Saturday, 30 May 2015

To Kyoto - 28th May 2015

In spite of all the deer and whatever else making noises I had a good rest last night. I packed up early in case someone was going to come up and get upset by my presence, so I set off rather early, and as I was descending the mountain I saw this creature:

I think it was a baby fox

Its mother was nowhere to be seen

Regretful that my camera does not take better photos when zooming

On the wildlife so far, I have seen deer, mountain goats, a wild boar, lots of snakes, a civet, squirrels, hawks, cranes, so many different, interesting and annoying types of bugs I can't even count, and monkeys. In almost every instance the animals run off as soon as they see me, and the only attack (if you could consider it that) I have suffered is by the bugs the other day. Oh, also the snake biting my trekking pole when I poked it to see if it was alive. Apart from that I think the wildlife offers little threat in Japan.

The rest of the day was rather uneventful, with the trail leading me into the residential areas around Lake Biwa just outside Kyoto, and then up Mt Otowa:

The trail took me along the Seta River

It runs into Lake Biwa

And then through some suburbs


And then out of town to Mt Otowa

Back into forests
At the top provided a view of Kyoto
I had been on the trail for six days straight which was enough for me, and earlier in the day I had stopped at a convenience store to use their internet and booked a bed in a "space themed" capsule hotel in Kyoto. It has always been a ambition of mine to stay in one of these just to see what they were like. Basically you stay in dormitory style accommodation, but instead of bunk beds you are provided with your own "capsule," think of an oversized coffin with a bed in it. So I got down from Mt Otowa by 3pm and I caught the train into Kyoto from Otani station. I had a bit of trouble finding the place, but I eventually did and was not disappointed by the theme:

The "Men's Space Room" 
It felt like I was in a scene out of the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey 
I checked my GPS data and I have now walked 991km in total. I am going to take a few days rest here, and then finish off the last section of the walk to Osaka, which I think it will take me another week and a half or so, just in time as it is getting hotter every day.

Distance: 24km

Hot Day, Mountaintop Temples and Noisy Deer - 27th May 2015

I was lulled out of my sleep by the sound of machinery churning and trucks getting loaded. I poked my head out of my tent to find abundant sunshine, with not a cloud in the sky. By 7am I could tell it was going to be a hot day as I could already feel the sting of the sun on my skin. I had some coffee and are the bread I had bought the day before, packed up my things, said a goodbye to the factory I camped above and set off for another day of walking.

A garden in a temple I passed early in the morning
The village of Konan
This was just outside the village of Konan, and reminded me of the tunnel in the movie Spirited Away
What do you think?

I then moved through some farming valleys

As I was walking past some houses this man spotted me and asked if I wanted a coffee. We sat down on a couch in his garage and exhausted about all the topics my limited Japanese is capable of. He gave me some snacks to take with my and wished me a good life.
I think Shiga prefecture has been neglecting the trail infrastructure, because today I found much of the same as yesterday:

Trails washed away

Stairways cut in half

And crap washed all over the track
By 11am it must have been over 30c, and I took a break under the shadow of the expressway I passed under once again:

After a month and a half of walking the trail I have come to the conclusion that the Tokai Shizen Hodo is definitely not a "wilderness" trek. I don't count it as a bad thing, rather, I'm just telling it how it is. About half the time you are passing through towns, cities or villages. And even in the more natural areas there is often some sort infrastructure around (not counting the trail itself of course). I guess this is not surprising in a country with such a high population density as Japan, with an average of 349 people per square kilometre compared to Australia's 2.9. Don't get me wrong though, I would definitely still call the Tokai a nature trail, you regularly pass though some of the best nature Japan has to offer, but it just does not feel like the "wilderness" like in other, less densely populated, countries.

I marched on and took a small detour to resupply at a Seven Eleven, and then started up another mountain road in the heat going through copious amounts of water:

I stuck to the shade as much as possible but I felt like I was overheating by the time I got to the top
There was some trees and shade that were a godsend and took a long break at them
The trail then took me down through a rice farming valley and along this river. I was running out of water but did not want to refill from it. After seeing the deer skeleton in the water I have been hesitant to take water from them, and this was a low lying one that I'm sure had the run off water from wet cultivated rice fields running into it, so it could have been filled with all kinds of chemicals/pesticides.
Fifth suspension bridge of the trip
I ended up begging some water from some security guards out the front of some kind of research complex in the middle of a forest area at the base of Mt Taishin. The first guy seemed hesitant to let me get anywhere near the complex, then the more reasonable supervisor came over and said it was fine. I then made my way up to the top of Mt Taishin.

