This is a difficult post to write.
For more than a year and a half it has been my dream to walk the Shikoku pilgrimage route. The day after my last post – 5 days ago – I set out from my hotel with my pack on my back and guidebook in hand to begin the journey. Things did not go well.
I’ll spare you the details except to say it was very clear that I wasn’t going to be up to the strain of walking with a heavy pack. I was aware of the need to travel light but I have a medical condition (sleep apnea) that requires me to carry a device that keeps me breathing while I sleep. In recent years smaller machines were developed and I bought one which I calculated to be small enough to make my backpacking trek possible. Since there would be times when my shelter would not have electricity I would have to carry a battery heavier than the machine to run it on those nights. I knew the pack was heavy as I prepared to come to Japan and expressed my concerns to my wife. But I decided to push on. On the day I began, as I walked on the straight and level paths at the start of the pilgrimage it was evident my leg muscles were not up to the job. Climbing a steep stairway at one temple made me so unsteady I was seriously concerned about getting back down without a fall. I knew that in a couple of days I would be facing the climb into the mountains and Temple 12, a notoriously difficult section of the path. I’m aware enough of my body to know that it would be an unacceptable risk of serious injury if I were to proceed.
While the pack was the main problem, there were other factors at work. I talked about them all with my wife and decided the prudent thing to do was return to Tokushima and work on an alternative plan.
Thanks to my wife we hit upon a solution in a few hours, namely, visiting the 88 temples by taxi. So the past few days have been taken up with making the arrangements for that. I will be setting out early tomorrow morning for a 12 day circuit.
To be blunt, I’m disappointed in myself. I should have foreseen the problems more realistically. I was so attached to walking I let it override an objective view of my limitations and difficulties. My emotional reaction to all this has been strong.
But, the walking is not the pilgrimage. A pilgrim friend of mine advised that you must make your own pilgrimage. Each pilgrim faces his or her own adversity and deals with it in his or her individual way. I’ve had to confront mine right at the beginning.
While I’ve been waiting around in Tokushima I’ve taken a few brief excursions to amuse myself and I’ll be posting photos of some of it on Facebook.
In the meantime, I ask for your understanding and hope I can still have your interest and support. And I hope you’ll come here to read about the journey. Gassho.