Day 2 – The Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage, Asso to Tanabe, Japan

Day 2 – The Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage, Asso to Tanabe, Japan

We woke up early today, with the intention of starting today’s walk early, in order to minimize how long we would have to walk in the rain.
A ninety percent chance of rain predicted that the rain would start at eleven in the morning.

Since we went to bed very early last night, we had no problem waking up early.
We slept well, despite the very thin futon provided by our guesthouse.
Normally we double a thin futon, but they only had one thin one for each of us.

We ate a light breakfast of one onigiri rice ball, a banana and hot tea.

The owner of the guesthouse came early in the morning to collect the payment.
Yesterday he emailed us the combination code for the entrance, and we were not sure when he would come to collect the payment.
We thanked him for the comfortable stay, shut all the lights and heaters and left the guesthouse.

The weather was mild, great for walking, and the rain predicted for the day did not make its appearance.
The truth is that last night in bed, I had prayed for the rain to hold off until we’d finished the day’s walk.
The gods must have been listening to me.
This is very, very good….

We walked along the Tonda river.
Once it was a majestic, wide river with a strong current.
Signs posted along the way indicated that pilgrims had drowned trying to cross the river while walking their Kumano Kodo pilgrimage.

Today the Tonda river bed is mostly dry.
A small creek-like flow is all that is left of what once was a majestic river.
They must have dammed the river somewhere, in order to tame its flow.

The mountains of the Kumano area are very green, with lots of different kinds of vegetation.

We had planned to have lunch in a small restaurant right before the Kumano Kodo Visitor Center.
The charming cafe served an excellent lunch set.
We had two kinds of sets, one with cherry blossom rice and shrimp, and the other with mashed potato and seaweed.

The cafe was full of young mothers who had come with their tiny toddlers, all so cute and very well mannered.

Once we reached the Visitor Center, we had a look at the history of the Kumano Kodo, some famous pilgrims’ diaries and artwork.
We got a detailed map of the route which we will follow for the next few days, and booklets to collect stamps along the way.

We had a chat with a woman called Midori-San, who owns a tourist services shop across the road.
She and her husband also run a café serving vegan burgers, along with a luggage transport service for those who hike the Kumano Kodo.

We settled on a price to have our luggage picked up every morning and delivered every afternoon to our next accommodation.
Normally in Japan, there are set prices for EVERYTHING, and bargaining or negotiation is absolutely unheard of.

But Midori-San was willing to negotiate a little, and we agreed on a reduced price.
It will be nice not to carry our backpacks over the rocky mountain passes we will be crossing.

This is a luxury that we will only enjoy during the week we hike the Kumano Kodo; for the following two and a half months we will be hiking the Saigoku Pilgrimage, we will have to carry our backpacks on our backs.

We were delighted to see two more couples, foreign hikers, at the shrine at the entrance to the trail.
We have seen no other hikers all day, maybe because we started walking before the official starting point, which is at the Kumano Kodo Visitor center.

But here they were, hikers ready to walk the path, undeterred by the coronavirus scare and ready to enjoy the journey of a lifetime on the trail.

Yesterday, the owner of the guesthouse we are staying in tonight, emailed us to see if we were still coming.
She said that she had gotten many cancellations in the last few weeks, and wanted to know if we had changed our minds.

We told her that we were definitely coming, and she thanked us sincerely.
She also let us know that the forest path from the village of Takahara to Kawai, where her guesthouse is located, is closed.
We will have to walk back to the road and follow the main road to Kawai.

We had to climb to Takahara, two hours of steep forest climbing, followed by forty minutes of steep hiking down to the road and then about half an hour of walking on the road to the guesthouse.
It was getting late in the day and we had done so well in avoiding the rain so far, that we decided to walk straight to the guest house and start hiking in the forest tomorrow, when the weather is predicted to be lovely and dry.

We walked along the old river road to Kumanoyasai, and arrived less than a minute before it started to rain.
After we were indoors, the rain quickly intensified.
As I am writing this, it is still raining.

Kumanoyasai is a lovely guesthouse with a traditional Japanese design, with all the modern updates.
Shino-San delivered to us two bento boxes with neatly arranged vegetarian dinners.
There was a large fresh shiitake mushroom with a salsa, a white and a brown rice ball, fried tofu with mung beans, a carrot salad, a gobo salad, a local clementine and a cake from her cafe.

She showed me around the house and how to operate the washing machine, and wished us good night.
She will come early tomorrow to deliver our breakfasts and a packed lunch for our forest walk tomorrow.

Today I can feel my hips a bit from walking with my backpack, or was it from sleeping on the very thin mat last night? In any case, I am happy and relieved that we do not have to climb the mountains with our backpacks tomorrow.

May peace and love shine on you always,

Daily stats:
Steps walked – 31,390
23 km. walked
Active walking time – 5.5 hours
Total walking time today – 7 hours
Total walking distance on the Saigoku – 37 km

Temples visited:
Takijiri-Oji Shrine at the beginning of the Kumano Kodo trail.


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