Beach & Coastal Walking, Korea, Long-Distance Walking, Road Walking
Comments 18

Hoofsore on the Barbed-Wire Coast

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.

Well, I’m on course to do my requisite 35 miles today, but they are coming slowly and with increasing lashings of pain. Nobody’s fault but mine. It would probably take a thousand miles of mountain trail to do the kind of damage the roads have inflicted in 300 or so.

“Tell us more about your feet, Goat!” you cry. Well, since you ask. I should have brought fresh insoles as mine (good ones) are just about hammered lifeless. And the great asteroid-sized blister on my right heel, which I stabbed last night, now has a twin emerging on the left. Another the size of Jeju Island is throbbing right in the middle of my right sole. The toes, though their boyish good looks are long gone, are relatively suffering-free.

But the real problem is the constant pins and needles in my soles, especially when I first start after a break. Like I’m walking on a bed of nails. I’m beginning to question my loathing of the car — and my choice of holiday leisure!

But enough! I don’t want you to think I’m miserable, ’cause I’d still rather be doing this than (almost) anything else. The journey is still a buzz, just a slower buzz.

Last night I left the beach and hiked till about 10:30, really enjoying the nearly deserted coastal road with the fences and lookout towers in dramatic silhouette:


Surf broke over floodlit outcrops; I passed a giant war memorial and a massive navy frigate perched on dry land as an exhibit.

Then I was led inland again, back through the paddies and sleeping hamlets. I started thinking about a place to crash. One problem with night-hiking is that finding a campsite, particularly in a semi-urban area, is much more difficult in the dark. (I recall one drunken night on the PCT getting woken in the night by an irate local who’d found me cowboy-camping on his front driveway.)

After a fruitless half-hour I resorted to spreading out my kit on the ground in a bus shelter! I figured I’d be dry at least if the rain returned. But the quality of my repose was compromised by the traffic noise and sweeping headlights; I got perhaps three hours before conceding defeat and starting down the prickling road. Hundreds of fat spiders hung from glistening, dewy webs, as dawn broke over the Taebaek Mountains.

My goal is Yangyang (like Australia’s Wagga Wagga, so good they named it twice) and a little beyond, further inland, so tomorrow I can find Rt 44 and start…climbing.

Yes, folks, my secret plan is now revealed. Alert the media! I aim to reach the climax of this journey on Soraeksan, one of the country’s highest, most dramatic and most famous san-s, and then find my way to Sokcho on the coast and a bus home. I could be wrong, but I have a feeling I might the first person to walk to the top of it from Busan.

Or if my feet deteriorate further, I’ll surely be the first to crawl it.

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote



  1. You’ve got me looking at Yangyang on Wikipedia. Watch out for the pine-mushrooms, the salmon and the sunrises.

    • Dominic, it took me a while to catch on that the rather phallic (again!) smiling creatures on bus stops etc were mushrooms! I can vouch for the sunrises.

  2. Carl says

    I know there’s no point in armchair advice such as “Take it easy”, “Don’t hurt yr’self, now”, but seriously, slow up and get there in one piece man! So glad to read you are planning on taking a bus back, for chrissake…

  3. Only 35 miles today? Sounds like you’re starting to slack off a bit?! Looking at the map, it appears you’ve walked most the length of South Korea. In 10 days. Is this possible? Are you bonkers?! I really think your body would have preferred a few more days leave?! Good work and I’m looking forward to the pics when you bag that summit…

    • No summit bagged, regrettably, Greg. Yes, I have now walked most of the length of the east coast. 12 days in all. That sounds fast, and I did walk quite fast, but let me tell you, nothing makes a supposedly small country seem enormous as walking it!

  4. You may not have a lot of choice, but watch that excruciating pins and needles pain in your soles. Blisters will go without trace, but plantar fasciitis is a bugger to ged rid of. I know, because I’ve had it.

    • Yes, I think I finished at just the right time (well, perhaps two days earlier would have been better!). The pins and needles are receding, but I don’t know about these blisters — I can barely walk!

  5. Nice times walking it seems. I’ve been enjoying your posts. I hope to do a similar travel soon, but I prefer a bike to shoes. Good luck with the feet.

    • Thank you, I did come across a few cyclists doing long-ish trips up or down the coast. A lot easier on the feet but perhaps some other areas would have to bear the brunt?!

  6. Robert says

    Well done! I’m looking forward to reading about the final push but what an accomplishment! There’s nothing like a sense of satisfaction to make returning to the daily grind a little more bearable.

  7. Just found your blog, and I’m wondering if you ever made it to the end. My friends and I are planning to hike haeparang (From Busan to the DMZ) in April. 😀

    • Sorry for the inexcusably late reply; hope your walk goes well. Yes, I made it to my intended destination, Sokcho, in 13 days or so. It was the best thing I did in Korea, though it took a heavy toll on my feet: it was all road-walking, and the blisters were horrendous! Great memories though!

      • That sounds IMPOSSIBLE – did you walk in a straight line or along the coast? I just walked from Busan to Ulsan along Haeparang and that alone took 5 days of about 20km per day. And it broke me. Kudos to you!

      • Haha, thanks, yeah along the coast, totally ad-libbing and (mostly) loving it. No maps, only the vaguest of directional guides (“Head north-ish”), and no serious trouble, though I had to backtrack a couple of times, took a couple of detours solely because I liked the look of the backroads even though they took me away from north, and once spent an unnerving hour or two trudging a highway verge where pedestrians were not supposed to be, trying to make myself as skinny as possible as cars and trucks tore past. No cop cars, fortunately.

        Slept under highway overpasses, on beaches, twice in bus stops, generally pretty sketchy sites, and enjoyed very few restful nights in fact, but again, loved it. It was such a relief from the chaos and aggravation and timetable slavery of my junior high school teaching job. The feet suffered incredibly though, which I don’t really understand as I walked 1,300km of mostly sealed roads in 47 days last year (Shikoku, Japan) with nary a blister to show for it. I think in Korea it was partly the cheap running shoes and frequent sand in my socks from frequent beach side-trips that aggravated things. Plus, yeah, I did a few 25-30-mile days on hard roads. By the second-last day my soles were numb except for constant pins-and-needles, and the blisters were scary. I literally could not have walked another day or even half-day.

        In Japan I did it all in high-end Keen hiking sandals and I would never road-walk in anything else after that.

      • Probably slightly less — as I recall I didn’t usually carry much water, or any, used no stove and relied on what I could buy in shops along the way. But I did have camera gear etc. Oh yeah, I didn’t use a tent, just my home-made sil-nylon tarp and a light summer down bag. I think a heavy pack would have led to system breakdown a bit earlier!

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