Day 6 – The Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage, Watarase Onsen to Koguchi, Japan

Day 6 – The Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage, Watarase Onsen to Koguchi, Japan

Last night, our hot spring hotel was nearly full to capacity.
This morning, when we came down early for breakfast, every table in the dining room was set, each with a room number and with food for the guests.

We had a lovely breakfast with a variety of cooked and pickled vegetarian items.
Just like yesterday’s dinner, the food was prepared with great attention to detail, and presented beautifully.
It was also very delicious.

We left our backpacks at the front desk, checked out and started walking from Watarase Onsen back to the Kumano Kodo trail.
We had about an hour’s walk by the side of the road, before we got to the forest trail.
Like most mornings, it was initially chilly, but as we started climbing up the steep trail, we quickly got warmed up, and started taking off our cold weather clothing.

Right before we started the forest trail, we bought pre-packaged Bento boxes for our lunches.
I saw three other hikers go up the trail ahead of us.

Since we woke up early, we had time to first do our spiritual lesson and meditate before breakfast.
I was happy to be in the forest.
I put out of my mind all the illusions of the world, the fear, the global coronavirus panic, the news and the extreme measures that many countries are taking, that are not in alignment with any truth principles.

The walk was enjoyable and challenging.
We began the climb up and during the day, we crossed two mountain passes.
Both of them were not very high, but the top offered us great vistas and views of the 3600 mountain peaks in the Kumano region.

The path was dotted with remains of old tea houses, that once were used by pilgrims as places to eat, drink and rest.
Some of these tea houses were also places where pilgrims could stay for longer than one overnight.

A sign by one of the remains of the tea houses said that the tea house owners used to look down the trail and if they saw a pilgrim approaching in the far off distance, they would start preparing Mochi rice cakes and boil water for tea, so tea and a snack would be ready to be served, just as the tired pilgrim arrived.

This forest was dense with trees, rocks, hilly paths, exposed tree roots, and many little song birds.
We often stopped to look up the trees, to spot the little birds, singing with such strong and bright voices.

We hoped to stop at a bench to have tea, but there were none, so we kept on walking.
Our map showed a sheltered picnic table farther up the road, which we would reach by lunchtime.

When we got there, we saw that the only table was already occupied by a couple of hikers.
We announced to them that we would be joining them for lunch.

They were a couple of travelers who had just arrived from the UK.
We talked about how things are now in the UK under the coronavirus scare, how they are in the USA and how they are in Switzerland, since I had just exchanged some detailed information with my girlfriend who lives in Switzerland.

It seems like the fear is being handled pretty much the same everywhere:
Quarantine, stay indoors, social isolation, avoid physical contact with others, do not travel, avoid public spaces, art and music venues are closed, etc.

They updated us with pieces of news information that we had missed, and said that they are also happy to be here, instead of in London right now.

One of the guys was originally from Israel, and he told us more information about how Israel was dealing with the coronavirus.

But the best part of our conversation was when we exchanged travel information, and talked about our route.
They will be staying tonight in the same guesthouse we will be staying at, so we will eat dinner together later in the evening.

We ate our lunch boxes, drank some hot tea and packed our rubbish away to take with us.
After the second mountain pass, the path became easier, with some flat sections.

Right before the last, steep descent into Koguchi, we stopped at a rest area to have an afternoon tea.
We did not want to arrive too soon at the guesthouse.

We met a Japanese photographer who was out taking photos of nature and of the cherry trees blooming in the forest.
We also thought the blooming trees were very beautiful.
He said that he would be not be going down to Koguchi, but back a few kilometers where he had left his car on the road.

The last part of the walk was a steep descent on the remains of an Edo period path laid with stones.
It was slow going down, and we made sure not to slip and to have sure footing.

