The Kumano Kodo Trail - Day 2 - Takahara to Chikatsuyu
We awoke feeling full of determination to meet the challenges of the day. Our hiking instructions
indicated that the distance to be traveled was 6.5 miles with 1,575 feet of ascent and an estimated
completion time of 4 hours. We were fairly confident we could do it in 8 or 9.
Our breakfast was mostly fish which is not something we find appetizing in the morning, but thankfully
there was coffee. Our hiking guidebook warned that coffee might not be available at the small inns
where we would be staying.
The beginning of the trail was brutal. It headed straight up past houses on the outskirts of town
and kept climbing after we finally entered the woods.
We came upon paved sections of the path and passed several more shrines.
After we had been climbing for a couple of hours, we stopped to rest. We were feeling discouraged
because we didn't seem to be making much progress and were seriously considering returning to the
inn and taking a bus or taxi to our next destination. We had come so far that we hated to give up,
but the ascent was getting to be too much. The hiking instructions said we would reach a pond and
then the trail would begin to descend so we decided to go just a little bit further, and sure
enough the pond finally came into view.
The forest seemed endless, and there were still many long uphill stretches, but we continued on.
Surprisingly, it was when we finally began the long downhill stretch to the village of Chikatsuyu
that problems arose. I was so happy to finally be going downhill that I speeded up and got ahead.
There were steep twisty sections where the path had eroded and tree roots acted as steps. At one
point I took a particularly large step down, and my leg buckled leaving me sitting in the middle of
the path. I wasn't hurt, but I couldn't get up because my pack was throwing me off-balance. As I
struggled to remove my pack, I heard voices approaching. "Oh, good," I thought. Someone will
probably offer me a hand so I can get up." Much to my amazement, a young European couple appeared
and just kind of bopped around me as if I didn't even exist leaving me sitting in the middle
of the path. They didn't even ask if I was OK. How rude!
Walt caught up as I managed to get the pack off and struggle to my feet, and on we went.
Our hiking instructions indicated that there was a highway and a rest stop at the bottom of
the long descent. We were eager to reach it, but Walt's bad knee was refusing to work properly.
The trail was narrow, and there was no place to sit off to the side so we sat on some tree roots
that formed another large step down. Some older hikers passed, pausing to ask if we were OK,
as any caring human would do unlike the inconsiderate brats that had passed me by. We
assured them we could probably make it to the rest stop, but I was beginning to wonder.
When we finally reached the bottom, the path criscrossed a stream with small waterfalls
several times. It was lovely, but all we wanted to do was get out of the forest before Walt's
knee gave out completely so we trudged on and finally emerged at the rest stop.
One of the reasons we had booked this self-guided tour instead of just figuring out everything on
our own was because Oku Japan offered support if needed. We were only about a mile from the inn,
but it was about 5 PM, and we felt it would be stupid to go back into the forest in our current
frazzled condition so Walt called Oku Japan to ask if they could arrange for a taxi to pick us
up at the rest stop and take us to the inn. Instead, they actually arranged for the innkeeper
to come to get us. He arrived in a van with plastic sheets covering the seats. Apparently we
weren't the first muddy, exhausted hikers he had rescued. We felt so grateful to him for
leaving his inn at what must be a busy time of day.
The inn, Minshuku Chikatsuyu, was simpler than the inn we had stayed in the night before, but it
was a very welcome sight. We managed to figure out how to use the Japanese bathing facilities,
and enjoyed a delicious dinner served with a free glass of tasty homemade plum wine. Then we
collapsed on our futons once again.