My latest Post.

This view,this beauty
A tear unbidden
Creeps into my eye.

My stay is short
But I shall return to this place
If only my life is long enough.

Such beauty
Gazing upon it
I hope my years are many.

Bokusui Wakayama.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Shijonawate to Sango.

   Ikomayama (642m) standing sentinel over Osaka & Nara Cities, is included in this segment of the Ikoma-sanke Hiking Course. Although my path skirts around the mountain summit, I am sure I will still be in for some great views, especially of Osaka City & environs. 
   In the above image, taken 6-days prior to my trip, Ikomayama is blanketed in snow. The day before, the Pacific Coast of Japan was struck by a record-breaking snowfall (Japan Times), so I was conscience of my safety and took the appropriate measures - adequate clothing, maps, food & drink, e.t.c. - when preparing my gear. Within minutes of setting-out from my arrival point, Tozanguchi in Shijonawata City (map location), I was greeted with a 2cm carpet of snow, and would remain that way for most of my trip.

       Because I didn't carry a pair of crampons, I wasn't going to take any risks and tread carefully - I am aware of the risks involved in walking on compacted snow, so, whenever I needed to, I walked in the loose snow on the side of the track. Having hiked in this area several times over the years, I was aware of the terrain ahead.
   The first segment skirts-around the outer greens of a local golf course, before commencing the first ascent of the day. I soon arrive at my first junction, where route-9 of the 'Course descends down into Hozan-ji Temple  (map location), and the Shigi-Ikoma Skyline Road, which runs parallel to my track.
   Also at this junction are two other tracks, albeit one a lane providing vehicular access to the area, and my course. I needed to pay attention here and take the track up the wooden steps in front of me - take the wrong track, and god-knows where I will end up. There is a picnic area here (above image) and, to mention also, a signpost giving directions; I found these 'posts located throughout the course and they are very helpful. Although there are many tracks in the area, the sign I am following reads, "Ikoma Nature Walk" (orange). 
     Throughout this segment are several picnic spots, allowing the hiker the opportunity to break for that long-overdue food & liquid intake and, in the image on the right, their first opportunity for a view of the sights below. And what a view it is. Osaka City, in all it's glory and size, is laid-out for all to see and spot the many landmarks engulfed within it's confines. It's also at this location I come in contact with the first, of the many, hikers that I meet during the course of my day.
Map Location.
  As my track undulates and I pass another couple of junctions, I soon emerge into a clearing, and my first secluded settlement since commencing my hike. I now know exactly where I am. A few hundred meters on and I arrive at route-308. This road connects Osaka with Nara, and has the distinction of being the steepest road in Japan and, having walked down it, I can confirm that. In the above image I am looking upwards towards the Kuragari Pass ( the lane on the left in the image is route-308, my lane is straight ahead on the right) and, in the coming weeks, I plan to hike through this area as part of another post for this series. It is here I meet another hiker who was proud to inform me that he has been to New-Zealand on two occasions, on one occasion he hiked the Milford Track. He also complemented me on how good our local wine was. Pity he was going in the opposite direction, I would have enjoyed his company.
    Leaving route-308 behind, I soon re-enter the forest and, before I know it, my first rest-stop and shelter, and the opportunity to relieve myself and do a map-check. My calculations lead me to the conclusion that I am about a third of my way along. 
    The facility is well appointed and offers the weary traveller a warm, dry environment to rest-up. Several tracks converge here and, with the help of the signs, one should have no problem knowing which way to head. My track, directly in front of the shelter, ascends up a steep hill, and . . . . 
Map Location.
 . . . . my next viewpoint. And what a view it is. Ikomayama is directly in front of me (to the North) and, to my left, is Osaka City. Behind me, in the far distance, is Kongo-san (1,125m) and, in the foreground, Shigi-san.  
   As I wander off, my attention was drawn to this interesting piece of artwork. Very impressive. At this point I can hear the sounds of traffic using the 'Skyline Road, which I am about to re-join, and also the bells of a nearby Temple.

Map Location.
   After a couple of ascents/descents, the track soon emerges at a clearing, and this structure. This is a viewing platform (one would be forgiven, on first sight, if they thought this a diving platform) that offers 360-degree 
views and, if the conditions are right, views for as far as the eye can see - Wakayama, Kobe, Awaji Island, Osaka, Nara, the list goes on-and-on. 
It's also an ideal location for me to break for lunch, climb the steps for my view and check-out the interesting collection of padlocks (image on the right). I get the distinct feeling that this is a tradition, when visiting this site, to bring a padlock, inscribe a message or name on it, and attach it to the wire. 
   Upon leaving the viewing platform, I discover the signage changes and I have to rely on instinct, and my maps. I am somewhat disappointed as to how this has happened and I come to the conclusion that, over time, they will eventually upgrade the signs. The track crosses the 'Skyline Road, via a bridge, and, soon after, I arrive at a junction where three tracks converge. Taking the time to admire this religious icon, and maps, I become confused as to what track is mine. So, not wanting to take to wrong track and end-up miles of course, I walk along the Road and, before long, my track re-emerges from the forest and I heave a sigh-of-relief. I reach a tunnel, that goes under the 'Skyline Road, and I know exactly where I am.
   This is confirmed soon after, when I reach this junction. It is here I say farewell to track-24 and join track-20 and descend towards Sango. While checking the map another hiker passed-by. I had seen this man earlier, at the junction where I wasn't quite sure what track to take,  confirming that my track did proceed from that point.

    As I make my descent, through the rural outback of Sango Town, my muddy track has now become a sealed lane, and the sounds of traffic are about, albeit farmers vehicles. I reach a junction that directs me to Shigi-san and Chogosonshi-ji Temple.
Map Location.
   My track soon emerges, albeit briefly, at this pond, and I take the time to envy the anglers relaxing in the warm sunshine trying to catch that evenings meal. In the distance, behind the trees, is a secluded temple, that I stop at briefly before my next destination . . . .
Map Location.

. . . . Chogosonshi-ji Temple. As I was hiking, and aware I still had some distance to cover, I didn't want to spend too much time here, so decided to place this complex on my "Must Return" list. It's a huge site and, I would say, requires some hours to take-in and explore the many buildings that are here. 
     Exiting the complex, I say farewell to track-20, and my friend the tiger-dragon (for want of a better name) and say hello to track-23, the final track
of the day. 
Map Location.
    Twenty-four kilometers x seven-hours after leaving Shijonawate, I arrive at this signpost, heralding the end of my hike. And what a hike it has been. In my video I use the "f" word to describe how I am feeling at this point. It has been an awesome outing and am excited to review the data collected and sharing my experience with others. I still have another 1km before I reach the Kintetsu Shigisanshita Station and, from there, a 4-connection x 90-minute train ride home. I was wise, when preparing my gear, to have packed a small bottle of red wine and, with a pack of current buns, I spent my home trip reviewing my day.
   From start to finish - Tsuda to Sango - the total distance covered is just short of 44km. I am very keen to return to the area and, on that occasion, I would plan to stay the night and check-out some of the other side-tracks that connect with track-24. So watch this space.


   Links: Full video of the days outing.
                Cateye Enou; Shijonawate to Sango - part-1 and part-2

                Ride With G.P.S.

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