Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Kumano Prologue II

Another Sunday.  We took the train down to Uji, picking up the trail where we last left it.  This second day's stretch is known as the Kyo Kaido.  It took us along a busy road which ran above the river.  It was a shame to be this close to water and not be able to see it.  Once in a while we'd notice a path below and would drop down onto it, but before long, we'd end up back in the high grass again.  Back up to the road.  We did this scramble up and down the steep concrete embankment a half dozen times before giving up and sticking with the road.  It was hard to look down at the view with all the cars rushing at us.  Many people seemed to be out for a leisurely drive, but it was hard to tell with all the blank expressions looking back at us.  Granted the first hour of this walk was little fun with the traffic, but we seemed to be the ones having the best time.  

We stopped for lunch under the drooping trees beside the river. A man and his grandson were standing in the flow, casting a net into the current.  Off the road, time moved much slower, and for a moment it felt like we were beside the Mississippi.  I mentioned this to Miki, who professed her love for Tom Sawyer.  Moving along, the resumption of concrete brought us firmly back to good old Japan.  At least we were off the road.  We talked and walked, talked and walked, trying to ignore the full heat of August midday.  One man didn't seem to mind, tanning in his bikini briefs beside his bike.  An hour later, the river began to narrow and more trees appeared.  A few people were fishing in their shade.  A woman dozed in a van nearby.  A bit further on, the sound of dirtbikes lured us down to a path at the water's edge.  Again, we were sucked in, only to wind up back in the weeds.  On the road again...   A horse-racing track loomed up.  The field was empty at the moment, but shadow figures dotted the stands.  Among them was the man who'd sat across from us on the train down, studying racing forms all the way.   Judging by his new suit and shoes, he was good at it.  Judging by all the construction going on around here, the track's owners were better.  

The day got hotter still.  We took some shade under a tree in front of a new temple.  It was a strange setup, literally a temple facade welded onto a mobile home.  Buddha for the trailer park set.  A tent was nearby, and there seemed to be some kind of open house for burial plots.  A man in uniform stood up on the hot dusty road, deftly handing the cars which pulled up by the... ones?  I only saw a couple myself.  As we sat drinking cold tea, we got to witness the famed changing of the guard ritual.  One man pedalled up on his bike (no need to cause unnecessary work for his cohort), walked up to the other and saluted.  Then the first man got on the same bike and pedalled away.  Strange things were afoot on this stretch of river in the middle of nowhere.  David Lynch couldn't have choreographed it better.

We finally entered a housing area and began to see the signs cautioning us against vipers.  My heart stopped.  All morning we'd been walking in and out of high reeds, oblivious.  Each footfall now became mindful.  The trail stopped abruptly at the Keihan train line.  I thought we could jump the fence and dash to the trail on the other side, which lay in plain view.  But Miki felt that with the increase in train-assisted suicides lately, there was probably a camera on us.  And heavy fines thereafter.  We took the long way around, down onto another busy highway.  Somewhere near the confluence of three rivers, I felt I'd had enough concrete for the day.  My knee had been acting up for most of August, and these 14 kms across hard surfaces were starting to bring about complaints.  Just over there was a train station.  And trains always lead to places with red wine and films and ice cream...

On the turntable:  James Brown, "Black Caesar"

On the reel table:  "Into the Wild"  (Penn, 07)

No comments: