Hiking, Korea, Mountains
Comments 16

High & Dry on Dragonfly Ridge

DSC09501

Well, I’m pumping out the posts lately, trying to tidy up a few threads before I start my little walk on Friday night — and all going well I’ll treat you to a short but awesome post each night of my ordeal adventure.

Before I finish the Big Rock Mountain saga, though, how’s this for some arresting graphics?

These are my statistics for today courtesy of the WordPress dashboard — and the good people there who selected one of my recent posts for their “Freshly Pressed” page. This is the second time I’ve enjoyed this privilege, and the frequent bleepings from my phone that punctuated my day as commenters, “likers” and followers were led to my ordinarily dusty, tumbleweed-infested blog.

Thanks, WordPress and everyone who stopped by, and as always the loyal crew of blogger-commenter-friends whose conversations are always a pleasure to participate in...

*****

Never since the early liars first cooked eggs in the sand was there such heat, and it was made hotter by the consciousness of folly, than which there is no more heating thing ~ Hilaire Belloc, The Path to Rome

I was woken twice in the night by walkers stomping past my pavilion bed and disappearing in the dark somewhere down the ridge. Night-Hikers! A special breed.

And I was tormented for I don’t know how long by the piercing stuka attacks of squadrons of fascistic mosquitos. I felt no bites but their noise… All night I was slapping myself in the face; it was just like going out with X in the bad old days…

So I was grateful for the glow of pre-dawn on the other side of the ridge, over beyond Gimhae…

..and for the cup of (no longer) iced coffee I’d brought up.

As I packed, a couple appeared and asked via mime if I’d slept there — and gave me a tomato. These Koreans, they eat them like fruit. I was rather annoyed that now I’d have to eat a whole tomato to be polite, since I’m more a cereal-and-yoghurt man, but later I was grateful for the charity of the precious fluid contained therein.

It was already warm, birth of another blaster in the low thirties:

Changwon still slumbered under a blanket of dirty cloud, but the summit was already bustling with dragonflies and…hikers? So that was their game in this enervating heat: get it over with before sun-up and go home to bed and the air-con.

The dragonflies were everywhere. Here’s my bedroom:

Gentlemen, come on! You’ve just climbed a bloody 500m mountain! Surely you’re already limber enough! A lot of wretched, lazy bastards down there in the valley haven’t even woken up yet!

I got going along the ridge. I’d only been to Bieum-San once before and I eagerly anticipated the views and the ice-cream vendor.

The section between Daeam-San and Bieum-San is only a few kilometres, but there are a few steep climbs and descents. I love the woods along here. Everything was fecund, humming with life: cicada waves, building and crashing and receding, bees and dragonflies and butterflies; striped, arrow head-shaped frogs and gnarly toads leaping suddenly from the undergrowth, just in front of my feet, to disappear on the other side.

The air was steamy, thick with a herbal infusion of leaves and flowers. My shirt was already wet.

You can just make out the next pergola and a future bedroom — Bieum-San:

Well, I got there, utterly crestfallen to observe that the vendor was himself among the wretched lowlanders encamped beneath their quilts in their frosty AC-enclaves. What a wasted business opportunity.

A few hikers huddled in the only available shade, beneath that tiny roof. I took off my shirt in a futile attempt to dry it, and modestly ignored the gasps of admiration from the onlookers as I spent a pleasant if sweaty half-hour chasing dragonflies.

All of this is, for me, unexplored territory. One (cool season) day:

I had about half a litre of H2O left. Sweat poured in rivulets from the elbow of my trekking pole arm. My shirt, when I put it back on, was even wetter than before. It wasn’t even midday.

This was no place for a sane man. The mountains belonged to the insects.

And yet, long ago this whole area was inhabited by Gayan tribes. These rugged ridges, supplemented by rock walls, formed yet another roughly circular fortress, and before heading back I descended half a kilometre to see the remains of the South Gate.

It was a rough pile of rocks. Ripped off again. I sighed and trudged back up to the ridge and started homeward…

..a journey I don’t wish to recall, thanks very much.

Oh, alright. Just like my previous trek here (I’m a slow learner) I was dehydrated and listless. Easy climbs destroyed me. I fantasised about Lotteria Tornados (an ice-cream concoction) and icy Coke — and I never drink Coke. A pause under my umbrella and my tree, another salty Snickers sucking the last moisture from my cells.

I finished my water on Yongji-Bong and descended at last to Jangyu Temple, where I downed 1.5 litres of spring water in three gulps…

..and lay back, feeling ill, on a rock.

