Day 2, Tonda to Susami, 25km
Accommodation: Minshuku Iwamoto in Susami, 0739-55-2227
I took the first train this morning from Tanabe station (6.19am) back to Tonda station (6.36am) and followed good waymarks to the first forest section of the day called Tonda-zaka slope. It took two hours to get to the top along a scenic forest path with good Japanese waymarks. At the top there was a toilet and a forest road which the ohechi joined intermittently to descend, often veering off into the forest for the more direct and steep way down! On the way down there were terrific mountain views, then near the base I came across a long snake lying just off the trail. Like the majority of the snakes I’ve seen lately, it wasn’t interested in moving anywhere! I took photos and a video and banged my hiking poles trying to get it to move, to no avail. The only option I could see was to walk behind it, which I wasn’t too happy about, but I also wasn’t thinking that it was venomous… when I was directly behind it I could see faint orange stripes on it and I kept my eyes on it the whole time I was walking around it, but it didn’t even flinch. Now looking at the picture closely I think it was possibly a tiger keelback venomous snake (yamakagashi)… If so, I consider myself lucky and probably should’ve been more patient and waited for it to slither away!
The Ohechi route then passed through the tiny village of Ago and I stopped at the small shop to buy lunch and refill my water bottle. The owner of the shop asked if I was taking the boat, and my reply was something along the lines of, “what boat?” He went on to explain there was a river ahead and the only way to cross it was to take a boat, or walk 2km downstream to the bridge (then obviously 2km back upstream on the other side of the river!) “Oh, yeah, the boat sounds good,” I said in Japanese. He went off and made a phone call and said the boat people would arrive in about 10 minutes to pick me up and take me down to the river.
Inside the small shop there wasn’t really anything substantial for lunch other than chips and chocolate snacks but then I spotted a chirashizushi lunch box at the counter and said I would have that for lunch. The owner hesitated briefly and I started to think that maybe it was his own lunch brought from somewhere else (there was nothing else like it in the shop) so I picked up some chips but he insisted I take the lunchbox. Once outside the shop I was looking for somewhere to sit to eat while waiting for the boat people and the shop owner told me I could sit on the ledge of the house opposite. It was in the shade, which was perfect as it was already in the high 20s and while I was sitting there eating lunch, an elderly lady came out of the house and brought with her a tray of cold tea and a huge orange that she’d picked from her field. She sat with me while I ate and we chatted about her life growing up in this small village. It was a lovely encounter. The boat van arrived so I said goodbye and we drove a few minutes down to the river. (I really should read the map I’m carrying as I had no idea there was a river crossing!) The boat was ¥500 and they also gave me a wooden souvenir then paddled me over to the other side, it was terrific!! From the river, the forest path went straight uphill along Hotoke-zaka slope. It was a steep but short climb to the top then the path joined a small road for the descent and it was road-walking the rest of the 9.3km to Susami.
I had actually wanted to walk a further 10km today to Mirozu and take the train back to Susami to stay the night, but as it was 3.45pm when I arrived in Susami and not knowing if the path is through the mountains or along a road, I didn’t want to take any chances. This means tomorrow is going to be a long day!
I checked into the minshuku then went for a walk to see Susami which is apparently a popular fishing and diving town, there’s even an underwater postbox nearby (I saw a picture of this in the station). I was outside the station looking for somewhere for dinner when a Japanese man approached me and spoke in English. His English was great and he was in Susami for a fishing competition. While we were chatting, his friends inside the izakaya opposite called out and said that dinner was ready and asked if I would like to join them. I had nowhere else to be, so I said yes and ended up having a terrific wild boar hot pot dinner with fantastic company. Thanks Shin!
I enjoyed today’s section from Tonda to Susami and would recommend it. The waymarks were quite good (but you still need the Japanese map) and the forest sections were great. I also loved the boat ride and even though there was a long stretch of road walking for the end of the day, it was a quiet road that passed through small villages so was interesting.