High & Dry on Dragonfly Ridge
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
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