Hiking, Korea, Mountains
Comments 10

Just Another Saturday Night in the Big City

Well, I rate the iPhone post experiment as a success, despite its obvious limitations in the photo department, and you can look forward to some highly digestible near-daily Postcards from Wherever during my upcoming ramble.

Meanwhile, with the post-hike luxury of cushion, keyboard, light and air-con, here’s the more complete story of my killer weekend: with its killer views, temperatures, insects and a humidity/dehydration double that packed a killer punch.

I mentioned “The Man in the Suit”. Here he is, in early January, my first meeting with “The Tree”:

Man in suit on mountain. Now that’s style.

Saturday. Starting up through the forest near my place. I stopped twice along here to gulp some water from the stream. Each time I was instantly thirsty again:

Approaching the summit of Yongji-Bong, high point on the Bulmo-San ridge complex. Home is that cluster of white apartments. Which cluster? you ask. The one on the lower right:

The summit was deserted. I was kinda realising why. Could it have had something to do with the murderous heat and awful humidity?

Can’t speak a word, but my reading’s improved!

I’ve been experimenting with a UV-repellant umbrella again — liked them in low wind in the California desert. After much angst trying to get one online (Go Lite set the standard, but don’t ship offshore), I found one for 10 bucks in the local Lotte Mart that says “UV” on the label. It’s small and seems durable, and at least repels some of the solar attack from above. Next week I’ll be grateful.

Looking back. Second peak from the left is Yongji-Bong. Closer are The Sentinel and Dalek Alley. Yes, I named them myself:

And I was on Daeam-San — Big Rock Mountain. One or two other hikers, but very quiet. I settled down under “my” tree, with the sun starting to flame up beyond the Changwon plain, set my umbrella to max and settled down for a late lunch/early supper:

Fusion Cuisine at its finest

One of the locals emerged to take in the dusk, apparently under the impression that it was his/her tree:

We had the best seat in the house. Changwon, (loosely) based on Canberra, planned city intended as an alternate capital should Seoul have fallen during the Korean War:

Dinner done with, let the high comedy (get it?) begin. A farcical episode began in which I set up the NEX on a convenient boulder, set the timer for 10 seconds, and ran like hell towards the tree:

Times like this I love my Gorilla-Pod (and my phone)!

I tried this stunt three times. 10 seconds was not quite enough, and I quit before I ran off the side of the mountain:

Enough. Let’s just relax and enjoy the show:

A few walkers began trickling onto the summit, and I realised the Koreans weren’t extinct, just smarter than me. They were timing their climbs (from relatively close Changwon) for the cool of dusk.

I do enjoy watching the Korean ritual of reaching a summit only to bust out one’s favourite stretching routine, often interspersed with bloodcurdling victory cries of “YAHHH-HOHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”:

I tried to get into the spirt of things:

Three more walkers appeared, asked where I was from. One got excited — he’d done a triathlon in eastern Australia but couldn’t remember where. They offered me a beer. Through tears of bitter longing and regret, I declined. They turned and took off:

I repaired to my lonesome pine, which seemed, I don’t know, kinda indifferent to my presence. The lights were coming on down below. That delicious sense of ease, satisfaction and purpose, which are the closest I get to “happiness”, flooded through me.

I sat there a while, enjoying it, since you never know when the next dose is coming…

..and Changwon took over the entertainment duties now that Old Man Sun had turned in for the night.

Say what you will about these Korean cities, which sprout between peaks from just about every patch of flat land in the country — they are utterly enchanting from the vantage points of height, distance and darkness:

But it was time to call it a night. Flat spots were pretty sparse up here, and one of the joys of stealthin’ (which is, I’m pretty sure, technically “illegal”) is improvising with the “built environment”. So a bench in the pavilion had my name on it. Narrow, to be sure, but with sweet views from the bedroom window:

No need for a sleeping bag — luckily, since I didn’t bring one. Just air mattress and bag liner. I set a water bottle near my head, regretting my salty repast, and settled in for the night, thinking about the fun in store come morning…

You may climb these mountains

You may look down on everyone

But you’ll never find

No, you’ll never find

Your place in the sun

~ The Triffids

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote



  1. As ever, you convey the atmosphere so well. I do like your concept of stealth-camping. I don’t suppose there are too many camping officers up there to pinch you for it! Those shots of the view are wonderful.. I especially like the suit man shot.

    • Thanks, Rachael. That was one of those posts that was actually a pleasure to put together. Some are agony, I don’t know why. I really loved those shots too — the NEX and that lens really thrive in that kind of light. And I love the time-stress of only having about 20 mins to sort of run around and try to capture things at their best.

      As for the camping, that’s really the only style open to me over here. Real campgrounds are so rare. There’s an “auto camping” culture as in Japan but that’s not much use to me. I think in general I could get away with sleeping almost anywhere as I make no mess and often don’t even erect a structure. Plus early starts and not setting up till after dark. I’ve seen just one or two tents in the wild. National parks would be different. In those places there is usually one official campground which will be absolutely jam-packed. For that reason I’m forced to abandon my plans to explore one of the famous national parks during the upcoming holidays — half of Korea will be there.

      Funny, I walked 2,155 miles on the PCT and everyone could camp wherever they wanted along the trail so long as Leave No Trace principles were followed. And they usually were.

    • Thanks, I was going to include a picture to explain why I named it thus, but I am never able to nail it. A fisheye lens would be REALLY cool. Hmmm…

  2. The things one does when one gets to the top. I wanted to climb Moel Siabod (pr. “shabbod”) in Wales ever since I was about 8. I finally got round to it 40 years later. I saw no-one. When I got to the summit cairn I danced an ecstatic dance around it, chanting “I’ve climbed Moel Siabod! I’ve climbed Moel Siabod!” Only then did I see a small group of bemused hillwalkers sitting no more than a few feet from me next to a rock.

    • I totally understand your emotions, Dominic! I’ve done the victory dance myself a few times. I don’t think I’ve been busted yet, but more than once I’ve rounded a corner singing joyously to find myself face to face with a stern looking bunch of locals.

  3. I liked the ‘man in suit’ photo when you posted it before, and I like it just as much now.

    And that tree — it’s yours, dammit. You know it. We know it. It’s about time those Koreans knew it too!

  4. Oh yeah, I love The Triffids so much, this post will be a winner just for that reason!

    I’ve got a similar set of photos from the Overland Track which I tried with a timer and they’re all a complete joke with the odd one missing my head! I was going to include them when I get around to that post, but you’ve beaten me to the ‘failed photo’ posting!

    It looks awfully hot over there. Two thumbs up for pushing through it though!

    • Yeah, I outdid myself with Triffids on two consecutive posts! One of those bands where just a bar or two and you’re transported back to the good side of the 80s!

      It’s 31C here and I’m about to hit the beach!

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