“Where else should it begin?” I asked. “Well, why not the beginning?”
I woke up. I’m pretty sure it was around 6am as the sun was rising and my yane (roof) sharing companions were both already awake. The elderly man woke first. I could hear him from inside of my tiny bivy sack as he cooked a simple breakfast for himself. I also heard the younger guy speak up. His voice was oddly quiet somewhere between confusion, fear, and regulated excitement. The same age as me, he was similarly as foreign to this hike as I was. I heard these voices through my claustrophobic blue shield of a bivy sack as I slowly woke up.
Wikipedia agrees with the OED in defining bivy (bivoac sack) as an “extremely small, lightweight, portable tent”. I would define it as a cocoon only minutely larger than the average sleeping bag, often mistaken for a large garbage bag.
I unzipped my little tent and looked up. Immediately a cup of coffee was thrust onto me. With such a simple setup, my elderly companion brewed up a nice beastly black coffee. A wonderful start, really.
However, I still needed a toothbrush.
Accompanied by my newest young friend, I took a quick walk to the nearest convenience store. We finally introduced ourselves and I learned Shin was currently jobless. He was here to find direction in life. Later, we would be paired together as a team of beginners for the first few days.
Anyway, we went through the first temple before trekking on to the next few, rounding off day one. It’s important to note how ridiculously quick the first temples feel. You really hit up so many temples in the first few days, that it feels like you’ll be done with your quest before the end of the week. It was a blur. We went in the temple, ran through the procedure provided by our first old-sage of a friend (copied below from my original notes)… hiked along the road, behind homes, through small paths next to farms only now touching the spring sunlight. I would be remiss to not share such beauty of the first week of this hike. This day, being one of the most hurried though, was full more of chant memorization and attempted shaking off of my new friend.
But why…. I mean, thinking back, we hiked between the first few temples together, sharing in our simplistic understanding of each other’s languages. That being said, my memories of his backpack are quite clear as he moved only a few meters ahead. I wanted to pass him and move on, or let him go ahead and hang behind. My pride wishing for the former to be honest, but I’m so grateful he stuck around.
That night, we slept outside of a community center. He cooked his rice, and I had a rice ball. I already wished I had planned cooking equipment. We both worried about angry neighbors or a midnight visit from the police, but I’m happy to report that no one was upset, in the slightest.
That isn’t to say we weren’t woken up.
Around 10pm, tired from the first day, we were woken with a BANG.
For the next hour and a half, a group of well-meaning locals practiced drumming in the adjacent community center… I call it drumming here, when I should really say what it was, pure unadulterated noise.
Sleep evading me temporarily, I wrote notes and eventually fell asleep.
(Copied here from my original notes with the real phrasing in parenthesis):