Day 17. Thursday
Slept ok in another disabled toilet, apart from the sensor light going off every time I moved.
Our phones and GPS units were being charged by the fancy flush toilet in my suite ;) so I ventured next door to the women’s toilet. A squatty one that I had mastered by this stage, even with 1,000kms in the legs. Just as I’d dropped my daks and got in perfect squat position, a vision appeared in the bowl. Maybe a stone in the water….. I was hoping. Take a closer look……..
I didn’t pee on him, (the rat that is…) or flush him. I left the place as clean as I found it.
Temple 61 was a bit modern for my liking. Met Tim Cornish from Calgary on a bike. A previous sub 2:30 marathoner before a bike accident, he knew more about the Henro thing than we did. We had our books stamped at 7 am and were told that Temple 62, only a kilometre down the road would not open till 8am. Quick stop for coffee after chatting with Tim and on to 62 where Andy and I played on the elephants while we waited.
Nothing special there either.
Temple 63 had lovely gardens and a few old people weeding. A further 3.4 kms to Temple 64, then 45 kms temple free for the rest of the day.
Moving faster through Saijo City than the cars, we were offered osettai of lollies from a lady stuck in traffic. Not satisfying Andy’s hunger, we stopped for a Scottish feast for lunch.
Later in the day, a can of Fanta, ossetai from a Japanese guy that felt somewhat Henro-stalkeresque. He had books of photos and comments from Henros from around the world. We were keen to keep moving through the heat and it took a while to shake him, but amazed at how friendly they all are.
Another couple of kms down the road and some guy had pulled over to give us a couple of bottles of cold water. Best osettai ever in the hot conditions.
Finished the day spending an hour searching for the Henro hut in a park which we eventually found.
Friday. Day 18
Packed packs at 6am and ready to welcome around 8 people sweeping the surrounds. (that’s sweeping rubbish and leaves off the paths but NOT picking up the rubbish)
Left our dwelling (aka park bench) with a good climb to temple 65 which wasn’t as bad as expected. The monk stamping was there early and we were stamped outta there by 6:55 am! As Sal would say “Time Extension!”
The 20 kms to Temple 66 looked like a mega climb. Before we started going up on the trail, a man stopped his truck to give us a can of black coffee. First osettai of the day!
Up we went from sea level to 1000 feet. It was blowing a gale, pouring with rain and freezing. Apart from Wednesday and today it had been stinking hot. It was heavy going with our packs and slippery trail.
The temples in the hills are so calm and quiet. Osettai from the monk stamping of rice crackers.
Lots of statues on the way back down.
The next 10 kms to temple 68 was mainly on trail. Wet and really cold all we wanted to do was keep moving, so on to 68 and 69 where they were stamped together and we met a Shingon Priest from the UK. Interesting guy. Should have stayed there the night and chatted. But no, we wanted to get to Temple 70 only 5 kms down the road. We were cold, wet and miserable.
At temple 70, the lady stamping Andy’s book asked where we were staying. We told her we had no idea in the hope they’d offer us a dry spot for the night. No such luck. We had seen a Maccas sign in our map book about 1.5 kms out of our way and thought at least we could dry out our gear….. As we came to cross the last road to the Golden Archway, we came to the distressing conclusion that Maccas was closed and being refurbished. The Lawsons next door just didn’t cut it. I hijacked the hand dryer to try to dry some gear (and warm my hands) while Andy was counselling himself over the lack of Mc Henro burgers and had no idea what to do.
After 30 mins of useless talk, we ventured across the road to Hallows. Open 24 hours. We dropped our packs in the corner and wandered the aisles while somebody made a deposit on Andy’s Henro hat! We did look kinda desperate.
After 3.5 hours there, we’d been to the 100 yen shop next door, bought rain pants and ponchos, pranced around looking like hobos, bought some food and a bottle of red, been to the bathroom to wash out some wet socks and dryed my top in the automatic hand dryer. Haven’t exhausted the potential of this place yet…
Or so we thought. The security dude thought we had…… Kicked out onto the streets at 10:30pm.
