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.

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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…

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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.

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

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Would have swallowed the bugger whole. Starving.

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

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

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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.

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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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88 Temples of Shikoku. In search of a higher being.

25 Jun image

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It’s been 12 months since I finished my pilgrimage from Canterbury to Rome. Successful in finishing the 2,300 km “journey”, (I still hate that word….) didn’t mean I found any higher being worthy of worship status.

After a conversation with Tim and Suse about some island in Japan that has a 1200km pilgrimage to 88 Temples, I was madly researching the island of Shikoku. After living in Tokyo for 5 years, Japan is a very special place for our family.

This search for a higher power didn’t involve any priests, just some cool looking monks with shaved heads and dresses. Could I reach Enlightenment? Nirvana?
He who must be obeyed was not keen on my determination to park myself on the trail alone in my tent. With the click of an email, I had a much taller, stronger but not smarter partner in crime, Andy.

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With a 6kg backpack carrying my trusty tent, sleeping bag, mat, clothes and everything I thought I needed for 3 weeks, we set off on our adventure.

Pete drove us to the airport at 3:30am for our 6 am flight via Cairns to Osaka. Arriving at Kansai airport at 5pm, we thought we should be able to get the 6:20pm bus to Tokushima… Until we saw the state of the Immigration Hall. Two and a half hours later we were at the front of the queue. That meant we missed the 7:20pm bus as well. The 8:20pm bus would have to do… except there wasn’t an 8:20pm bus. After being at the airport for almost four and a half hours we finally got on the last bus to Shikoku at 9:20pm. Hopefully we should be at our destination just before midnight. Wherever that may be.

We decided to risk being stranded and got off the bus at Naruto Highway instead of Tokushima, which was another 20 mins on the bus. It was the blind leading the blind. Ultimately we needed to get to Bando station near Temple #1. After walking for a few kilometres from where we were abandoned by the bus, we found Naruto Eki (train station), but no trains. It was past midnight. Fortunately for us, there was a cab parked outside the station. I asked “Ikura desu ka?” to Bando and we arrived at Temple 1, just 3,800 yen poorer.

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The map showed a park nearby, so we went looking for somewhere to sleep. German Park…. It would have to do. It was after 1 am and we’d been awake for almost 24 hours. The mosquitoes were monstrous, the howling wind didn’t silence the buzzing in my ears. Get used to it Trumper. At least there was a roof to our shelter.

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After a big day of travelling, only 3 hours sleep (I prefer to call it 3 hours of mozzie murdering) we were ready to start the road to Enlightenment and whatever the next few weeks threw at us.
Up early, mats and sleeping bags packed away by 6am, we waited for  the shop at Temple #1, Ryozenji, to open at 7am. Feeling like total tourists, we bought a Sugegasa (pilgrim hat) for 1500 yen and Nokyocho (stamp book) for 2,000 yen. Nothing like loading yourself up with heavy Henro (pilgrim) gear after being so anal about pack weight.
Off we went looking like two cartoon characters…

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Favourite temple of the day was Temple 4 where the Monk stamping our book had lived overseas for 20 years. It was his parent’s temple and he had a duty to come back to help. From what I could understand, if he didn’t, the temple would go back to the authorities? Getting our books stamped cost 300 yen per temple and took some time if we found a bus load of pilgrims when we arrived.

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At Temple 10, we chatted to a lovely Japanese man called Katchan who lives near Carmel in California. It was nice to talk to him and understand more about the Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. He is in Shikoku to visit his very sick brother.

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After visiting 11 temples, having our pilgrimage book signed and stamped at each one and travelling over 50kms on foot, we called it a day. We found a Henro hut after a steep 700 metre hike up over a mountain with a 6 ft 6 inch French guy called Idris inside. No shops, no dinner, just trails and tranquility. We didn’t know it, but that was to be the best accommodation we’d get in the next few weeks…

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We had very little in our packs to eat. Shops were 10kms down the mountain, past Temple #12. We could wait till then for food….

