Hiking, Korea, Mountains
Comments 34

Two Shots at Fortress Busan #2: Defeat

A popular legend describes the governor in charge of [Dongnae] fortress, Song Sang-hyeon. When Konishi Yukinaga [leader of 7,000 Japanese invaders] again demanded before the battle that the Koreans allow the Japanese to travel through the peninsula, the governor was said to have replied, “It is easy for me to die, but difficult to let you pass.” 

Even when the Japanese troops neared his commanding post during the battle, Song remained seated with cool dignity. Finally, when a Japanese soldier cut off Song’s right arm holding his staff of command, Song picked up the staff with his left arm, which was then cut off; again Song picked it up, this time with his mouth, but was killed by a third blow. The Japanese, impressed by Song’s defiance, treated his body with proper burial ceremony ~ Wikipedia

So I was back in Dongnae — this was two weekends ago — determined to climb up the mountain to the fortress walls. No cable car this time. My timing could have been better, though: western Japan was being flooded and devastated, and we were copping a thorough soaking over here as well.

I actually thought the drenching rains would make for a nice cool hike amid an otherwise sweltering Summer. Call me an optimist.

Approaching Geumjeongsan. The trail shadows those red cable car pylons.

The cable car was closed. No tourists to be seen in Geumgang Park where it departs; just a handful of indefatigable walkers and the resident wildlife frozen in fibreglass hibernation.

It was really coming down hard; I stalled, attempting some sightseeing in the park beneath my tiny ultralight umbrella. Thunder rumbled down from the ranks of black cloud rolling over the ridge. There would be a break, and I’d start up, but each promise of a lull was a lie. I stalled some more, down the bottom with the graves of the fallen patriots of Dongnae.

These defenders’ remains lay hidden for over a century till they were unearthed and relocated. In the 1970s they were moved again, to this spot in the forest, which was especially atmospheric today in the driving rain.

I sheltered here under the eaves of one of the great gates. My little portable shelter was only just keeping the water from my camera.

A detail from one of the numerous monuments:

Busan was just the beginning of the first invasion. Though getting trounced at sea with brilliant Korean navy tactics, Hideyoshi‘s battle-hardened invaders quickly infiltrated the peninsula and Seoul itself was not long in succumbing. The king had fled. Pyeongyang, now the North Korean capital, also fell.

My next stop, the next set of eaves offering sanctuary:

View from my dry snack stop:

A tomb, and the mountain behind:

But I’d stalled long enough. I’d come here to hike, not sightsee! I started up…

..and soon sought shelter again as the heavens themselves seemed to bust open like a creaky barrel.

This time I hid in a toilet block, then retreated down the hill again — and found a deserted badminton court with a crude but effective shelter rigged up out of beach umbrellas, sticks and rope.

This is the kind of respite you dream of when you’re long-distance hiking and stealth-camping in atrocious weather. I spent a whole night on a toilet floor on my third night on the PCT and was grateful; a very bad night high in the Japanese Alps stretched out on another stinking restroom floor near a mountain hut after my tent was just about blown off the mountain…

But I’d come here to hike, not reminisce! What kind of man hides in public conveniences and beneath beach umbrellas when there’s a mountain to be climbed?

Shame the path was now a cascade…

..and where an ordinarily gentle stream severs the trail, a lethal torrent ploughing its way downhill with a horrendous and undeniably fatal drop over the rocks just to the left.

You can just see the trail continuing on the far side:

I started up a different way — a small party had gone up just ahead of me — but then I remembered the ridge, the lack of shelter, the camera, and that I’d only have to turn around and come down again. The decision was made.

There would be no hiking or hula-hooping today.

I headed back out the gate…

..and of course it was right about then that the rain stopped.

Again, the doubts — should I give it another go? The skies still looked dubious, though, and with some freaky Pied Piper working his magic on the local felines…

..and this feeling that I was being watched…

..I decided to bail for the subway.

I farewelled some sodden-looking bunnies…

..the vanquished flower gardens…

..and the abandoned rides…

..and conceded defeat.

I still felt like a quitter, though, so when I reached Gimhae I raced up a small mountain and explored a deserted hillside temple that I’d never seen. An absolute deluge came down while I was there, huddled another yet another few inches of eaves, umbrella clasped shield-like over my camera — and I was really done with walking this time.

And that’s my Geumjeongsanseong saga all done with.

Or is it?

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote



  1. There’s a creepy feel to that childless, rained-on amusement park, isn’t there? The pouring rain has conspired to give you some dead atmospheric photos, and the mountain can always wait till another day. And what about that pair of sickly green deer? Bizarre!

