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

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