Tuesday, 16 June 2015

A Rough Guide to Walking the Trail

I have completed a basic guide to walking the Tokai Shizen Hodo (Tokai Nature Trail) that can be accessed here.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Questions About the Trail

If anyone has questions about the trail, feel free to contact me on tomread.edmonton@gmail.com and I will answer as best I can.



Wednesday, 10 June 2015

The Final Stats

Here are the final stats from my GPS

In total my GPS indicates I walked 1135 kilometres, although I have noticed the machine miscalculates about a kilometre per day, so I would estimate my total being closer to 1090 kilometres.

If we take 1090 kilometres to be accurate, then I averaged about 28 kilometres per day of actual walking days (39 walking in total). The GPS records me walking for 464 hours in total (timed from the start of the day until the time I turn the GPS off, including stopping breaks), with an average of 2.4 km per hour.

I ascended approximately 38473 metres, and descended an almost identical amount. That is more than four times the height of Mt Everest, or around the same height Felix Baumgartner jumped from on his record breaking skydive in 2012. My max elevation was 1485m, which I achieved early in the trip around the Tokyo section.

(Note: I include the first two days I walked that were not a part of the official trail in any totals shown)

A Confusing End, but an End Nonetheless - 7th June 2015 (Day 53)

I awoke early quite early, conscious that people may be coming up to this place in droves on a Sunday, and went to unzip the outer fly of the tent and found it was sopping wet. I was sure it hadn't been raining, but when I got outside everything was drenched. I thought about it and reasoned it must have been dew caused clouds rolling on through throughout the night. So I had to spend extra time drying everything, including my backpack, which I had left outside to act as an anchor for my tent fly. It didn't matter though, I only had twenty kilometres or so to go today, and then I would be done!

I finished another pack of noodles and curry for breakfast, with the two mandarins I bought the day before, and after my stuff had sufficiently dried out I packed it up, had one last look at the view, and set off for the final push:

Definitely one of the best spots I stayed at
The trail led me down the mountain and then along small trails that passed through rice fields and mountain roads on the outskirts of Osaka.

Such as this
And this
This was on one of the mountain roads I walked along. Thought it was funny that someone had gone to the trouble of putting an umbrella over it.
At one point I rounded the corner of one of these roads and found a van stopped with a family standing around looking at something in front of the car. I moved to the front and saw a boulder about the size of a fridge sitting in the middle of the road, making it all but impassable. There was dirt and smaller rocks all around it, and it had obviously only recently fallen down in a rock slide, maybe due to all the rain the area had the other day. I asked if I could help in any way but the father said there was no way this could be moved by just us. I took a look at it and agreed; I doubted ten strong men could have moved it. Luckily they weren't trapped in and could take the long way around.

I continued on with a feeling of eagerness to get to the end of the track and moved quicker than I think I had at any other point on this trip. My GPS indicated the trail finished at Minoo station, but first I had to pass through the visitors centre at the base of the forrest I was in, then down a mountain road and through the outskirts of the town. What I didn't realise was that the trail actually officially ended at the visitors centre. I had no idea of this, and by the time I got there around noon I needed to use the toilet so bad I ran past all the signs indicating it was the end and rushed straight to the loo. I had a short break there, unaware that I had actually finished the Tokai Shizen Hodo, and then continued on for another 25 minutes before coming to this sign:

It indicated that the entrance to the Tokai Shizen Hodo was 1.8 kilometres back the way I came!
Oh shit! Well... I thought about going back and getting a photo at the trail head, but, to hell with it! I'd finished the bloody thing hadn't I, whether I knew it at the time or not! I felt a bit robbed of the celebratory moment I had planned though, and was not in the best mood. What didn't make it any better was that the final path leading down to the town of Minoo was full of tourists and screaming children I had to dodge left right and centre:

It was a Sunday

And people were out in force to enjoy their weekend
A sign down the bottom did indeed confirm I had missed the finish
So I was in quite a foul mood by the time I got into the outskirts of Minoo. But, as I neared the station the voice of reason spoke up in my head, and I thought bugger it, I had finished the walk whether I knew it at the time or not, and here I was just a few steps from the train station that signaled the true end of my journey. It was like I had suddenly flipped a switch and I felt okay again, and I actually had a big laugh to myself about the fact that I had trekked over a thousand kilometres, over mountains, sometimes through rainstorms and other times through sweltering heat, only to miss the official ending of the trail because I was busting to go to the toilet. So with these thoughts in mind, put aside any regrets I had and resolved to count the station as the real end of my walking trip:

And soon I finally could see my final destination 
It was all coming to an end. Did a big swell of emotion rush over me like I expected?
Nope, I just felt pretty good to be finished and rather hungry to be honest.
So I got someone to to take a photo of me, and then rushed of to find some food!
And so I was finished the Tokai Shizen Hodo, fifty three days after I had started it on the 14th of April. After getting some food at a nearby convenience store, I just sat down outside the train station for half and hour, partly to take in the fact I had finished the trail, and partly to let my sweat dry so I wasn't that slippery guy when I boarded the train to take me into Osaka. I then got on the train, and made my way to the hotel I had booked for the night. For 1000yen a night, I was pleasantly surprised with what I found:

It has had it's highs and it's lows, but it has been a great experience all and all. Everyday I got to see something beautiful, and often met lovely people who helped me in some way. At no time have I had a negative reaction, everyone was polite and nothing but helpful. My gear held up fine, with no major complaints, I even ended up throwing some of it out because I had no need for it. And I feel like all the time to myself without distractions has helped me learn a lot about myself.

