I have finished a series of tours around Japan and I am now preparing for a 10 day trip to Taiwan. Before then, I want to write up a few posts on some of the highlights of this Spring, starting with The Waterfall Walk in the Kii Peninsula.
I woke up to the sound of running water. It sounded angry. I could not be sure if the noise was rain or the river outside the lodgings. There had been so much rain in recent days, on several occasions during the night I had woken wondering if the river itself was running through my room.
The walk would take all day. When we left at 7am, our umbrellas, raincoats and walking sticks seemed feeble protection against the zah-zah deluge. The downpour was supposed to soften into a para-para whimper sometime in the morning – but in the end, the rain didn’t stop until gone noon.
The hike was over a remote pass at the bottom of the Kii peninsula. It was so far from roads and from real people, so far from any help, I still recall the hara-hara anxiety leaping through my stomach. At the steepest descent, a long series of uneven stone steps that somehow I’d totally forgotten about, there was so much flowing water it felt like we were walking down the waterfall itself. Each step was planted in hope more than expectation.
In our group we had a local guide, a curly-haired lady who taught us so much: about the onion-shaped rocks formed from volcanic eruptions a million years ago; showing us the silver dragons – a kind of parasitic fungus that surprised us on the middle of the path; about the urajiro ferns that are used in New Year decorations – a symbol of continuity with its new and old fronds growing together; and also telling us that straight hair is just a fashion, not a fact of life for many Japanese.
A mental store of images from this walk has become a scroll to unfurl in the darkness before descending into sleep. The thick morning mist during our climb through the woods, the rush of clear water running against our boots, the view from the final pass, a first glimpse of the blue Pacific marked by a white blur that I insist was a boat carrying a monk seeking paradise in the south, and our goal, the long narrow white thread of water at Nachi Waterfall that feels as special as anywhere else I have been in Japan.