Countdown to infinite walking: 2 weeks
For the trip, it is said that there are two “bibles” that anyone attempting the walk must purchase. Yes, I do see the overwhelming irony in that statement.
The only catch about said books is that they are essentially only sold at the first temple. Previously, I checked every bookstore around me and, while they did have other guides for the walk, none of them had the detail that the two famed guides are known for.
The books are 四国遍路ひとり歩き同行二人 and Shikoku Japan 88 Route Guide. The first is a legendary two volume set containing the information and map book. The information book is filled with trivia about each temple, the proper procedures, what to wear and how to avoid blisters, just to name a few. The map book is just that, but with highly detailed markings on inns, supermarkets and other survival locations.
For all intents and purposes, 88 Route Guide is a translated version of the previous, but combines the two. Seriously, the writers did a fantastic job getting all the information into one solid copy and, even after taking a brief look into it, I learned things that are not readily available on websites relating to the walk. I cannot recommend these books enough.
Having said that, I had to start the trip preemptively and go to the first temple. Located right outside the city of Naruto, Ryozenji temple is not known for much else besides, well, being the first one. It is a very beautiful site and as I entered the temple’s gift shop (which had an automatic sliding door, of course), I finally found the two guides. The priest on duty was naturally curious about who I was and when I would start my journey and seemed genuinely surprised when I said I would begin at the end of the month. She gave me a final good luck and an extra booklet in Japanese as a parting gift.
Walkers like to say late-March into April or October into November are the best times to travel the road and, while I doubted that at first, I’m already starting to see why: tolerable days have already turned into pretty cold, stormy nights. While I won’t have to deal with the heat or bugs summer walkers must endure, winter brings the trouble of harsh winds and freezing mornings. 88 route guide also includes an elevation chart for each temple, so I can only imagine it will be good for determining when I’ll hit snow and colder heights. I can only hope once I start walking the blood flow will be enough.
In the next post, I’ll write about just how much of a (very worthwhile) money-hole this trip is and just how far I’m planning to do each day.