Day 45- The Ikoma And Ebino Plateau, The Kyushu 108 Temple Pilgrimage, Japan

Day 45- The Ikoma And Ebino Plateau, The Kyushu 108 Temple Pilgrimage, Japan

Breakfast in our Ebino farmhouse was simple but tasty.
We had some herb and flower tea, and one small pastry filled with cheese and herbs, and another one filled with cheese and fermented natto soybeans.

Our goal for today was to walk half of the way to our next destination, in Satsuma.
The plan was that tomorrow, when we checked out of the farmhouse, we would take the train to our stopping point today, and start walking from there to our hotel in Satsuma.

But alas, it was not meant to be.
This area is very rural and the population is very small.
As a result, the trains, which used to run every hour and a half, no longer run at all during the day.
There is an early morning train, and an early evening train.
Perhaps they canceled all the mid-day trains for budgetary reasons.

In any case, my idea of walking west and then south and then returning to Ebino by train, could not work.
I was disappointed, not just because we couldn’t walk the 15 kilometers along our route, but because there was a mountain museum, with modern sculptures and statues displayed in the woods, that I had planned to visit before we returned to Ebino.

Instead, I had to come up with a way to walk the fifteen kilometers on another route.
This area is famous for its plateaus, some with volcanic lakes and craters, so I did some research.

The Ebino Plateau is a basin within the Mount Kirishima mountain ranges, situated south east of Ebino town.
It is surrounded by Mount Shiratori, Mount Karakuni, Mount Ebino and Mount Koshiki mountain peaks.

The Ikoma plateau is located at the foot of the Ebino Plateau, at an altitude of 1800 feet, or 550 meters.
From there, you can look out across the Kirishima Mountains and the Kyushu Mountain Range.

It is considered one of the area’s best sightseeing locations, also called the plateau of flowers because of the flowers of many colors which cover the plateau from spring to autumn.
Since it was still autumn, I hoped we would be able to enjoy the vistas of flowers.

It was a chilly morning, but soon it turned warm, especially as we started climbing up to the plateau.
We stopped at a local supermarket and bought some bento boxes to take with us, in case we did not find any food.
We also bought a bottle of iced tea, and a few persimmons.

Soon, the ascent became quite steep, and we wished we could have stopped and rested for awhile, but we saw no benches or places to rest.
Then we came upon a winery with a cafe that was open, but they had only coffee and wine, so we kept walking.

We made it to the plateau, and discovered to our disappointment that the flower viewing area had very few flowers still blooming.
Because the flowers were past their peak, it was now free of admission, but still there were quite a few people who had driven up there to enjoy the day.

We stayed long enough to have our lunch sitting on the grass in front of the tall mountains and the wide forested vistas.
It was very beautiful scenery, even without the blooms.

Then we started to walk down, as we still had 17 km more to cover before dark.
Going downhill was easy, but soon we were walking up and down rolling hills, in between many rice fields. After hours of walking, we sat on two tree stumps to have our tea, and I looked at the farmhouses and thought, how similar life was in rural areas all around the world.

People living in these farmhouses have tractors and farm equipment in their barns.
They plant by the season, and fertilize and cut the crops when the time is right.
They keep animals, raise their kids, send them to school and do the laundry, weed their vegetable gardens and cook their evening meals.

What they cook might vary by cultures, and what they celebrate might vary by culture as well, but otherwise, it is the same kind of lifestyle, in every farm around the world.

For the last few kilometers, we were feeling very tired and fatigued, but we got back to the farmhouse before dark, and I went straight to the shower.
The lady told us that she had shipped our box while we were out, and that it cost only $11.
We decided right then and there that we would ‘continue to ship that big portion of our bags ahead, until the end of the pilgrimage.

Dinner was another masterpiece by our host, who really knows how to cook vegetables.
She made us a vegetable stew, sautéed spinach, a soup, fresh warm tofu, rice baked in a clay pot and a tiny slice of blueberry pie.

We felt excited to be walking tomorrow with our new lighter weight packs.
We still have to get up and be ready to leave by six in the morning, in order to catch the only morning train available to Yusui, where we will start walking over the mountains to our new hotel in Satsuma.

Staying in the farmhouse was a much better experience than we had expected.

When we lived in New Zealand, many farmhouses around our area were enrolled in a program called WWOOFERS.
WWOOFERS means Willing Workers On Organic Farms.
Farmhouses enrolled in the program invite people from all over the world to come and stay and get their room and meals for free, in exchange for four hours per day of labor.

In theory, the idea sounds great.
The organic farms can get much needed help by just providing a place to sleep and food for the workers.
But in reality, most of the people signing up are really young and inexperienced, without enough skills or talents to help in any way.
They just want to travel for free, and they are so devoid of skills, that they really offer no help to the farms.

The farmers we spoke with mostly felt like they were babysitting kids, while all they can ask them to do was weed or do minor cleaning chores.

On the other hand, the accommodations offered by those farms in NZ were not the best experience either.
The farms all have limited water supplies, so long hot showers every day are not possible.
The sheets and sleeping quarters are not comfortable, sometimes just an old caravan or a shed in the garden.

But our farmhouse here in Ebino was really awesome.
The lady hugged us as we left, and we felt wonderful, well fed and well rested.

Sending you much love and care,

Stats: 36,533 steps
Today’s walk: 25 km
Kilometers walked to date: 760
Temples visited: none

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