The Kiso Valley

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Walking the Nakasendo way from
magome to Tsumago

We arrived in Magome and I felt instantly better. A beautiful place. Quiet and peaceful, simple life, wonderfully traditional buildings and stunning views for miles.

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We wandered about and dropped our bags at our guesthouse- a traditional Japanese inn. More tatami mats, sliding doors and futons. Even a traditional bath house washroom- complete with the tiny stools.

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If you have watched Joanna Lumley’s Japan (if you are English then its a must! But I am biased) then you will have seen Magome and the Nakasendo route. I really did start to feel I was walking in her footsteps. I even have a book for stamps and in the guesthouse is where I used my first stamp.

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Our landlady advised us not to hike the Nakasendo route this afternoon as planned as it will get dark and everything (buses/shops) close at 5pm. So we decided to go in the morning instead.

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So we went for a wander around Magome. That night it was freezing cold, I’m certainly noticing the difference after a month in Bali. The paper windows don’t really help!

In the morning we got up early to walk the Nakasendo. It is an ancient highway which connects Tokyo to Kyoto. An old shogun route through small post towns. We were told at a slow pace it would take approximately 2 hours from Magome to Tsumago

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Five minutes into the route we noticed a bell and a sign. Bears!? No one mentioned any bears! Now we were slightly apprehensive, besides Bear Grylls, my bear knowledge is minimal. These bells are situated all across the route and I rang every one hard as was suggested!

One thing I love about Japan is that you are never far from a toilet (and they never make you pay to use one). The Nakasendo way was no exception. Thinking about it this is probably to accommodate all the elderly here in Japan, there was no shortage of elderly on these hiking routes! And they are blooming fit! Puts me to shame. Anyway, the toilet situation in Japan is perfect for me my nickname for many years has been ‘peanut bladder, or, walnut bladder’ its an unfortunate difficulty that runs in my family. My friend has certainly learnt to deal with my frequent stops to run to the toilet, much as I have accommodated his frequent stops for food!img_7086 img_7096

The route is stunning especially in Autumn time. The Autumn leaves are turning and the morning brings a beautiful fog. Along the route are frequent rest stops with free wifi. One stop (for me to use the toilet of course) a man came out of a large hut and asked my friend where he was from and dragged him into the hut where some Australians were sat drinking tea. The gentleman served us green tea, pickles, fruit and sweets. For no charge bar a donations box. Now again if you’ve seen Joanna Lumley’s show you will have seen this gentleman!! Such a friendly guy, but he didn’t sing to us.

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Our next stop after this was to look at a crab I’d found on the path. I have NO idea what a crab was doing there. I thought for a moment it might have been someone’s snack (they do eat some weird stuff here) but it was definitely alive… and angry! My friend was concerned that it was too hot in the sun, so we gave him an umbrella and carried on.

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Eventually after much stopping to take photos and pee we reached Tsumago. Again a stunning town, bigger than Magome with lots of gift shops. I took a trip to the temple and bought what my older brother would consider ‘tat’. Soon enough it was time to leave and we headed then to Matsumoto for the evening. Definitely feeling more myself after some greenery, trees and mountain air!

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