Thursday, 25 October 2007

Day 3: Omihachiman - Hikone

Distance covered: 24.9km
Weather: Cloudy, with a few spots of rain

Mornings were becoming a routine for me now. I would wake at 3.30am, doze till 5 or 5.30am, then shower, shave, dress, slowly pack, and wait around till breakfast time (in this case 7am) when I'd knock on Erik's door and we'd go down for our morning meal. Sometimes Erik would still be in the shower or dressing when I knocked (his morning routine wasn't as leisurely as mine), in which case I'd wait or go down on my own.

Although this morning's breakfast wasn't a fancy buffet like the one at Kusatsu, it was still nice. It consisted of an omelette, salad, toast, and slices of banana and melon, plus a bottomless cup of coffee.

We checked out at 8am and set off to rejoin the Nakasendo, which this time involved a walk of about 2km. Rain was forecast, and as we passed through the nearby town of Musa, we felt the first few drops. Erik stopped to put on his raingear, but I left mine off, and the rain soon stopped.

We arrived in Gokasho right on 11am, which was when we'd arranged to meet Tomoyo for lunch. We had a drink at a nearby McDonalds, then headed to a self-service Japanese restaurant for a meal. It was great value and the food was tasty.

We left Gokasho at 12.30. As we approached Toriimoto we had a pleasant encounter with a bunch of elementary school kids returning home from school. We even exchanged gifts with one at the end. However, the afternoon leg of our journey, which took us to Hikone, turned out to be a lot tougher than we expected.

We'd planned to arrive in Hikone around 3.30pm in time to look at the castle (which closed at 4.30pm), but it was already 4.45pm when we got to our hotel. The last few kilometers from where we left the Nakasendo at Toriimoto to the town of Hikone were particularly tough, involving firstly climbing uphill through a seedy area full of love hotels and then walking through a tunnel before descending into the town itself. We eventually got to the station area, but we couldn't work out how to get across the railway tracks to our hotel. We ended up asking a couple of old ladies, who led us through an underpass and right to our hotel.

Although the castle was already closed for the day, we went to have a look at it anyway, which wasn't a complete waste of time as it's lit up at night and you can still walk through the castle grounds. We then had dinner, checked our email, and did some washing at the coin laundry inside the hotel.

We both felt tired after the day's walk, which with the extra distance at the beginning and the end was probably closer to 30km than 25km. We knew that the next day was going to be shorter, but we also knew that we'd have to negotiate our first real pass as we left the shores of Lake Biwa and headed east into Gifu prefecture. We resolved to try to leave earlier and take less time for lunch. Three days in, and we were already looking forward to our first rest day on Sunday.

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