I'm not sure when we started talking, but it was pretty soon. Hot, sweaty, and exhausted, what came out of our mouths in conversation soon turned into a nonesensical fantasy world. We discussed the possibilities of the monkeys giving us high-fives at the top, and cheering us on for the last little bit. Alternately, we desperately hoped they would not be waiting to throw rocks at us and steal my hat. However - should they decide to be violent and angry, perhaps Mr. Determind (one of the Daisho-in Temple's gods is said to be fiercely determind to destroy evil) would rescue us. But we realized he would most likely only be encouraging as opposed to physically helping. Cannibal monkeys, huge owls, an encouraging Mr. Determind, friendly deer and angry deer, and a rhodeo with the deer and the monkeys. Exhaustion and heat will do strange things to a conversation.
We passed a few people in small groups coming down off the mountain, but we were pretty sure that we were the only ones on the trail going up. Somewhere around 1.2km in, we met the evil monkeys! (I'm serious.) They were so adorable! They had no tails, but some had red faces, and there were several baby monkeys! We stopped hiking and crouched and crept to get the best pictures we could. I got to within a couple feet of one. However, keeping in mind their potential evil intentions, and the fact that they had their children with them, we didn't want to get too close. The intelligence in this caution was confirmed when Keith stepped towards one and it screamed, stood up on it's two legs, and lifted a (small) tree branch into the air. We quickly moved on.
Between the fantasy world and complaining about everything we could think of, we were almost at the top. The trail was a conglomerate of rocky path, and stone and wooden steps of varying heights. When we finally reached the top, all I wanted was water. At the top are the Priests residence and some more small shrines - and refreshments. Unfortunately, it was all closed for the day. Desperately wanting water, I saw a small cooler....and - yes! Water! It wasn't locked, there was just a small box to put your money in, and some coins left in case you needed change. I love Japan.
We did indeed have a beautiful view, but discovered we weren't quite at the top. In fear of not being able to move if we sat down for more than 2 minutes, we took a short break and kept climbing. Up and around a rocky trail, in and around some very large rocks. The view was amazing, and we stopped for some pictures.
But nothing on the way up compared to the view from the very top. There was a slight warm breeze, and it was completely silent. There was a snack and refreshment building (closed), but we climbed onto the roof (via the stairs to the roof) and took a look around. From the topmost point on the island, we could see the ocean for miles, dotted with small islands, and big cutouts where the mainland was. It was like looking at an endless hazy grey blue puzzle, with spotted pieces and the occasional oddly shaped dark piece fading into the horizon. After the roof, we climbed up onto a large rock and just sat.
You know how people often say 'Find a happy place' or 'Go to your happy place'? I think a happy place should be silent, freeing, beautiful, and refreshing. This was it. The breeze blew away my exhaustion, my stress, my moodiness, my homesickness, and my lonliness. And I just sat, in the fading sunshine, feeling the breeze, and looking at the ocean, as far as I could see. There's no possible way to do justice to how I felt with words, but the closest I can come is to explain it as utter peace and contentment; a whole 'nother world - free of all the trivial disappointments, negative emotions, and daily worries that generally occupy our minds.
When it started to get chilly, we realized that we should start climbing down before it got dark. I don't think the trail was meant to be climbed at night, because it wasn't lit up at all. Well, it got dark quicker than we thought it would. Between the sleeping sun, the smoggy sky, and the tree and bush cover over most of the trail...we did the last kilometer in complete darkness. When I say complete darkness, I mean that we couldn't see 2 feet in front of us, and when we did make out the shapes of kilometer marking signs, we had to get 10 cm away to read it.
Now normally, walking in the dark doesn't bother me. This trail, though, presented several new factors: evil monkeys, rhodeo deer. The very real and frightening possibility of a pair (or several) of eyes peering at us through the bush. The uneven steps and stairs, rocks, sticks, trees... put it all together and what have you got? A very dangerous and somewhat frightening kilometer. We kept seeing things move and were waiting to step on a monkey or something - conversation may have turned to interesting possible ways of not making it down. And how we would survive the night if we didn't. I laughed almost the whole way down, mostly at how ridiculous we were to have climbed up and then waited so long to come down. Secondly at how often we kept tripping and falling, despite the fact that we actually could have injured ourselves pretty good. Thirdly, at how much farther we had to go and how much my legs were quaking and quivering in exhaustion and pain. In retrospect (hindsight's 20/20 and all that), we should have left to go down sooner.
But we made it. This presented us with another problem. Dinner. It was only 8:30pm. We discovered that small tourist islands generally shut down - completely - after most of the tourists go home. Not good for us. We walked around the dormant shopping street - shuttered up and lights all off. The food was gone...all gone. We finally managed to find a restaurant that was open (and quite busy) and had some supper. Food is soo good when you're starving and exhausted.
All in all, it was a grand adventure. A little scary, a little fun, and with a beautiful view. What more could an adventure ask for?