I`m still in Shikoku. I`m still hiking.
After i last updated this blog i met Muto again and stayed in a tiny temple for free near Shimanto. The next morning i left him as he needed to do more Buddhist pilgrim door knocking and praying and so i hiked 35km through the now usual landscape of mountains of green, fields of rice and small fishing villages. That night i found a ridiculously cheap guesthouse that was made out of wood, pieces of corrugated iron, spiderwebs and insects.
Saturday started with mist and fog and walking the short distance to Tenple 39 which is right on the most southern cape of Shikoku followed by an afternoon of walking through fog and down pours of rain which attracted many bemused glances and double-takes from people driving past on the quiet roads. One old man stopped and asked if i wanted a lift but i just shrugged and said no as i`m now determined to finish the hike with power of feet alone and so i arrived at a friendly guesthouse in the small town of Shimonokae that afternoon and washed and dried everything and met Massa by chance again and got some food.
Please don`t think i`ve been eating in restaurants and dining out on sushi the whole time i`m here. I don`t even know what a sushi restaurant looks like. I do what all budget pilgrims do and buy cheap food at convenience stores and supermarkets but this is Japan and so it`s impossible to buy anything that`s not healthy. Fish, rice, nuts, bread, veggies, noodles, fruits. The only unhealthy things you can eat in Japan are crisps, chocolates and beer. And beer doesn`t count because it`s, well, it`s beer.
Me and Massa walked together the next day though winding long green valleys spotted with villages, clouds and thankfully, no rain. Massa lived in New York for a year so his English is pretty good but he told me that he learned most of it from watching Dude Where`s My Car, Bad Boys and Beavis and Butthead all the time which tells you almost everything you need to know about conversations with Massa. Nice guy though. We saw Temple 39 that afternoon and stayed in the nearby town of Hirata after raiding another supermarket of fish, noodles, vegetables, bread and beer.
Day 24 of the hike saw a bit of everything. Fog, rain, sun and wind. Roads, villages, forests, mountains, towns, farms and rivers. Snakes, eagles (well, kites but eagles sounds better) fish, dogs, cats, people, cars and, of course, Temples. It also saw a huge amount of sweat and 27km of walking so both me and Massa suffered from some chaffing in that most delicate area of a mans body. Talcum powder was duly sought, bought and used in copious amounts but the walk to and from the supermarket where we bought it was an interesting affair as we both walked whilst tyring to keep each leg as far apart from the other as possible. That night we stayed in a free hostel at Temple 40 that was run by a friendly man called Taka who wanted some help with his English and loved me as result. He took us to an onsen that night which is a Japanese bathhouse/sauna. The three of us got showered and i jumped in to the huge almost small swimming pool sized hot bath where upon four things happened. First, Taka told me that the water in that particular bath was filtered heated sea water. Second, i realised very quickly that salt water and delicate areas of my body that were already quite sore were not a good mixture. Third, i left the salt water bath very quickly and sat in the cold one instead. Fourth, Taka learned some English words he`d never heard before.
Yesterday was a hot sunny morning and a hot rainy afternoon. Me and Massa hiked together again through forests and mountains and ended the day 26km from where we started it in the damp town of Tsushima where we found another guesthouse that was owned by a nice man who wanted us to drink three huge bottles of Asahi beer with him while he played Eric Clapton and Rolling Stones songs on his guitar. This morning was a short hike here to Uwajima where i`m going to have a bit of a rest day and avoid being rained on.
Apparently somebody has been lying because the hike is not 1500km it`s 1200 and the kilometre count is now 645, the Temple count is 40 and somehow, amazingly the blister count is zero. I`m not 100% sure how or why i`ve managed to stay blister free but hope it stays that way. I`m over halfway and the large old city of Matsuyama is approaching so it`ll be good to see something approaching civilisation again soon.
If you`ve read all this then i hope you`re doing okay. Keep in touch and see you soon.