Hi, all. Well, it’s Friday night in the big city — and here in Jangyu as well — and here I am at home typing a blog entry. I might have to prepare a cup of chamomile tea soon to stave off the wildness before I annoy the neighbours.
Speaking of neighbours, my landlady (is that term still current?) lives next door. Tonight she came knocking bearing mountains of fruit and my latest power bill. She always softens the blow with fruit, always way too much in proportion to the blow. Tonight it was a bunch of bananas and three enormous nashi-type apples. It might be a Korean custom. “Tomorrow ok?” I always ask — in English. It always is.
Anyway, after finishing that monumental Busan-to-Sokcho saga, here I am undertaking another multi-post series. Sorry. This one is just three posts. Actually, the backlog of tales to type up is daunting. I could churn out at least 30 if I had the time or will, and that’s just Korean ones. I’ll attempt to throw in some Japan and America stories too. I think I’m running out of Switzerland; will have to do something about that.
This one’s from not long before my big walk. You remember Geumjeongsanseong — Mt Geumjeong Fortress — the old stone walls and gates on the ridge overlooking Busan? I’d made two visits, a sunny winter one that worked, and a summer-afternoon one in a downpour that didn’t. Well, this was visit number three, and it was great: a climb up in the afternoon, a night stealth-camping next to the wall, and a descent with a very pleasant discovery the next day.
I’ve blown 300 words on that intro, which might be pushing it, so I’ll stick mainly to pictures…
LATE JULY, 2012
I started late but the days were long. No cable car this time. The climb to the ridge was steep but rewarding, with this beautiful stop not far up:
I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that the carved figure below is San-Shin, (“Mountain God”) a shaman-deity commonly found in old paintings in Korean temples. This one, of course, isn’t painted, and the nearest temples or hermitages are a decent walk away. Still, there’s the old bearded man and the tiger, the essential components:
I’m all for biodiversity but I’m grateful tigers are no longer hazards in the Korean hills. I suspect my hiking would suffer.
The paintings of the Mountain God all follow the same basic pattern. Pictured is an old man seated with, or sometimes on, a tiger. Because tigers were a constant threat in mountainous areas, their ferocity came to be associated with powerful spirits. The Mountain God is not exclusively the old man or the tiger, rather he is both. Perhaps the tiger’s presence also suggests the close relationship in geomancy between mountains and tigers ~ What is Korean Buddhism? *
Up on the ridge after a fast hour-and-a-bit, I lost some time following the wall west, trying to find a little temple I’d read about. No luck, and light was fading. The wall, you’ll remember, loops along the crest, with reconstructed gates at the four compass points. I gave up that quest and headed east…
As in Japan, these fearsome beetles and their kin are popular pets in Summer:
I was pretty much alone up there, just the odd straggler making their way down. I’d decided to sleep out near the wall to get a feeling for the place — technically illegal, I’m sure, but I didn’t see any signs expressly forbidding it, so…
With dusk, a breeze from the coast began wafting low cloud over the ridge.
I was racing along now, with a vague destination in mind and some way to go.
Very otherworldly up there in dense fog/cloud, with boulders, fences and sections of wall revealing themselves, then disappearing again…
I was grateful for this sheltered nook in a wedge between rock and just enough wall to deflect most of the breeze. It was still warm, fortunately, as I’d brought no sleeping bag, just a liner and a light bivy if worse came to worst. It didn’t.
The cloud drifting in from the sea was wet enough to drench the nearby tree, but I stayed dry and didn’t need my tarp. Dinner was a glorious al fresco feast of bakery items, wondering about the builders and soldiers of times long past who’d sat and eaten in the same place; entertainment was courtesy of the iPhone music collection, briefly, and then the silence, the spooky mist, the breeze and the simple pleasure of solitude and peace.
It was a beautiful night, up there with the Mountain God, the breeze a soothing caress snaking over the ancient wall. I was woken once by a small group of cyclists (!) working its way along the ridge, oblivious to the hobo hunkered down in the lee of these fortifications, natural and manmade, their lights quickly swallowed by the cloud…
* For more on San-Shin, try these excellent sources:
~ And that’s all the Goat wrote