24 days in…
The golden week celebrations were in full swing as we bumped and battled our way through the crowded main street of Nagano with the geisha beauty pagent reaching its climax. Of course, all these people had to stay somewhere, and that where, was every single available where! After exhausting her list of contacts Orie said there was no room in town so we moved to plan b and headed for a camping ground some hour and a half away by bus, at last the tent would prove its worth!
The Togakushi campground was a great base for some mountainous exploring and after a quick visit to the local shrine of the same name I headed off on a solo expo across the Togakushi range. The death form box at the start of the trail just below the shrine warned of certain death to novices which had rather put Helen off, and for once the warnings were almost close to the truth, with a number of steep scrambles and a high degree of exposure plus a great 30 metre, foot wide ridge* to rival crib goch. It was exhilarating! P.S. a note for others seeking to do the circuit I would advise going from the shrine to the campsite rather than in reverse so you only have to contend with wet feet at the end of the trail and tackle all the exposed climbs going up rather than trying to get down them!
That night we ate the renound udon noodles, crafted in front of us by rolling the dough into a metre wide disc before a few specialist folds and some fine knife work created perfectly symmetrical spars that are cooked, then washed and served cold with, in our case tempura; a touch of extravagance!
Another day, another summit, this time the busy top of mount Iizuna then back to town and 1166 backpackers. The following morning was an early start for the six am procession of the Shinto priests to receive a blessing, which transpires to take the form of a tap to the head with his holiness’s bling. The Zenkoji temple was well worth the early start unlike the local zoo which was straight out of the 50’s and more like a concrete detention centre.
Another early start to see off fellow runner Haruka Machida for her 60 km ultra who we bumped into over tea in our hostel, before yet one more culinary speciality, the famed Nagano Oyaki, buns packed full of vegetables or beans. We had ours cooked over hot coals but steamed ones are available too, both are delicious. Then we washed them down with a dozen types of sake from the local distillery; and best of all, for free!
*Appologies to those who suffer with unaligned unit rage