Day 3 – The Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage, Tanabe To Chikatsuyu, Japan

Day 3 – The Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage, Tanabe To Chikatsuyu, Japan

Today was a tiring but very enjoyable forest hike.
Perhaps the best part of the day was seeing so many hikers along the way.
We met about thirty five people today.
Most of them were Japanese, but a few were foreigners and it was lovely to chat with them.

Normally, I enjoy having the forest to myself, hiking quiet trails with only the sound of the wind, the birds and the leaves crunching under our feet.

But in these times of the covid-19 virus scare, when people are advised to shelter indoors, it was awesome to see other people beside us, who are not afraid and are out and about enjoying themselves.

Of course the Kumano Kodo is a very famous pilgrimage, so it is rarely without people.
The high season for hiking here is November, when hikers come to see the autumn leaves change color, and April, when the cherry trees are blooming.

It was a hard hike today, with a steep elevation gain of 1260 meters and a descent of 850 meters.

For those who stayed overnight in Takahara village, it was only an elevation gain of 830 meters and a descent of 650 meters.
But because we stayed overnight in the village of Kawai in Tanabe, we had to climb up a very steep trail to get back to the Kumano Kodo trail in Takahara.

In the morning we woke up very early, and had plenty of time to do our morning meditation.
It was a rare treat, because usually we have to pack everything, wash up, eat breakfast and start walking early in order to finish the day’s walking by five in the afternoon.

Shino-San, the owner of our guesthouse, came over and delivered our breakfast, and two packed lunches for our hike.
The lady who transfers our backpacks, Midori-San, came to pick up our backpacks and transfer them to our guesthouse tonight.

By the end of the day, we were very happy that we had splurged on the bag transfers, instead of climbing up and up on steep paths with our backpacks.
The pain in my hips is already healed today.

We enjoyed our packed lunch very much.
Shino San also allowed me to pack some salty pickled plums that she had pickled herself, and they added flavor to my lunch.
I think they were a little too salty for Jules.

The forest was beautiful, and we made sure not to miss any of the little shrines along the way, which have red seals to stamp in the record booklets that we got at the information center.

The wind was intense on top of the mountains, and we had two tea breaks, with the tea flasks that we brought with us and some cookies.

After Takahara, the path was well maintained.
We still had to climb over rocks and tree roots and along stretches of narrow paths, but everything was well marked.

The Kumano Kodo, unlike some of the other pilgrimages we have walked in Japan, is very well set up for tourists to walk it. There are excellent maps, the signage along the route is very good, and the paths are kept well cleared, so they are quite passable.
Each of the historic sights along the route has a sign explaining its importance that’s in both Japanese and English, and the distance you’re walking is marked by a numbered sign every half a kilometer.

The weather today was sunny, but a bit cool when the gust of winds were blowing hard.
Tomorrow is due to be ten degrees warmer and sunny.

Three kilometers from Chikatsuyu, we stopped in a cafe and shop to have an ice cream break and drink some water.

Once we arrived in Chikatsuyu village, we met our hostess from last night, who also owns a café right next to the Shrine in the center of the village.

Even though she was already closing, she insisted on making us coffees, and giving us advice about tomorrow’s hike.

While we were chatting with her, she asked how we were going to handle the fact that the USA has called for all citizens to return home, for fear of flights being canceled and not being able to return home later.

We told her that we have already made reservations until early June, and planned a whole walking pilgrimage, and we have no plans to cancel our reservations and disappoint all these people.
Besides, we feel safe and do not worry at all.

She told us that she spoke to several European tourists who said the same.
They had told her that they don’t want to go back to their home countries, and that they would much rather ride the virus out in Japan.
Some even said they feared getting infected if they returned home, while they felt very safe in Japan.

From her cafe, we walked over to our guesthouse for the night.
We were met by a friendly man who spoke good English and showed us around the spacious guesthouse we had rented for the night.

We did our laundry, bathed, ate the lovely dinner that they delivered to us and made our futon beds in preparation for a good night’s sleep.

Please stay healthy and protected by the truth!
With love and blessings,

Daily stats:
Steps walked – 28,732
21 km. walked
Active walking time – 5.5 hours
Total walking time today – 6 hours. All of the breaks we took today were on the forest path, so they were all short ones.

Total walking distance on the Saigoku – 58 km

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