    • Yes, much weirdness, SW. Actually, deserted, rained upon, creepy: my favourite way to see an amusement park.

      I did go back, sooner than anticipated, and had a great time. More weird weather but atmosphere by the bucketful!

  2. A bit of rain in a post? Now I’m feeling at home! You’ve ramped up the atmosphere with the photos in this post. They’re great (again)

    I think you’re being a bit hard on yourself, as I don’t think this hike could be classed as a failure. It’s a different story if you heard the rain in the morning whilst in bed and as a result couldn’t be bothered getting up. Now that’s a failure! Actually, I’ve had a few of those ‘hikes’ where I remained on the couch all day…

    • Thanks, Greg. I’ll file this one under “not as expected”. Hot, clear weather here today — I’m going back to bed! But I’ll head up another local mountain later. The days are so long right now, and I’ll be camping out, so no need to hurry…

  3. You got a great post out of it at least. Some really atmospheric shots here. Especially those graves. And I see you managed to find another broom. ;). You leave us with a teaser – don’t keep us hanging off that cliff for too long!

    • Yes, my broom collection has been swelling of late — they do make a good broom over here. Will do my best to update that story before my approaching holiday/death march!

  4. a strawberry patch says

    Love the running water shot, been working on those lately. What an odd amusement park! They could use some Disney!

  5. I love how you captured the essence of nature and its beauty, instead of the typical modern Korea that people know them for.

    • Thanks, Wibi. I don’t see much of the glitzy side of Korea. I’m a long way from Seoul and Busan is a lot of things but doesn’t feel anything like Seoul. I’m much happier talking about the mountains and other natural places. Thanks for reading!

    • Thanks, Mikalee! Thanks for sticking round for the load! I feel guilty about subjecting readers to such a long wait but I’m a lousy editor — I might have 200 pictures and I just can’t trim them down to less than 20. And I suppose they’re rather large.

      Photographing that stuff on that day was tough — just walking was almost out of the question!

    • Áine, thanks a lot! Your blog looks great and I’ll take a closer look after work tonight.

      I agree about the park. I wouldn’t be interested in it at all on a normal day but in those conditions I loved it — which probably says a little bit about my tastes…

  6. The pictures are just amazing! Korea is definitely on my list of places to see. This post makes me want to be there right now! Despite the rain 🙂

    • Thanks for your comment!

      Actually, the heat and humidity are far more pressing factors most days. It’s almost unbearable lately — nearly dropped from dehydration again on the weekend up in the local mountains. I usually like hiking in the rain in Summer but that day was insane. I enjoy atmosphere though, and Korea in the right time and place has it in buckets.

    • Thanks, Lunatic! Making the words and pictures work together is one of the things I most enjoy about running my blog. The kind of walking I do and photography complement each other well. Even getting drenched at the bottom of that mountain, I was thinking, “This is gonna be a cool post!”

    • Thanks so much! I wanted to dress up the sidebar like a teenager’s bedroom wall! (Well, a severely messed-up teenager.)

      Looking forward to having a good look at your own blog today. Thanks for reading.

  7. Very cool to be doing a hike surrounded by so much history. An admirable effort amidst awful conditions to be sure! I feel sad for those bunnies (though I’m sure you were just as soaked).

    • Yes! There are all kinds of walks/hikes and I think I enjoy ones with a historical angle the most. I get a real buzz out of walking paths I know have been trodden for centuries. And in fact a bit of rain often adds to the pleasure for me, though that day was too much of a good thing…

      Those rabbits were the epitome of wretchedness. One had one “up” ear and one “down” one, like a busted coat-hanger TV antenna! But yes, I was painfully aware of my own wretched visage!

      Your blog looks AWESOME; will check out today!

  8. Who could resist clicking on someone’s blog with a name like “A Goat that Wrote”! Incredible photos of your little hiking adventure! That sanctuary looks peaceful, and judging by the photos, you had one heck of a FANTABULOUS time hiking up there!

    • Ha, yeah, I’m pretty proud of the blog name as well! Thanks for your lovely response — I did indeed love it there even in the deluge, and went back again a week later, a story I’ll be telling soon.

    • Yes, I enjoyed the bunnies as well, and they liked the attention.

      The pictures are details of temple paintings I’ve snapped here in Korea. I especially enjoy the ones of crazed-looking loners wandering in the mountains for some reason…

      Thanks for the comment and your interest!

      • Oh, I forgot that there’s only one temple picture there now — and under that the word “goat” in Japanese and Korean ;).

  9. Pingback: Bookmarks dump pt.2 – Photography | Elf's guide to adventure

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