Exhausted, but Elated… we; 4 Indians, 2 Canadians; were at Everest, the Nepali/Indian restaurant, talking, laughing, making fun of each other, and of course gorging the spread, …3 different types of Naan, 4 different curries, rice, curds.. well the list goes on.. It had been a long, tiring day. We were up as early as 5:30 in the morning, to be ready for the 6′ O clock train to 伊勢市 (Ise Shi). It was all rains, the winds at a hullabaloo; the umbrellas annihilated the moment they were opened, all of us dripping wet; before we reached Edobashi station, we decided: “this is going to be a bad day!”
Couple of weeks back, I had seen this update on Facebook, ‘the International Exchange Centre at Ise, was organising a day trip to Kumano Kodo, and was looking for participants’. I had heard a lot about Kumano Kodo, seen a bunch of pictures, heard and read about accounts of people who had been there, but had never got about to actually going there. This trip, was my opportunity, and before I knew, I had already signed up for it, and later roped in my sister, and the 2 Indian exchange students for the trip.
The winds and the rains had slowed us, we missed the 6′ O clock train. We got into the next (6:20) train. This was a limited express, and took us to Ise Shi in less than half an hour. At the Ise Shi, Kintetsu exit, we got coffee, and waited for others. It looked like we were either too early, or the rains and the winds had slowed everyone. The first to show up was Jon, with his 2 sons. Then came Rita, with one of the organizers. Together we walked to the bus, which was parked some 5 minutes away from the train station.
A group; all ages, all stripes; had already taken almost every seat of the 60 seater bus, baring the last row, which we (the 4 of us) took happily. 5 minutes down, extra seats appeared in the aisle and they were filled too. Americans, Canadians, Thai, Malaysian, Vietnamese, Russian, Indian, Japanese.. you name it they were there… An hour’s drive from Ise, we reached Owase, the start point of Magose Toge trek route. We were all given our お弁当 (Obentos), a charm, and a walking stick. We were split into the Japanese guide team and the English guide team, and off we started with the hike. The rains and the winds which spread havoc in the morning, were all gone, and the sun was bright and hot with all its glory.
The trail was beautiful, the stone paved route; the greenery; the small brooks and streams guggling by; the stories and the accounts of the various people who travelled on the routes, narrated by our guide, made it more interesting. One of the stories, that of the mom tying the red bib of her child on the Jizō, or Ojizō-sama statue, for the Gods to correctly identify her dead child, was touching. Then there were stories of how the palanquin bearers would take the customer half way into the forest, and then demand extra money for taking them to their destinations, and stories of how travelers would rest in small tea shops and rest areas along the track.
We walked, climbed and clicked photos. We met the Canadians, Lisa and Winne, here. There were also part of the trekking group. Talking with them, I found that they were actually my neighbours and worked at the school next to my apartment.
We reached the half way point around noon. We had our Bento Lunches here, and later we split into two groups, one which carried on to the top of the mountain, and the other which returned.
We were part of the group, who decided to carry on to the mountain top. This part of the hike was more difficult, the sun and the humidity too were not on our side. Many wished that, we had opted for the easier climb down. But the view that awaited us at the top was simply amazing, and was reason enough that we did the climb. Atop the mountain was a huge rock, and from the top of the rock, we could have the amazing view of the Ise bay below. We spent the good part of an hour atop, most of the time, clicking photos, and then started with the hike back.
The hike back was easier. At the base, the first group was waiting for us. We got back in the bus and drove back. On the way we stopped at the Kumano Kodo Center at Owase. A brief visit to the museum, and we were back on the bus riding to Ise Shi. We took the train back to Edobashi, and made plans for dinner with the Canadians. A day well spent!