Hey, all. I’m typing this on the terrace of one of my favourite weekend haunts, Cafe 7gram in Yulha, 20 minutes’ walk from home. It’s late afternoon on Korean Memorial Day and I spent the day in my patented weekend Goat-walking style. Let me tell you how I get the mileage and some photography in during the merciless heat and light of almost-Summer.
First off, you need to wake early when the sun is already climbing above the apartment rooftops and setting the creek surface aglow at 5:15am. I set the alarm for 4:45, making sure I have my pack loaded and my hiking duds laid out so there’s no temptation to declare the whole thing too much bother and crawl back into bed.
Actually, this is seldom an issue at Club Mountaingoat because — this may sound weird — I am so damned excited at the prospect of the forthcoming ramble that I usually wake unassisted before the alarm. An iced coffee waiting in the fridge gives the endorphins a nudge, but in truth I’m as thrilled to be setting out for a dawn saunter as I would be on the first morning of a 2,000-mile trek. You have to make your own fun when you live alone in a (very) strange land with only two starving dogs and a bakery manageress for occasional company. Fortunately I am very experienced in the making-your-own-fun department.
Anyway, away I go down the deliciously quiet streets. For more than a month now I haven’t needed mountains or trails or dramatic scenery on my walks. The creek banks are a ragged spree of self-seeding annuals and re-emerging perennials in full bloom; rice paddy verges bulge with blossoming thickets of weeds abuzz with insects. And it’s rice-planting time all over the South-East. Between the flowers, the bugs and the farmers at work transforming their lots into a sea of glassy green, I’m totally happy and at ease meandering all over the countryside.
I get in a few hours — well, last weekend I managed seven — before the sun will no longer be dodged and I retreat to a coffee oasis like this one to edit pictures until the laptop battery dies. Then it’s home for a nap during the worst/hottest part of the day, and back up and out in the afternoon for another ramble as the forgiving light and temperatures creep back. Another cafe stop, and often a Skype with my gal, usually complete the day. Repeat on Sunday, trying to suppress the twinges of depression that always accompany the approach of another working week.
So anyway, here’s the first of three posts dedicated to giving you some idea of why I love my weekend mornings. With all this walking, I’m struggling to keep on top of the photo editing lately — doing three consecutive posts with 22 images each (my usual goal is 15 max) forced me to buckle down and choose some of my recent faves to tidy up. I’ll do # 2 (mostly creek banks) and # 3 (rice paddies and farms) two days apart and maybe that will get this latest obsession out of my system.
This post will focus mostly on farm roads and their borders. Enjoy!
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I have two main routes: the Daecheong Creek banks downstream till I reach the rice country on the outskirts of Jangyu; and Yulha Creek, downstream again to the rice country between Yulha and Big Ass Mountain/Mt Devastation.
The embankment road which takes me away from Daecheong Creek is a favourite spot. Great views of the paddies, excellent bug country, and early in the morning it’s just me, a few fellow perambulators in luminescent sweatsuits and face masks — and the farmers and gardeners:
I can stay on this road and head Busan-wards, or take a right and explore the long, dusty lanes between the paddies and greenhouses:
The Yulha paddies have been really rewarding of late. Early in the morning there are some great reflections, and the farmers are getting used to me wandering about while they work. Sometimes one will come up and stand close, curious about I’m doing. Perhaps they find it odd that anyone could find their labour worthy of photographing:
Planting begins with a drive around the paddies in the ubiquitous blue farm truck (there are only two truck models in Korea: the Bongo Frontier [seriously] and the Porter). On frequent stops, a few co-workers will jump out to distribute trays of seedlings at the paddy edges:
Occasionally I take a diversion past yet another miserable, mistreated dog. For 16 months this ferocious beast has been chained up in its cage right next to the road. For 16 months it’s hated me with a vengeance — and until recently it was mutual. Having befriended my two gals, I now appreciate the way imprisonment and boredom could turn the sweetest creature into a cruel distortion of itself *:
Usually, however, I stick to my well-walked route…
..which always surprises with random roadside colour:
..and plenty of opportunities to play with the fisheye lens:
Vegetable patches fill every available corner or strip…
..and the creative channeling of water through the plain is fascinating:
..and concrete behemoths…
..share the shrinking plain in the shadow of Mt Devastation:
Around here I’ll often loop back…
..to head homeward via the Yulha farmland…
..where I leave the locals to their labours as the sun hovers overhead and the promise of coffee and shade draws me back to…well…here…
* I mean, just look at what they’ve done to me.
~ And that’s all the Goat wrote