Saturday, April 25, 2015

Day 25 -- Endurance training

Total distance: 60 km, including a mountain climb on foot

Nine temples today. And I arrived at the ninth one with exactly 3 minutes to spare before they closed, according to my bike’s clock thingy.

Temple 56 泰山寺 Taisanji (2.8 km)
This temple was very close. I actually had to go back and forth a bit before I found it. Not only was it very small, but there is an unrelated shrine right next to it that is much bigger.

Temple 57 栄福寺 Eifukuji (3 km)
This was a pretty small one too. When you’ve seen 56 temples in Shikoku, the 57th tends to follow a certain pattern. Don’t have a whole bunch to say about this one.

Temple 58 仙遊寺 Sanyūji (2.9 km)
This one was a little mountainous. It had a pretty large number of stairs, but unlike the majority of the mountain path stairs I’ve encountered, these seemed to be spaced so that a regular person’s walking pace would match with the stairs pretty well. Hooray.

Sanyūji was pretty forested. I like temples like that.

Temple 59 国分寺 Kokubunji (7.2 km)
This one wasn’t very foresty or mountainy at all. It was mostly just a bunch of dirt at the top of a set of stairs. But there was a pretty cool welcome mat someone had made of this temple’s location on Shikoku. So that was pretty cool.

Temple 60 横峰寺 Yokomineji (25.2 km + 4 km walking)
Oh boy. This one.

So there’s not really a rideable path up to the temple from the direction I wanted to go from, so I took a road that would get me pretty close and walked the remaining (extremely steep) 4k up to the top of the mountain. It was kinda amazing though. As much as I hate extended periods of walking, this mountain hike really energized me. There were parts where the stairs were spaced too far apart (as usual) and I was just inspired to run up them.

Of course, my pack was lighter now than it was when I was walking the first two weeks, but I also like to think that this whole experience has been some pretty successful endurance training.

That’s not to mention, of course, that the scenery was just fantastic on the way up. I met an older-looking woman coming down as I was ascending who told me she hikes up and down the mountain twice a week. I told her just once was enough for me, but she said that once you’ve done it a few times, it gets a lot easier. She said you begin to notice all the small things in the path because you start to get used to how it goes. I guess she had a good point. Do something enough and it becomes easier because it’s not as daunting once you understand the finer points of it.

And then she gave me an orange. It was delicious.

Still, when I got to the top, I was drenched in sweat. It’s probably the hardest I had worked up to this point.

Temple 61 光音寺 Kōonji (9.3 km)
Walked back down the same way I had come, picked up my bike, and flew down the mountain in a brake-burning blur. The road was quite steep, you see. It was almost 4:00 at this point, so I only had about an hour to see three more temples.

The first one was Kōonji. When I got here, I had no idea I had actually arrived at the temple. It was completely different from the 60 temples I had seen before it. Looked kinda like a college campus. Big modern-style building with concrete all over the place. Very interesting.

Temple 62 宝寿寺 Hōjuji (1.4 km)
It was getting pretty late in the day, and all the high school kids were walking home from school clubs. The only word high schoolers know to say to foreigners is ‘HALLO’ so I got that a lot. I asked a group of high school girls where Hōjuji was and they were super juiced that they were able to help a foreigner find a place.

There were lots of gardens in this temple. Very green place. I enjoyed it.

Temple 63 吉祥寺 Kichijōji (1.5 km)
This one was mostly gravel. Not too much to say about this one. There was a really cool statue of a dragon on the hand-washing area.

Temple 64 前神寺 Maegamiji (3.1 km)
Luckily, I didn’t get lost on the way to this one and made it there with only a few minutes to spare.

The main hall was under construction here, so everyone was directed to the secondary hall to do all the rituals and whatnot. Still, it was a really cool-looking place.

Hotel (2.6 km)
I arrived at the hotel well after 5. Generally minshuku and ryokan don’t like you arriving after 5, but since it was a hotel (and that term ended up being a pretty loose one) I was safe. I planned it that way, actually. I figured (correctly) that a bunch of mountain walking would slow me down.

At the same hotel, as it turns out, was the same lady I met on day one. She was still walking, though at a ridiculous pace. I mean, she must have been walking at waaaay over 30km per day, which would have actually probably killed me. I mean 20-30km per day seriously rendered my joints completely unusable, and here she is walking upwards of 35.

Whatever, though. People who can do that win the long-distance walking medal. I’m not doing the pilgrimage as some feat of strength. I know I’m unfit to walk huge distances. The bike allows me to stop and actually enjoy my trip. I’ll take that any day.

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