(Koguchi to Nachi Taisha – Distance: 14.5kms. Walking time 5hrs 10 mins to 7 hrs 60mins. Elevation 60m to 870m to 330m)
After the Jizo-jaya Teahouse, the Kumano Kodo joined a sealed forestry road. I stepped onto the bitumen and ascended for a couple of kilometres before following the trail into the forest once again.
I enjoyed walking alone under the canopy of Japanese cedars. The leaves and branches blocked most of the direct sunlight. It was dim. I took the opportunity provided by the subdued light and the level ground to let my concentration shift from my feet to my left hand.
As I had done several times during the previous days on the hike, I relaxed my mind and let my eyes focus upon the clear halo surrounding my fingers and palm. The halo extended 1 to 2 centimetres from the edges of my hand into the space around it, slightly refracting the light, alike and unlike a heat haze in a desert. It became more distinct as I flexed the tiny muscles that extended from the top of my spine to my pineal gland (the small part of the brain that is located in the centre of the skull directly behind the eyes).
Different colours appeared within the halo as it took on greater definition. I stared at the blue and yellow light playing around the edges of my hand for a minute or so. I always found it easier to see auras away from the brightness of direct sunlight, strolling in a shopping centre, or when it was overcast outside. I often practised looking at my own aura and the auras of others. This was something I kept to myself though. It is difficult to convince another person of the existence of something which doesn’t exist for them.
I reached the Funami-toge Pass by 12.00pm. As I cleared the trees, I could see the town of Kii-Katsuura on the coast far below, and beyond that the Pacific Ocean. The view was spectacular and a good place to eat lunch.
I left the trail and walked up to an old covered shelter. I took out my bento box, ate some sushi and sashimi, drank some water, looked out at the vista and savoured the moment. Having finished my lunch, I packed my rubbish and stepped back on to the trail. From this point, the Kumano Kodo descended all the way to Nachi Taisha. I strode ahead at pace.
The final part of the walk was quite easy, although there was the odd set of stone stairs and rocks to negotiate. As I walked down towards Nachi Taisha, I met several groups of Japanese pilgrims coming towards me walking in the opposite direction. This was the first time I had met any Japanese walking the Kumano Kodo. Some of them wore commemorative tea shirts and the distinctive straw hats of the Kumano Kodo pilgrim.
I reached Nachi Kogan Park, just above Nachi Taisha, and then descended the final set of stone stairs into Nachi Taisha itself. There are many stone steps here. They are slippery in parts so be careful.
At 1.30pm, I stepped off the last stone step and arrived at Nachi Taisha. A café was situated less than ten metres away. It sold food and drinks. I bought a macha icecream and an ice coffee.
As I licked my icecream, I looked down at my arms and legs in surprise. My skin was light brown, not red. I had been walking for four days under the sun without sunscreen and my skin hadn’t got burnt. The temperature had consistently hovered between 26 and 29 degrees. Back in Melbourne, Australia, my skin would have got burnt in an hour or two walking under similar conditions; and it would have got burnt after three hours even if I was wearing sunscreen. The Japanese are lucky to still have an ozone layer. We have lost much of ours in Melbourne.
For the next hour and a bit, I strolled around Nachi Taisha. I visited the Seiganto-ji Buddhist temple and Nachi Taisha Grand Shrine. I also walked through the trunk of the giant camphor tree located next to the Nachi Taisha Grand Shrine and, as according to local legend, I was reborn. After this I took some photos of the spectacular Nachi-no-Otaki falls, the tallest in Japan, and took in the views.
Next post: Walking the Kumano Kodo: Afternoon of Day 4 (Sunday 29 September) Koguchi to Nachi Taisha.