Tuesday, 12 May 2015

How to Turn Your Legs to Jelly - 7th May 2015

Today was an unexpectedly hard day, probably the hardest yet in many ways. I had an all you can eat breakfast at the hotel for only 500 yen ($4.16 USD), and was out of there by 7:30am. I dropped by Yoshimi’s place to have a coffee, thank him and say goodbye. It was harder than I expected to be honest. I know I had only known the guy for three days, but he was a very cool person I feel I made a genuine connection with, and I felt a unexpectedly deep sadness when I realised I was probably not going to see him again. I guess the lack of human interaction I have experienced the last few weeks has made me a bit more sensitive to such things. I find myself really appreciating the interactions I do have with people, even if it is just something like hello and a smile, or a short chat about the weather.

So I boarded a train back to the town of Onoo, and was on the trail by 9:30am. I went through a forrest and ploughed my way up a couple of slopes still feeling very energetic from the big breakfast I had earlier. By 10:30am I had made it to the Tooshoo-gu Shrine...

...where I witnessed one of the more interesting (but kind of disgusting) displays that nature has had to offer on this trip, right on the track a frog was being eaten alive by the snake:

I could see the snake had dislocated its jaw to get ready to swallow frog, which was at least three times as wide, and had sprayed some kind of mucus all over the it. The thought of being in such a horrible situation sent chills down my spine, and it reminded me that nature can be extremely gruesome and unforgiving.

From the temple onwards the fun really began. The next section of the trail was over three mountains, Mt Horaiji, Mt Urezan of mountains, rocky and extremely steep terrain. I would move up a hundred metres or so, then descend about fifty, then ascend have to another hundred. To give you an idea here are some photos:

Heading up Mt Horaiji, steep and rocky

Near the top

Some great views though

Heading down again...

... only to have to face the next mountain. The track zig zagged all the way up

Pretty much sums up what the trail was like

Even for my now battle hardened legs, it was a challenge. Completely unexpected too. The highest of the three or so mountains was only 964 metres high, not that much compared to other I have climbed, but the constant up and down made it feel three times that high. 

Around lunch time the track did flatten out for a few kilometres, in which I encountered this eerie abandoned camp ground:

The trail took me right through the middle of this place
The forrest had started taking over

All abandoned

There were places you could set up your, but I'm not sure if I would personally want to camp up there

And then out the other side into this

After this short flat interval, the climbing and descending began again basically until the end of the day. My legs felt more and more like jelly, my feet began to hurt again like they had on the first week, and I was absolutely covered in sweat. And it kept going on and on. I would say to myself another hour and I'll be out, but the difficult terrain prevented this optimistic vision coming to pass. At one point I crested the final slope of a particularly steep section was stunned by the view in front of me. The clouds and the light all came together in a way with the landscape that made it feel almost majestic, or like something out of a fantasy novel. In that moment the difficulty of the day faded away and I just stood there and took in the view for a few moments before snapping these photos:

The light caused a strange but beautiful effect on the horizon that made it look as if there was a fire in the distance
The problem is moments don't last very long, and rather quickly the harsh reality came back to me that I still had to get down to here if I wanted food and water for tonight:

It still looked so far!

So I trudged on, tired and sore, and around an hour later I peered a road through the trees. If you have not had to climb up and down extremely steep paths for a whole day, then you can't understand how good it feels to walk on a smooth asphalt surface. It was heaven compared to the last several hours. I limped into the town of Yotsuya feeling like the mountains had managed to get the better of me this time. My legs were burning, my back hurt, and my right wrist had started to get a strange creaking feeling in it whenever I moved it up and down, presumedly from the overuse of trekking poles. In other words I felt like a day climbing Mt Horaiji and Mt Ureyama had turned me into an old man.

I did however find what I think might be the best camping spot yet.

There is a toilet and running water

A roof to camp under with benches
And this awesome view to wake up to

As I write this all I can hear is thousands of frogs croaking at the same time. It's almost deafening at times and I'm not exactly sure how I am going to sleep. 

I just had a look at my GPS and according to it I only did 22kms today but ascended 1955m. Just to give you and idea compared to a normal day, I regularly do around 30km and barely ascend over 1000m. I only hope the terrain will be a little better tomorrow. Well I am going to nurse my aches and pains, have some dinner, and get some sleep.

Oh before I forget, I will skip the details, but I got rid of my busted toenails: 

Distance: 22km

1 comment:

  1. Sounds brutal but it looks beautiful. Your toes look a lot like mine did, so I'm sure they're feeling better now.