Cable Car Shortcut

Knowing what a stupid bus ride it is to get back to Naka – and the 7 km hike upriver I’ve got after that just to get back on the trail – I skip the morning shower and coffee and I’m out the door at 7 am. I looked up some alternatives to the bus the night before and it looks like jumping on a train to Kurowa and taking a bus from there is better so I jump on a train in that direction and hope for the best.

I hit the first snag at Anan Station when my train stops and I’m told I have to switch to another – but I’ve got to wait almost two hours for that train to show up. There’s fuck all to do so I lie on a bench and suck back about three coffees. I finally make it but the bus doesn’t seem to be around. It is a Sunday… Eventually it shows up, I jump on and I’m back in Naka Town.

A kilometre upriver and it’s almost noon. By the time I get back on the trail it’ll be past 1 pm – even if I knock off this next big peak I won’t have enough time for the subsequent smaller one which means I’ll have to get another bus back to this place. Fuck that noise. Fortunately there’s a cheater’s shortcut in the form of a cable car…

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This will save me the 6-km walk upriver and cuts off a 2.4 km climb to the top. On one hand I feel back about cheating but on the other I’ve been doing a shit ton of extra walking anyways. I decide to go for it.

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I’m dropped right outside the front steps of temple twenty-one, Tairyuji.

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Besides the cable car there are at least half a dozen routes up and down the mountain; besides the way I was supposed to come up there’s also the primary pilgrim route down which follows the road.  There’s a secondary route that heads down something called the “Iwaya Trail” – I reckon this is the way to go. Unexpectedly the first section goes uphill – even though Tairyuji is near the top of the mountain, this trail takes you *right* to the top.

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I have no idea what this sign says besides caution. It seems pretty serious though so some pictures would be helpful.

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This trail is awesome. A lot of ups-and-downs, loose dirt, leaves, rocks. It’s a beautiful day too.

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Pretty sure this is what the caution sign was about. Parts of the trail have been worn away so they’re inches wide. Ropes have been put up to provide a handhold as you shoot across these sections.

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It drops me down onto the road that I took to get to Naka. I pass by a white guy and a white girl speaking English and say hi. They both seem pretty aloof and just kind of nod. I get the impression the guy is macking on the girl, he goes ahead while she sits down on the road next to a bus stop sign.

I pass by a few farms and it turns steep again. After a few hundred steps I reach a pass with a three-way intersection in it.

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I head downhill and before long I’m dropped into a small village and it’s only a few kilometres further to Byodoji. Standing outside I see Paul, the Aussie I’d met the other day. He’s staying at a ryokan nearby and just waiting for a complimentary ride. He ran into the same problem I did at the Naka River – that is, taking longer than expected crossing the peak on the way there – except he had his tent with him, so he camped next to the river for a night before climbing the second hill. He’s got to go and I’ve got walking left to do before the daylight’s gone so I say later and head into the temple.

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It’s a further five kilometres on the trail and then a one km detour to get to Awa-Fukui Station, which will get me back to Tokushima easier than a bus from here so I head down the woods road in that direction. The trail follows the pavement for the first couple of clicks but the map and the elevation profile show it going off-road – after cutting through what seems like someone’s yard I cut across the road, past a lake and head up a trail into a bamboo forest.

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After a few hundred metres this isn’t much of a trail. There are loads of rotten bamboo over where it looks like the trail should be. I climb over and around and have completely lost any whiff of a path.  I keep climbing another five minutes or so to reach a ridgeline in hopes of being able to rediscover from high ground. I get there and still no sign. I could drop down the other side but there’s no sign of anything over there and it’s getting late in the afternoon – I decide to get back on the road and just play it safe. When I get back on the road I find a sign indicating that the road *is* the path. I was just fucking around in the woods, whatever trail that was had nothing to do with where I want to go.

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Snake warning sign. Glad I was just climbing around piles of rotten wood on all fours.

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I get to Awa-Fukui and I’ve just missed the train by 10 minutes. I’ve got almost two hours to kill until the next so I take a walk into “town” – there’s a mechanic, a gas station, about two dozen houses and a little shop with a single lonely six-pack of beer. I pop three of them out and head back to the railway siding, sipping them while the sun goes down.

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