Wednesday, December 10, 2008

day 343 - Kumano Kodo (1)

Our Big Walk.
The entire Kumano region of Wakayama is covered with dark primeval sugi forest, steep mountains and gorges and dramatic rivers and waterfalls. 
It's not surprising that the ancients believed that gods dwelled here. These local 'natural' deities were synthesised into the Shinto and Buddhist religions so today there are significant shrines and temples everywhere.
Consequently everyone, from emperors to common folk made regular pilgrimages from Kyoto and Osaka to these holiest of sites and the the Kumano Kodo - the Old Kumano Road - came into being.
Parts of the original flagstone road survive and the Kodo was granted World Heritage status a few years ago.
After our earlier walk from Tsumago to Magome on the Old Edo Road we really wanted to trek a part of the Kumano Kodo historical route; between Yunomine and the important Hongu Shrine was the perfect place.

The beginning of our day's walk was this unassuming set of steps just next to our ryokan.

We helped ourselves to a pilgrim's bamboo walking stick and returned it later.

Over the 17 km we walked through a whole range of vegetation:

... very dark sugi forest,

... mossy, fern-filled moist valleys,

and deciduous forest.

Beyond every range of mountains was another, and another.

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