So I did get to go to Seoraksan this weekend; the tallest mountain in Korea. I went with 4 other coworkers, we left straight from work on Friday night in order to get the point of departure on time. There was 21 of us in total on the hike. These bus ride from Seoul to the mountain is about 3 hrs. We got to the hill at around 2:15 in the morning, and started hiking around 2:30.
I don’t know why I thought I should hike the tallest mountain in Korea as a first hiking experience here, but it seemed like a great idea at the time (and really I dont regret it at all, but now know to be more prepared for any future hikes). So we started hiking at 2:30 in the morning with about 1 million other Koreans. It was crazy how many people were there! We felt like a flock of sheep heading up the mountain. And they were all decked out in hiking gear, hiking boots, walking sticks, headlamps and North face jackets (because North Face is huge here and pretty expensive). We made fun of them for going all out, but was I ever envious of them and their gear 4 hrs in. I’ve done hiking before, but we only ever hiked for about 6 hrs or so and we always took our time. When you are hiking the tallest mountain in Korea, and hiking for about 12 hours, you want to be sporting the gear, or else yoor body pays for it.
We were told the first part of the hike was the toughest, being the steepest. But i had no idea it was going to be soo steep the entire time. No joke, we literally walked up stairs for 3 hours! So we basically walked up a 430 story building. (the peak was at 1703 meters, and we started at 400 meters). It was wonderful! haha. And we were going at a pretty good speed too.
By the time we got to the top of the mountain, I was feeling good but ready for a break. What got to me was that I had sweat into my clothes. I had been under the impression that the shelter would be right at the peak and that we’d be able to go inside, change and get something to eat. However the shelter was another 0.5 kilometers away. So we waited at the peak to see the sunrise before hitting the shelter. Meaning that I was at the peak, at 5:30 in the morning, in the cold, with wet sweaty clothes, which made it even colder. And we waited for the sunrise for about 40 min, only to see the sky lighten up behind the clouds and eventually have the clouds turn pink, we didn’t get to see the actual sunrise (the same thing happened in Greece for the sunset). But anyways, these things happen. So we eventually began our descent down the mountain.
From where we were, the view was spectacular, the pictures that I have really dont do it justice. It felt really good to start moving again, and warm up. I had been able to change out of my wet clothes at the shelter. However it was difficult trying to change in the squatty potty toilets and keep all my stuff from falling on the floor covered in god knows what. So the descent began, the easy part right?? haha, no. Coming up may have been difficult on the leg muscles and cardio, but going down was killer on the ankle and knee joints! We hit another shelter before the path split in two (one way towards Dinosaru ridge, the more intense path, and one way towards the Valley, where the trees have changed colors, and there are waterfalls along the way). We took a long break at the second shelter haha, no one really wanted to keep going. And I wont even describe the squatty potties to you there, you might lose your lunch.
At the split, myself and Dan took off for the valley, while my 3 other coworkers took off towards Dinosaur Ridge or Dragon Hill as Jesus calls it (Jesus’s real name is Andrews, he is a new teacher here from Point st-charles, and he looks like Jesus, hence the nickname). Dan and I finished the hike around 2 or 2:30 and unfortunatel headed out of the park, thinking that the bus would take us back early so we could relax at the beach. But no, the trip wasnt the best organized in the world, and no one had been told when or where to meet up, so we ended up outside of the park, unable ot get back in, unable to eat any food, only to find out that we would have ot wait until about 5:30 for the bus to come get us. Sooo, I figured that after everything, I deserved a drink. I was almost let myself get angry due to the lack of food, but I figured s*it happens, and I am going to enjoy myself. So i picked up a bottle of Soju (only 1.50$) and mixed it with some mango juice. Dan and I just took it easy on the grass till the rest of the group started showing up.
We made it to our “motel” (called ondol in Korea, you sleep in an empty room on a mat on the floor with a blanket and a pillow) around 7;00ish. The highlight of the night: a BATHTUB in the room! Yay!! I was soo happy. We went for supper at a Korean BBQ place, but the meat that they served us, well, I dont really know if it was meat. Cooked it was mostly white, (mostly fat) and the part that turned brown was not very brown or big. But we were starving so we ate it anyway. I actually split on a pizza afterwards with another group member.
We went back to the motel where we played a drinking game or two (Kings). And who of course got the 4th King and had to drink the nasty concoction in the middle…yap, me! Wonderful. So needless to say, after staying up friday night, hiking for 12 hrs, eating lettuce and something that looked like meat for supper, and drinking 2 bottles of Soju, I woke up with a slight hangover on the Sunday morning. Thankfully we only had to checkout at 11:30 and then were only leaving for the zipline at 1:00. So from 11:30-1:00 I made my way ot the beach and laid in the sun. It was absolutely wonderful. I could’nt help but think about I lucky I was/am, to have been lying on a beautiful beach in South Korea in the month of October, after having hiked a beautiful mountain, and having the opportunity to live/work/travel here. I am truly blessed.
And being on the beach, reminded me of just how much I would like to live on the beach. I absolutely love the view of the ocean, the sand at my feet, the idea of walking/joggin along the beach every morning…ahh….
Anyway, so at 1:00 we took off for the zipline. It was supposed to be the longest zipline in Korea, and if it is, well then koreans dont have very long ziplines. And it was beautiful because it was right over the ocean, but it wasnt very high and there wasnt much of a slope to it, so we wouldnt have gone very fast. I say “would not have” because we didnt actually get to zipline. After moving us form one end to the other because it was too windy in one direction, and after having suited us all, and having us all climb to the top of the structure, they made the call that it was simply too windy and we couldnt ziplin at all. How anti-climatic! But oh well, this kind of stuff happens. It was a beautiful day and it had been a great trip.
We figured, great, at least we will get home early and maybe we will go to the awesone Indian restaurant in Suwon. But did we get home early? No, of course not, haha, there was tons of traffic. By the time we got home, 5 hrs later, in the dark, we were all pooped and just wanted our beds.
I woke up this morning, and wasnt sure if I’d be able to walk, my calves hurt so bad. And oh! the pain of having to put on heels for work! haha. Oh well, it was a great weekend. No matter the setbacks, or the pain, or the cold, I absolutely loved being outside, hiking, seeing hte sunrise and getting to ly on the beach. Being so tired also made for a funny ride home with lots of giggles.
I could see myself hiking Seoraksan again (but apparently what we did, you are supposed to do in 2 days, you are supposed to actually sleep, and rest, and take it easy, not rush down the mountain as quick as possible, who knew?!). And I think I would do it in the summer, when I won’t freeze or have to carry a bunch of extra clothes on my back for layers. And I would seriously consider buying walking sticks and real hiking boots.
It was pretty awesome, I’ve got a bunch of pics on facebook if youd like to see them. Next weekend I am thinking either a hot spring spa/jinjabong, or soem touristy stuff around Seoul, such as the palace and Seoul tower. We will see, and i will tell you all about it. Hope everyone has a good week!