Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage - Temples 18-23

After being tested at Temple 12 the following day was a complete contrast. We left Tokushima and cycled south to Temple 18, around ten kilometres away, using the shared cycle/pedestrian path. It felt  safer than the road except for the school children who were whizzing along in the opposite direction at speed, especially the girls, hurtling towards us at terrifying speed. It was pan flat and although we left late, gone eight o'clock, it was not quite so hot today. Temple 18, at the end of a quiet road,was peaceful. We were the only people there and we sat for a good while enjoying the tranquility before heading off towards 19.

At 19 we met a French Canadian called Lawrence, he was sitting near the entrance fixing the blisters on his feet. He is walking the 88 Temple route, taking in the Bangai temples as well, the 20 or so additional temples around Shikoku. He tells us he is on day 5. 'What any are you on?' he asks.
'Er, day 5,' we say.
'Really? you'll have to get a move on then, he said laughing.
While we are sitting there a woman comes over and offers us a small can of iced coffe each. More settai! We thank her gratefully. Lawrence doesn't drink coffee so after she has gone he gives it to us. 'We may see you again,' I say as we set off.

We saw him sooner than we thought. On leaving the temple we headed up the road for two kilometres before realising we were heading in completely the wrong direction and had to turn around. We passed Lawrence farther on. 'Don't tell him we got lost,' hissed Mick. 'It's embarrassing. Tell him we stopped for lunch.'
'Ok,' I said. As we passed him I called out, 'Hello again! We went the wrong way!'
Mick glared at me.

We were not looking forward to Temple 20. It was at the top of another wretched mountain and the memories of Temple 12 were still fresh. Near the bottom of the mountain was a michi-no-eki, another one of those very useful rest stations. We asked in the shop if we could camp and they said it would be ok after five o'clock. They kindly agreed to store our luggage while we tackled the temple, to give us more chance of getting up there. As it was, fate intervened. We had stopped to munch on a banana when a man stopped. We couldn't understand what he was saying but he kept pointing up the hill and then at our bikes. Eventually he gestured for us to wait and disappeared. Two minutes later he reappeared with a Honda pickup.
'He's offering us a lift!' I exclaimed.
Mick demurred, saying we should go up under our own steam. 'Are you nuts?' I demanded? 'Anyway, this is osettai, it would be rude to refuse.'
Ten minutes later we were at the top of the mountain.
It would have been rude to refuse...

We were not so lucky the next morning with temple 21. No angel in the form of a man with a Honda pickup came our way. We had intended to go up in the cable car - yes there is one to this temple - but we had taken a wrong turning. Mick was cross until he realised we had saved nearly 5000 yen by cycling, sorry- pushing our bikes up. He then cheered up right away.

The heat was punishing by now though - reading 34 degrees and feeling hotter. We stayed for a while resting at the top - when who should come along but our French Canadian friend.
'Hello again!' I said. 'I said you would catch us up.'
'Yes, maybe as you are going by road you have a longer distance to travel,' he said gallantly. We said our goodbyes yet again and Lawrence set off down the path while we teetered off back down the switchback road.

Coming down from Temple 21
At least Temple 22, a few kilometres on, was down on the level not up another hill. By now we were no longer surpassed to see Lawence's brown hat come bobbing along while we were there. We excahanged pleasantries again before setting off. The next temple was 15 kilometres away. 'If we see him again there I shall start to think he's Kobo Daishi in disguise,' said Mick.

Aside from a short busy stretch on a main trunk road it was a lovely ride, winding through the forests which clung to the sides of the mountains, before disgorging us on the very shore of the Pacific. A typhoon had lately been brewing offshore, and although it had swung away from Shikoku, it had caused some huge surges to come in here. A few courageous surfers were taking advantage of the swell, specks on a roaring turquoise and white foaming sea.

We were both exausted now and it was with some relief that we finally rolled into the very pleasant town of Hiwasa, paid a quick visit to the temple and set up camp at the local michi-no-eki. I'm really hoping that tomorrow doesn't bring any more mountains.

How do you like them apples?

Leisure time - I am currently winning 3.2 

Ossettai - ginger cake. Delicious.

Not the most salubrious - but comfortable and well appointed at michi-no-eki

Essential travel companion

The rope car we should have caught -
but would have blown a day's budget

O henro walking down from Temple 21

A mini fan in Shikoku!

Temple 22
Incense holder

Washing utensils at temple

The Pacific!

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