Thursday, 21 May 2015

Goodbyes and a Slight Change of Plans - 18th May 2015

Usually waking up in my tent is easy as it's simply not that comfortable to sleep in. Either I'm cold, or there is something noisy around, or I'm conscious of packing up early so I won't disturb anyone. So when my alarm goes off I wake up and can't really get back to sleep. Well I had none of these distractions this morning making waking up extremely hard. My alarm went off, I opened my eyes for a moment, looked around, and then felt sleep trying to take me back into its embrace. I had to fight with the prospect of just sleeping in, but on the third repeat of my alarm I won the battle and roused myself from my futon.

Mr Furato had left early for work, but Ms Furato took me to a coffee shop near their house for breakfast, where I was thoroughly quizzed by some of the local farmers about my trip. Everyone was lovely, actually come to think of it, I cannot recall one negative experience with anyone so far on this trip in Japan. Everyone has either reacted positively, via simple curiosity or actively helping me in some way be it information, food or accommodation, or they react with a polite indifference, which is absolutely fine by me.

Before I left Ms Furato handed me a plastic bag and said thank you for being their guest. Thank me? Thank you for taking in a smelly stranger into you house, feeding him and giving him a warm bed to sleep for the night. I looked in the bag and found a lunch she had prepared for me to eat later that day:

So much better than the crud I'm used to
In such a short time I had received so much from these people. It was a bit sad but the road was calling, so I throughly thanked her, bid her farewell and set off.

Here is the day in pictures:
There were tall forests

A huge mound of dirt that a giving off a fine dust that covered me from head to toe

Then back into the farming plains with mountains in the distance. A scene that has been regular in Gifu

A view from the bridge at the village of Koumi, Gifu

It must be the season for these grubs as they have been everywhere 
They dangle from trees that overhanging the path, and I find myself dodging them around forty or fifty times a day, lest I get a grub to the face (and nobody wants a grub to the face)

I also keep seeing these signs that are intended to strike fear into the hearts of hikers. I've been told though that the actual chances of meeting a bear on the main island of Japan are slim to none due to habitat destruction

I must admit though when I found this bone a few hundred metres from the sign it had me a little worried.

Fortunately I didn't meet any, and the path then took me to the temple of Kounji

That was filled with all manner of interesting things, from fat buddhas... giant lanterns...

...and mythical figures that reminded me more of Bali than Japan...

...statues with wet paper plastered over them (that could be out of a horror film)...

...and thousands upon thousands of paper cranes. There is a Japanese legend that tells of anyone who makes a thousand by themselves will have a wish granted by a crane

But I had to continue on...

Next was up Mt Myohogatake, where the path was lined with these small shrines every fifty or so metres

On the other side I rested here, a great place to sleep. There are plenty of places like this along the trail, sometimes with a toilet next to them, They are usually at the bottom or top of mountains, kept in varying condition from brand new to extremely dilapidated.

When I got down the bottom of Mt Myohogatake, it looked like rain was on the way:

I asked a guy walking his dog and confirmed that it was definitely coming. The trail was meant to take me up Mt Tonokura for the rest of the day, but the prospect of being stuck in the dark and rain on top of a mountain did not appeal to me, so I made one of those executive decisions and decided to take a short cut along roads that followed flat lands. It probably cut about half a days walking off the trail in total.

So I donned my rain gear....

...and fifteen minutes later it began to sprinkle

The trail mostly avoids tunnels, but I was not on the trail anymore, so when I saw this I got a bit worried. Some Japanese tunnels do not have a foot path and there is very little space between you and the passing cars

Luckily this one had a narrow but sufficient footpath 
I was glad because the tunnel kept going and going...

...until finally I saw the light! 
I joined up with the trail again over the other side of this bridge

That took me along the damed up Ibi River

It is fascinating seeing what didn't make the economic downturn in Japan. I could probably dedicate a whole website to dilapidated buildings. This was a old Japanese Inn that I crossed paths with. I'm not sure if it was still open or not, but it was definitely past its heyday
The Nishihira Dam

That had this rather funny (and a little unsettling) warning sign at the bottom that says "get away from the river if the siren goes off"

The road then yet again took me into another river valley

And into the sleepy village of Ibi

That had no people in it! At least I didn't see any. There were plenty of signs of life though, just no people.

I followed the river for a while. It was raining lightly

That was where I stumbled across this treasure trove. I ate one on the spot and took two in my bag, but the first was so delicious I ended up eating the rest within the next half and hour. I only wish I had taken more.
And finally I came to my resting place for the night. I found this wood in the middle of a wheat field, that appeared to have a small shrine inside it

So I got set up and hoped no one would come around to pray
As I'm writing this from the comfort of inside my tent, it's started to rain again and there is wind too. I'm starting to think that I may have picked a spot that is a little too exposed, but to hell if I am changing it now. I will let you know tomorrow how it goes.

Distance: 30.1km

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