It was minus 7 C this morning as I scurried, face half-paralysed with cold, towards coffee and life itself, prior to heading to N1 for the second-last time this year. An easy day, three classes, and I explicitly stated that there would be no learning whatsoever, which relaxed everyone immensely. Advertisements
Well, I didn’t see that coming. After that little taste of Winter up on Bulmo-San last weekend, I’d assumed I wouldn’t be seeing any more snow locally until I climbed some more peaks later in the season. Last Winter here in the balmy south (late January or February) the hills nearby got just one light dusting and a few lonesome flakes kissed the school playground one day before a quick death and a return to sweet nothingness.
I’ve been sick for five days now, but I’ve enjoyed my time away from school, even so, and did a great though slow and medicinally enhanced walk yesterday. After I hit “PUBLISH” on this post I’m going to endeavour to get my sorry carcass out there to hit the magic number 50. It’s sunny and enticing, too good a Sunday to waste. I set a vague goal of 100 outings for my year here but at this rate I should exceed that.
Those kids — those indefatigable, indestructible, intolerable hellions. From the moment we arrived at our hotel somewhere in the mountains of some province somewhere in the Deep North…
A few weeks ago I went on a mini-expedition down the sorry Daecheongcheon, the local river. It was a disheartening experience, the river a sad trickle of its former self, its garbage-strewn banks and bottom safely contained in protective concrete and choked with thriving reeds and weeds. But I took a diversion that day where a road crossed the river, and found myself in a grittier, grimier, more “lived in” part of Jangyu called Mugye, and in its filthy, trash-cluttered backstreets found this relic of a far older and apparently much nobler Korea, the Mugye Dolmen.
Ha! Hope that got your attention! I was going to do a nice sunshiny post this time to reward readers who stuck with me through that sorry — and rather chilly — Jeju saga. I’ve done 16 hikes or prolonged rambles (the lines are blurring) in my five weeks in Korea and I’ve only been bone-chillingly, pre-gangrenously cold on a couple of them, so I have a lot of more temperate tales to choose from and a lot of catching up to do. But I’m being spontaneous here, tonight, sitting on my heated floor in my lovely little apartment, thinking about Iceland.
Put on your shoes Put on your coat We’re going out… James McCann, ‘Been Round Here’ A friend in Sydney, Carl, had sent me an album not long before Jeju, a gritty dark-blues collection by an Australian singer called James McCann. I’d played it a few times but didn’t realise any of it had sunk in. But out of the blue, early in the evening as I swept fresh snow from the tarp and put off crawling beneath it, this one mournful number, the lyrics at once regretful and menacing, slipped into my head, spun around three times and settled in for the night.
I have a talent for suffering. Who is this lonesome fool trudging up the road in this miserable weather, away from the highway, deeper into the quiet woods…
One great thing about walking everywhere in a new town is how fast you get to know its layout. As the 737 left the Gimhae tarmac, I watched the landscape already imprinted on my memory unfold in glorious 3-D from my window seat.
It was a splendid winter’s morning today…
Greetings from Paris, readers! The Paris of Gyeongsangnamdo, that is. That’s in Korea, for that 100% of you who’ve never heard of it. The real Paris is way out of my league! Yes, I now call South Gyeongsangnam Province home.
Back to Japan this time, folks — back to that endless, awful, spectacularly beautiful road snaking into the centre of silent, eerie Hokkaido…
LATE DECEMBER, 2010 ZERMATT, SWITZERLAND Bahnhofstrasse, the main drag in the mountain mecca of Zermatt, has its glittery Christmas-season charms…
You’re probably as relieved as I am that my latest Moreton saga has concluded. Now I’m left with a knife-gouge in my belly where I dug out the tick, a sea-turtle breast-plate on my kitchen shelf, assorted souvenir molluscs, sand still turning up in odd places, and some very pleasant memories.
LATE-DECEMBER, 2010 Zermatt proudly celebrates its role in the Golden Age of alpinism:
My time in Switzerland was running out. One evening Sarah said, “It would really be a shame if you didn’t see Zermatt while you were here. The Matterhorn is amazing, there’s lots of hiking. Hmmm…wait a minute…”.
APRIL, 2008 I start hard and early and won’t let myself pause till I’ve cleared the outer edge of Sapporo. So much frustration and worry to burn off. The city emerges as the sluggish late-winter sun crawls above the snowy peaks…
MID-DECEMBER, 2010 I exit the train reaching instinctively for my liner gloves and my goat-skin mittens. Fribourg (French for “free fort”; Freiburg in German) is on the Swiss Plateau a few hours west of Sarah’s place in Cham; it’s also several degrees colder.
LATE NOVEMBER, 2010 Contemplating the purchase of an idiot-proof GPS, I stride ever further away from Altdorf station. My error costs me an hour, but I’m walking at a caffeinated clip and if I must get lost, at least I’m doing it at an awe-inspiring pace.
April Fool’s Day had seemed like a good joke when I chose it as my starting date back in Tokyo. Plus, I really couldn’t wait anymore.