I’m finally out of Kochi but I nearly stayed as long as I could. The only thing I didn’t do was take a tour of the castle. I started the day with a ride up to Kochi castle, which is one of the few original castles left in Japan. Many of the original buildings were knocked down during Japan’s modernisation push in the 1870s but the main castle building and front gate were left and the castle grounds turned into a public park. While I was having my breakfast in the castle grounds, a lady walking past gave me a nod then started rummaging in her bag and came over and gave me an English language brochure on the castle. She told me she worked at the castle, sometimes as an English guide and sometimes doing other work, as she was today. I thought I might be able to go thruogh the castle but in the end didn’t have time. I hope I didn’t disappoint her by not showing up.

Today’s first three temples involved going south then north then south again so although I don’t think I got too far today, I still managed to get 70km done.

Getting to the first two temples took me again along narrow roads and through farmlands and local villages. Today’s second temple was on top of a hill filled with citrus trees and a good but not too steep climb to get to the top. A couple of walkers were interested in me – another husband and wife team – and enjoyed checking out the Trucker. She said she had a road bike and even understood the clear benefits of a 26×35 bottom gear. They started the pilgrimage 12 days ago so are making pretty good time. We took photos of each other and they gave me some food. I ate some of it but although they meant well, I had a hard time fitting a large two-minute noodle container into my already-full saddle bags. Still, they meant well and I managed to cram it in.

I was happy to cruise along at a pretty easy pace today and getting to temple 36 took me to the coast and the beautiful Yokonami Peninsula. The road along it was very up and down with views of mountains that meet the ocean and small beaches in bays accessible only by boat.

Riding along this road, I bumped into a young New Zealand couple, Patrick and Shian, who I had spoken to briefly in town the evening before. They had spent the last eight months or so backpacking through India, Laos and Thailand, and bought some bikes in Thailand to finish their travels by spending three months cycling through Japan. I ended up riding along with them and chatting for the rest of the day. Shian has never done much riding before and was having to get off and walk up many of the hills and I can imagine her heart sinking every time she saw another hill coming up.

We got in to the nearest town, Susaki, at about 5 o’clock and started figuring out somewhere to stay. There didn’t seem to be much around but Shian was looking pretty knackered and in need of a shower. We were just about to head off and look for a camp site when I spotted a business hotel across the road where I managed to haggle the receptionist down on the price.

Tomorrow I plan to ride a bit quicker and see if I can’t get down the coast to Cape Ashizuri-misaki which means I’ll have to do about 100km for the day. And as I’ve had it too good for too long, I’ll have to make sure I sleep in my tent for a change as well.

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