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1200 kms around Shikoku

22 Sep Shikoku 2450

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……..

780If I’d had my pants on I would have pee’d… just a little bit. I was so excited to interrupt Andy’s breakfast to show him. Someone tell me this is not normal behaviour for someone my age.

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.
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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.
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54 kms today with some mountain climbing early tomorrow.

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.
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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…
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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.
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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.
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Going to be a cold night up here.

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.
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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.
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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…
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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.
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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.
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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.


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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!
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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.
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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.
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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…
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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.
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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.
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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.
Coffee drunk.
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. Shikoku 2352


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.

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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!)

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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.

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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.

Shikoku. Day 12-16. 875kms of hills and filth.

11 Aug

Day 12. Saturday, May 30th.
The answer to the question everyone is asking me is “no”. We haven’t showered since we left Sydney 14 days ago……

Two smelly soldiers had 33 kms to reach Temple 41. It was “stinking” hot. Drinking Pepsi by 10 am. Thank Buddha for cold vending machines.


Temple 42 (only 2.6 Kms over the hill) is where you pray for your animals. A quick “hello” to my old Bernese Mountain Dog, Darcy and chat to the Monk doing our stamp. He had a toothache I asked him if it was tooth hurty, and he said “no it’s 1 o’clock….”


The rain started.
A man in a car offered to drive us to Temple 43, 11 kms away… I had to decline even though you should always accept “osettai”. Beautiful temple.


We walked along a main road to find lunch in the rain at 3:30.

We stayed on the road in the hope of finding a toilet floor to dry out and possibly call it a day. We found two. Both were locked. Someone must be on to us….. On we plodded in the pouring rain. Maybe our tents were going to have to come out finally. The thought of having to carry a wet tent in our packs tomorrow kept us moving. Trucks splashing any road puddle seemed to venture much higher on my body than Andy’s…

We were hoping to eat the soba noodles we’d bought for dinner in some fancy accommodation. They were eaten in a bus shelter while we were intermittently splashed by the trucks.

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There was no choice but to continue on. We found a nice verandah of a closed shop, but a barking dog next door made us move on. After a few kilometers of very wet road, we spotted a henro hut with no walls. It was more like a picnic table. The rain was coming down and it was windy. Trucks hooning down the road meant a noisy night, but we managed to dry out some of our gear.


Day 13. Sunday, May 31st.

No shower appeared. 2 weeks, no wash.

The next morning was misty but dry. Beside the hut was an antique portaloo…. more like a drop toilet. I would rather squat in the bushes than die of the vapour that infused into my brain when I opened the door.
The mist lifted and we had another stinking hot temple free day to run. The distance between Temple 43 and 44 was 68.3kms.
First break after 15kms was Maccas. One Maccas meal a week is pretty welcome. They have dry tables and chairs and sometimes power points! (yeah, ok, they have real people’s toilets as well…)
Another offer of “osettai” in the form of a Japanese couple wanting to drive us to a temple. A polite ” ii e keko des” and they drove off.
It was a two ice cream day and the lunchtime stop involved me taking off my top at a tap in a small village to wash it. I really think I’m beginning to smell…
Big climb at the end of the day after following the river for most of the day.
Bought dinner as we just knew from experience that we’d find an appropriate spot to rest our weary legs. We’ve really scraped the bottom of the barrel so expectations are pretty low…..
Henro hut spotted, but the toilet block 50 metres away near the Sports Centre was even better with power points!

Ate dinner then went to attempt to splash myself in the ladies loos.
Vending machine with flashing lights was a welcome disturbance for the night. Better than highway noise.

Day 14. Monday 58.5 kms
Temples 44-50
Left our pack hidden in the henro hut garden and went to Temple 45 before going back to 44 and picking up pack. Nice to get 20 Kms in without the load.
Temple 45 was so remote. Cave to an alter. Huge rock face.
Beautiful trail to get there. Pretty special being out as the sun was rising through the trees.
Back to temple 44 before cranking up the heat and doing the 17 Kms to temple 46.

Hoping to get through Temple 50 before stamp office shuts at 5pm. Got there at 4:30 pm with the usual mind games starting of where we’d be sleeping. With 10 kms between 50 and 51, we made our way past Dogo Onsen a hot spring believed to be Japan’s oldest at 3,000 years.