I'm going to relax for the next few days and have a holiday from my holiday. At some point in the next few weeks I am going to begin writing a practical guide to walking the trail for those who want to do the trail in the future.

I want to thank everyone who has shown me support in some way, it has all made this goal much easier to achieve in every way.

Distance: 18.5 km

Monday, 8 June 2015

On the Edge of the Finishing Line - 6th June 2015 (Day 52)

Slept like a baby under the monk's driveway. The rain abated sometime in the night and the sun was out in all its splendour. I checked my map and calculated that I only had around forty kilometres left of the trail, and reasoned I should take it easy and break it up into two days rather than killing myself trying to finish it in one. So, instead of getting straight on the trail I decided to go down and see the temple I was barred from entering last night. It cost me 500 yen but I think it was worth it:

Near the entrance I met a guy who was doing a pilgrimage to 33 temples surrounding Kyoto. I asked him if was doing it because he was a monk and he replied "no, I'm doing it because I want to go to heaven and not hell."

It was called Yoshimine Temple and was built into the side of the mountain overlooking Kyoto
I had a realisation up there that all Japanese temples I have seen so far are built in such a way that is meant to provide inner harmony
Even the carp are relaxing to watch
And they come to say hello
Kyoto in the distance
It was about 9am by the time I finished sightseeing, and began to trek back up the way I came the night before. The next mountain to be scaled was interestingly named Mt Pon Pon, and by 11am I was at the top. Where I met another hiker and his labrador that was extremely playful and full of energy:

I started down the mountain and it started to rain again for a bit, so I took shelter under the roof of a small shrine. I donned my wet weather gear and walk a bit but the sun decided to come again, rendering my efforts in vain:

A tree with some religious significance.
I was sitting down cooking lunch when I took this photo, when a older Japanese man came up and wanted to talk my ear off about WWII history. I understood very little of what he said and just smiled and nodded for the most part. He then thanked me for listening and wandered off.
After lunch I walked a bit further down the road and found a guy selling fruit out the back of his truck. There were baskets of mandarins with what I thought was 200 yen a piece written on them. Although I thought the price to be a little high for one mandarin, I hadn't had fruit in a few days and decided to buy one. I handed over the money and to my surprise he emptied the whole basket into the bag for that price:

So I had six mandarins to eat

I sat down and ate three of them (they tasted great), gave one away to a passing hiker, and kept the other two for later. I continued on and passed through some valleys and down some roads. They were doing some major construction for a new freeway somewhere along the way:

I started up what I planned to be the last mountain for the day, Mt Ryuo, and as I rounded a corner I saw this:

Right in the distance, if you look closely it is...
It hit me that I was almost finished this walk, my final destination was in sight. It also dawned upon me that this would be my last night camping out on the trail, and so I decided to start keeping an eye out early for a good spot. As I was hiking up, I came upon a shrine that I took a break at and seriously considered camping in it for the night. It was a good spot, with a raised wooden floor, a roof, running water and a decent view. I mulled over it for fifteen minutes but decided against it, reasoning this was my last night and therefore I had to find an even better spot, although experience had shown me the chances were slim.

It turned out my ambition paid off. At the top of Mt Ryuo I found this:

I almost creamed my pants at the sight

I rushed up the top and found a large wooden platform with one of the best views of a city I have ever seen in my life:

As I was looking out over my final destination I realised just how close I was to finishing and found myself overcome with emotion
On the one hand I felt great knowing that I was on the edge of achieving the task I had planned and worked towards for years now. On the other hand I felt a kind of profound sadness at the realisation the experience was coming to an end. I think it dawned upon me that finishing meant that I would be saying goodbye to something that had been such an important part of my life for so long.
With all that said, I thought a celebratory jumping photo to mark the achievement was in order.
A spot like this was special, so I decided to set up right up the top, even in spite of the wind:

It took a little time and some clever work, but I managed to get the outer fly taunt enough so it wasn't flapping in the wind constantly
I cooked myself dinner, two packs of instant noodles with a packet of Japanese curry thrown in, and ate it up. I then sat down at the edge of the platform and began writing this blog entry. When I was about half way through, and just as it was getting dark, I heard foot steps coming up the stairs. My stuff was strewn everywhere and I was trying to pack it up as a middle aged man ascended the stairs and looked a little bewildered at my presence. I apologised for my stuff but he didn't seem to mind, and when he found out I could speak passable Japanese he warmed up to me considerably.

