Day 25, Temples 41-43, 52km – Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage

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  • Wednesday 30 Oct, 2013
  • Weather: Sunny, 23⁰C 
  • Temples: 41, 42, 43, (Ryukoji, Butsumokuji, Meisekiji), 52km
  • Accommodation: Toyogahashi Bangai Temple #8, Ozu City, ‘Tsuyado’ (free accommodation)

I left just after 5am knowing I had a very long day ahead of me because I was hoping to make it to Ozu City to stay in the free accommodation at one of the 20 ‘unofficial’ temples on the Shikoku route – if you visit all of these as well then there are 108 temples, rather than the ‘official’ 88 temples.

I walked as fast as my legs and feet could. Actually my legs aren’t the problem, it’s always the feet that complain first!

Leaving Uwajima I was walking along route 56 (I know this road now very very well!) until Temple 41, a lovely small, modest Temple. The path from here to Temple 42 took me the ‘direct’ way – up and over a mountain rather than around it! Within minutes of starting the forest path I very nearly stood on a snake, its tail was on the path and was camouflaged with the leaves. I got quite the shock as I went to put my foot down but noticed its stripes. I assumed it must’ve been dead because with my limited knowledge of snakes I know that:

  1. A) They don’t like cold weather

  2. B) Shouldn’t it be hibernating now?

  3. C) I didn’t think they liked to be stepped on, so why didn’t it slither out of the way?!

It didn’t slither at all! I screamed, jumped over it, realized it was alive so I grabbed my camera and started filming it, then took a couple of pics on my phone… it wasn’t camera shy at all! But it did make me wake up and focus more on the path. Now I was scared of every leaf that moved with the wind thinking it was a snake I was about to stand on!

Temple 42 had statues of the 7 lucky Gods (Shichi Fukujin) and Temple 43 was set in a forest and was very peaceful.

After Temple 43 I was walking back to Route 56 when a lady on her bike called out to me, “Ohenro San”. I turned around and she got off her bike and we walked together for about 10 minutes. I could only understand every other word she said (it’s almost impossible to understand old people here because of the very strong Shikoku dialect!), but it turned out we were going to walk straight past her house. I told her where I was planning on staying the night and when we reached her house she asked me to stop and wait outside. She ran inside then opened the front door and presented me with 2 vitamin energy drinks (think Red Bull but healthy Japanese style), she told me to drink one straight away and take the other one with me and then sent me off telling me she hoped I made it to my intended destination!

These random acts of kindness are so unexpected but touch so deeply, especially being alone now with no-one but myself motivating me to go on.

I had to walk through 2 more tunnels with no footpath which is not fun! The first one was just over a kilometer long and the second one was 200m. I got out the fluorescent bike vest thingy that Howard had lent me and used it for the first time in conjunction with my headlamp – even with my flashing light and neon vest it was incredible how many trucks and cars swerved at the last minute as I threatened to swipe their car with my hiking poles!!

The vitamin drinks I was given definitely helped, I’m sure I wouldn’t have made it the 52km otherwise. It was getting dark (around 6pm) as I started to get closer to the Bangai Temple where I was hoping to stay and I was so afraid that the room was going to be full – Mizusawa San had told me last night that there was only enough room for 3 people, and I was arriving after the temple had closed at 5pm so I wouldn’t even be able to talk to anyone… As I hobbled into the temple grounds (my feet had given up about 5km earlier!) it was all dark and I used my headlamp to light the way… I looked around and found the toilets then found a room next to the toilets that was unlocked and empty and had a light and power sockets and tatami mats and full bedding!! Hallelujah! I was so grateful and so thankful and couldn’t believe I had the entire room to myself (I think it would fit 4 people). I washed in the toilet then went to the closest family restaurant for a pasta dinner knowing I was going to need the carbs for another long day tomorrow and quite a few summits. I’m setting my alarm for 4am again and hoping not to meet any inoshishi (wild boar) on the path tomorrow!

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