(There’s a surprise ending. Skip down if you don’t have time to read it all)
I spent a while this morning hiding in the disabled toilets outside the monastery charging my internet tablet. Other owners should be aware that alert boxes keep the screen powered on, and that sort of behavior drains a battery overnight.
Once I got moving I reached a steady pace. I’m relying on my Lightrek Gossamer Gear poles again because my hamstrings are sore. I swear I felt them grind this evening, are they able to do that or am I pushing the envelope here? Anyway, I walked on smaller roads staying close to route 19 as it headed east towards the town of Nakatsugawa and the start of the Kiso valley. I got a very nice hello from a lady pushing her shopping cart/walking frame. She stared like many people do but her “konicha-wa” was delivered in such a positive way that I felt pretty good about myself for a while and forgot about the pain in my leg and the heat of the day. Later a car pulled over to wish me luck for the Nakasendo, which is the old post road I’m following for the next few days.
In a town about 10km west of Nakatsugawa, the name of which I never bothered to learn, I stopped on a bridge to admire the park and public putting greens beside the river. A cyclist stopped too but judging from his actions he was only doing so because he wanted to know what I thought was so amazing. He caught up with me soon and threw the usual questions my way, with some good additions like “what troubles you most while walking?” “Maps” I said. There was something about him that suggested America. Maybe his buzz-cut hair, goatee or backwards cap. When he spoke in english it came with a Boston accent and he said he’d lived there “many years” but didn’t elaborate. We went our separate ways at the top of the hill. He’d invited me in but I said it was still early so I walked on. It’s decisions like that which make it hard for me to properly meet locals. But I managed to make up for it.
After asking at a farm-equipment shop for any local parks I chose not to take the 1km downhill diversion and stay on the road until something appeared. I wandered into suburbia a bit and tried knocking on doors to find who owned a vacant section beside the houses and if I could put a tent there. No-one was in and I began to feel a bit uneasy as a quite scruffy vagabond type person sniffing around empty houses. So I asked a guy walking his tiny dog. At first all he heard was ‘Nakasendo’ and he told me where it was. Once that was clear I repeated that I was actually looking for a place to sleep, a park or garden would do nicely. He guided me down the road towards a park but I stopped as we passed an unused corner of some allotments. The man tending his vegetables went to fetch another guy and together all three decided it was probably alright to put a tent here, so I have. After a while the gardener came back with two bottles of green tea, a bag of individually wrapped chocolates and a few bananas and then left. As I cooked my camping meal (carried since Tokushima!) he returned, now offering beer and two home made onigiri containing something from his own tree. I thanked him as much as I could and we talked about my plans, my sore leg and that I’d like to reach the road-station tomorrow but it might be too far.
It was getting dark so he said good night and I got into my tent to read maps and write this. I saw a torch bobbing up the road and correctly guessed it was my new friend, but I had no idea what was coming. He presented me with a bank note. A staggering ¥10,000 bank note! I’d known him a few hours, not even asked his name and he gave me over $125NZD! It was for a minshuku (Japanese equivalent of the English Bed & Breakfast) in the next town.
I think that’s a bit exuberant for me, but I may need the rest because there is quite a hill before that. At the moment I have another plan that I hope he would approve of. I’ve put it in a special place and will save that note for a night in that same town in August when Tania and I can share it.
Word of the day: o-ku-ri-mo-no = gift
p.s. Sorry that took so long to get out
p.p.s. Tonight’s generosity almost made me forget the huge snake I nearly trod on today. At least 5ft long and very lively after I got within a few inches of it
Distance today: 45km