Hey, people, thanks for dropping by as always. I’ve split this post, about last Saturday’s unexpectedly interesting little walk, into two parts, carefully calculated to allow uninhibited digestion over two consecutive bowls of cereal. Expect the next installment in 24 hours or so.
I’m bursting with ideas for posts at the moment; luckily I have my best ideas as I walk. Still doing five miles every working day and 25-odd-mile weekends, still haunting the river banks, mountains, ridges, construction sites, trash heaps and bakeries of southeastern Korea.
Lots of time to think — too much, maybe.
There’s my gal — of course; Korea, and What It All Means; the future: particularly my Secret Summer Travel Plans, but also December 31, my Escape from Asia, a Return to Australia, and then a Really Exciting Adventure after that.
And the downers: the personal stuff; shit I’m going through at school. The main one is going pretty well, the second so awful I feel like crying each Thursday and Friday as I approach its front gate.
How badly I want to get out of teaching…
Then there’s the walking itself, as natural a state for me as sucking in air; nature; photography: my yoga, meditation and opiate of choice after another draining day.
And then there are those ideas for this blog. About which, stay tuned…
I got started early even by my standards. I’d lost my little umbrella on Big Ass a week before and the forecast was for rain, so I dashed down to a convenience store and grabbed another before cutting across the local persimmon orchard…
..and joining the path up the side of Bulmo-San.
This is the route I found on the morning of Kate’s birthday: the one that had somehow eluded me after climbing this mountain a dozen different ways over the past year. It’s a nice trail, and a popular one, but it was still early and the woods were quiet:
This is where I turned back last time. Go left on the road and you’ll get close to Jangyu Temple; go right and you’ll enjoy a pleasant but lengthy descent to a nasty road with no sidewalk, and won’t see home again for a good few hours — if you don’t end up as roadkill. Today I crossed and kept climbing:
It was clouding over as I neared the summit. Whereas the wild azaleas are calming down after a few weeks of exuberance and attention-seeking at the lower elevations, up here they were still partying hard.
Yongji-Bong is the summit — well, the first summit. My plan was to keep going “back” along the ridge to Daeam-San, overlooking Changwon, and then still further over a thickly vegetated stretch of rollercoaster-trail to Bieum-San, famed for the azaleas clothing its upper slopes.
You might remember the crumbling roof of this pavilion just below the summit. Well, the helicopter pilots and construction workers have been busy:
I was alone up there — even the noodle vendor had taken the day off. The wind picked up, the sky darkened further and then I was surprised and a little excited to see a few snowflakes drift down and quickly melt on the tarps draped over the building materials. A hiker arrived, asked me to take his picture, bailed; a couple arrived, looked at the sky and did likewise.
I was glad for that umbrella, though snowflakes at least are relatively dry for a while. Anyway, they’d soon ease off, I thought, and started along the ridge. But they kept falling — not many of them, just enough to transform a section I know pretty well into something special:
Even in Winter I’ve never seen snow along here. Next stop was this lonesome cairn on the next small peak — now identified, I saw, as Shinjeong-Bong. You can see the snow fluttering down beyond the beautiful stonework:
And then my favourite part of the walk at any time: Dalek Alley, as I call it, where the cairns huddled closer as the snowflakes danced around them:
I was glad I’d proceeded from Yongji-Bong, though I paused here long enough, taking shots from beneath the umbrella, for my ungloved camera hand to start reacting to the cold with typical discomfort and increasing paralysis.
A small group moved through without stopping. I had a lens cap in my mouth and grunted a vague greeting:
Then I left the guardians of Dalek Alley…
..with the halfhearted flurries now alternating with spells of cold and dispiriting drizzle.
My gloves were soon saturated, and taking pictures became increasingly challenging. I had to use my teeth to pull off the camera-hand glove, and holding the umbrella up while adjusting settings with cold-retarded fingers is always a pain.
To make matters worse, I was lugging two Sony NEX-es (finally took the new one I got in New York out of the box), each with enjoyably different lenses, neither of them waterproof. Naturally I wanted to play with them both. Tricky, and often bloody frustrating.
But I don’t want to sound like I wasn’t enjoying myself. I was having a blast:
But by the time I reached Daeam-San the fun was wearing off. It was nerve-wracking keeping the cameras dry, and my right hand was numb and almost useless. I found the summit completely shrouded in fog, with a big group heading down…
..and the shelter where I spent a summer night last year empty.
Five minutes earlier I wouldn’t have found any space in there!
I sat there eating a sandwich, the rain blowing in, exchanged a few texts with Kate in New York to lighten the mood, and decided enough was enough. There’d be no more views on the ridge. I was close to that flower-chaser’s state known as Peak Azalea. Better to quit while my gear was relatively dry and my hand wasn’t a withered claw.
I packed my cameras away — enough of that foolishness — and started back. Five minutes later I’d stopped and taken one out again…
~ And that’s all the Goat wrote