Last day to Rome

12 Jun

 

IMG_1817       My last night sleeping with Italian men… I left 2 of them sleeping soundly in the little village of Fromello as I disappeared into the day that I knew was going to be a scorcher.
I was surprised to continue on trail for a fair way before it became obvious I was about to enter a major city. The rubbish everywhere was disappointing. That breakdown lane below was a garbage dump.IMG_1818

Really Italy. You need to clean up your act. I’d noticed yesterday that there were TVs dumped in creeks and bags of waste just chucked. Bottles and cigarette packets galore 😠
Anyhoo…. Bought myself a gelato and some focaccia and made my way south. The roads were choked with traffic in parts and I was travelling faster than the cars. IMG_1822

At other times I was on ridiculously dangerous roads with no verge. Nothing worse than getting cleaned up in the last 15 Kms. The photo below was taken when there weren’t two lanes of traffic speeding towards me with nowhere for me to get off the road. IMG_1823

The signage wasn’t easy to follow and was once again grateful for Roger’s help fixing my GPS. It would have been like a stranger navigating their way from San Souci to Manly.
At one point I entered a park above Rome and sat for a few minutes. Not really thinking about much, not emotional, just numb really. I’d planned to get to the Vatican at 1pm and it was around 12. Just a big zig zag down the hill on shitty uneven trail and navigating a few more streets and I was there.

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It was 35 degrees and I was just beginning to realise that I wouldn’t have to do this tomorrow… Or the next day… Or the….
There were people everywhere. Not one was interested in me. These were your typical tourists walking 4 abreast and complaining about the heat and looking miserable as though they were suffering more than anyone else. Oh how I haven’t missed first world problems.
It crossed my mind too many times what the people really suffering would think. You know, the ones not on a holiday.

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I entered “The City” and felt like an ant with so many people around. I took a photo to let everyone know I had arrived while waiting for my Testamonial (a stamp and a piece of paper) and waited in line with a bunch of people complaining about their tour…..
30 mins later I was out the door with my prize. IMG_1828

I sat down amidst the throngs and searched for a hotel on my phone.
My phone went crazy with so many texts, emails, FB messages.
The support from friends has been huge and a major comfort in the last 6 weeks. It hasn’t been easy or fun, but I did it. I’m not doing it again, but I’m glad I have. If you know what I mean….

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Last 60km day … Forever! 😩😂

9 Jun

imageEffing hot, buying water in 1.5 litre bottles instead of Princess like 500 mls. The temps were in mid 30’s and felt every bit of it.

Pretty village of Capranica… all stone, lots of men drinking coffee and chatting in all the cafes. Just something they do at 8am before they start drinking wine an hour later…IMG_1805     IMG_1809

Did a bit of sight seeing around Sutri. Some of this shit is seriously older than me! Must google it when I get home to find out what I was actually looking at..

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From Vetralla to Formello should have been 53 Kms… Then why did my Garmin read 60kms? Those last 7 Kms ( and quite a few before then) sucked. Must be close to 40 degrees. Passed a pretty picnic spot but should never look into the rivers/ creeks. Rubbish galore. Bags of the stuff and a couple of TVs in this one.

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Passed an Australian couple (smart people had just day packs as their luggage was moved to the next spot each day) trying to sit in a square of shade out of the heat. A kilometre later, a girl from Luxembourg doing the same .. They weren’t impressed with distances either. There had been nowhere to buy water for too long.

I managed to contact the Australian couple the next day to try and meet up in Rome when they got there, but the man had collapsed just after I saw them and they were taking a day off.

Staying in Formello at Ostello Maripara for 15 Euros. Clean but no privacy. Nice view…

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Lying on a bed (bunk) two Italian guys in here as well, but they’ve gone to eat … I can’t be bothered going to get food.. or a wine.. I’m clean and shoeless. Not all that excited about finishing tomorrow… just sitting here wondering why the hell I decided to do this in the first place.

