Monday, 29 October 2007

Day 7: Gifu - Ota

Distance covered: 26.7km
Weather: Partly cloudy

Thinking we had a big day ahead, we got down early for breakfast at 6.30am and aimed to get away by 7.15am. We were only slightly late leaving the hotel, and made good progress as we headed east along a busy road that took us past the Gifu Air Self Defence Base. We heard the occasional jet fighter flying overhead and also saw some helicopters. At around 9.30am we had our first break of the day in a leafy suburban park.

By lunchtime we'd reached Unuma. We caught a glimpse of Inuyama castle across the other side of the Kiso River, although we couldn't see the river itself. While checking the map, I realized I'd miscalculated the distance of the day's walk. It wasn't 32.6km, but 26.7km. As we'd already covered over 17km, we felt in excellent spirits as we sat down for lunch at a curry restaurant just off the Nakasendo. We took our time eating, eventually setting off again at around 12.30pm.

It wasn't long before we started our first climb of the day through the picturesque outskirts of Unuma, which took us past a couple of large ponds with lots of ducks. On the way up we passed an older Japanese guy who, like the guy who stayed at the same ryokan as us in Sekigahara, was walking the Nakasendo on his days off work, taking the train to pick up where he left off each time. We soon overtook him, but met him again near the top of the hill after we stopped to try and work out the proper route through an off-road section of the Nakasendo. We eventually found the right track, and together the three of us traversed a forest with towering trees and lots of ferns, some of it on ishidatami (path paved with stone) .

The path took us over the top of the hill and back down to the main road. We then had to cross the road by means of a tunnel through which also flowed a stream. Once on the other side, we were rewarded with our first view of the mighty Kiso River. It was quite impressive. A lot wilder than I imagined, with huge boulders on either side and bush-clad hills stretching up from the riverbank on the far side.

We followed the Kiso River for several kilometers until we reached Ota, with a small detour along the way to visit an old temple up on the hillside. Because we arrived earlier than planned, we decided to make an unscheduled stop at a museum on the outskirts of the town, but unfortunately it was closed. We checked in to our hotel at around 3.30pm.

We soon realized that the town had a sizeable Brazilian population. A lot of the signs around the town were in Japanese and Portuguese, and there were Brazilian restaurants and shops. That evening we went to a family restaurant for dinner. We both really enjoyed the day's walk, especially our first real (albeit brief) off-road experience. The fact that it was shorter than we anticipated also helped.

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