It turned out Mr Shimada came up here often because he believed it be a place of power. 

"The name of the mountain means dragon you know" he said, "you can feel it's a place of power, aptly named so." 

I asked him if he came up here often and he said once in a while to practice his martial arts. I asked him what martial arts he did, and he told me kung fu. 

"Want to see some?" he asked.

"Sure" I said.

He asked me for my trekking pole and extended it out to its full length, and then put on an awesome display:

It was one of those moments where I was struck by the bizarreness of it all. Don't get me wrong, it was an awesome experience, but here I was, on top of wooden tower on top of a mountain overlooking Osaka, watching a Japanese man I had met only twenty minutes earlier, use my trekking pole to preform an intricate routine from a Chinese martial art. I was conscious of the fact as I was experiencing it that this was one of those strange but awesome moments you only get when traveling, where you find yourself in a situation so unlikely and odd, it makes you smile. I insisted on a photo together, then thanked him for his display and he wished me luck and told me to take care:

Thanks Mr Shimada, you made my night much more interesting than I thought it was going to be
I settled in and watched the city lights for a while. Amazing to think 8 million people live down there. I imagined the hundreds of lives that go on in each of the thousands of building I could see and found myself overwhelmed by the thought of it all. I knew so much stuff was going on down there, right as I was witnessing it, but up here on the mountain it all looked so still and peaceful, as if it wasn't really happening at all. Its been bending my mind a little:

I only have about 20 kilometres to walk tomorrow, and then I am finished and free. Can't wait.

Distance: 23.2km

The Things That Go On Under a Monk’s Driveway at Night - 5th June 2015 (Day 51)

I was kept awake last night by a slowly and irregularly crumbling rock face that was off to one side of the picnic area. All would be silent and then suddenly, the sound of rocks falling and tumbling would ring through the night. It must have woken me up four times at least. So in the morning I felt a bit groggy and was slow to get started; two hours in total, I think a new record for me. Here's how today panned out:

The trail connected up with this road and led me down into the northern part of Kyoto

This was the road leading in and had obviously been kept to look traditional

I passed this house where someone had posted pictures of their golden retriever out front

I thought it was nice

And so I was led into the historic and touristic part of town
And it soon got rather busy
Statues of Samurai were abundant

This was the bamboo woods just outside World Heritage Listed Tenryuji Temple the track took me right path.

A wedding couple that was soon swarmed by tourists taking photos including myself

Katsura River

Where you could enjoy a chartered boat ride

The boats were okay...

...but to be honest, I found these excavators digging up the river more interesting. They had built a platform to get out there, done some digging, and then were digging away at their platform to finish the job.

Rickshaws, with their driver off trying to scout for customers

Plenty of temples

But I couldn't waste time because soon the rain started again

I stopped at a supermarket and stocked up on food as I'm not going to pass any shops for the next two days, and just sat and watched the rain reluctant to go back into it.

This is where I was headed

One of my favourite surprises on this trip is road fruit

I think they were figs of some kind, although I am not entirely sure. Delicious nonetheless

Someone had decided to paint faces onto these scarecrow

I just thought this was an interesting house. That moat has probably been there for hundreds of years.

The mountains loomed closer, and the rain got harder, and I wondered if heading up there I was the right thing to do
As they got closer I resolved to keep an eye out for spots to sleep, but none came up
But I didn't find anywhere, and before I knew it I was right up in the mountains once again

At one point seriously considered breaking into this abandoned house to sleep in. I peered in the window though and it was filthy with junk inside so I scrapped that idea.

I kept walking and came across this interesting collection of stone monuments somewhere on top of the mountain

There was a space in the middle that would have been perfect to camp at if it hadn't been raining
By 6pm I was getting a bit desperate and strayed from the main course down towards a temple that might appeared on the map as though it might be able to provided some shelter. I had resolved that I would beg if I had to. The road coming down the mountain was stunning down, although it was almost vertical:

That temple I mentioned that I had so much hope for turned out to be rather uninviting. It was okay though, this rejection led to me finding one of my more ingenious campsites...
 Less than 100 metres up the road I had passed this spot and marked it as a backup if the temple was not hospitable. It was an area under a ramp that led to the back entrance of the temple (also with a huge barb wired gate)
Once I climbed up, it turned out there was a nice flat bit that was perfect for camping. So I set up, rather pleased to be out of the rain.
And because I had been to the supermarket earlier, I had a decent dinner too: fried octopus balls, fried chicken, and a large sushi roll. Wonderful after a day of trekking in the rain

I'm trying to dry my clothes now although I don't think it is going to be successful, clouds are rolling through on a regular basis so the air is saturated. I have to try though, hopefully the weather will be a bit better tomorrow.

Distance: 30km