewell to our best mate and went off in search of a bench to consume an ice cream and a beer before wondering where the hell we were going to stay the night..

Walked off the sea wall with beer in hand looking at boats and thinking that was an option as sleep quarters, when we stumbled on our gift from Buddha … A cubby house!


Even better than that, there was a toilet beside it with a power point to charge our phones and GPS watches!

Let’s hope the weather is kind to us tonight as there was no protection from the elements or mozzies. This being homeless gig is kinda cool though. Wonder when we will be able to wash?

Hungry hills.

26 Jun

Day 2 Wednesday
Sleeping with two alpha males was not the nightmare I expected. Peace reigned over the mountains and there was no exerting their manliness via a noisy nasal band of sinus sufferers. The small hut, with a 6ft 6inch French guy and a short 6 ft 1 inch Englishman was cosy….. my midget like stature had me sleeping on a mat folded over three times while they had single cushioning.


Awake before the sun came up at 5am, we were keen to get moving and find food. We were hungry.
We left as Idris sang God save the Queen in fine French accent.
TOUGH hills…. no shops…


Made me think my GNW 100 miler days are over. Pack is heavy. Henro hat, stamp book and stupid stuff to carry. Bloody pilgrim “journey”.
No food…… mountains. Miniscule Cliff cookie for sustenance until the 6 Kms of mountains is complete.


Should have done a Bear Grills and killed this dude..


Would have swallowed the bugger whole. Starving.

Vending machine at Temple 12 will deliver coke… surely…..

Through the woods with steep climbs towards Temple 13, 21 plus Kms away before heading down to the river. Oh, great. Hungry? Much?


Hot and not enough food. Pushed on. No wonder the locals catch the bloody bus. Never believe the book. Shops are not always there….

Tokushima! Finally we found a Lawson (like a 7-11) before Temple 17.  Decided to keep moving forward towards Temple 18 until we saw a fine Scottish restaurant where Andy consumed numerous variations of super sized dishes from the menu.


Stopped at a Lawsons to stock up… because we could….

The Henro hut we were looking for at a major intersection ended up being a tool box that was locked and not big enough to squat in…. Pushed on a couple of kilometres. It was getting dark and we were on a major highway. Finally, on the side of the expressway… we were in luck. No doors, noisy and pretty windy, but, home for the night 😒



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