Saturday, 30 May 2015

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

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