God I need a wash! There were beautiful people walking around in kimono looking clean. I don’t think we’d have been welcome.
After going an extra 5 Kms, we stopped at a supermarket to buy dinner and breakfast. Out the door to find sleeping quarters for the night. A Golden archway just down the road was a missed opportunity to have sat at a table to eat dinner…
Spotted a green metal fence that spells school, or park. In to investigate potential sleeping quarters. Kids were playing.
Oooh, toilet block. This could be digs for the night……
The worst effing choice. Ever.
By 9:30 pm we’d decided the disabled quarters was prime real estate. By 10pm we were seriously regretting our smugness as some Japanese dude lit up a ciggie a metre from the door which we had left a shoe in to ventilate the stench that was in there before (yes, BEFORE) we arrived. Then the cavalry arrived. 4 or 5 dudes now shining their torches in to see who we were. I had my sleeping bag over my face in the corner while Andy was lying across the door with no shirt on looking like something from a concentration camp (oh, that’s not a good thing to write… Stuff that. This is MY blog.) One guy was asking in broken English some questions. I would have just answered with “Henro” but didn’t want to give it away that one of us was female. I’ll let Andy deal with it.
Finally left alone. For an hour. By midnight we had another visitor. These nights in cities (Matsuyama) bring a totally different problem to finding a home for the night and getting 60 Kms done.

Mozzies were atrocious, the smell shocking and seriously stifling conditions.
Up at 4:30am (I did not sleep) put all my gear outside the toilet and breathed.

No complaints from Andy. We were outta there. “Ohayo gozaimasu” to the old lady gardening at 5 am getting weeds off a path but leaving rubbish everywhere. There is so much rubbish lying around and not a bin in sight.
We carried out our rubbish for over 10 kms before we found somewhere to dispose of it.
Off for another full day with no sleep. Stuffed… my hair is the dirtiest it has ever been, lucky I don’t possess a mirror.

Tuesday Day 15. Yes, we officially smell.
Nothing exciting about the two temples this morning.
What was exciting was being offered “osettai” of 500 yen and then later in the morning meeting a lovely old couple who just didn’t want to leave us alone….
So much so, the old lady who had been walking with her husband appeared on a motor bike 20 mins later with “osettai” Nibbles and postcards.
She was so happy, spoke no english, and when I gave her one of my opal koala bear pins, she nearly cried.
We were skirting the inland sea on the north shore and could see Honshu. It made us feel like we were getting somewhere.

We arrived at Temple 57 at 4:30pm. After that, our plan was to find the henro hut up in the mountains with dinner from Circle K. It was raining. Any henro hut would do. Found it right on the road. No toilets, water or power, but that also means no jerks to invade our serenity.
Just wish I could wash my socks…
Weds. Day 16
Up at 2 am to stick plastic food container in the rain to soak my socks in. Voila, washed by 6am 😊
Still pouring when we got up.
Got Temples 58, with osettai of mekan (mandarin) and then 59 out of the way and started the 27 kms to Temple 60.

Yet another offer of osettai from a guy in his car giving us cans of green tea.
The 7 km hike up to 60 was beautiful.


Streams, trees and mountains hidden in cloud.

Total highlight of the day was the monk at Temple 60 stamping our books. He did UTMB (Ultra Tour Mt Blanc 100 miler) last year in 41 hours and had a Patagonia t-shirt under his robe!
His backyard is trail heaven.

I had to pay the 600 yen for both our stamps with a 10,000 yen note. When he came to giving me change he placed the money on the bench like a high rolling gambler! Great sense of humour.


Found Henro hut and toilet about one km from the next temple and wandered into town to the supermarket to buy dinner.

Ate at the Henro shelter then washed up in the toilets and charged electronics off the toilet fancy flush power point.
Thinking the toilet block may be warmer and more sheltered than the Henro bench……yeah, wait for it. This may get ugly…..

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

25 Jul

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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.

Shikoku 892

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.

Shikoku 828

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.

Shikoku 823

Shikoku 820
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.

Shikoku 838

Shikoku 840
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……….

Shikoku 850
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….

Shikoku 718 Shikoku 762
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.




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