Day 3. The BIG one!
Some of our fellow walkers who we’d met along the walk so far had opted in advance to skipping this day and instead replacing the 24km odd days hiking with a taxi ride to the Kumano Hongu Taisha temple and a rest day and early arrival in Yuonomine Onsen, or wherever they were staying the night. Not us though!
Not only had Mum decided in advance that we’d carry all our own gear for the full five days (don’t stress, there are services that shuttle bags between villages for you if you want), but obviously we were going to take on the big day. So with a backpack loaded with snacks, and a breakfast made up of a can of hot coffee and some sweet buns and bananas purchased at the local mini mart the night before, we set out at 6.30am.
The first part of the walk, and this would vary depending on where you stay in Chikatsuya was spent getting out of town and re-joining the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage walking trail. As we passed through the outskirts of the small town of Chikatsuya again we had the surreal experience of a beautiful mountain town in a valley, with a big river bed running through it, a potential industry of farming, logging, and tourism, but that had in many been forgotten. More closed up houses, overgrown gardens, and sheds that looked as though no one had opened the doors for a decade or more.
Forgotten Chikatsuya, in many way the bones of great place to live and and a stunning town in amongst the mountains, just needing to be re-discovered and re-energised with a new generation of locals and visitors.
The first few kilometres of the day stuck to and near roads between villages and through the mountain forest before finally morphing into a logging trail before once again transforming back into a walking track through the forest and mountains.
At one point for several km’s there’s a semi permanent detour around an area of mountain that the local Kumano Kodo walking trail authorities have deemed unstable. At another point you pass through a low flat area passing across the forest floor with trees spread out, cool, dark air, and the remnants or many ancient terrace walls.
Climbing out of this area, over a small ridge and then descending again through the forest, over a couple of ancient looking stone Kumano Kodo bridges and along past more stone terraces that have been reclaimed by the forest. The section of the trail passes through the ruins of an old settlement that was abandoned in the early 1970’s when the government of the time moved the remaining families to nearby towns. Amongst the ruins, are walls, terraces, household trash, urns and rusty corrugated iron.
Soon after passing through the old settlement, the trail re-joined the road for a period, which felt a little like a temporary detour, before the final couple of km’s of the trail passed through some small farming villages, terraced rice fields, fruit and vegetable gardens, and few more semi deserted villages, along with short sections of forest walk, before arriving at the Kumano Hongu Taisha temple.
For many people the Kumano Hongu Taisha is a key attraction of the walk and time can be spent finding peace, or exploring the historic Kumano Hongu Taisha temple and it’s grounds. The township at the bottom of the temple steps has a few shops and services along the Main Street, along with an information centre on the Kumano Kodo and the Kumano Hongu Taisha.
It’s from near here that we caught a local bus to Yuonomine Onsen, where our Minshuku for the night was. Here we enjoyed a hot bath with natural sulphur smelling onsen water, supper at our lodge, and sleep after a big day’s hiking on our tatami mats.
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