Environment, Korea, Streams, Creeks & Rivers, Urban Walking
Comments 6

Korea: Flashbacks & Farewells

Hey, all, and welcome to a bright new year of blogging — and perhaps other stuff, if that’s your thing. I hope 2014 is a productive and rewarding year for you, and many thanks to readers who’ve been sticking with me on TGTW for my last couple of years in Korea, and in some cases, longer!

Well, this time tomorrow I should be gazing out an aeroplane window at lovely blue ocean — hopefully below the plane. I’m excited about catching up with friends and family I haven’t seen for two years, and enjoying a few weeks of Brisbane beauty, not to mention hot weather, sand, good food and coffee, and revisiting some favourite haunts with my camera before I have to move on again.

2014 is going to be a BIG year for yours goatly — occasionally stressful but overall, great. Can’t wait…

Speaking of old haunts, I thought I’d devote this, my final hammered-together-in-Korea post, to talk about last Sunday. I’m a creature of rituals and self-induced melancholy, and I saved up my final “real” walk here for my last weekend. I decided to return to the landmarks I covered on my very first proper walk here, back on New Year’s Day, 2012 — exactly two long and sometimes difficult years ago. I would walk them in the same order, compare impressions and see how they’d fared.

And like a lot of my silly ideas, it actually turned out rather well.

THIS TIME…

I walked down the street, past the crucified Santa…

mmm

“Father, forgive them. There’ll be nothing in their stockings this year.”

..and into the same bakery where I’ve wasted countless hundreds of hours — and where, in fact, I’m writing this.

I left in my usual Christmas rage, driven, cursing maniacally, onto the streets by cruelly repeated spins of All I Want for Christmas and Last Christmas, aiming at my first stop, the small mountain I christened Bottle Top, first thing I ever climbed (I use the term loosely — it’s just a hill) in Korea…

mmm

Bottle Top, the small mtn on the right

..crossing the Daecheong, which looked a lot less wretched crusted with ice:

mmm

I decided to deviate from the plan for a short detour along its banks, where a few dragon-slayer weeds still sprouted…

mmm

..and entered the backstreets to reach the base of the hill.

THAT TIME…

I had no idea of how accessible hills and mountains were here. I didn’t know if I was trespassing — just strolled along the base till I found this faint path next to a church. Strange, tuneless singing came from within. I climbed faster:

mmm

THIS TIME…

There was even more litter than before…

mmm

..but the leaves were just as huge and slippery, my shoes just as impractical:

I don't usually hike dressed like Jerry Seinfeld -- honestly.

I don’t usually hike dressed like Jerry Seinfeld — honestly.

THAT TIME…

I found these bottles on top — hence the name…

mmm

Such a waste of a Heineken

..– and was not yet aware of what an obsession the trashing of the environment would become for me over here.

I also got my first decent view of my new urban environment from higher ground — I’d spent much of the previous day getting lost down there:

THIS TIME…

There was a lot of Winter-brown regrowth obscuring the views, but I could look around and recognise most of the mountains and urban features:

mmm

I strolled down to a col and up the ridge, the same way as two years back…

mmm

..to another viewpoint I’d stopped at back then.

THAT TIME…

I’d been puzzled by a cracking sound I soon realised came from golf nets just below:

mmm

THIS TIME…

I realised that I could see the mountains and the old fortress walls in distant Gimhae — which I ended up knowing quite well.

And my loathing for those awful, mountain-eating golf monsters had just grown stronger:

mmm

THAT TIME:

I took this shot here:

mmm

So young & beardless & innocent

THIS TIME…

I tried to drink in the details, store them up so I can write about them properly down the line:

mmm

THAT TIME…

I left the ridge and came down into a hillside park. At that stage I could still look at these apartment clusters with a kind of wonder, exotic as Disney-esque castles perched in the fairytale Alps:

mmm

That’s Pointyhead, behind the towers, a fave mtn

I reached the road, got lost, then saw another, smaller hill-park and explored that:

mmm

That I could be in the woods yet see hundreds of apartments through the trees was still interesting back then.

