Monday, 8 June 2015

Moving Through Clouds – 3rd June 2015

I ended up getting quite comfortable in Kyoto and extending my stay, spending five days in total. I ate lots, slept like a baby, saw some of the sites the city has to offer. I also made up for much of the human interaction I had forfeited by doing this walk. So by this morning I felt more rested than I ever have so far on this walk. The only problem was that was looking like it was going to rain:

The staff at the guesthouse confirmed the weather report said it was indeed going to rain later in the day, and urged me to put off leaving until tomorrow when the weather was meant to be nicer. I really did think about it, but in the end decided against staying, reasoning that I had been in Kyoto too long and that I shouldn't let a little rain stop me from walking.

So I caught the train to back to near where I had finished up five days earlier and began walking again. I took a bit of a detour from the official path so I could see what is known as the "inland sea" in Japan, Lake Biwa. It was huge:

It's 670 square kilometres...

... and thought to be 4 million years old

 People have been fishing in it for thousands of years

Off in the distance were the mountains I was meant to climb, covered in clouds here and there:

As I was walking towards them I passed through the town surrounding the lake, and got some different views of it:

I also passed by this big Buddha carved out of a rock which I thought was pretty neat:

As I moved up the first mountain of the day, Mt Hiei, the clouds got closer and closer until I was right in them:

Here I was looking up at them

I proceeded to get closer
Until I was right in the thick of them

At some points it felt like I was in a scene from the game Silent Hill
And just when I thought I could be anywhere in the world, Japan delivers

No surprise but the humidity was insane. And somewhere up there it started to rain too. I put my wet weather gear on but between me sweating and the humidity I ended about about as wet as I would have if I had never put it on.

Towards the top of the mountain I began to hear a voice it the distance that sounded like it was singing. As I got closer I realised it was not singing, but rather chanting, and soon I came across this mountain shrine that had monks living at it:

I could hear the chanting coming from down this path. On the left hand side were living quarters for the monks.

And as I entered I found this sight...

...with this monk chanting away. I stopped, closed my eyes and just listen for a while, and his voice was rather hypnotic, at least until he started coughing furiously for a good minute

The whole experience was becoming quite surreal to be honest. The clouds, mountains, temples and monks all came together in a way making it feel like I was in some kind of Japanese fantasy novel. I kept walking and soon this building loomed ahead in front of me:

It turned out to be the building housing the cable car that ran up the side of the mountain

I entered dripping wet, shocking two Korean tourists who couldn't believe I would walk up the mountain in such weather. It was nice and dry inside and I had some lunch whilst they took this photo of me.

I rested for a while, staring out at the clouds and rain dreading going back into it. The funny thing is, the rain is never as bad as it seem when you are looking at it from a nice dry spot; as soon as I stepped back into it I realised it was not that heavy at all. The trail then took me past a few temples:

One had a zen rock garden

This one had a bunch of people chanting inside

And by the third one I was starting to feel all templed out

If I could do this walk again I would research the temples I am passing more and have a bit of information on hand as I pass them. There is rarely any information in English at them, and I have found that if I don't know anything about them, then they all kind of seem the same to me.

I kept on walking and due to the mist, I missed a trail sign and took a wrong turn and ended up walking about a kilometre before I realised my error, thus putting an extra two kilometres onto my total for the day with the backtracking I had to do. I wasn't too happy about it, so I treated myself to an ice cream when I passed this vending machine to make up for it:

Japan is likely the only country where you will find ice cream vending machines on hikes
Around 5pm, just as I was getting down from the mountain, the sun started to come out lifting my spirits considerably:

And a few more hundred metres down the track, I got to the end of the forest and was treated to this sight:

My spirits got an even greater boost when just a little further I spied this convenience store, meaning I would have a decent meal after a long, wet day:

I stocked up on a bento box for dinner, junk food for dessert, and fruit and bread for the morning. I also refilled my water, so all I had to do then was find a place to sleep for the night. I set off into the town in the valley and kept an eye out, but to no avail. Every square metre was either a house, a rice filed, or a vegetable garden, and by 6:30pm I was starting to get a little worried. But as always, an opportunity presented itself; I came across a trail sign board that indicated there was a temple a few hundred metres up a slope just off the track:

So up I went...

...and found this deserted temple, with... 
...this semi enclosed wooden building just to the side of it. Turned out to be only used for storage and had enough space for me to set up in comfortably.
There was a sign on the side of the building which I could read enough of, and it explicitly stated no camping in the area. I reasoned that the chances of someone coming around were minimal though, so I set up nonetheless

I was wrong though. It had gotten dark and I was in the middle of writing this entry when I saw the lights of a car on the wall of the shelter. I peaked out the entrance and saw a car stopped a hundred metres or so down the road with its headlights on, simply idling there. I waiting and watched it from the shadows, hoping whoever it was was not going to come up and find me and cause me any trouble, when it decided to do a u-turn and clear off. "Great" I thought, "they're gone." About fifteen minutes later I saw headlights again, and heard the hum of a car coming closer. I climbed out of my tent and peaked around the corner again and saw the same car speeding up the road, this time passing the temple and going further up the road somewhere else. Okay, fair enough... I guess.

Some time passed and just as I thought I had seen the last of them and was getting relaxed in my tent again, I heard the hum of an engine coming closer once again, and the car pulling to a stop maybe thirty metres or so up the road. This was starting to get strange, and just about the last thing I needed. I waited, poised for action if needed, although what kind of action I did not know yet, but the car just sat there idling. I waited, and it waited, then I waited a little more, and then it decided to drive right up next to the building I was hidden in, with the car being literally no more than three or four metres away but with a wall still separating us. I sat at the edge of my tent wondering if I should reveal myself and ask what was going on, or if I should just stay in the dark and see how the situation panned out. It just waited there idling with its headlights on, and I resolved I would not do anything unless someone got out of the car, then I would reveal myself. About fifteen minutes went by and then suddenly the tires on the vehicle spun in the gravel and the car took off at high speed down the road. It was all so strange, and I waited for a while expecting it to return but it hasn't yet. My imagination is going wild, and my mind keeps going back to Kurt Russell's character in the movie Deathproof. It's going to be a treat getting to sleep tonight.

Distance: 28km

1 comment:

  1. The whole driver thing seemed very creepy just like in Deathproof. I will miss your blog when it's done because you write well :-) maybe you would consider writing a blog about the rest of your journeys?