Just south of Wakayama is another pilgrimage, much shorter than the Shikoku pilgrimage – in fact less than 70 km – but with a number of pretty heavy climbs. The pilgrimage is similar to the Camino as there are many walkers from many countries, not least around the three spiritual sites on the route. It is paired with the Camino, so you get a special dual certificate if you have done both.
I was up early, breakfast at the Comfort hotel was fine and had about 50 minutes until the train left, so I walked to the station, less than 5 minutes away, as there is usually a lot to see when you have a bit of time to kill. I only had my backpack with clothes for a couple of days, and had left the rest at the hotel, to which I return on Saturday.
It seems that many people travel to Wakayama to work and each time a train arrived, the queues for the buses were enormous. But the Japanese have queuing down to a fine art – everybody stands in line for their bus (i.e. there are several lines) and nobody cheats. What I also noticed was that when the bus was due to depart at 8.15, it left at 8.15, but nobody still in the queue complained. I soon learned that that was because, if there were still people in queue for bus number 5, then another bus number 5 came as soon as the first one had left. No waiting around for 30 mins for the next 68 as we do in Denmark. Ten minutes later, the same thing happened when the next train arrived.
No more local trains now that I have my rail pass, but instead limited express that are far quicker. The train went south and I got off at Kii-Tanabe, gateway to the Komano Kodo. I had understood that the bus stopped at my hotel, it didn’t. Instead it dropped me off after an 80 minutes ride at the Konano Hongo Taisha shrine, which is one of the three main shrines on the trip. A Japanese gentleman who had the whole timetable helped me find out where the bus stopped and didn’t, before he got off and a guy from Hong Kong was so desperate to use the toilet, the bus stopped and waited until he had relieved himself.
The shrine was indeed beautiful and worth the visit. The pavilions were stunning, thatched roof pavilions in gold and black. Very nice indeed.
Of course there were many steps to climb, before you could see the pavilions …..
I started to follow a trail to a point where you could see a giant Torii gateway. It was nice to be walking again after yesterdays train dash.
The paths were tip-top, with plenty of room. The biggest challenge was to avoid falling over tree roots. The paths are well marked, so you are never in doubt that you are on the right path, and how much you still need to walk.
I carried on walking and ended up doing a ca. 20 km circuit, with full backpack, including a climb up to and down from 400m. There were lots of secondary shrines along the route, so-called oji’s, where you collect stamps to prove that you have indeed walked the route.
I must admit it was a very beautiful route, the paths are well-kept and the scenery is fantastic with forest, agriculture, waterfalls and rivers and streams.
The path I took ended at Yunomine onsen, one of Japan’s oldest and with an outside onsen for two people. I was about to walk back to the shrine, 3 more km, when I met the guy from Hong Kong who had just walked from the shrine. We chatted and he asked why I didn’t take the bus. I checked and it was due in 5 minutes – perfect. He was going to the onsen, but there was a queue and he got a number and had to wait. The bus came and dropped me off outside my hotel.
The Japanese gentleman and his wife that were on the bus from Kii-Tanabe were on the same bus. We got off at the same stop and walked in each our direction. Five minutes later we met again at the same stop neither being able to find our respective hotels. Luckily, they had seen mine and I had seen theirs. My hotel was on the river.
I took a hot water bath, which was nice before dinner. Dinner was a combination of buffet, hot pot and sashimi. It was fine.
To do the picture some justice, this was before I had taken anything from the buffet, that had many things to choose from.
I ended up walking 20 km with my backpack today. Tomorrow I will visit the two other shrines.