My latest Post.

This view,this beauty
A tear unbidden
Creeps into my eye.

My stay is short
But I shall return to this place
If only my life is long enough.

Such beauty
Gazing upon it
I hope my years are many.

Bokusui Wakayama.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Hiking the Border in the Soraku District.

   It seems, when I look back over the past year, I have been spending a lot of time in this area, either on foot or on my bike. The Soraku District has a lot to offer for the outdoors person, like myself and, each time I venture into the area, I discover a new track that lures me back to check-out. About 4-months ago I hiked a course, commencing at Tsukigaseguchi, and finishing at Shigarakicho Tarao (my ENOU recording of the trip), which required me to follow the borders that separate the prefectures of Kyoto, Mie & Shiga. When I reached the junction, where I was to leave the border track and descent into Tarao (map location), I became curious as to whether the track I was on continued and, if so, where did it end?

Map Location.
   So, an idea was born, and a plan created - I would return to Tsukigaseguchi, re-acquaint myself with the border track and hike through to route-138 (the Tarao-to-Iga road) and, if possible, descend a track into the settlement of Shimagahara (my planned route). I was wary that this area of Japan was experiencing a heatwave and, with the first part of my hike up a steep ascent through dense forest, I needed to pace myself.
   The track is well marked with concrete posts (as seen in the image on the left) and red tape tied to trees.
Map Location.
   About 2-kilometers in I reached the settlement of Okuda. The rural scenery in Japan at this time of year is very green, with the rice fields midway through their growth, before harvest in around September/October. The next time I see this scenery, I hope, will be when I descend into Shimagahara. After some bush-bashing, and an ascent up a dirt incline, I reach my track (in the above-left image). On my last trip through here I happened-across some wild deer but was unable to get my video-camera out in time to record them. On this occasion I was better prepared but, as luck would have it, no deer.
Map Location.

As I ascend I am treated to some splendid vistas overlooking the Tsukigaseguchi area, and the opportunity to take-in some water. Then, nearing the top of this section, I pass Yurugi-iwa (rock). The rock resemble the legendary creature Tengu and, the previous two times I have passed-by this rock, there have been flowers in the vases.
   Five minutes on from the rock I arrive at the junction with the Mikune-goe Rindo then, my next segment and my first rest-stop.
Map Location.
   This sheltered rest stop is an ideal location to take a break, have a bite to eat, and admire the 90-degree view below. And what a view it is. With views like this, one finds it difficult to move-on.
Map Location.
    A couple-of-hundred meters on and this knob. In the video I refer to this as an "un-named mountain" ( it's about 637m above sea-level) but in fact it's the junction of Kyoto, Mie & Shiga Prefectures. My track veers off to the right. Unlike the first few hundred meters to this point, the next segment is a bit overgrown with pig fern and I have to watch where I place my feet.
Map Location.
   Now something I debated with myself, as to whether I should include in this post. But, what the hell. Japan pays a lot of importance on it's infrastructure, in particular in the area of access-roads, motorways, mountain-lanes (as in the image on the left). Suddenly, as I was making my way through the forest, I emerge onto this mountain lane. This is not uncommon but, in this instance, it goes nowhere. Maybe it's on the 10-year plan. 
   Not much further on and the junction that descends into the settlement of Shigarakicho Tarao. From here I am in uncharted territory, but, like the track to this location, it is well posted and tagged. The track also is well defined ( I began to suspect that the lane I mentioned, may eventually pass along this route). In some parts the track and markers crisscross. 
Map Location.
   I suddenly come-across a junction, with some felled trees lying around, which was my cue to break for lunch - hot curry & chocolate bread sticks, all washed down with a mug of cafe au lait. Little did I realize at the time, I was now off course (as seen in the "Map Location" attached to the above image). The track I was on was still well defined and marked, but not for long. Soon the track began to descend very steeply through dense bush, to emerge onto the "Mikuni Forest Road", on the outskirts of the settlement of Shimagahara. As I wasn't in the mood for another ascent (to rejoin my planned route) I opted to leisurely make my way to the station, taking-in some of the local scenery, and home.
   As the trains through Shimagahara Station are few-and-far-between, I spent my 50-minutes waiting time consuming another cafe au lait & a pack of current buns, while I also assessed my day. 
   Later that night, accompanied with a 6-pack of beer, I uploaded my G.P.S./trip details (Hiking the Borders of Soraku) and, along with other maps, I was able to pinpoint where I strayed-off my course - about 50-meters back from my lunch site. For the following few days I obsessed as to whether I wanted to complete this course and, the conclusion I came to.......

......Hiking the Border in the Soraku District - part-2.
Map Location.

   So, one week later (almost to the hour), I was back here and my second attempt at hiking the border to route-138. If last weeks heat was bad enough, today's forecast was for temps' peaking at about 37c (two extra bottles of water were included in my pack, just in case). I followed the same course but, when I reached the junction of the 'Tarao track, I followed the pegs and not the track. That way, I hope, I wouldn't stray-off course. 
Map Location.
I soon reached this peg (in the image on the left) and, in the distance I could see other pegs. Putting two-and-two together, I felt I was still on course (oops, wrong. I should have turned left here). Little did I know, I was about to pass my lunch site from the week before, albeit on another track.
Map Location.
The track was still well defined & marked then, when I arrived at this point (the image on the right), the pegs suddenly stopped. At this point certain expletives could be heard emanating from my mouth. A quick check of the G.P.S. function on my cellphone (something I didn't realize I had) and yes, like last week, I was (again) off course. I followed what looked like an old track, which connected to other old tracks, which eventually emerged at, guess where, yes, the Mikuni Forest Road, but a bit further down from last week.
    In a way I was relieved, as it gave me the excuse to stop for lunch, and wring the sweat out of my clothing. I was soaking wet and ..... hungry. I returned to the station via the same route as last week and, on this occasion, I only had a 40-minute wait for my train. Still time for a cafe au lait and current buns. 
   Upon return home I again uploaded my G.P.S./trip details (Hiking the Borders of Soraku - part-2.) and, along with other maps, discovered where I strayed-off my course.

......Hiking the Borders in the Soraku District - part-3. 

   Will there be a part-3? Yes, I think so. But, this time I will plan my attempt from the other end - route-138 (map location) - when this heatwave is over. 
                So, until next time, Sayonara from the Soraku District.

   Full video of both outings.

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