THIS TIME…

Still interesting, I suppose, but sometimes a little depressing as well:

mmm

THAT TIME…

I left that park and passed this decorated earth-mover on the back of a truck:

mmm

If only that were me, leading them to the nearest cliff, Hayduke-style.

I thought that Pied Piper figure was cute, little knowing that excavators and the good work they did despoiling what’s left of Nature over here would become another unhealthy obsession — I ended up taking hundreds of photos of Doosans and Volvos et al scooping the hills and creek banks into piles of spoilage over the following years.

I was still wandering — on an impulse I swung left, following the sign pointing to Jangyu Temple and the Daecheong Valley, and took this, my first shot of the Daecheong upstream from Jangyu town:

mmm

Not exactly pretty, but it would become one of my regular playgrounds, and (garbage excluded wherever tourists could access its banks via car) was a lot nicer upstream. I even followed it all the way to its source as a tiny trickle one weekend.

THIS TIME…

The Daecheong is doomed. Another bridge is going across and the hillsides nearby are being stripped to allow for yet more highway expansion:

mmm

Downstream it’s even worse.

THAT TIME…

I passed these dogs…

mmm

Mary Ann

mmm

Ginger

..which I recognised as foreign and purebred, but I didn’t linger.

They didn’t like me and were vocal about it. Back then I wrote off all fierce-looking dogs here as just an annoyance. It took months before I befriended the worm-riddled, neglected, starving creatures, began feeding them surreptitiously and then blatantly, and meanwhile realised that there were thousands of poor dogs here treated this badly or worse.

THIS TIME…

“My” dogs were long gone, and the pup that had replaced them, which had started healthy, if timid, was now malnourished, its ribs poking through its hide:

mmm

THAT TIME…

I continued up the narrow mountain road…

mmm

..to the Daecheong Cascades, which were pumping, and quite clean.

It was my first attempt at photographing moving water “properly”:

mmm

mmm

mmm

THIS TIME…

A year of drought had drained the falls to a pathetic shadow of their power two years back. Signs hung everywhere from tree limbs advertising the delivery of fried chicken to hungry picnickers. I thought about pulling them all down as a last gesture of defiance, but decided I didn’t have the will or energy. And the few shots I took look about as miserable as that poor white dog.

So I took this last self-portrait instead…

mmm

..and wandered home for an afternoon nap.

*          *          *          *          *

That’s it, folks, see you next week! After a few days of staying well away from this site, I’ll be back with a series of photo-only posts: my favourite shots taken in Korea, most of them never used on TGTW. In a rare case of well-organised blogging, I’ve actually compiled these posts already and just have to hit “PUBLISH” every few days!

What a delicious sensation. 

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote

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6 Comments

  1. Finally, one hell of a rollercoaster ride is over?! Nice last post and about the biggest changes in your ‘then and now’ photos are more buildings! It looks like that joint is toast, as I can’t imagine what it would look like in 20 years time?

    Time to put your feet up on some sandy beaches for a few weeks, plus track down a decent custard tart or twenty!

    • Imagine my horror on finding my favourite local source of custard tarts closed for the holidays?! They open on Monday if I survive that long. Meanwhile, though, there’s real coffee in my fridge, and my favourite hole-in-the-wall take-away coffee joint is still thriving and I’ve already started on my loyalty card! I’m very loyal!

      This morning I got up at 4:00am to see the sunrise over the ocean up the road. Damn, that’s ridiculously early even for me! It was worth it, but I’ve just emerged from the recovery nap and it’s close to 40C, which is quite…confronting. Grateful my folks have a pool, which I’ll soon indulge in.

      Overall, despite the jetlag and heat, there is already so much quiet beauty and space around me that I’m not regretting coming back for a moment.

  2. Barb says

    As well as the beautiful pics,a blog (just one!) of the good aspects of S. Korea would be generous.?…and kind?

  3. That’s a great post, even if, or perhaps because, it made me feel sad. I think it’s the dogs mostly, but also the place.

    • The dogs are my biggest regret. All I can do is try to honour them and their kind in my dealings with the animal kingdom…

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