I stumble across the page in my semi-somnambulant state crashing into words and images as I go. By day I'm writing about hiking the Izu Geo Trail in Japan and by night I'm back there in my dreams.
When I close my eyes, vivid images are on constant replay, projected on my eyelids, my ears roar with the sounds of the sea and my tastebuds are tantalised with reminders of delicate flavours. There is no rest.
The smudgy suggestion of Mt Fuji floating above the clouds like a mirage, so faint I'm not sure it's really there. A shimmering cobalt sea pockmarked with craggy islets. Filigree-trimmed waves sometimes caressing, sometimes thrashing the gnarled coast where ancient lava flows bled deep into the ocean.
Coal-black rock formations in the shape of hexagons that look like the craftsmanship of a genius stonemason rather than the work of careless nature. Pewter cliffs arranged in rows like organ pipes in a grand cathedral. Sea caves and giant caverns where soft rock has proven no match for the sea's relentless gnawing.
A crater lake dissolved in mist — but for the sign I wouldn't know it was there. Luminous forests lit with an otherworldly glow. A historic tunnel echoing with the voices of Yasunari Kawabata's famous short story The Izu Dancer.
White-sand beaches fringed with tropical palm trees. The many faces of Buddha at the Uehara Museum of Art. A haunting sculpture of a girl in the rain.
The bright red torii gates of the Shirahama shrine, stark against a stormy grey sea. Prayer papers tied to trees fluttering in the breeze at Cape Irozaki on the southernmost tip of the Izu Peninsula.
Remnants of ancient volcano 'throats' lined up on the beach at Futo.
Shuzenji's graceful old temple, arched bridges, tall spindly bamboo forest and pretty boutiques.
Rows of slippers lined up at the ryokan door in readiness for weary feet. More slippers for the bathroom, and a pair for outside too.
Steam rising from onsen baths at sunrise and sunset. Slipping into hot mineral waters, skin tingling after a thorough scrub. Chatting with my new lady friends in our 'birthday suits'.
My pretty yukata and sash folded neatly, and little white socks with a niche for my big toe. The warmth and hospitality of ryokan staff, womanly bonding as my elaborate kimono bow is expertly tied.
Cuisine with unfamiliar textures, tastes and aromas. Dishes that should be framed as artworks. Long tables smothered in so many tiny bowls, there's nowhere for a wineglass.
The ritual of slow-food, 10 or 12 courses. Leisurely dining with ample time to get to know each other. Far-ranging conversations from the binding of feet to growing old roses.
The soft sound of stocking feet on tatami matting. Snuggling down to sleep under a weightless fluff of feathers, weary but worry-free.
The absence of stress that comes with the simplicity of a hiking tour. One foot after the other, so easy, so satisfying. Common bonds uniting strangers from across the globe. A love of hiking, nature, discovery, and the great outdoors.
The muted sound of footsteps on a spongy carpet of leaves and moss. Voices and laughter, easy conversation, the happy mingling of many accents.
The raw untamed beauty and energy of the land and seascape.
The graciousness of the Japanese people who warmly welcomed 12 hikers from afar, taking care of every need.
It was just a week but the Izu Geo Trail with Walk Japan left an indelible imprint on my consciousness. There is no rest until I capture the twirling words and swirling images — but they flit ahead of me like fairies, just out of reach.
Talk the Walk
The Izu Geo Trail is a 7-day guided tour, starting in Tokyo and ending in Mishima, exploring the Izu Peninsula in the Shizuoka Prefecture, one of the most unusual geological areas on Earth. The mountainous peninsula has deeply indented coasts, white sand beaches and subtropical climate Its easy-to-moderate pace averages a daily distance of 6-12km, mostly on forest and mountain tracks, including some steep climbs and descents
Walk Japan pioneered off-the-beaten-track walking tours in Japan in 1992 with the Nakasendo Way tour. The firm now has 29 tours introducing insights to the real Japan that often remains inaccessible to visitors National Geographic named Walk Japan as one of the 200 Best Adventure Travel Companies. Justine Tyerman was a guest of Walk Japan walkjapan.com