Great Tunnel Journeys of the North Gyeongsang Coast
DAY 8. So I finally busted out of that last rest area and went dancing, I mean striding down the road. Or should I say “up” the road? I am walking north. Damn it, I’m always walking north. Anyway, moving ALONG the road.
I was in dangerously high spirits. This was fortunate as I had a 35-mile day in mind. But all my distances are educated guesses based on my speed, duration and the very rare useful road signs; I might have done even more when I finally admitted that high spirits alone would not carry me all night, and started scanning for a place to crash.
Rt 7 had been fun; leaving the rest area, a local had told me — twice — that he envied me, and that I could look forward to a quieter road about 20km north, as well as occasional optional diversions along “Old Rt 7″ which parallells the new one. He also reckoned walking the new one was “legal but dangerous”.
But I’ve survived and unlike in Australia, I’ve only had a horn beeped at me in apparent indignation twice. I’ve also been spared abuse and food or other items thrown at me by passing cretins. Go, Korea.
Thunder barked off and on, and a light spray was coming down as I settled on a patch of grass with nice ocean views. I dug out the tarp for the first time, got it all up and everything stashed — and the rain stopped. ‘Twas ever thus.
I slept poorly — car lights and engines — and got a late 6:30 start. I could also feel those 35 miles and knew I would pay the price today. Also, I had no food and little water — I carry virtually no food now but peanut butter, which I never want to eat again.
But the dawn was as gorgeous as ever, with fishing boats scuttling across the horizon beneath the molten ripples of sunrise, and when four old ladies passed, perusing me as I stood there in my underwear, camera in hand, I didn’t even care. They’ve surely seen worse in their long lives.
As expected, I was slow and close to limping. I have a monstrous, quail egg-sized blood blister on my right heel, another under the big toe, and my feet bones feel a little bruised. All that road, and plenty more ahead. I kept inventing excuses to stop and rest — on guard rails, under bridges. Then my luck changed.
I diverted into a village called Giseong with no water left. And I needed caffeine in any convenient form. Giseong may be a nice place, but it seemed like its best years were behind it, so far behind that no living resident could remember them. Still, it had a store. I took my booty to the village pavilion and commenced my feast.
I drank some cold water (you can’t drink the tap water in Korea, which is a pain), a Coke and an iced coffee. I felt myself transform from a common roadside vagrant into some kind of omnipotent highway god. Ate some carbs in crappy cake form, and off I went.
I worked through my long set list of songs I’ve written on walks over the years, polishing some lyrics, hearing them played to perfection by the resident band in my head. They sounded awesome. My feet didn’t hurt as much. I started eating miles again.
And here I am at the Mang Yang Rest Area, a far earthier place than yesterday’s, with third-world toilets and two guys happily shucking a mountain of corn on the ground near where I’m sitting. It began raining just before I arrived, light and delightful.
And the tunnels: the first two serious ones I’ve done in Korea, Mang Yang Tunnels # 1 and 2, 770m and about 600m respectively. About 35cm of slightly elevated space allocated to the lucky pedestrian.
The unearthly, ungodly shriek of vehicles hurtling through those things from behind was like the baying hounds of Hell bounding up the basement stairs to eat your babies and urinate on your favourite rug. The depraved idiocy of the motor car in all its glory. How joyful it was to emerge intact, if psychologically scarred, and scream at the sky…
And really, isn’t that he whole point of adventuring — to feel grateful for the gift of life?
I hope I get to enjoy it a little longer.
~ And that’s all the Goat wrote