We trudged on through the town looking for potential accommodation. A shrine 5 kms further on towards Temple 71 was spotted by yours truly and we bunkered down on the concrete for 4 hours.
Saturday. Day 19
Up before daybreak incase we were given some strange Shrine-like ritual to perform. Fortunately the only voyeur was an old guy walking a dog.
Temple 71 was tucked into the side of a hill with over 500 stairs to get up to it. The best temple we had of all 10 we saw today. All the others were pretty much in town and lacking in character. The other highlight of the day was getting to the 1,000km mark of our trip, somewhere around Temple 77.
Osettai today from an old guy giving us a miniature figurine, a guy in a sports car gave us cold bottled water, temple lady gave us Yakult and cake, monk doing stamping at Temple 80 gave us ice cream and origami toothpicks. Winning.
Not wanting to lug a bento up the next mountain, we feasted on Maccas before a 500 metre climb towards temple 81.
Accommodation sorted near the top with fab view. Shame about the lack of walls, but it was in our budget. ;) Washed socks and feet in tiny stream.
Sunday. Day 20
Slept on a cold bench not quite wide enough to sleep on without falling off.
First night I’ve put my thermal top on and waterproof pants to stop the draft. At least there weren’t any randoms…. or rats.
Woke early, keen to get moving and warm up. By the time we got to Temple 81 it was 6:50am. Waited 10 mins for the gates to open. Lots of levels to explore, but too many commercial signs wrecking the stonework, buildings and garden. Monk stamping our books looked miserable but still gave us osettai of lollies.
Bought a can of hot coffee from vending machine before the 7 kms to Temple 82.
On the way there we had lovely trail and a couple of Henro huts. First one was manned by three old men who gave us cans of coffee, a bag of chips and rice crackers. Nobody could understand a word spoken, but plenty of laughs between us.
Another few kms down the road, we left our packs near the junction used to go to temple 83 and found the trail to a new Henro hut with a loft, nibbles and lemongrass tea. A brand new shoe free hut…. always found at 10am, not 5pm.
Temple 82 had lots of stairs, beautiful garden and a dark alcove around the temple to walk around. More candy from monk. We must be looking desperate…
A fair bit of walking in an urban area along the river watching rubbish flow by. A man tending his garden with three teeth yelled out to me to “chotto matte kudasai”. A few minutes later he emerged from his house with 2 bits of paper.
They had Y1000 and Marunuki on them. I thought maybe they were like gift vouchers and thanked him in my fine Japanese when I realised there was a Marunuki 200 metres down the road. We ventured inside to ask if the paper was indeed worth anything and yes…. Our lunch paid for!
Temple 84 was up a climb of 400 metres and by the time we got to the top we were slathered in sweat. Great view down from where we came from and again on the way out of where we were going.
Shitty horrid trail back down saw me take a spill. A combination of no tread on my heels, too much downhill scrunching of toes making me lean back and stupid pack laid down with too much food and water…. And shitty trail…. and trying to go too fast. Man up Trumper, it’s just a flesh wound.
We had one more temple to get to before 5pm. A big downhill and then another big uphill climb. It was only 6 Kms away but it all depended on the condition of the trail. We had 80 mins. Should be ok as long as there are no more slips.
A man up a ladder tending his fruit tree offered osettai (I think it was fruit) but I was too busy keeping up with Andy to be polite and accept.
Through the town and up the next hill, Andy again (or still) in front when a lovely lady again wants to give me “osettai”.
Andy kept climbing the hill while I had tea and lychee (I think) jelly, biscuit and rice pudding!
I had to decline second helping as it was 4:40pm and the temple 1.2 kms up the mountain was closing at 5pm. Andy would be a little agitated if I hadn’t got my stamp book signed before 5 pm! The plan was to then get off the mountain and down to town near Temple 86 for the night.
Searching for somewhere to stay was proving a problem. Andy’s Scottish friend raised it’s Golden Archway and we ventured on in to find a table next to a power point.
2 hours later I’m stressed as to where to sleep for the night. It’s dark and we have no spot. I suggested going back to the very exposed Henro shelter a km back down the road with no toilet in sight. We spent an hour walking around for something better before we ended up back there.
