Hiking Day Three: Tsumago to Kiso-Fukushima

A bit about last night, since I wrote my post before dinner. We ate with a couple from Italy and a dad and his two kids from the US. Our host was a character, showing us photos, telling stories, and even singing during dinner, all in half Japanese and half English. Come morning we were ready to hit the road, and we had two route options. Route one was a longer mountain pass that promised great scenic views but was longer, hillier, and reportedly not well-signed. Route two was shorter, flatter, and followed a main road for significant sections.

Feeling tired from the previous day and not confident about finding our way, we opted for the flatter route. It was a cloudy, misty day with a 50% chance of rain. And after an hour or two of walking…rain.

Despite carrying rain gear, I’ve never actually hiked in the rain before. As the sprinkles started to get heavier, we paused for a moment to put on rain gear. And then the sprinkles turned into quite a downpour. We paused again to put on plastic ponchos, with hilarious results.

After only ten minutes or so the rain stopped and so we paused again to take all the gear off.

Thankfully we picked up a detailed map booklet at an earlier tourist information office because this section was not well-signed at all. And I’ve never been in a place in Japan with so few vending machines! A few scenes from the road:

We walked, and walked, and walked some more, struggling to find our way at the end of the day and starving from the lack of food options on the road. Finally we arrived at our destination, a small town where we could catch the train to a larger city with more options for accommodation. At the station we ran into a group of hikers who looked utterly spent, and since both us were exhausted, I don’t think either of us regretted our choice to take the flatter option.

A thirty minute train ride later we arrived in Kiso Fukushima, where we split a bowl of soup and picked up some snacks. The tourist option helped us place a call to our hotel, a five minute car ride outside of town.

We changed into our robes and headed down to the onsen for a soak before dinner, then ate a huge feast. Our lodging for tonight is more like a hotel, which isn’t exactly my favorite style.

Tomorrow is our last day on the hiking trail! Shorter distances but higher hills are in store, I hear…

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