Yesterday I woke even earlier for my Sunday ramble — ridiculously early, even for me — and hit the street before the first sunbeams. Thumped zombie-fashion down to the Yulha again, ambled its banks (where the coreopsis thickets that featured in the last post are starting to die off), climbed to the road and down to the rice paddy edges, dodged the odd early-starting dump-truck driver heading to or from the highway construction scarring the valley walls, took a few halfhearted shots of spiders and reflections and finally admitted that I didn’t know where the hell I was heading.
I need to know my mission before bed or I’ll squander my morning wandering in ever-decreasing circles till I’ve dug myself into a muddy hole.
Anyway, I sat down on a farm track gazing at the Red Bridge reflected in the newly planted paddies. Talked a while to Kate on the phone; sipped from a can of once-cold coffee. Big Ass Mountain loomed over me on my right; trucks and earth-movers of various species roared above. Then I started walking with sharpening focus along the mountain’s base — as well as being the tallest lump of rock in the local landscape, it’s long and rumpled and I’d never walked its far side. So I had my mission: to circle it on foot via roads. Surely a few hours’ worth of entertainment.
Ten hours later I was sitting in a pavilion draining a $1 Budweiser and examining the swarm of bleeding scratches on my calves. Things had gotten interesting. After evading all that heavy machinery I finally reached the wide and reedy Nakdong River, looped around to the unexplored side of B.A., found myself in a vast and dusty wasteland where a lone temple stood firm while all about it men and machines were bashing out a new industrial estate, strolled through with well-practised nonchalance expecting to be chased out, made it through unscathed and un-squashed, ran outta road, started climbing, ran outta path, bushwhacked through dense, head-high grass and shrubs wondering about poisonous snakes and why life had to be so damned interesting, made it at last to the top of my mountain and discovered it wasn’t the top. And that it wasn’t even my mountain.
Yup. I’d climbed the wrong one. What’s worse, the one I’d climbed was a sliver of its former self: scenes of construction carnage, raw earth, another nascent road being gouged up and over the col on which I stood. A big pile of wooden crates stuffed with (I think) brand-new halogen lightbulbs, hundreds of ’em. Toy excavators and dump-trucks at play far below. I was way disoriented, gazing down on a rising cluster of apartments I’d never seen from this angle.
At last I worked out my position — Big Ass lies where a tangle of ridges intersect — and with a weary groan resumed climbing. And resumed bushwhacking. Made it to a familiar ridge and decided, screw it, I’d save some time, bushwhack some more down the other side to the familiar sanctuary of the Yulha paddies. Dumbness loves company. The mountainside was steep and slidey (just made that word up) and even with an improvised walking stick it was nerve-wracking, skidding from tree to shrub to rock, losing my second (and last) pair of sunglasses ($275 worth — a gift from 2008 that had served me well) to that imperious mountain, which seems to demand tributes in return for its dubious hospitality.
But at last I was standing on level ground, acres of the stuff, and then skirting paddies bouncing lethal sunbeams back at the sky, squinting through my sunglasseslessness, cheek scratched, legs far reduced in prettiness, tired and ready for a nap, kinda sick of it all. And I was back, also — not quite mission accomplished but anyway back — in the rice paddies where I’d started, the paddies this post was supposed to be about.
These shots are from a month or so worth of paddy-skirting in Yulha and beyond. Nice country — nice and flat…
~ And that’s all the Goat wrote