For starters, thanks very much for all the comments here and messages on Twitter. I look forward to getting them and they are very encouraging. I’m trying answer them all but I think there may be some I’ve missed by being out of range or preoccupied.

It’s been a wet and miserable day but the good news is I’m safe and warm in accommodation at Cape Murato. Unfortunately you won’t know this until tomorrow because my phone seems to be out of range again.

From last night’s campsite, I put on my wet weather gear and headed out into the rain, backtracking a bit along the I had come the day before and stopped at the first convenience store I passed for a feast of microwaved bento and three sweet items from the bread section. I was ravenous as I hadn’t had dinner the night before.

The weather was rotten but the only thing I could do was to keep going forward and try to enjoy it as well as I could. Luckily, going from the first temple of the day to the second one was along a quiet road through some nice hills, which lifted my spirits.

I didn’t seem to meet many people at the temples today, just one man who was walking that I chatted to for a bit. I visited just three temples today and they were all a bit distant from each other so I was never going to have the pleasure of seeing people again. In fact, today all I seemed to see were busloads of elderly pilgrims and not cheerful ones at that. One group in particular seemed to consist entirely of people who had lost the will to live.

Oddly enough, looking death in the eye put me in a better gram of mind, as did realising that temple 23 was the last one in Tokushima prefecture and I would soon be leaving the Dojo of Spiritual awakening. My journey is already a quarter done. The distance between temples 23 and 24 is about 75km and is one of the larger gaps so I didn’t think I would get that far and the last pilgrim hut between them that I could find was a bit before halfway there.

I finally got out of the mountains and hit the coast where the sea, rain and sky were all just different shades of grey. The coastal scenery was wonderful with short, sharp mountains on my right and rocky outcrops into the ocean. I passed by a few villages on inlets with houses right up to the water. On another day I would have stopped and taken photos but today was all about forward momentum.

Eventually I came to the hut where I wanted to stay but it was quite open and not particularly inviting. It was two-thirty and there were roughly 45km to the next temple. I wasn’t sure if I could average 20km an hour because a couple of climbs brings the average speed down very quickly but I decided to throw caution to the wind and see if I could make it. And I took some comfort that it seemed to have stopped raininv.

Luckily for me, the coastal road didn’t have too many climbs and along the flatter parts, I was able to find a rhythm and keep my speed in the high 20s and even 30s when the tail wind kicked in. The closer I got, I realised I was going to make it in time. I seemed to pass walking pilgrims at quite regular intervals. There must be quite a few on the road. Happily, the all seemed well-prepared with plenty of wet weather gear. The kilometres kept ticking over and finally I got to the cape. The temple is on top of Cape Muroto and the last kilometre and a bit was yet another series of steep switchbacks which took the last of my energy out of me as I finished 115km for the day. The temple itself had no outstanding features, the book-signing monk was just rude when I tried to ask him if it was possible to stay there and the accommodation was full of bus pilgrims.

My clothes were wet through and my spirits had just taken a rapid dive but luckily the lady at the temple accommodation had given me the name of a place to stay. And luckily again they had a vacancy. The woman running the place is both lively and lovely, I’ve met my first foreigner for the trip – an American boy from Alaska who is walking the pilgrimage, although he wisely cheated today and took the bus. I’ve also met a lady who has ridden her bike here from her home in Osaka to visit her daughter in Kochi which is about 80km away. We’re going to head off together tomorrow. I also hope to get to Kochi but temple 27 is another steep climb so I’ll just have to see how long that takes. The forecast is for snow in the north but only cloudy down here.

I’m bathed, clean and warm. My clothes have been through the drier and I’m in a warm bed. I think that’s as successful an outcome for the day as I could have hoped. Time to get to sleep so I can do it all again tomorrow. Night night all!

10 Comment on “Into the Dojo of Ascetic Training

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