Hiking, Korea, Mountains
Comments 8

Seorak-San: Sunrise & Moonset over Daecheong-Bong

Seoul rocked. Well, the parts I saw before, between classes and after the week of EFL training rocked. That was a hard week, and I was left with the lasting impressions that a) I am a very poor student and b) I may well be the worst teacher in Korea. How “motivating”. But I made some good friends among the 180 teachers present (most from my province and Gangwon, where the adventure in this post is set) and I’ll do my damnedest to keep in touch with them. I’d forgotten how nice it was to talk naturally to other people in our own native language.

I gritted my teeth and did the team-teaching demonstration on Friday — not my style at all, but we did alright. Our language point was some of the different uses of look: look at, look for, look like and look + adjective. Imagine my pleasure this afternoon as I left school and a passing student exclaimed, “Oh! Ian! You looks like very handsome!” (Imagine my disappointment that it was a boy.)

We have much work to do, comrades.

We were treated to a trip to the Insa-Dong markets on Friday afternoon, and a cruise on the Han River that evening. I shall not soon forget the spectacle of several intoxicated teachers running off my bus to urinate against a post in full view of passing locals (and all of us on the bus). Well, the importance of exposure to western culture was stressed during our week’s training… 

Minny, a former student of mine from six years ago in Australia — and a Seoul native — showed me some more of Seoul beneath a drenching Saturday rain. Some clothes-shopping, good coffee and a fruitless search for the local version of the Zombie Walk concluded my week. A mere 30 bucks and four hours on the bus and I was back home, here in the Deep South. I can’t wait to go back up there, preferably before the onset of another brutal Winter.

More on Seoul after I conclude blogging up (did I just invent a phrasal verb?) my Soerak-San saga.  As you might recall, I left you just as I reached the summit of Korea’s third-highest peak, Daecheong-Bong, after an amazing if protracted ascent through autumnal forests…

* * * * *

The summit was all mine for a little while.

Sunset spectacle

The summit marker, the coast, and the placid Pacific:

The “CH” is actually “DAE” = “big”

One or two others appeared from the hut down on the col, or the opposite direction, to join me in the sunset-photo frenzy:

I found myself talking to a nice guy with decent English who confirmed the crowded conditions of the shelter and had me smugly triumphant that I intended to sleep right there on the summit. He also told me how rare it was to enjoy a Chuseok coincidental with a full moon. It was very lucky, he said.

The show continues

That moon, rising from the Pacific seemed to chase the sun down beyond the Taebaek Mountains.

My turn for the summit ritual.

Last light & a souvenir shot

When I was alone again I set up a sweet little bed in a tiny flat spot among some boulders. I was out of the wind and (I thought) invisible to all but the most persistent interlopers. I was warm and comfortable but as the moon drifted higher I was soon bathed in its somnambucidal (yup, made it up — I’m on a roll) rays. Like lying beneath a sunlamp. I pulled my Buff down over my eyes, but…


..that was just the beginning of my woes.

More tiresome summit commotion

Three…four times at least through that long night, parties of walkers made the summit and proceeded to make a commotion as they took turns posing for their shots and generally exulting.

Fair enough — I was on their turf. But when a small group gathered AT MY FEET, THEIR HEADLAMPS TRAINED ON ME WHILE THEY DISCUSSED MY CONDITION…

Dawn was a LONG time coming

..I had had enough.

I rose, like a tormented mountain wraith, and gave them a sound tongue-lashing. They exited the summit posthaste, having been treated to more salty cultural exchange than the average Korean enjoys in a decade.

Lucky buggers.

At some obscenely early hour I gave up and took my position on the top. The trickle turned into a flood. There must have been over a hundred of us up there by the time the sun poked its head over the horizon amid a fusillade of camera clicks.

I love the look on the woman’s face

At last the moon exited on the far side of the stage.

Much-welcome light and warmth inched its way to the waiting spectators…

..and I watched the mountain’s triangular shadow shorten and sink back into its skirts as I packed and got ready to head down…

The shelter, extreme right

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote


    • Thanks, Phil. My head is swimming at the moment, with that trip closely followed by Seoul and all the stuff they crammed into my head up there. I think I need to get back into the wilds soon.

  1. Nothing beats seeing clouds below the peaks. Perfect for photos, but it’s a pity it appears to be rush hour!

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