Animals, Korea, Urban Walking
Comments 6

Night Dogs & Boiled Chickens (Scene from a Stroll #4)

barking dogs

MARCH 11, 2012

I was utterly depressed. Weekends are sacred to me, and I’d just squandered my Saturday on my worst hike in Korea — hell, my only bad hike in Korea so far.

barking dogs

I was coming down with something — all those coughing, spluttering students, none covering their mouth — and politeness had seen me reluctantly accept an invitation to hike with the old man, Mr Ha, I’d met in the mountains behind Gimhae.

Now, he’s a nice enough old fellow, this Mr Ha, and he’s also never going to read this, so I’ll tell it straight: he REEKS of garlic. I mean, he must eat kimchi six times a day; I’d done an urban outing with him the week before and had been astonished to realise, as he led me from rice harvesting tool to rice processing machine to rice cooking device in a local museum, that I could smell him from a metre behind me.

Now I had to get in a car with him. Worse, he brought along two friends, colleagues from his old company, I believe, and the younger one kept calling me Mr Ian, and hanging closer than a burr caught in your sock, one minute telling me how he was hungover and hated hiking, the next threatening to invite me to dinner so his children could meet a foreigner…

It was a really, really crappy hike — Mr Ha gave up halfway up the mountain and I had to summit with his annoying friend — but when I begged out of the raw-fish lunch they insisted on having to wind down, it was only partly because I never wanted to see any of them again. I felt sick, rundown and aching all over. I went home and lay down in my dirty hiking clothes and fell straight into sleep.

Next day I still felt rotten, but in the late afternoon I dragged myself out of bed, telling myself it would be five more awful workdays before the next shot at freedom. I left the house not long before dark and slumped up a lonesome road into the foothills of Bulmo-San. It was cool and quiet and I felt a little better. There’s a place up there in the Daecheongcheon Valley that translates as “Boiled Chicken Village”, a collection of restaurants crammed between road and river.

Before I got there, though, I came to these fellows in the picture. All over rural and semi-rural Korea, just as in Japan, you see these poor wretches condemned to a life on a short chain. I’ve seen this pair a few times now and they’re always restrained in this dirty, wretched scrap of redneck yard near the road. They’re nicer than they look — they only started barking when I aimed a camera at them. They actually seemed desperate for some kind of diversion and attention.

But I could barely carry my own sorry corpse along. I reached Boiled Chicken Village in deep darkness; groups of loud, inebriated locals were piling into cars to head back to the city. I made myself walk a full hour before I stopped, took a few deep breaths and turned for the walk down the mountain towards home. I’d pass the dogs and say ‘bye on the way back.

But meanwhile, was that…garlic I could smell wafting out of that roadside place?

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote


  1. Aw. I hope the goat is feeling a bit better by today? Just think, only three more crappy workdays to the weekend. A better one, I hope!

    • Ha, weird timing: today is actually my first sick day in this job — and I intend to enjoy it if I can, or at least catch up on some blog/photo stuff.

      One of the hazards of this job — especially over here where few people cover their mouth — is the exotic blend of germs and pathogens you’re exposed to each day. I have over 600 students, and at any one point half a dozen of them are coughing and hacking furiously in my direction…

      But yes, weekend coming! Oh, joy!

  2. Could you not take another day or two off?

    I sometimes enjoy walking in company, but it has to be the right, relaxing company, and that’s hard to find. I mean, how often do you meet someone who understands that you don’t actually have to talk all the time while hiking, who goes at the same pace as you and who has sweet-smelling breath — all in the same package? Rarely, I fear.

    Solitary walking is far more reliable.

    • I might’ve guessed you prefer solo travel — something in your name. Agreed: it’s hard to find good trail company and why settle for second best? Certain sections of the PCT in 2010 were ruined for me by finding myself locked in with the “wrong” people — not that they were bad folk, we just didn’t gel. (If you are my real PCT friends & reading this, relax — it’s NOT you!). I do sometimes enjoy talking & walking, especially on long boring sections where you finish your chat & realise you’ve just killed five miserable miles! But you both/all need to know when enough’s enough as well. Yes, pace — I was almost wiped out trying to keep up with a hiker almost 20 yrs my junior on the Long Trail in 2006. And I’ve frequently had the opposite problem of having to keep stopping & waiting and feeling guilty for making them feel guilty… GRRRR…

      I’m just commencing my 2nd consecutive sick day off work. Shame I’m not healthy enough to fully enjoy it, but just not being there has me smiling.

  3. The problem have with this right away is the garlic. I kind of detest it, as it’s the only food source I know that makes my tongue furry. Yeah, yeah. that sounds weird, but that’s the only way to describe it. It’s a feeling as if I’ve just spent a few hours tongue kissing a camel. So, if I saw that garlic monster Mr Ha coming my way I’d have to tell him to move on as I’ll start feeling a little queasy. Good work hanging out with those blokes for the day and not assaulting them…

    • You know, I really love garlic, Greg — or used to. I just don’t want to taste it IN THE AIR I’M BREATHING.

      I could’ve been a lot crueller & more detailed in this post about what went on that day. It was horrible. I’ve concluded that it really is better to be “rude” and hurt someone’s feelings once than be untrue to yourself and make everybody miserable just for the sake of “sociability” and convention. I often wish I’d followed this approach over the many, many unendurable social obligations I’ve suffered through over the decades..

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