Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Two Week Report - 28th April 2015

So it has been two weeks since I have started now, with twelve out of those fourteen days actually walking. Here are some stats from my GPS that I have collected:

Total distance travelled:          287km (an average of 23.9km per day)
Total ascent:                            10954m
Total descent:                          11749m
Max elevation:                        1485m

And for whoever is interested, here is some general advice about the trail so far:
  • Apart from the first day on Mt Takao, the trail signs have been pretty much consistent with the odd exception here and there. I would still highly recommend using the GPS file, or at the very least a map of some sort. There are places where construction is going on, or the trail is impassable, and the track has been rerouted. Up until now there have always been signs when this occurs:
    I suggest learning the Japanese characters for detour
    And in many places the track is marked by these ribbons:

  • So far I have not needed to go longer than a day and a half without a food resupply of some sort. The convenience stores are great in Japan with lots of meals and snack perfect for hiking. 

    I highly recommend getting a map that marks where they are. On my GPS I use two base maps that highlight their locations, the OSM map that you can download for free, and also the UUD Japan map you can purchase on their website: http://uud.info/en/map/. I switch between maps when looking at any potential resupply location because sometime one indicates something the other does not.
  • One more thing about maps, you definitely need a topographical map. As I have learned elevation really matters, and you will need to know how far you will be ascending or descending in order to plan accordingly.
  • On money, doing the trail is extremely cheap compared with conventional travel in Japan. As of yesterday, 13 days in, I had spent less than $400 AUD ($314 USD), this was including 2 nights budget accommodation in a private room.
  • If you are hiking alone, take a personal locater beacon. I regret not having one up until now, and I am going to see if I can get one locally. I thought before doing the trail that nothing is too remote in Japan to justify the need for one. But, it has occurred to me that if I break my legs up on a mountain and can't move, it does not matter if I am 2km from civilisation or 200km. Some of the trails I have been on receive little to no traffic either, particularly on weekdays, so you can't count on someone coming along to save you.
  • This Tokai is not for the faint hearted. Whilst it takes you through a town every day or two that you can resupply at, the bits in between, namely the mountains, are very gruelling on the body. Around 70% of Japan's land mass is covered in mountains, and the trail so far has cut a path right through many of them. Just know you are going up and down steep slopes for large amounts of the days you are walking the Tokai.
    Lots of these
  • It can be lonely. I can speak a bit of Japanese, but I still find the experience quite isolating. Some days you go the whole day with having little to no conversation with anyone, then you cook your solitary meal, climbing into your one man tent and go to bed. Personally, I don't mind it too much and have dealt with it much better than I expected. I find being able to watch an episode of my favourite TV show, or listen to some good music, goes a long way in alleviating any loneliness I feel. But just know if you are planning on doing this alone, you will be quite isolated for a large amount of the trip, particularly if you can't speak Japanese.
  • With that said, the people who I have met have been fantastic. The Japanese are often curious about foreigners and I find myself being approached on a semi regular basis and being asked what I am up to. When I have these experiences people have always been very helpful, giving me information or food to help me on my way. Every cloud has a silver lining, and the isolation I have experienced has actually made me appreciate these encounters much more than I would have before. 
  • The trip is kind of like being in a real life RPG. I used to play these a lot when I was younger, and this journey has constantly reminded me of them. You have a epic quest just like you normally do in a game, in this case get to the end of the trail, and you have to travel large distances to achieve this quest, just like in an RPG, and along the way you are helped by many different people, some of them give you items to help you on your way, or information to be used to your advantage, all just like in an RPG. I know it's a little nerdy but I think it's a neat way to think about it, the ultimate real life role playing game.
Anyways, enough of my chatter, I am going to head to that Vietnamese place for lunch to show them how much a hungry Australian can eat.

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