Read Part 1 here.
It’s Monday morning of Day 3, and the rain is at its peak. As we reach the summit, the path is just wide enough for two feet. On one side lies a mountain face. The other, a steep cliff thick with trees. One false misstep could mean some serious trouble as there’s no reception 1,000 kilometers high in the mountains. My friend and I check the map to make sure we are going the right way. As we venture forward a few hundred meters, we spot a hand-made sign on the trail, “You are going the right way.”
As we ate our breakfast and watched the morning forecast, my friend and I thought that we could beat the rain to our next hotel. “Hopefully you’ll just be able to miss it!” the Minshuku owner said as we departed.
No more than a half hour in, it began to rain.
Hiking Time: ~5 Hours
Mileage: ~19 km
Without any inclination, one of the older ladies came behind both of us and started giving massages. As my face winced with both pain and relief, someone else shouted, in a friendly manner, “You’re hurting him!” “Geez, you’re back is tense!” the lady said to me as she dug deeper into my shoulder blades. When she was finished, she gave me a hardy slap on the back. “Be careful out there, sonny!”
I walked and completed another pilgrimage recently. Luckily, it was a lot shorter than my previous stints in Shikoku. For four days I walked along the Kumano Kodo Kohechi, a trail with over 1,000 years of history. Monks and aristocrats alike would use the path to travel between Koya-san, the Shingon Buddhism headquarters, and Hongu-Taisha, the grand Shinto shrine in the southern part of Wakayama.
While it is far more normal to walk the trail from Koya-san to Hongu-Taisha, my friend and I decided we wanted to save the best for last and started the trail from the grand shrine in the south. While many people found this unusual, having a nice temple stay and a whole day at Koya-san was quite worth it in the end.
Because I don’t want this trip to span over months of writing, I am going to condense it down into a photo essay style and show the highlights of the trail. Anyone looking for a nice, enjoyable, but somewhat challenging hike with an exuberant amount of history should really check it out.