Takahara – Tsugizakura
The plan was to leave by 8:30am but by the time we all fluffed around, going to the toilet one last time etc, we finally hit the road around 9am. It was a beautiful clear sunny morning however there was no gradual “waking up the muscles” – it was straight into an uphill climb, albeit on a paved path.
The total walking distance today is 14 km (with some smaller side trips to see the oji) and although the climb was steep, it felt a lot more gradual than the day before. The minimum incline was 1.9% whereas the maximum incline was 21.9%!
What I hadn’t quite appreciated about this walk was how narrow the trails through the forests were nor the sheer drop off over the side. Not liking heights, and especially not liking heights without a safety barrier, on more than one occasion I felt very uncomfortable.
We quickly got into a rhythm with Zalie in the lead, usually followed by Jenny, Andrea and me at the rear. I liked to tell the girls I was slower as I was stopping to take a lot of photos (which I was) however probably not that many that the distance between us warranted. I like to move a steady, consistent pace and given I have hurt my knee once before going downhill, I was trying to be very careful with my footing. You see the route is made up of dirt and tree roots, through the mountain forests, so you need to be very sure footed. Also, after the typhoon there are a lot of cypress leaves and branches on the track; thankfully it’s not raining now. Goodness only knows how they carried the Empress all the way; no wonder 800 of them had to go for the journey!
At one point we (actually, me) well and truly lost sight of each other but I must say I was enjoying the tranquillity of the walk (even with perspiration running down my face). I suddenly heard “cooee!” in the distance. Needless to say, when we later met some Dutch women on the track and we told them we were from Australia, their reply was “we thought so!”.
It is Autumn in Japan now however very few of the leaves are turning yet. I guess like Australia, the seasons seem to be changing here too.
Lunch was a welcome break at the Kumano Kodo Nakahechi where the Zalie, Andrea and Jenny had a wonderful bowl of ramen with pork and I chose the Ume Udon, which was udon noodles and a marinated plum. Doesn’t sound appetising but it was delicious!
Back on the path again, heading toward Chikatuyu village, we stopped to check the directions. Zalie and Jenny headed slightly back up the path to confirm we hadn’t missed the turn off, then we were on our way again. About 500 metres down the road I realised I had left one of my poles behind. Zalie kindly offered to go back to get it and before I could say anything, she was off. I unloaded my gear and went after her and as I rounded the first corner, I saw a brown “thing” go over the side of the embankment. Walk closer I was suddenly face to face with a large, brown monkey! As soon as it saw me, it jumped into the undergrowth but luckily Zalie walked back just in time to see it disappearing in the opposite direction, thereby collaborating my story. My new name? Forgetme Pole.
After 14km, we were really looking forward to an onsen but unfortunately this inn was a little more basic than those before. We all opted to sleep in the annex – just like a 12-year old’s slumber party, without the music and chips! Again our beds were futons but they felt a lot thinner this time, plus I am convinced they raked the stones from the driveway and filled our pillows.
Luckily, I managed to “find” a softer pillow however it didn’t help much with my ability to sleep. I tossed and turn all night, never getting really comfortable and knowing tomorrow was a big day of walking. Ugh!!!