Anyways, we got in our old car and drove to Matsuno on the border with Kochi Prefecture. There isn't much in Matsuno except rice fields, running water, dogs, monkeys, an onsen, a sake brewery, an aquarium featuring river fish, a farmer's market, and a very useful service whereby loudspeakers play a tape of 'physical jerks' at 6:00 am. Yes, that's really 6:00 am, when one generally hopes to be asleep. However, with help from the products of the sake brewery, one usually manages to sleep right through the physical jerks by the second morning.
The highlight of my trip this time was a visit to Nametoko Gorge, about 20 minutes by car from Matsuno. I went by myself this time, because apparently, on previous occasions, I’d made myself obnoxious saying things like, "Do you think we could make it to the next bend in the river before turning back?", and "One day, I'd really like to go right to the top", and "Oh, for Christ's sake, stop moaning everyone!"
Nametoko was a riot of colour. Mostly greens and browns in fact, but with some interesting, unseasonal red.
Some effort had been made to Shinto-ize the absolutely enormous rocks, but this petered out the further the pathway traveled from the carpark.
The fairly small river that runs through the gorge has cut some fantastic shapes out of the rocks. This little cove is often full of little children swimming in the summer, but it was too cold for that in May.
I was fascinated by the weathering on these rocks, but I'll understand if you're not particularly impressed. Being there and seeing how the hollow of leaves had left their stain on the rock told a compelling story of the Passage of Time.
I took a side route marked "Bad Path" that went straight up the side of the gorge to a waterfall that we've never visited before. Other than being steep and giving no indication really of where it was going, the path was superior in many ways to some that I've followed in life.
The trees along the way were certainly spectacular. This variety stood out in the sunlight like a streak of lightning.
The waterfall that the Bad Path led to was this huge wall of stone that the water ran down every which way. Somehow, most of it managed to pool at the bottom again to continue on its way.
The meandering path taken by the waters creates environments that appeal to certain forms of life that we don't generally run into in the normal course of things.
I was taken aback to hear what I thought was the distant barking of dogs. For a moment, I thought I might find myself in the middle of a boar hunt. But when I focused my ears, I realized that the sounds were much closer, and the whole bank of rock I found myself in was populated with no see 'um frogs hiding in the dripping wet cracks. My mobile phone video doesn't really do them justice.
The trees were in a magnificent state of confusion. Many seemed to be refusing to die in spite of calamities like being knocked over at 90 degree angles, finding themselves atop huge rocks without any soil for yards around, being crushed under fallen boulders and logs that actually succumbed, or being split and twisted by some unrecorded event in the 70s.
If you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you
Nietzsche might have said, "If you gaze into a giant rock, about 25 meters across and maybe more, the giant rock also gazes into you". The phrase doesn't have quite the same ring to it, but the effect of the gazing is, I think, much the same.