The building I’m staying in is pretty cool… all modernised on the inside but all original old stonework outside.

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So, tomorrow😳 who’s going to be in Rome??😔

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Stinking hot.

9 Jun

Kept awake by barking dogs most of the night, so got up early, packed tent away for maybe the last time? A hand written note 30 cms from where I was sleeping spooked me a bit when I woke. Made me realise how a tent has no security…. that’s my tent zip in the bottom left hand corner of the photo!IMG_1781

Beautiful around the lake before the rest of the world woke.

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Strolled around Montefiascone and then on to Viterbo and Vetralla. 56kms on the Garmin.
I was hoping to sleep at Monasterio Regina Pacis in Vetralla. The prices are rising the closer I get to Rome. These dudes wanted €30 but I told them I’d rather eat in my room than get some weird ritual placed upon me again and the price dropped to €20.IMG_1797

Good deal. They wanted to give me breakfast but not when I said I wanted to leave at 6 am.
The weather is stinking hot. Can’t believe the extremes I’ve had. Only a few weeks ago freezing conditions traversing snow.
So up and ready to go at 6 and I’m locked in. Took a bit of noise and 20 mins of walking around before Julie Andrews shows up to let me out….
Few hurdles still to overcome… my Visa card is very close to being in two pieces and I’ve hardly used it. Really wrapping myself in cotton wool and nothing (not even the German chick that coughed all night last night) will stop me getting to Rome.
Plan to not bush bash anymore after a shocker in a field yesterday.. Looked like a typical snaky spot and had prickles and welts all over my battered body. Massive shout out to Roger for getting my GPS waypoints loaded for the final 300kms. Saved me big time. Mwah xxxxx
Off to Formello via Capranica and Sutri for my last 50 plus km day. Temps expected in mid 30’s😩

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Sucking toes and cleansing soles

8 Jun

 

IMG_1765      Sucking toes? I thought that went out with Fergie! Last time I posted, I was concerned about saying a prayer at the dinner table. Not getting my feet caressed and kissed by someone that had stolen Batman’s cape! Woah!! Still not sure what it was all about but we had to say “Amen” a bit…
Ok..
Dinner was great. Nobody spoke English.

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Sleeping quarters were me, two German girls and two Italian men.
Pretty much what I’m getting used to 😩
Lucky me got a bottom bunk and top was spare.IMG_1770
Next day was a late start as we all (again) had to eat breakfast together. With temps now hitting above 30, I wanted to get going but there it was… The plastic covered prayer (yes, mine in English) to give me guidance on my ” journey” (god I hate that word)IMG_1771

I found a resting place for my dear, faithful, worn and weary Hokas on the side of the trail.

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Plan was to get to Bolsena as the accommodation looked like there was enough to choose from.
Pretty day through Acquapendente. Temps really getting up there. Fine if I didn’t have my pack and at least a couple of litres of water.IMG_1777
Got to Bolsena and some Italian ” mob” had hijacked all the Pilgrim beds. Tried another place but there was no phone reception… Hot, tired, smelly and ready to call it a day.
Damn it… I put my pack back on and walked on out of the town. Thank God I have my tent.
Reason behind no post last night … If you don’t have walls, you don’t have power points. No phone, no GPS, no Garmin…
My solar powered USB charger is working well but only want to use it in an emergency. (like getting lost)
Crappy nights sleep with dogs barking all night. At least I was warm and it didn’t rain.

 

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60 k Hoka happy day

6 Jun

IMG_1761Couldn’t have asked for a better day (maybe a hill or two less…)
Absolutely stunning. Dreaming of a bike or 6 with Lindy, Al and the boys.
Broke in my new Stinson Trail shoes delivered last night. 62 Kms and no worries. Even managed to get them wet 😒
The climb up to Radicofani was evil. You can see it for miles and know it’s a slog.

