#51 Ben


Temple: Shussekiji – a bangai temple on a mountain a bit out of the way of the main path

Dedication: I met Ben when he was going out with Phil. He had done the Shikoku route and many other long walks and pilgrimages and had lived in Wellington for a year like me. I have compared him to buddha before in his freedom from the normal constraints people place on themselves; he does have several key differences though. He inspired me to do the 108 temples instead of the normal 88 and though I was cursing him at the top of this bleak mountain it is nice to get away from the standard, busy, coining it in, route. Thank you for your advice Ben, and for being you. This is for you.

Getting to the top of this one was a real test of my leg but it held up well. Half way up I came across a spooky forest and found a beautiful staff leaning against a tree with no one in sight. I’ve picked it up and hope to find out who the owner is.

The rain was really lashing down on the way up and the mist was very low, adding to the feeling that I was alone. The mountain path wasn’t clearly marked. At one point there was a red arrow pointing to a sheer drop.

Suddenly a massive Kukai statue loomed out of the mist and then I heard a voice shout “MANCHESTER!” and a woman ran out the mist and gave me a hug shouting “Sugoi! Sugoi!” (terrible/awful/amazing/cool). She was a woman doing the pilgrimage by car with her husband. I’d met her down on the south coast when the black monk was blessing my leg and I was generally in a bad way. I was in shock. She reminded me a lot of a friend of my parents, Fiona, and she was incredibly happy to see me. She offered me a lift back down in the car but I assured her my leg was up to full strength and she left me to explore the empty temple grounds on my own.