Day 9 – 1 October
Leaving Agustin’s in Tokushima, I embarked on what I knew would be a tough day. Looking at the elevation profile I could see I had two temples both up at 500m and with very steep climbs to reach them.
First I had to work through a couple on the flat, this took a little longer than expected as I got a bit lost but it was OK in the end.
I was surprised to see Jim again, the British walking pilgrim from a couple of days ago again. I thought he must have been going at an incredible pace. But no, it turns out he’d met a couple of girls who were using the bus as well as walking and they’d convinced him to go with them for a section. I’m not sure how much convincing he took!
I was now up to Temple 20 which was going to be tough to reach. I really had to push myself to get the bike up the 500m on the crazy gradients. A few hundred metres in a man in a flat bed stopped and tried to convince me to let him drive me up as it was going to be ‘terrible’. Tempted I managed to decline.
I was glad I did, when I reached the top I was dripping with sweat but feeling quite pleased with myself when I finally made it up there.
After visiting this temple it was straight back down and then up again to the next. I wasn’t even sure I could ride up to this temple as the route wasn’t clearly marked and there was the option of a cable car.
In the end I found a narrow track that got me to the top, some walking Americans informing me I should be able to get the bike up but I might have to push on some of the 30% gradients. This made me determined not to push and I managed it.
The way down as expected was hard as well. It’s difficult to enjoy a descent when you’re gripping the brakes so hard.
The next temple was pleasant with coins placed on its steps as offerings.
That night I rode for Temple 23, the only temple for the next 100km, my first big gap.
As darkness fell I pulled off down a side road and camped at the bottom of some steps leading to a shrine.
It was one of my most peaceful spots so far. Well apart from the general noise of the mountains, the insects in Japan can be very very loud.
Day 10 – 2 October
It was raining when I woke, so I decided to have a lie in to wait for it to finish. Today I didn’t have too far to go as I’d arranged to stay at a Warmshowers.org host not too far past Temple 23.
Thankfully the rain stopped and I continued on after faffing about a bit.
Unfortunately it didn’t stay stopped and for most of the morning I had to take shelter from heavy showers.
I also had to avoid crabs while riding.
Eventually I rode down so I was following the coast, it was really pretty.
As I wasn’t in a hurry I spent a bit longer than normal riding through the fishing villages and stumbled across this festival which included dragging a float across the town.
I eventually reached Temple 23, which was in a town overlooked by a castle.
After the temple I rode in earnest for my host’s place in a nearby town. My host: Tomoya san had toured himself so made sure I had everything I needed or would probably find useful. So I got a shower, a hearty dinner, WiFi and a comfy sleeping spot.
Tomoya San was a former advertising exec from Yokohama who’d given it all up to farm organic tomatoes. It looked like he’d made a good decision.
Day 11 – 3 October
The next day the weather had improved and I had an absolutely incredible day riding along beautiful coast. It was one of the nicest sections of my whole trip.
Temple 24 was up a short steep climb, as was 26. This made the first part of the day quite tough. There was quite a bit to see including a town with some traditional houses built against typhoons and or tsunamis, with small metal shuttered windows.
All on an exquisite coastline that I rode round the whole time. Including Cape Muroto which juts out into the Pacific Ocean at the eastern tip of Shikoku.
The two earlier climbs hadn’t prepared me for Temple 27, this was an absolute beast and the hardest temple I’d currently experienced. I don’t know if I was just low on energy from a late lunch but I struggled to get up. I kept having to stop and sweat was pouring off me. I was pretty relieved when I finally made it up. Apparently it is considered a henro-korogashi, ‘where a pilgrim falls down’, or a place where henro are likely to give up due to difficulty. I could well understand this.
After this temple I rolled down a quiet road of the peak and went to find somewhere to camp.
I pushed it a bit close to night but managed to find one of my best pitches of the trip. Up on top of a cliff overlooking the sea on flat grass with lights and a public toilet nearby. A kind man sleeping in his car nearby shared some fish he was grilling with me.