A man asked me if I wanted to pray. I declined. I was beyond the healing power of prayer.

Back in the woods, the homeward stretch, I stripped off and wallowed in a cold pool with a guardian spider:

Much revived, I negotiated about 5,000 Koreans with shelters, picnic blankets, radios and plastic tubes, all happily crammed into the Jangu Cascades, now reduced to a turbid series of Urine Concentration Tanks (UCTs).

I reached Jangyu. I reached Lotteria. I destroyed two strawberry Tornados and a Coke.

When I reached home and mirror, I saw that the left side of my face was a spray of red mosquito bites. The mountains, the insects had won — this time.

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote

16 Comments

  1. I’m a little jealous of the “Freshly Pressed” status…Oh! a girl can dream. But you’ve got some pretty sweet content and loads of beautiful photos.
    I loved your photos of the insects. :)

    • Thanks, mate! That FP took me by surprise (never thought the joy could happen twice) but was a great inducement to blogging a little more frequently. You know, sometimes it feels like you’re talking to yourself on these things.

      The insects were great fun despite the heat. One of these days I’ll buy a macro so I can creep a little closer than my current six-inch limit!

  2. Love your spider shot – it’s one of the Argiope (the genus that includes the St. Andrew’s cross spider)
    I’ve been looking out for them here, but no luck – been promising myself to get some pics so I can do one on spider fighting.

    The dragonfly photos are excellent as well – no wonder the photographer and garden -types love your blog.

    And congrats on getting those views.

    • They’re pretty common over here, especially near water. Gorgeous things.

      “Spider fighting”?!

      Thanks re the Freshly Pressed thing. Both times I’ve been more amazed than particularly proud. If some of the first-time visitors stick around, that will be great. As for dragonflies: it’s a toss-up which is my favourite insect, the dragonfly or the mantis. I think maybe the dragonfly as it doesn’t have the creep-out factor of the praying mantis!

  3. Don’t expect many of the first-timers necessarily to stay around — blogging is such a promiscuous thing!

    I believe a surfeit of tomatoes is a good remedy for a surfeit of salt, but you may not be pleased to hear that. And talking of the tomato, I always thought that it was a fruit. Amazing the things you learn in Blogland!

    Love the dragonfly shots.

    • Yes, ships in the night, mostly. Still, it’s nice to have had the pleasure of the bar graph going skyward faster than the latest addition to the Dubai skyline — twice! I do hope I find the time to have a closer look at the blogs of my new commenters, but honestly, it’s hard enough fitting in my regular quota of bloggertainment. Maybe we should all sign a pact not to post more than fortnightly!

      You got me about the tomato. I should have said, “The Koreans eat them like they’re apples or bananas or pineapples” — or is that just me?

      And please don’t tell me the pineapple isn’t a fruit!

  4. Tomatoes are technically a kind of berry.
    Recently there has been a big thing of using certain types in desserts. Not for me – just a bit of salt, please, or maybe grilled.

    Do you get those delicate damselflies with black wings in Korea? They’re beautiful!

    • Yes, we do! Although trying to photograph them a couple of times was an exercise in going nutso fast.

      I’m with you on the tomatoes: raw in salads, grilled, fried, in a sauce or on a sandwich — except for cherry tomatoes there are several other fruits/berries I’d rather chew on as a snack. And yes, I ordered a waffle here once which arrived with a delightful accompaniment of fresh fruit — including a couple of cherry tomatoes! They do NOT complement bananas!

  5. Congratulations on FP (x2!) and also on another fine post. I am a bit envious of you seeing all those dragonflies. I like dragonflies. Luckily for me, the spider pic won’t load on my iPad (3G not very good tonight). I will try again tomorrow,if I am feeling brave. Some epic views from up there. Worth the pain?

    • Thanks, Rachael, I was thinking you would’ve loved it up there if you could stand the heat and light and sweat more than me. I reckon a beach umbrella and an ice-box full of cold drinks and it would be tons of fun. Don’t worry about the spider, it’s not very close and you can only see the beautiful web. I’m inching closer to getting a macro all the time. One thing about those dragonflies, they’re pretty tolerant of humans inching closer to them.

      As for it being worth the pain: absolutely! But ask me about pain after the next week or so…

  6. Nice work on the FP x 2! You’re right about talking to ourselves whilst blogging! I fully understand why people just give up, as it can be a commitment in time and I’m not really sure what the rewards are?!

    This post is a good example of your pictures Goat! You’ve taken the photography to another level and just when I think you’re done, you raise the bar a little more. I love the picture of those blokes limbering up! Great colour, light and composition in all of them though. Love it!

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