It’s our last day with Mountain Trek! We’ve got just a short day of hiking in order to make it to Kyoto at a reasonable hour. We’ll have one last meal together tonight, and that’s it. Some people have even arranged to fly home tomorrow morning! I’m really happy that Dad and I added a couple of extra days on either side of the trekking trip so we could see more of Japan.
We leave our fabulous village hotel behind, feeling a little sorry that we didn’t have more time there to enjoy it. They even made a good breakfast!
There are two options for hiking today; a flat country road that will take us to the temple in an hour and a bit, or a mountain trail that will take about two and a half. Part of me wonders if I should take the flat road after having some knee trouble, but I figure if I’ve come this far I might as well finish strong too. I opt for the mountain.
The first half is relatively flat with a gradual ascent along a river, similar to yesterday’s walk. I spend most of the time chatting with Linda while I still have my breath. Then the stairs come. They never end! I must walk up a million steps.
The last part is even harder. Instead of steps, I’m faced with a stone wall where I need to put aside my hiking poles and use my hands to climb up. The climb only lasts for about 5 minutes, and is lots of fun, but it’s definitely pretty challenging. Everyone does a great job and makes it to the top no problem, I’m so impressed!
The view from the top of the mountain makes it all worth it. This is truly, in my opinion, what makes all hiking worth while.
We only get a few minutes at the top, because time is of the essence if we plan to beat rush hour into Kyoto. I ask Ted, “how long is the decent down, like 30 minutes?” He responds with “nah just like 15”. Okay sweet! It’ll be a quick walk down the mountain to the temple. I start on my way, being careful not to aggravate my knee too much, but still moving quickly so I can go get a steaming hot bowl of noodle soup…and see the temple…but mostly the soup.
45 minutes later I’m down the mountain. Not sure what I expected, really. When Ted says 15, it either means 5 or 45. Never 15.
When I do get down to the temple, I meet up with the Mountain Trekkies who chose to walk along the road today. They say it was a nice walk, and took them less than an hour. I’m slightly envious, but simultaneously happy that I chose to do the climb.
I watch as the calligrapher signs my final stamp at the 88th temple on the pilgrimage. I wonder if he is confused as to why I only have stamps on pages 1-12, 20 and 21, as he signs 88. This can’t be the popular order to the route, especially in Japan.
We wait for everyone else to come down from the mountain to hear Ted do his final chant, and we all light an incense stick while he does.
Now it’s noodle time. There are a few noodle shops to choose from just outside the temple, but I just pick the first one I see. I sit down with Arun, the handsome doctor, and Carol, his beautiful yet brilliant wife (I totally came up with that on my own) as well as Angela, Dad and Sharon.
Angela orders us all a big steaming bowl of udon with vegetables and pork, after having it recommended to her by our waitress. Apparently, these udon noodles are a specialty of the region, yum! Everything tastes fresh and is totally delicious, but I can’t finish it all because the portion is so big! Afterwards, we all get matcha ice cream for the road. The drive ahead is another long one. Ted says it should be about 2 and a half hours to Kyoto, placing our arrival around 4.
It’s 5:15 and we’re still in the van. Not sure what I expected, really.
Its 6:00 before we’re in the lobby of our hotel. It’s a nice place, right in the heart of downtown Kyoto. Optimum shopping location! We get a little bit of time to settle in before gathering again for dinner.
Dinner is at a restaurant down the street where we have our last fantastic meal all together in a historic building at the scene of a famous samurai showdown. There are even sword markings on the bridge just down the street to prove it. Pretty cool!
We all make a toast to Ted for all the hard work he’s put into this trip and the year of planning that went into it. Tomorrow we will all be going our separate ways, so we enjoy our final meal, laughing while reminiscing our adventures over the last six days.