Friday, 6 April 2018

The best laid schemes o' mice an' men...

Sunday 01 April. Having realised that there would be no walking the henro michi (pilgrim road) today I limp back to the nearest town, Kainan, where we sit in a henro hut and decide what to do. We could wait it out here for a couple of days and hope for my leg to recover and I suggest as much. Mick, however, announces he is not that keen on walking on. and as soon as he says it I realise I am more relieved than disappointed. I guess we are both wondering whether we have bitten off more than we can chew. We walked the 88 Temple Pilgrimage before and perhaps that is the problem - we know how very hard it is to walk the entire route. Four years on I am less fit, more overweight and less prepared than I was back then and it had been hard enough the first time. Sitting there, with a leg that has gone on strike, with the long road stretching on down to Cape Muroto, the truth is that neither of us has the stomach for it.

For a while I quite enjoy allowing self-pity to take over. "Why can't I just go on a cruise?" I whine, "Or stay for a few weeks on a beach somewhere. Why do I have to put myself through it?"
Mick shrugs. "You'd get bored," he says. "Plus you said you wanted to lose weight. You'd never lose weight on a cruise, they give you four meals a day and you sit around on deck sunbathing all day. Imagine that for three months."
I try to imagine it and in my exhausted state it doesn't sound too bad. I reckon I could handle it.

But no doubt Mick is right - I would get bored. And I do love Japan, and Shikoku.

We decide to return to Tokushima and see what happens with my leg. There is a railway station at Kainan and two hours later we are sitting on a train and trundling north. There is another pilgrim on the train who comes over to speak to us. He is a young man from central Shikoku. He tells us he works in forestry  and is walking the pilgrimage in stages, a week at a time. Sensible fellow.

There is a business hotel next to the station and we book in there for the night. The next morning however my leg still won't work properly so we book in for Monday night as well. In the afternoon we take the ropeway (cable car) to the top of Mount Bizan, the hill in the centre of Tokushima and sit there enjoying the view for the afternoon. Being back in Tokushima means we can also visit the udon-ya (udon noodle bar) next to Tokushima station which is excellent and where you can get a good meal for around 600 yen (about £4.00).

Udon-ya yumminess

On the ropeway

Tokushima from Mount Bizan

We are reluctant to stretch our meagre budget to a third night in the hotel so on Tuesday we take the bus to Naruto, around a 30 minute journey. There is a bridge here which connects the island of Shikoku with Honshu via Awaji island. Under the bridge there is a deep valley in the seabed floor and here the tide of the Pacific meets the Seto Inland Sea. The fast flowing water and the differential between the two bodies of water creates whirlpools at low and high tides. Luckily for us, the whirlpools are at their best in the spring and at spring tides. (Spring tides are nothing to do with the season of spring, they 'spring forth' during new moon and full moon phases.) Full moon was yesterday so the whirlpools promise to be good.

Naruto Bridge
Enjoying the sun at Naruto viewpoint

We camp at the viewpoint near the bridge and the next day we are not disappointed. The bridge has a walkway underneath, the 'Uzo no michi'. The entry fee of 510 yen allows re-entry all day and we spend a long time enjoying the spectacle below our feet. 

It's a long way down....

Trench under Naruto bridge

That evening we take the bus into Naruto town and camp by the river. It is peaceful here aside from the occasional fishing boat speeding out to sea on the tide and I sleep well.

The next morning (Thursday 05 April) we are on the train to the city of Takamatsu, farther along the coast. It has been four days now since my leg started playing up and it is definitely better although my gait is still a bit lopsided. We are still dithering about what we should do about the walk.

Takamatsu is a port town. It was mostly destroyed in World War Two and the streets have since been rebuilt on a grid system. We manage to find a park to camp and we settle down for the night. In the morning Mick discovers a centipede under the tent which he assures me has a nasty bite. This particular centipede was not looking too good having been slept on all night but he may have brought his mates around so Mick proceeds to give the tent a thorough shake out and he reminds me to check my boots every morning...

Shaking the tent out...

Friday is rainy so we spend most of the day playing scrabble and just chilling out. I am glad to report that my leg is now pretty much recovered. Not keen on meeting any more centipedes, we find an alternative place to camp, down by the port. But when we go to pitch up at nine o'clock it is blowing a hooley down there. Mick valiantly holds firmly on to the tent which is now resembling a massive parachute. We eventually drag it back down to earth and fight with it to stuff it back in its bag before it escapes for good over the Seto Inland Sea.

Mick calmly and quietly expresses an opinion that he is not terribly keen to camp this evening. Fifteen minutes later we are checked into the Pearl Business Hotel and drinking a bottle of Chilean red.

Scrabble day

The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!

Robert Burns, To A Mouse

Sunset at Naruto

No comments:

Post a Comment