(Hongu Taisha to Koguchi – Distance: 13kms. Walking time 4hrs 25mins to 5hrs 35mins. Elevation 55m to 450m to 50m.)
It began to drizzle a little as we descended from the Sakura-toge Pass and reached the Kowaze Ferry remains on the Akagi-gawa River only a couple of kilometres from Koguchi. On the opposite side of the river is a covered rest area with some vending machines. There is also wifi access. I reached here first at about 2.30pm and waited for Mik and Patrick to catch up. They arrived twenty minutes later along with another group of pilgrims, an Australian and two Canadians. I broke open my chocolate bar and shared it amongst the group. We chatted together for a while before continuing.
Mik, Patrick and I reached Koguchi around 4pm. Koguchi is a small quiet town situated on either side of the Koguchi-gawa River, a tributary of the Akagi-gawa River. It has a convenience store and some vending machines, but not a lot else. As I mentioned in a previous post, accommodation in Koguchi is limited. There are only two places to stay in Koguchi itself: Minishuku Momofuku and Koguchi-Shizen-no-le Lodging. Both of these establishments are difficult to book.
Koguchi-Shizen-no-le Lodging is an old school camp and often gets booked out by tour companies. While Minishuku Momofuku has room for only three guests per night and only takes bookings two months in advance. If both are full, the other option is to book accommodation at a guesthouse located in the surrounding area, but not in Koguchi itself. The owners of these guesthouses pick up hikers from Koguchi and taxi them to their guesthouses and back. Most of the hikers who reached Koguchi that day booked into one of these guesthouses or at Koguchi-Shizen-no-le Lodging.
I was lucky, though, to have booked Minshuku Momofuku. It is definitely the best choice for accommodation in the area. Like Koguchi-Shizen-no-le Lodging, it is located only 400 to 500 metres from the Kumano Kodo trail. This enables hikers to begin the final, and for some the most difficult, section of the Kumano Kodo early on the morning of departure. Dinner, breakfast and the bento lunch box at Minshuku Momofuku are also excellent.
We found Minshuku Momofuku easily. The host showed us our rooms and then we had time to relax before dinner. There was still daylight and the clear flowing water of the Koguchi-gawa River looked inviting. Mik and I were keen for a swim, whereas Patrick preferred to sit on the tatami mats in the minshuku and sketch with paper and pen. We asked our host if we could borrow some towels for swimming in the river. He gave us a look of incredulity, said it would be cold, but obliged us nonetheless.
With towels in hand, Mik and I walked down to the river and dived in. The water of the Koguchi-gawa River was clear and the temperature was fine. It was a little cold, but not freezing. Being from Melbourne, we were accustomed to swimming in cold water because even at the beach in summer the seawater can be chilly. We swam for about half an hour and had a great time.
As I got out of the water, though, I noticed that my cotton shorts had a large rip down the back of them and were no longer wearable. The Kumano Kodo had rid me of my hiking boots and now my shorts. I had worn these shorts for the entire hike, but I was not too fazed as I had another pair of light hiking pants with removable leggings (which turned them into shorts) in my back pack. A pair of these pants are a must for hiking as they can be worn as either shorts or pants in both hot and cold weather.
We returned to the minshuku, ate dinner and had an early night. Before going to bed, I placed my ripped shorts in the bin.