Climb, climb, climb…
The fifth and final hiking day of our recent Kumano Kodo pilgrimage walk was one that we’d been a little nervous about, another reasonably long day as far as kilometres, but moreover almost a kilometre of vertical up, and then later down.
After another traditional Japanese breakfast, and the short shuttle bus ride back to Koguchi from our the out-of-town hotel (with great Onsens) where we’d spent the night, it was time to kick off our final day of walking.
The morning was a climb, a long, at times seemingly never ending, but beautiful, rewarding and stunning climb. The path was generally stone steps, through the same tall clear forest that we’d passed through a lot in the previous days. After a good couple of hours of relentless, but enjoyable climbing, checking off the journey marker posts as went, we summited.
The summit itself was only significant in that it meant the uphill was done, and the downhill would begin. Hidden in trees, this particular milestone of the Kumano Kodo and our Day 5 and final day of walking was a mental achievement.
For the next little while it was a short downhill, then we reached a point where the traditional Kumano Kodo route was closed following some landslides earlier this year, and a diversion around a logging track wound us around a mountain that we’d otherwise have climbed over (and you may well get to, assuming that you’re reading this because you’re considering hiking the Kumano at some point).
After a short while following the logging track, we crossed a creek, and stopped to enjoy our picnic lunch that had been prepared by our hotel from the night before. The little spot had toilets, vending machines with hot coffee, and logs to sit on in the sunshine, and a replica tea house built to show hikers what the now reclaimed by the earth tea houses along the Kumano Kodo would have looked like for hundreds of years.
The next section wound down slightly, then a couple of short bursts of uphill, before heading over a relatively even section of mountain, with glimpses out to the Pacific Ocean. Following this, the trail began to over several kilometres and probably an hour or so wind down as we approached Kumano Nachi Taisha and the conclusion of the hiking component of our Japan mini adventure.
As we neared Kumano Nachi Taisha we came across a strange park area, which much like many of the towns we’d passed over the course of the walk was derelict and abandoned, including a long luge style slide rusting away.
Another short downhill section from here, and 15 minutes later we arrived at Nachi Taisha where many modern day pilgrims wandered amongst shrines, monuments, the waterfall and gift shops.
After a selfie to celebrate the fact we’d completed a walk which had long been planned, we headed down to the bus stop from where we caught a local bus into Kii Katsuura, an old but still functioning tuna fishing town.
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