Weather: Sunny and very, very hot. It was 36 degrees today!
MP3 track of the day: Delicious - Monkey Majic
I was up at 6:30am and felt quite refreshed. There was no buffet breakfast with this hotel and so, once ready, I headed out into Takamatsu to the McDonalds I'd past last night. Once a pancake breakfast had been consumed, I got back into my car and proceeded to my first attraction for the day; Zentsu-ji … a temple which, though it didn't look that far on the map, seemed to take forever due to traffic lights.
A very 'happy chappy' greeted me at the car park to the temple. Armed with a sheet of six English sentences he managed to take £1.50 off me as a parking fee, told me that the temple was on my left and that I needed to park my car on the right. After doing as I was told, I applied sun cream before heading into the temple complex which, thankfully, wasn't that big and was free. Now you may be asking why I was so happy that it wasn't that big. The answer is, is that this was the first of four planned sites I wanted to see today. They were spread from the north of the island (which is where Zentsu-ji is) all the way to my over-night stop in the south of the island (the city of Kochi). I didn't have much time and so I was very happy when I managed to see all of the temples, the pagoda and the cool semi-circle bridge in around twenty minutes. What's more, this temple was all on a 'ground level' meaning that it was a delight to walk around on a day like today. I left the site twenty minutes after entering. The only thing worth noting was that this temple had rows of stone statue monks in very strange poses.
My next site for the day was only five kilometres south from Zentsu-ji. This was a temple site called Kompira-san, located in the village of Kotohira. 'San' means mountain and, you know what that means. This temple complex is spread up a mountain connected by over a 1,000 stone steps. I parked my car in front of some old woman's house – I fear illegally; however she asked for a £2 parking fee and seemed happy enough – and walked towards the start of the climb. I had brought only my camera and a Thermos filled with ice cold water. Given that it was 34 degrees, I was surprised at the sheer number of people willing to take on this beast. I decided that the best way to tackle this mountain was to not look up and to keep a steady pace. I first of all had to get past a quite substantial row of souvenir stalls and food stores which, it would appear, had grabbed a lot of the 'would-be climber's' attention.
A woman selling cold drinks was telling everyone within ear shot that they were halfway to the top of the temple and … well done. I collapsed and sat on a stone step gasping for breath. I was surprised that I was already half-way up however, the heat and humidity had really affected me; my shirt and cap were completely ruined. I drank some of the delicious, sweet iced water I'd carried up with me and continued on. Soon I found myself at the first temple; I can't tell you much about it as all I wanted – at that moment in time – was for the climb to end. I drank more water and took a few quick photos before heading on.
When I made it to the next level I took in even more water. It was as I was about to take my third cup when my 1.5 liter Thermos ran out. I couldn't believe it; 1.5 liters in twenty minutes … and it felt as though all I'd done is pour it onto my back. I asked a Japanese lady if this was the top. She said it was for the temple however, there was a shrine a little further on. With no intention of coming back here I went on-wards, towards the shrine.
The shrine was no different to any other I'd seen throughout Japan. There were yet even more steps (500!) to, I think, the summit of the mountain however, I had had enough. My shirt felt as if I'd just put it on after being washed - but before being tumble dried. I turned around and headed back the way I'd come. The view over the city of Kotohira was superb and so I took a few photos of that before descending.
On my way down I bought a bottle of pop (drank it all within a minute), an ice cream and my souvenir for this trip … another Kokeshi doll (quite expensive). I was absolutely shattered and this wasn't the first time that I reminisced grudgingly back to my backpacking days. I must have been so fit back then; carrying that huge bag for miles … where has it all gone wrong?
Finally, heroically, I made it back to the car. I bought ANOTHER bottle of pop, turned the air-conditioning up and rode off into the distance. The time was 12pm and I still hadn't made it to the main attraction of the day. That lay much further south towards Kochi. It's name … the Oboke Gorge.
It took an hour to get to the gorge by car and yet, my t-shirt still hadn't dried. I found a car park, which gave spectacular views of the gorge below, and once parked up, I showed the world my wonderful six-pack of muscles before changing into a new t-shirt and photographing the hell out of the gorge. The gorge was amazing; the side were so sharp. It was as if a huge knife had taken a wedge out of a block of cheese. Below was a fairly fast flowing river with hundreds of white water rafting groups having fun. The only problem – for me anyway – in regards to the gorge was, finding places to stop to take photos. You see, the gorge ran along a main road therefore, I couldn't just stop 'willy-nilly'. I struck gold with the my first two photograph spots however, a few other places did not give me much return for my investment. I would drive along and find a good view however, I then could not find a place where I could park safely. This meant that, though only doing twenty miles an hour, I made it through the gorge pretty quickly. Please note that, because I wanted to drive extremely slowly – to take in the view – I therefore pulled over countless times to allow traffic to pass. Not one car thanked me. It would also appear that no one else did the same. I think that I have found the region of Japan with the worst drivers.
Once out of the gorge it didn't take me long to enter the city of Kochi. Once there I found my hotel and went up to my room. The time was just after 4pm and so I took a much needed shower and freshened up. At six I went into town to have a quick look around and to have something to eat. Kochi was 'stop number four' today and it isn't bad at all. The city is pretty small however, it's streets are lined with palm trees (this is what I love about Japan; the country is just so different – and at the same time, so alike - depending on where you go) and it seems to be quite laid back. I went to a ramen restaurant called 'Tokushima Ramen' for dinner and had their specialty (ramen is a bowl of noodles in a broth). Once done I finished my look around Kochi before buying even more liquid and returning to my hotel.
So there you have it! Another day down, only six more left. Due to 'life' getting in the way, I have seriously had to shorten my holidays to save money (I want to save for a deposit for a house, a car, household furniture etc … you know, life things) therefore, this is a blitz of a trip and I'm sure you can see it already by reading this post. What I have done today, I would have normally taken three days to do it. If I am honest, I much prefer my longer holidays. I maybe seeing the same amount of stuff, but I don't feel as though I am enjoying them as much. I am always thinking about the next thing and if I have time. Anyway, tomorrow I'll get up early before driving around Shikoku's southern coastline. I shall them make it to my over-night stop town of Uwajima before heading off to look at the Shimanto-gawa … Shikoku's longest river. Until then...