Being a sucker for following the “scenic route” I had chosen to take the longest trail (E) between Kongōfuku-ji (金剛福寺 – 38) and Enkō-ji (延光寺 – 39) which is around 20km further than the shortest.
Heading out into a deluge of rain at 7 am this morning I was beginning to regret this decision but was fully committed at that point so just focused on putting one foot in front of the other.
Continuing through a number of tunnels, which were for once a blessing, I reached a fork in the road at Ōura where the trail leads into the forest.
Although the trees provided some cover, the slippery leaves underfoot made it tough going. At one point I had to gingerly cross a stream which was engorged by the rain but, having tiptoed over the wet rocks, managed to avoid an early bath.
The rain also brought out the wildlife with jumping frogs and scuttling crabs frequently crossing my path. Almost every day I see huge birds of prey hunting over the fields and the occasional snake but unfortunately, they’re a bit hard to photograph.
I paused at Tsukiyama Shrine to catch my breath and watch the rain for a little while before diving back into it.
Further on the trail briefly dips onto the beach where I spotted an empty bottle of Chinese mineral water which had washed up on the shore.
There’s a story that when Kōbō-Daishi was studying in China, he threw a Buddhist ceremonial sceptre into the sea at Mingzhou and it later showed up in Shikoku. I suppose this adds some credence 😉
By noon I was soaked through and pretty miserable. I came across one of the few convenience stores in the area and stopped for a soggy lunch. Lawson should instigate a new 888 Shikoku Conbini trail with a stamp book to go with it (they already have a cute mascot).
With about 12km left to complete I put my headphones on for the first time and listened to podcasts for the final three hours. It mentally extracted me from the situation although I’m not sure was completely congruent with the concept of ascetic training!
Arriving at the Flex Business Hotel I booked in Sukumo around 3.30 pm I immediately set about getting everything dried off and cleaned before heading out for some food.
Wandering the empty streets I ended up at a truly odd American-style diner called Kirin House (not to be confused with the beer) that looked as old as its owner.
I ordered a cheeseburger, fries and a coke and then sat alone as the only patron at one of the fading wooden tables. It was a very Murakami-esq moment where the outside world ceased to exist. The burger was as retro as the decor but passed muster.
More rain is forecast for tomorrow but if things go well I should be able to make it to Kanjizai-ji (観自在寺 – 40). Time to hit the hay.
Distance walked: 44 km / 56,700 steps
Temples visited: None
Overnight lodgings: Flex (ビジネス ホテル) – Business Hotel