Day 6: wrong turns and right people

I’m not proud of myself today. While it is easier to follow a path in the forest than in a city, I didn’t expect to fail following the “henro road” so often.

The signs are mainly in Japanese, true, and they are not always consistent, fair enough. But this should not happen.

Today I walked back to Tokushima downtown, where I stayed on my first night. Passing by the hotel “Avanti”, I still feel like a random dude on a walking trip and not like a real pilgrim. 

I’m picking up every “walker automatism” I used to have on the Camino, like how strong I should tie my boots, on which side of the bag I should put my straw for the water bag and so on. But at the same time I feel distracted and not yet on top of this pilgrimage.

That’s why I took some wrong turns today. For sure my bad sight doesn’t help either, but I do believe my mind is the main culprit. I will have to work on it much more than I expected.

The Route 55 in Japan is not as charming as the Route 66 in the US.

After many curses, I somehow reached the 18th temple. Although it wasn’t even 11 AM, my feet were already hurting, a reminder of yesterday’s long walk.

Slowly and not so surely, I also got to the temple #19. On my way there, I saw a hawk who was circling not so far from me. Magnificent beast, I have always been fascinated by them.

Lunch was fairly simple: I had a sort of “cheese tart” from a shop just outside the temple and a bag of crisps made from the kind of sweet potato that grows here on Shikoku. It was very tasty and a very kind gift from the owners of yesterday’s ryokan.

The road to temple 19 goes through a very nice bamboo forest.

In the early afternoon I tried to pick up the pace in order to arrive at my destination on time. A man stopped his pickup truck to give me a canned “café au lait” (burn French people, burn) as osettai and asked me where I was going.

When I answered Katsuura, he smiled and told me to hop in, as he was from that town and knew the owner of the inn where I was staying.

What would have taken me one hour, took me less than 10 minutes. Cars are so comfortable. Yes, I don’t feel good about accepting a lift, but it’s extremely rude to refuse a osettai and my feet were not in a good shape.

The guy and I had a nice conversation. He told me he was 66 and that he’d never been to Italy. We talked about how good sashimi is and that the idea of putting coffee in a can is unthinkable in Italy.

No regrets.

I’m still amazed at how generous these people can be.

Tomorrow it’s going to be a though day, with two mountains to climb one after the other. Why do they have to put the temples on top of every freaking mountain?

After that, it should be fairly easy for a few days, getting closer to the coast.

Today I looked at the map again. Now I have a better feeling for how long this walk will be, since I can compare the distance I covered in 5 days (around 115 Km) to what’s left. 

Looking at the numbers, my pace looks OK, though I still wish to increase my daily mileage to build one or two days of buffer. Even a couple of additional kilometres per day will result in a full day over the course of the henro

However, the last two kilometres of each stage are always the most painful ones and there won’t always be an old man ready to give me a lift.

Better take advantage of these luxuries when you have the opportunity to do so.