The typhoon was a relatively mild affair down here in the sheltered south-east. It blew like hell but didn’t carry much rain. Starting early, I got the standard series of conflicting phone calls and text messages from a couple of colleagues:
I hope you’re not tiring of this series — I’m only halfway through! I almost wish I’d never started, but at least it doesn’t require much commitment on your part — or mine. It’s refreshing, actually, to churn out some posts that don’t take several hours out of my Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones and Mad Men time. Meanwhile, a typhoon is rattling my windows and turning umbrellas into confetti.
I don’t know, I reckon every day of this walk was amazing in its own way, even the hot ones, the long ones, and the long, hot ones. Even that first half-day with the garbage-strewn beach, even the pain-wracked ones near the end — and the ones like Day 5 where I had to stay on my toes for hours to avoid becoming roadkill…
A great day that saw me descend my mountain fastness and make for the coast; a swim; some typically inept navigation; and a “lost” road that was an unexpectedly delightful inland deviation into the outskirts of the ancient capital, Gyeongju. Oh, and another memorably offbeat place to throw down…
I didn’t take many pictures on this day: harsh, unforgiving light, a wearisome trudge through Ulsan’s industrial zone, torpor in a park during a brutally hot midday, another long slog out of town. In fact this would be one of the lowest daily photo tallies of any walk I’ve ever done. But you can’t force the magic!
DAY TWO I’m tapping this in the shelter and squalor of a former beachfront house that has been abandoned, ruined and completely degraded, though not necessarily in that order.
G’day and good evening to you all. Well, it was back at “work” yesterday, where I spent the whole day in my chair catching up on blogs — no students till Monday. I did enjoy the looks of horror on the faces of the vice principal and other staff as I cheerfully described my holiday fun and had it all translated. My ravaged feet were regarded with delicious horror, and the first aid kit was duly placed on my desk. Spray-on antiseptic, local anaesthetic and Band Aids were generously applied. Life was good.
Made it! In fact I made it yesterday and slept in my own bed last night, but was too beaten up, down and all around to type anything. This is coming to you from my favourite coffee shop back in Jangyu, the So Pung, post-2nd latte and kiwi smoothie. It’s good to be back. So, how did I get it done so fast? By quitting, about which I could write a how-to guide. Not quitting the Busan-to-Sokcho trek, the original concept, but the perhaps suicidal Soerak-San mountain-climb climax I invented in some deranged ecstasy of road love. Here’s what happened.
DAY 12. Another day, another Family Mart with my phone sneakily attached to the socket they always have out the front. I could ask and they’d happily charge it inside, but this way I can watch it. I use an adaptor with my foreign phone and if it’s not attached just right it doesn’t work.
DAY 11. Hi, readers. Well, here’s a sign of progress: this picture, taken a few hours ago, shows the first road sign on the whole trip to mention my destination, Sokcho. As you can see, it’s tantalisingly close. The bad news is my feet. Road-walking in the rain today did them no favours, and they feel like they’ve been shotgunned, sprinkled with sawdust and dangled in a cage full of rabid beavers.
..The bloody phone pulled a Lazarus and here I am, sitting in another park, in another seaside town, my wretched feet airing out and scaring the children while I tap. I was going to give you all a break, but thought I should use it before I (possibly) lose it again. Sorry!
The road is deadly, bright and brash, But I have welfare cheques to cash, And miles to go before I crash, And miles to go before I crash… ~ “The Hobo’s Lament” (with apologies to Robert Frost) DAY 9. Well, first the bad news. A loyal and constant trail companion is dead.
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.
DAY 7. Hi, all. I’ll make this short to reward readers for sticking with my endless saga of asphalt, sunburn and depressingly little romance… NEWS FLASH! I’d no sooner typed the above when an attractive young woman from one of the shops here just came out to my picnic table and said, “Excuse me, are you looking for somewhere to charge your phone?”
DAY 6. Well, this is pretty sweet. I’d have to say that despite some frustration, this has been the best day yet. But before I elaborate, let me set the scene in which I tap at these ridiculously small keys… It’s just about dark and I’m sitting on the sand at a beach called Hwajin, leaning back on my pack and feeling like a king.
SINGLE BROWN MALE SEEKS ROMANTIC PARTNER TO SHARE HOBO LIFESTYLE ON LIFE’S CROOKED HIGHWAY. MUST ENJOY TRAVEL & THE OUTDOORS. LACK OF AMBITION AND OPTIONS A BONUS. ALL OFFERS DESPERATELY CONSIDERED… DAY 5. Sometimes I see my reflection in a roadside mirror and everything makes sense. Well, you have to laugh, especially when you’re hard up for entertainment:
DAY 4. Exiting cities on foot is usually a dreary and protracted trudge, but leaving Ulsan yesterday was rather pleasant, for more than the obvious reasons. The road, Rt 31, was straight and not too jammed with cars, I was on the shady side and I quickly found myself on the northern outskirts. I’d stopped for a latte and a cheesecake that quickly succumbed to the heat, collapsing in a slimy puddle. But I needed the calories, so…
I doubt there is a creepier compound noun in English than “sponge bath” so I’ll henceforth refer to my first action on reaching Ulsan at 10:00 today as “doing the dance of the wet bandana”. This was a matter of some urgency as I was suffering what male thru-hikers blushingly describe as (to use another euphemism) “chafing issues”. One of the hazards encountered in the extreme sport of long-distance walking…
Hi, all. It’s hot. End of weather report. And as you can see, they don’t allow trumpet playing here, which is another downer. I’m tapping this in the shelter and squalor of a former beachfront house that has been abandoned, ruined and completely degraded, though not necessarily in that order. It’s an utter hovel apparently used by uncouth fishermen and maybe wild boars.
Well we got no class And we got no principles And we got no innocence We can’t even think of a word that rhymes… ~ Alice Cooper Band Yup, school’s out — not for summer, not forever, but for 12 glorious days.