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Met a lovely girl climbing up. Her name was Elenor … I asked her if she had stayed at Ponte d’Arbia a couple of nights ago as her name was on my door last night! (She had!!)
They are making a doco. We arrived at our accommodation together but the God botherers wouldn’t let her and her friends stay there because they were “working” and not “religious pilgrims”!!! First time I’d seen that. Wouldn’t have known if she hadn’t told me🙏
So now I’m sitting on my own writing this and hoping to God they don’t ask me to say a prayer before dinner.. They told me dinner is at 8 and we all sit together and eat. First time I’ve done this .. wish me luck! Nobody speaks English, so I’ve prepared “hooly gooly round the table, fill ya belly while you’re able” Reckon I’m safe with that?image
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Hokalujah!!

5 Jun

imageHoka one one.. Two two!! Two brand new pairs waiting for me when I arrived today!! Thank you Roger for arranging with the European gurus. I was relaxed with finishing my run into Rome with my old faithfuls but when you think about it.. Would I start C2K 240 Kms in these sad soles.

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Monteriggioni to Monteroni d’Arbia

5 Jun

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I was defs the only one in the hostel last night without a penis. Instead of lying in bed listening to the walls vibrating from the snorers on the other side, I smartly got up early anticipating some chest beating and horrific early morning rituals from the cavemen.
Best day ever. Hope the photos do it justice. Apart from an hour of rain and a bit more mud it was pretty much the best day yet.  Thanks to Roger for all the help getting my GPS sorted at 3am this morning. Definitely worth a few hours less sleep to know that if I go off track (😜) I’ll be able to find the next way-mark.IMG_1729

Some great little villages …. and some vicious dogs. Shame this little Pilgrim refuge didn’t have a fence around it… and hot coffee… and pizza.

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So I got a bit off the track. I blame the big sign COOP. I was nearing Monteroni d’Arbia and thought, best get some food for the night as that’s where I was staying. Little did I know that it was 10 Kms north of the Monteroni d’Arbia where I was staying ( Ponte D’Arbia Localita)
So, with an extra couple of kgs of shopping, I hit Centro Cresti after 50 plus Kms.
What greeted me is worthy of it’s own post…

Naked men and flesh eating insects

4 Jun

 

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Holy CRAP!
Did I do the right thing or what??? I’ve just come into the hostel in Monteriggioni after having dinner with Roger (well he’s the only one up at 2 am to chat with on FB…) and there are naked men all over the place! Well, 3 of them.. All in a state of undress. Jesus Christ, put some clothes on! I splashed out and paid for my own room, otherwise I’d have to sleep with these sleeze buckets. I know I work with naked bodies everyday but thank God they are unconscious!

IMG_1721 IMG_1723Last night, in Gambassi Terme  .. I turned off the light after removing 3 ticks and was immediately a food source for the next needy soul. The damn mozzies ate me alive. Thought I’d try sticking toilet paper in my ears so I didn’t have to listen to them but every time they landed was like touchdown on a helipad. The sheets this morning told the homicidal axe maniac bloody story.
Beautiful Tuscany again today. San Gimignano, Colle di Val d’Elsa and now in Monteriggioni.
My Garmin Origin has no waypoint memory left, so I am now without it to point me in the right direction. Have waypoints in my phone, so lets hope I don’t get lost with another technology challenge.
Tomorrow I go through Sienna and hope to finish in Monteroni d’Arbia. Should be 50kms but my Garmin always ends up saying I’ve done more (whether I get lost or not) Weather is hitting high 20’s but defs feels warmer.image
Tonight was the first night EVER that I have eaten in a restaurant alone. Well, technically I was having a conversation with Stinky via FB messaging the whole time, so I really wasn’t alone. The other diners were a little concerned at how many times I looked like I was choking ( if you know Roger, you’ll know why) One glass of crap Italian wine and a pizza (no, I couldn’t finish it but I’ll have it for breakfast)
I’m now holed up in my room waiting for the shit to settle on the fan before I go to the bathroom, clean my teeth and lock my door.
…and it’s raining 😒

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