Considering it’s position, it was a pretty peaceful night. Up at 5 to get to Maccas for a coffee (and Andy for a burger or two, hash brown or two…..) before the 7 am stamping at Temple 86.
87 was bugger all 7 Kms later. It was all about getting to the last temple. 88.
We wandered into the Henro roadhouse and received our certificate of completion before the climb to 88. What a climb.
Seriously. Hands and feet scramble. It was so bad I reckon I had swear words coming out my mouth I’d never heard of…
To make things worse, I tried to get some stupid awesome shot up the top for Roger and lost my sunnies down the cliff. The Japanese guy we’d passed earlier had appeared and offered to get them for me but I told him that was what Andy was for…. I also made sure Andy left his pack behind in case there was something in it that I wanted incase he didn’t come back 😉
Thanks buddy. I don’t know if I would have ventured down there and I can’t read the map without them!
Monkeys! We had monkey’s today!!! They were playing Donkey Kong and at one stage bowled a rock straight down the cliff next to us. Duck and weave. They acted like naughty kids.
The trail down to 88 was tough. It was raining and windy. Andy was ahead and I took my time in the hope of not breaking an ankle. I got down to the temple with no sight of Andy. A few minutes later he arrived after waiting up the mountain for me at a lookout. After 1200 Kms I think we’ve been pretty lucky to not lose each other.
As expected reaching this point was not that exciting.
Our plan was to fist pump and move on to Shirotori Onsen and a “henro shelter” 9 kms down the trail. We were in rain jackets and ponchos. By 3 pm we’d found the glorified bus shelter…
and walked across the road to our choice of two Onsens. One had been closed for 2 years. We chose the other one.
400 yen later I was walking through the red door and Andy venturing through the blue. His first experience at an Onsen.
I washed my hair! With two cups of Onsen shampoo I WASHED MY HAIR! After 3 weeks of baby wipes, my body was smothered in soap and water and my hair was CLEAN!!!!!
Had great chats with naked Japanese women, weighed myself in at 5 kgs lighter. Got stinking hot in one tub and then relaxed in the bubbles while some old geezer with a hip replacement and more body fat than most Nihon jins watched over me.
We’d decided to meet back after an hour. I had used the hair dryer to fast track my washing while Andy found the beer vending machine. Knowing me well, he was smart enough to wait for me before a beverage at 4:55pm.
Next to the beer machine was the plastic food!
By 6 pm we were ordering Ebi tempura udon for me, Donburi, soba noodles and heaps more for Andy.
Sitting on the floor, charging phones and Suunto and drinking beer.
Life is good. And Andy doesn’t smell…..anymore.
Back in bus shelter. Windy and raining but so happy to be clean.
Last Day! Tuesday day 22
Up in the rain to finish what we started 3 weeks ago. It should be just over 30 Kms to get back to Temple 1.
The going was slow. Andy wanted to get on the busy road to find a coffee and food. After 13 kms we’d witnessed a guy on a push bike almost made minced meat as he turned right in front of a huge truck. He wasn’t at all fazed.
Stopped at 7/11.
Up some wet, slippery trail and down the other side before deciding to take a bit of road after even Andy had slipped.
Monkeys played in the hills before the road to Temple 1.
We received our stamp from the same office we’d bought the books from 3 weeks ago and were given two hat pins when they heard we’d done all 88 temples in three weeks on foot..
Spent a couple of hours drying feet, changing socks, taking photos, getting osettai of tea and biscuit in the shop with new friend Minako. She had set up her tent next to us two nights ago. Osettai at the temple gate from an old persons bus trip. Could have sworn they’d never seen a gaijin.
After offering our shoes to numerous people, we ventured to Lawsons to place said footwear in bin.
Gyoza and wine for lunch. Andy was into beer.
Found a table too close to the road, but spotting a powerpoint to charge phones and watches could not be passed up. Sat and ate. A young couple came over to talk (well sort of….) lots of laughing before conversing became too difficult. Sayonara!
30 mins later same couple arrive with sake and beer osettai!
