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Published: August 13th 2008
its 12 days and 234km since my last blog. sounds like a long way but in fact i continued to battle with my feet and was thus slower than i hoped. but the good news is that my blisters and i have finally come to an understanding; i smother them with antiseptic several times a day and they only give me bother after six or seven hours on the road. you find me in kochi. im having a day off to appreciate its original castle, kochi jo, and to stock up on plasters and other goodies like sellotape to mend my collapsing map book, and a vest and shorts for these long coastal stretches. not being a henro for the day is quite refreshing. i think its the first time ive actually stopped, reflected and felt pleased with what ive done so far.
restless, i headed out of tokushima after my day of blister-waiting. i ignored my rebellious feet and reached temples 18 and 19. at 19, tatsueji, i stayed at the shukubo (temple lodging) and again participated in the otsutome ceremony. this temple is considered a sekishoji, a barrier temple from which only those with pure intention can proceed with
their pilgrimage. here i am though; the daishi must be with me, and quite forgiving of my partiality to a non-pious beedi and asahi in the evening...
the next day was mental. i had to visit two nansho temples (theyre also known as henro - korogashi, which means where a pilgrim falls down bloody difficult to walk to.) both were on mountains, and they were both beautiful (20 and 21.) exhausted, i found nowhere to stay and had to sleep on the ground outside a service station. not my finest hour. i got about three hours sleep and tried to ignore the resident cockroach. the next day was blinding hot. the henro walking route was overgrown and i had to use my staff to bring down giant spider webs. i made a friend, kenji-san, on the long walk between temples 22 and 23 but after a couple of hours we had to part. my feet were giving me hell and i didnt want to slow him down. by the time i reached the coastal town of hiwasa, and temple 23, i could hardly walk and i felt like crying. i stayed in a business hotel and defiantely walked 21 miles
the next day to shishikui surfing town. here, i finally did cry. eleven blisters! bloody feet! i soaked in the onsen, full of self pity (bathing naked in front of strangers not as alarming as i thought.) the next day i hobbled three miles to ikumi beach and stayed in a surfing lodge, contemplating whether or not i could continue with this pilgrimage in such a state, and feeling about ten years too old for the town, which was full of bikini babes and tanned guys. in a strange recurring pattern, though, whenever i hit my lowest of lows, i wake up the next morning energised and stride out thinking, damned if im going to let this beat me. thats how its been so far, anyway. so it rained hard as i walked for miles down the coast towards cape muroto, and i loved it. it was so refreshing after all the sun. for miles there was nothing but sea and jungle mountain. kites flew in the sky, red crabs scuttled in the gutters. i stayed at a fabulous little minshuku (family inn) in the middle of nowhere, ate delicious raw seafood prepared by the grandma and woke up to
a massive thunderstorm at two in the morning.
temple 24, hotsumisakiji,is not officially a nansho temple but it was for me. due to the subtropical climate on cape muroto misaki, i was attacked by an army of mozzies each time i stopped to rest on the punishing woodland climb to the temple. i counterattacked with spray but they just kept coming. it was like space invaders. in a cave here, and at the temple, kobo daishi acheived enlightenment, so its an important place on the pilgrimage. i spent the night in an oppressively tiny town near temple 25 and began to crave a big city to lose myself in. kochi became my goal. for the next couple of days, i headed north west up the coast. i found great sushi. i enjoyed some more hot spring bathing (two questions, though; how is everyone staying in there for so long without fainting? and why are we all wearing facecloths on our heads?) temple 26 was pretty and peaceful. temple 27 was a nansho temple, 4km uphill on a mountain and with a 45 degree angle on the final ascent. it was another sekishoji barrier temple, but the daishi let me continue.
the temple gardens were stunning. no more nansho temples until number 60 now. (im grinning as i type that.) then, yesterday, temples 28, 29 and 30. it was only a 13 mile day but it was exhausting somehow. perhaps i shouldnt have gone to the zoo in the morning. visiting a japanese zoo as a foreigner in full pilgrim regalia was something i hadnt really thought through. i was right up there with the red pandas as a highlight. i do have the potential to alarm people. thinking i was alone a few days ago, i sang a very enthusiastic version of the lightning seeds song, change, whilst at a vending machine only to look up and realise i was horrifying a little woman who was hanging up a sign outside her shop. its quite fun, though. and that brings me full circle to my rest day here in kochi. its lunch time - im thinking sashimi or udon noodles. mmm. im planning to try and walk 20 miles a day from here. it should be doable and will help make up for lost time. it will be hard work, but i have two goals coming up - first, the
remote cape ashizuri-misaki, then second, the border leaving kochi-ken and entering ehime-ken. ill need all the luck (and foot antiseptic) i can get. (apologies for strange typing, lack of caps, and spelling even worse than usual - this is a strange computer.)
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