Day 15: Adversity

Feliz, Kazuhiro, and I woke at 6 a.m. to get a good start on the day. We had 3 miles to walk just to get to the foot of the mountain where Temple 27 is located, and then a steep 3 mile trek up and down the mountain. It was raining pretty hard when we woke up too. Misono woke before us and was preparing an incredible Japanese breakfast. She’s a ball of energy. My phone was still charging, so I failed to get any photos of breakfast, but she made us a cabbage salad and served it with miso soup, raw sashimi of another fish I didn’t recognize, a bowl of baby whole sardines, and white rice. She also packed each of us a onigiri (rice ball) to take with us for lunch. The baby whole sardines was a bit weird at first, but ended up being quite delicious with rice. 

The rain let up just as we finished packing. Misono offered to allow us to stay again tonight and would keep our bags for us and pick us up at the base of the mountain if we wanted to stay again. I told her I hadn’t decided what my plans would be, but I’d like to keep pushing forward. Feliz was enticed by another visit to the onsen, but elected to take her bag with her. We said goodbye to Misono and wrote in her journal. Oddly enough, the person who left the last message a few weeks ago is from Rapid City, South Dakota! What a wonderful, weird, small world! 

 

We started walking, the first mile and a half through Tano town, and then next to the ocean and over a river. As we were walking over the bridge, it started raining on us again. We tried to quickly put on our rain gear, but my socks got soaked in the process with rain pouring straight down my pack into my socks. With no shelter from the rain, we had to keep pushing forward. Misono told us of a friend’s house we could leave our bags at the foot of the mountain, so at least we wouldn’t be climbing with heavy, and now wet, packs. Unfortunately, the location ended up being about a mile further away from the start of the trail. We got lucky and found a market geared toward henro that allowed us to store our bags there. 

Free from the heavy burden of my pack, I seemingly floated toward to the start of the trek up the mountain. The toe that had exploded a day or two before was causing me a lot of pain, but I tried to put that out of my mind and enjoy my company and the scenery. Kazuhiro was quick to try to explain everything we came by to ask if we had them in France and America, such as these greenhouses. I don’t remember what they’re called in Japan or France. Kazuhiro is amazing, trying to teach us so much about his native prefecture of Kochi. He seems to purchase something from every small shop or market we walk by so we can taste local produce or fish or delicacies. 

We started the climb up the mountain, which ended up being a brutal wet slog because the rain started again. The path we took followed the winding paved road until we got to 1.4 km from the top, where the henro trail started. This path was marked as henro korogashi (where pilgrims fall down) and there were signs telling us to watch for snakes. The alternative route would be to continue to follow the slick road, which increased the steepness of its slope. By then, with the extra pressure of climbing up, my toe felt like it had exploded again and each step I took was a fresh new hell inside of my shoe. We rested for a little while and I finally told Kazuhiro and Feliz I wouldn’t be able to take either of the routes. They agreed, and told me from the looks of my feet I shouldn’t have tried to walk any today. Kazuhiro told me he would walk me back down the mountain and then up again to make sure I would be alright (seriously, he’s the kindest person ever), but I told him I’d be alright. And I was. It rained sporadically on my hike back down the mountain. My already wet socks and the downward slope causing my toes to slam into the front of my shoe with every step.

I made it back to the shop for cover just as the rain picked up. I found a group of elderly Japanese women had taken up residence in the shelter of the seating area where our bags were located. I desperately needed to take my socks and shoes off, so with no where else to sit I sprawled out in front of the shop with my socks and shoes off. My ring toe had not in fact exploded again, thankfully. Can blisters get blisters?

Before I came back down the mountain, Google Maps told us it was only another 30 minutes to the top. The three of us thought they’d be back down in two hours total, so I told them I would wait for them with the packs. About 4 hours later (including a short nap for me), my friends finally arrived at the shop. Kazuhiro looked exhausted, the poor guy. He told me the slope got much worse and they had to stop a lot. There’s no way I would have made it.

Temple 27 was Kazuhiro’s last temple for this trip. He’s going on to Kochi city to see his family and then back to Tokyo. On the first day we met, Kazuhiro asked if I like to drink beer. I told him I very much enjoy drinking beer and could have used one at the time. He said he loves to drink beer, but would not drink or smoke during his “training”, or pilgrim walk. At the shop, I confirmed Kazuhiro was done training and bought him an Asahi “super dry” beer, a well-deserved beer. I bought one for myself because I am a proper chap and don’t condone drinking alone. Feliz said 2:30 pm on a Tuesday was too early to drink. That’s up for debate on days like this. Kazuhiro bought her an ice cream cone because that’s Kazuhiro.

We said goodbye to Kazuhiro and I’ll really miss him. Feliz and I decided to go back to Misono’s after the day we had and not wanting to try to find another place to stay in the rain. We caught a train, which took us about 7 minutes to go as far as it took us to walk two hours in the rain earlier that morning. Cool.

At Misono’s, she was happy to see us again. I took a shower and then another nap while Feliz went to the onsen. When I awoke, Misono started preparing supper for us. She told me she was making somen, a cold noodle dish which Kochi prefecture is famous for. I offered to help and she let me grate the ginger. Then I stayed out of her way. 

She served us two varieties of somen, one was more like an angel haired pasta, while another variety (or as Misono explained, a different manufacturer’s interpretation of somen) was much thicker, even thicker than spaghetti noodles. She prepared our first dishes for us by placing the noodles in a bowl, covering with ice cubes, and then places a variety of toppings on them including shiitake mushrooms, cucumber slices with yuzu juice, tempura eggplant, tomatoes, ginger, and fine slices of scrambled eggs. Once we had our bowls ready, she poured a hot mixture of soy sauce and water over the top, melting the ice but still creating a cold soup. All of the flavors mixing in the bottom of the bowl created one of the most savory broths I have ever tasted. She also served us rice and sashimi fish. 

Misono told us stories of her family as we ate this wonderful meal. Yesterday was the national election in Japan, and she told us the time she ran for the equivalent of city council in Tano town. Her husband’s family did not support her decision to run for public office, so her and her husband separated. They are still no longer together (Misono, “I have free energy now!”) but remain good friends. She ended up losing the election but was very interested in the results of the national election which she had on the television in the background. Misono then brought out a couple bottles of soju, a distilled beverage. The two we tried were both distilled from sweet potatoes, and both were very crisp and clean, unlike sake or even whiskey. There was no burn. After a few more hours of conversation, and a few glasses of soju, I headed to bed, exhausted from the 2/3 of the mountain I climbed. I bet Kazuhiro is sleeping like a baby in Kochi. Hopefully he had a lot of beer.

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