The generosity of Shikoku to Henro has to be seen to be believed.
Spent the night in the German Park where it all started 3 weeks ago with another Japanese Henro and a fleet of monster mozzies. Quick trip to 7/11 for some granola to nibble on for dinner and a mosquito coil lit back in the shed with little effect on the killer mozzies. The noise was unbearable.
Awoke early in the slaughter house with a decent corpse collection. Proof of a crap nights sleep. Coffee from Lawsons and decision made to get to train station bound for Tokushima as we’d pretty much exhausted things to do in Bando.
Next train was an hour after we arrived at the station 9:45. 5 stops later and we found ourselves in the big smoke. Ventured out in the direction of a Henro hut to investigate potential accommodation for the night. Hut was useless but just up the hill was a Shrine. Quiet undercover area sorted for later that day as rain was forecast at night.
Trusting the locals, we left our packs (no, we carried our passports… we’re not that stupid.) I’d spotted Loft, Uni Glo and Muji for some retail therapy.
Andy in his Welsh/Scottish desperation decided he needed a stop at yet another Scottish establishment for a Mac Henro meal. I’d already cased a Yakitori bar that was packed at lunchtime and was on the agenda for an early dinner. A walk along the river in search of the joint and in we ventured to the last two seats in the joint… Right in front of the chef and the raw fish head.
In perfect Nihongo, I ordered namai beeru and Yakitori.
The haze of cigarette smoke and the loud laughter made for a colourful sight. The chef would get his phone out to translate what he was preparing. Sea urchin, Chinese yam, tuna etc. His phone was filthy!
Two beers appeared in front of us…. ossetai from a couple sitting near us. Arigato gosaimasu!
We left a very rowdy Isakaya a couple of beers later to find our abandoned packs exactly where we’d left them.
Up the stairs to the Shrine to organise our benches for the night.
Awoke to rain at daybreak 4:53am. Keen to be half clean for the evening flight to Cairns, I found the loo and got into clean clothes. Back to my bench to pack my bag when we became surrounded by little old women. I packed up and moved the benches back to where I found them. Andy had crap all over the place and benches not in the right spot for the little ladies to do their exercises.
He was in the middle of their exercise class. Hilarious.
We watched and waited till they had finished. (wouldn’t dare be rude and not stay till the end!)
By 6:30 we were back on the streets looking for coffee.
Crossing a road I had excruciating pain in my shoe. Breathless and with Andy in front, I couldn’t even yell to get him to turn around. Within a second I had managed to rip my shoe and sock off to see a 12 cm giant Japanese centipede fly out of my shoe. The pain was unbearable.
No idea what to do next. All I wanted to do was sit down and amputate my toe.
Spotted a bench 40 metres away and hobbled over. Andy had tried to kill the little bastard.
I needed to get my pack off but couldn’t let go of my foot.
What the hell was going to get rid of this pain?
Nice that Andy was speechless…. Doesn’t happen very often. Worried about toxins and how dangerous a bite could be, Andy consulted Dr Google.
“Rarely deadly” and “pain can last 48 hours” was the best and worst news.
I don’t know what would have happened if this event took place on some remote mountain we’d climbed in the past few weeks.
My shoes had been on for over an hour without any feeling of an alien invading. What the?
Google suggested hot water. Our very last day in Japan and this happens.
Andy took a photo of the beast and crossed the road to the 7/11 for hot water.
Nothing was going to help this pain. Not even the boiling water. If someone had said amputation would work, I would have gladly donated my toe.
After around 90 mins, we had given up the idea of exploring the city and Andy suggested we move a couple of hundred metres down the road to the train station and a Starbucks for a comfy dry seat. It was a painful, slow hobble. The “rarely deadly” bit sounded like anaphylaxis to the toxin to me. Not having any allergies, I was more worried about the pain than dying…..
I wanted to just get on a bus and get to the airport, but being a few hours travel on a bus, it was a smart move to stay put. If I had any issue, it was best to be in a big city. Google suggested getting to a hospital, but the thought of being stuck in Tokushima and not allowed to fly was not an option.