Thursday, June 18, 2009


Me: Forgive me Buddha for i have sinned.
Buddha: Confess sweaty pilgrim.
Me: Well, i was in the little city of Kochi on the south coast of Shikoku island in the middle of a Buddhist pilgrimage trek that people are supposed to walk. Only walk.
Buddha: Yes?
Me: Well, the thing is, erm, Kochi city has these trams, and well, i was walking down this long long street and these trams were passing by and i checked my map and they were going to the same place i wanted to be, and, well, trams are cool and cheap and i kind of got on one.
Me: It wasn`t far though. Just five kilometres.
Buddha: Hmmm. Your only supposed to walk the pilgrim route around Shikoku. Any form of transport is clearly cheating.
Buddha: Did you stick your head out of the window?
Me: Hell yeah.
Buddha: Hmmm. Okay. It`s not too bad...
Me: Well, erm, on the same day i, erm, also, sort of, well, got a ferry.
Buddha: A bastard ferry? What next? A fucking helicopter?
Me: No, but, hang on a second, it was a tiny little ferry that just took people and bicycles across a dinky little harbour and it was free. Free public transport. How ace is that?
Buddha: Free?
Me: Oh yeah. Not a single yen was exchanged.
Buddha. be very honest Mr Dave i don`t care because you`re an atheist and this conversation never took place anyway. You`re just writing this to make yourself and your stupid blog look more interesting than they actually are.
Me: Hmmm. You`ve got a point there.
Buddha: And one more thing.
Me: Yes Buddha.
Buddha: Fuck off.
Me: Okay Buddha.

And that`s how i left Kochi last Saturday and in between cheating and not walking i met Massa the guy that had cycled to Shikoku to do the trek. He told me that he`d seen Muto the previous day and that he was looking for me. That day i walked 29km and stayed in a little city called Tosa in a guesthouse owned by a small slightly nutty old woman who thought i could speak fluent Japanese which meant that i just stood around for long periods of time saying yes and/or shrugging as she spoke to me. She was very nice though and as i was a sweaty pilgrim she let me stay for free.

The next day was the 16th day of walking and it was gloriously sunny. I walked 20km and saw two more temples in the morning. At lunchtime i walked past a small beach with guesthouses and cafes lining the small sea road and somebody shouted my name. I turned to see a familiar looking bald man sat under a sun umbrella outside a cafe with a beer in one hand a lit cigarette in the other. Muto. We spent the rest of the day drinking and swimming and getting sun burnt.

On Monday morning me and Muto hiked up steep mountain roads next to dramatic cliffs and had our lunch delivered at the road side by Muto`s 71 year old uncle who lives in Kochi. He was out for the day riding his motor bike. He pulled over on a huge Harley Davidson, gave me and Muto a load of food and drove off again. I asked Muto what job his uncle used to do and he started making gun noises and sounds.
"Police? Army?"
"No, no, no. Er.."
"He making. Gun, rifle."
"Rifle maker? Your uncle used to make rifles? And now he spends his days cruising around Shikoku on a Harley Davidson?"
"Yes." Muto shrugged as if everybody had an uncle that did this kind of thing.

That afternoon we met a busker in a car park who was busking his way around Japan. He started in his home city of Nagoya last September and was walking and playing his guitar everyday. We watched and listened to him play Knocking On Heavens Door as people wandered past to the shopping centre trying to figure out the circumstances that enabled a long haired guitarist, a bald chain-smoking Buddhist and a sun burnt foreigner to be stood together in a car park in a small town in rural Japan. Which is understandable really.

That night Muto got drunk with the busker while i looked for a guesthouse in the town of Awa and found Muto the next morning feeling hungover. He told me that he didn`t want to walk the 26km to the next place and that he was having a rest day sleeping in his tent on a nearby beach. I said goodbye and said i`d call him and we should meet up again on the trek later. I walked along the side of the hot highway with busy traffic whizzing past and arrived at Temple 37 where i found a free place to sleep. An old woman showed me the free "hostel" for pilgrim hikers. It was a big wooden outdoor shelter. On the floor of the shelter was a familiar looking bald man having a snooze, his cigarettes laying on his stomach.
"You cheeky fucker. You got a train."
"No, no, no," Muto said trying not to smile, "I, er, running, running. You very slow."
"Bastard," I countered intelligently. "26 fucking kilometres." I pointed out politely.
"Ah, running, running."
"Makes my little tram ride seem like fuck all and i`m not even Buddhist."
"Huh? Tram? Eh?"
"Doesn`t matter. Wanna beer?"

Yesterday was a long 33km walk with Muto, Massa (who we met again) and a German guy called Michael who vanished into the sunset while we ate ice cream as he was walking way too quickly. Me and Massa found a cheap guesthouse and Muto camped somewhere and then this morning was a short hike to Shimanto city and tomorrow we`ll be heading south to Temple 38. The kilometre count is now 480 and that doesn`t include the tram or the ferry. I won`t tell anybody if you don`t.

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