We made it to the outskirts of Koguchi at about 3pm, and then walked over to the only shop in town that sold food.
We bought some nuts and fruit.
I asked the shop lady about tomorrow’s walk, and she showed us a graph of the very steep climb at the beginning and the very steep descent at the end.
She said there are great views of Katsuura town from the top.

Our guesthouse for the night is a converted junior high school.
Now that the population of the remote village is so small, there is no need for a junior high school any more.
There are few kids living in this remote area.

They converted the old school into a pilgrim’s lodging.
The tatami mat rooms are spacious, and even though they are a bit worn out by the many, many pilgrims who walk the Kumano Kodo yearly, they are still comfortable and clean.
The baths are good and the toilets are communal.

The food is also good, and in a normal season, they would be packed with guests.
We met another young man during dinner.
He was from the UK, but he lives in Japan, majoring in Japanese language at a university in Hokkaido.

All of us agreed that traveling now is a rare treat with many less tourists around.
Some places around the world have become so overburdened by tourism, that it has degraded the experience of visiting and made life for the locals very unpleasant.

They told us about congestion in London, making going to places in your own city, completely impossible.
There is no doubt the world is overpopulated and over crowded.
An overcrowded planet means that we are producing too much rubbish, cutting too many trees for our building needs, emitting too much gas, overburdening our earth and food supply.
And people keep on giving birth to more and more children, and multiplying even more.

I KNEW, from a very young age, that I would bring no children in this incarnation on this earth.
I find it hard to explain to those who do not walk the spiritual path, why I chose not to become a mother.
They simply do not understand…

But I have made a firm commitment to enlightenment in THIS INCARNATION.

This is my last body!
The cycle of birth and death will entrap me no more.
I will no longer go from birth to rebirth
This is my last incarnation!
My very last body
I shall have no more relations and ties to the world of illusions.
This is my very last cycle of rebirth.

Once, I saw a TV interview with the famous British artist Tracy Emin.
She explained why she chose not to become a mother in this incarnation, and I watched the interview with my mouth agape.
It was as if she spoke from the depth of my own soul, word by word describing my own feelings.

Then later I read the poems and writings of other women, who felt the same as I do.
This reality we seem to live in, is far from paradise.
In fact, it is hell to live in a rapidly aging and decaying body, that is subject to random illnesses, that unseen viruses can attack from the air, and where everything you worked for, can be wiped away in a few weeks of global insanity.

If this is the “real” world, then death is a much better choice, and all those who have departed this earth recently, should be celebrated.
They went home, away from this sad and lonely earth, in which we walk in small and fragile bodies, with weak minds and devastated dreams.

But the truth is far from this grim dream, that many believe is reality.
We are all powerful gods in embryo, only seemingly walking the earth, completely unaware of our mighty spiritual powers.

In our conversation tonight, the British guys told us that these are “interesting times” to be traveling in.
Hard times encourage us to look deeply around and inside, to examine our minds and beliefs, and maybe, just maybe, awaken to our true powers, and remember who we truly are.

ONLY enlightenment can really cure all illnesses.
Even if someone is cured from cancer or from the coronavirus, the next virus mutation or the next cancer can attack him a bit farther in time.
Enlightenment brings the awareness of spiritual powers, that can never be taken away.

The Yamabushi mountain monks that used to live in these mountains, were all seeking these spiritual powers.
Some found them, some will find them during their next incarnation.
Nobody can fail who seeks to reach the truth.

At dinner, we met two other Japanese pilgrims.
They arrived tired, each wearing the pilgrim’s white clothing, a bamboo sedge hat, a stole and a bamboo pole.
They felt revived at dinner, drinking beer and telling us that they are 72 years young, and what route they hiked today.
We wished each other a safe pilgrimage.

I wish you a safe journey as well, on your own pilgrimage through life….

With endless love,

Daily stats:
Steps walked – 32,505
24 km. walked
Active walking time – 6 hours
Total walking time today – 7 hours.
Total walking distance on the Saigoku to date – 116 km

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