Not the funnest thing to be doing at the end of a hot day
My GPS indicated there was a temple at the top with no direct road access, meaning that it would likely be empty at night, meaning I could possibly sleep there. I wasn't disappointed:

Like I thought, nobody was around, and there were ample spots to set up.
Up the very top of the mountain there was this structure built into the side off a cliff
With an open room that looked promising
I considered setting up in it, but I did not want to risk desecrating any holy sites...
...and the thought of this guy staring at me all night kind of creeped me out
So I moved down to the main temple building and set up off to the side
So is sleeping alone on to of a deserted mountain at a temple scary? A bit, but I try not to let my thoughts get the better of me. It does not help that I can hear deer calling out to each other making this kind of noise:

They move around as well. It's about 9pm now and I can just heard what sounds like a stack of wood falling over. I'm now going to climb into my tent, watch some TV and try to ignore any more noises I hear.

Distance: 30.2km

Friday, 29 May 2015

Broken Trail - 26th May 2015

It was a bit rough going for most of the day today. To begin with I wasn't in the best of mood when I awoke. I find the place I pick to sleep can really effect my morale first thing in the morning. If it is a nice, open spot with sun and a view I feel on top of the world, but if it has none of these, like this morning, I grumble to myself the whole time I'm packing up. To make matters worse I ran out coffee the day before and had none to drink. So I wasn't in the best moods when I set off.

The first half of the day felt more like the Kokoda Trail than the Tokai Shizen Hodo; it was all up and down, and stiflingly hot. A lot of the trail infrastructure had fallen into disrepair too:

There are meant to be stairs here

and here

In parts the track had been washed away

Often exposing whatever lay underneath
The bridges were falling to bits too. With this one enough dead trees had washed up against it to start pushing it to one side.

And I swear this one almost broke as I crossed it. 
I did see some really nice things along the way though:

Somewhere on Mt Nasugahara
There was a really picturesque river the trail followed
That provided many perfect looking swimming spots like the other day 
I resisted until I got to this one, and then went for a dip
I got out and walked a few hundred metres up the trail and saw this skeleton of a deer in the water. It had been long dead and I doubt it could cause me any harm, but it did remind me that I should treat my water before I drink it.

And finally the road out of there, about two hours later than I expected
I had cooked the last of my noodles somewhere on Mt Aburahidake, and by the time I got down I was starving. I hadn't had a non-instant meal in two full days, and the thought having something fresh was getting me extremely excited. Instead of continuing on the trail and facing unbearable hunger, I decide to take a detour that added a few kilometres but took me past a town that would surely contain a supermarket.

The problem with going off the trail though is that the roads can be dodgy. Trucks were zooming past me and I was often hugging the fence

I took the back streets a much as I could to avoid being run over
But this added more time, and it was getting hot

And it felt like the road just kept going on and on...

Six kilometres, some sun burn and a litre and a half of water later, I rolled into the town of Koka and went to the first food store I saw:

A fruit and vegetable shop
Where I bought a grapefruit and the biggest apple I have ever had in my life. My body absolutely loved me for the fruit 
Then I rolled along the main drag a bit further and came across a supermarket
I could barley contain my excitement sitting down to eat this
It's kind of funny, whenever I go into a supermarket when I'm on the trail I'm about as inconspicuous as a punch to the face. I waltz in a foot above everyone else, often sweating, dirty and disheveled with a huge backpack on my back. I take a basket and try to go about my shopping, all the while people keep giving me sideway glances. At the counter I always ask for extra plastic bags, chopsticks and moist towelettes if they have them (as if I get enough of them I can use them to get myself semi clean), they all come in useful, and the ladies who work the counter always have to wait while I try to fish the right change out of my ziplock bag that doubles as a wallet.

I got back on the trail and hiked another few kilometres before I began keeping a eye out for a spot to sleep. Around 6pm I found this place overlooking some sort of factory the trail passed by:

The funny thing though was that this factory, and the park overlooking the factory, were really in the middle of nowhere. I mean no town or anything around them. It was kind of odd, but a great spot nevertheless.

I got set up and used my superior view to watch the workers go about their business for a while.
I couldn't be sure but I think these were the mountains I came from two days earlier
The sunset turned out to be really good
Taken about fifteen minutes after the first one
After seeing that awesome sunset I doubled down on the good times and had fried chicken with rice for dinner and a bag of cookies for desert. And so although it was a hard day, the end has definitely made up for it, and I'm feeling very content right now. I think I am going to watch a episode or two of the Simpson and get some rest.

Distance: 30.5km