Japan 2019 Nakahechi

Day 10: Koguchi to Nachi

I know it wasn’t the food they serve here; it could be the good nights sleep; or it could be the Pocari Sweat I wrote about yesterday. Whatever it was, my legs were in fine form today.

People were already up at 5.30. As one is not allowed to wear your outdoor shoes indoors, one wears slippers provided by the place you stay.  At least where I stayed last night, they come in one size and are therefore often are either too big or too small, and end up making at lot of noise on the wooden floor, as one tries to keep them on or nor lose them.

In addition, the slippers all look the same, so when you leave them outside a dinning room or toilet, and there are other pairs, I can never remember which pair is mine. As they are all the same I wonder if it matters, as they are all the same, but I don’t know if the Japanese would rather keep the ones their own feet have been in. I have seen some people bring their own indoor slippers, perhaps for that reason.

The other day the receptionist at a hotel, seeing me trying to fit my tired size 44’s into a pair of slippers that were far too small, ran off to get a larger pair. At dinner that evening there must have been 50 pairs of slippers lined up. Of course, by the time I’d finished, my large pair were gone.

I got up at 6.00, breakfasted on egg and bacon, musli and toast and was on my way by 6.45. I reached the trail head by 7.00. Today’s menu was straight up for 5 km from 100m to 860m. Three more peaks and then down to the Shrine in Machi. Going up it was steps most of the way, as the gradient was 20+ %, in many places. For the first three kilometers, whole pathways had been kept from the time that many of the stretches were stone paved. The stones covered in moss, which gave them a beautiful look, but were slippy. You could really imagine pilgrims walking on these over the years.

I passed three Japanese couples, a group of four and two alone walkers within the first few kilometers. They’d all stayed at the same lodging or camped outside, and had set off earlier than I had. I was taking it easy, concerned about yesterdays bad legs.

I reached the top of the biggest climb within a couple of hours and whilst taking a rest, was surprised to see a group of middle-aged Japanese coming towards me. They told me they had left at 5.00, and I got the impression they would continue with the stretch I did yesterday to get to Hongu in one day.

After 5,7km there was a detour due to a landslide, so instead of going over a top, I was sent around the top. This saved 200m ascent, but added 2km in length. I met two other Japanese who were watching a hare, which then ran straight at me.

The next climb was on a main road, so whilst steep it was fairly easy. The final climb took me back up over 800m, before a relatively easy descent to 400m and the end of the Nakahechi trail. No welcoming committee, just lots and lots of tourists visiting the Kumano Nachi Taishi. I arrived at 12.30, so 5,5 hours after starting at the trail head. Below is what the actual finish/start looks like.

Whilst walking today, there were many examples of stone sculptures, where stones are placed on top of each other. There were two fantastic examples today, I believe supposed to look like ships.

I spent an hour walking around the shrine. Last year the main place of worship was closed for renovation – I suspect that everything needs to be perfect for the olympics next year – but was now reopened and spectacular. I bought a soft ice and walked to the three-tired pagoda, to the spot where you can see it together with the watetfall, and took a picture or two – just like last year. I was here a week later last year, and whilst by no means empty, there were only a few people, now there were people everywhere.

I walked down to the bus stop, but the next bus was in 45 mins, so I walked down to the waterfall, and probably took the same pictures that I did last year! On saying that, this must be one of the most photogenic places in the world.

There were still 30 mins until the bus came, so I sat down on a bench and waited. Whilst I waited three couples I had passed came down from the shrine. There was so much traffic coming up to the shrine, l’d say that there was a  queue of 3-4km when driving down in the bus, that the bus couldn’t get up the mountain. But of course the bus company had  thought about this, and given that the queue (and yes there was a real queue) of expectant passengers was already longer than could in one bus, two empty buses arrived, and somebody was on hand to make sure one got on the right bus.

The bus arrived Kii-Katsuura at 14.30, the train to Ise left, on time at 14.29, the next train was at 17.10 (and the last local slow train at 17.27). I had a couple of hours to kill so I walked to the harbor, and to my surprise there was a food market, that wasn’t open last year. So, for the first time on this trip I bought sushi. Given Kii-Katsuura is the number one tuna port in Japan, the sushi had to be good, so I bought an eight piece taster set and a glass of the local IPA, both were very good.

I then spent 30 mins in the communal foot bath, which my feet appreciated, before walking around a very sleepy town center.

I have written this on the train on my way to Ise, which I will visit tomorrow before starting the Kumano Kodo Iseji route on Monday, where I will walk back to the third shrine, the Kumano Hayatama Shrine in Shingu. Just now I am looking at the countryside I will be walking through next week. The train is a so called wide view train, so the windows are massive, and glass windows between the driver and the passengers.

I had to make a train change, and our train was delayed and due to a very short connection time I assumed that everybody running was going to Ise just like me. But they were running for the Kyoto train which I jumped on just as the doors were closing. I managed to ask a girl if this was the train to Ise and she said no, no, so I managed to jump off. So I took the next local train that was going to Ise-Kawanga (or something similar), but it turned out to be going in the wrong direction. I got off, crossed the platform and waited for the next train, which brought me to Iseshi.

I walked 19 km thanks to the detour and getting to the trail head, and 26 in total. Total ascent 1055 and descent 771, in both cases saving ca. 200m due to the detour.

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