It began with us feeling very Amazing Race-y with just 35 minutes to get from work to the bus terminal, a stretch at the best of times and harder with the Friday afterwork traffic. We all pretended to be kind and generous teachers and let our students leave 5 minutes early, but really we needed that little time up our sleeves. Unfortunately our boss chose that night to have a "quick word" with us, and despite our protests and strained faces, he was actually being lovely, having heard we were off to Seoraksan, and gave us some money to help support our weekend! Very kind and unexpected and helped start the weekend off on a good note. We got to the bus with four minutes to spare and travelled for two hours to Chuncheong, where we stayed the night, after some delicious dakgalbi (the chicken barbecue in front of you, totally delicious) - apparently it originated from there, and we weren't disappointed.
The following day we had another two hour bus ride through to Sokcho, a city on the coast and the gateway to the national park. Totally beautiful, the ride through almost reminded me of Fiordland, only it just had a different feel about it. We met up with others there and headed for the park.
Carp had given us a little idea about where we were going, but then he pointed out THIS:
And told us we were going to climb it! I almost fell over. It's over 800m above sea level, and we were about to climb 808 steps straight up the side of it, about 400m straight.
It's hard for photos to do justice to just how major this was!
We walked for maybe 1 1/2 hours up through forest, it was relatively easy going, we passed an amazing HUGE statue of Buddha, a temple and a hermitage where monks still live. I saw my first ever squirrels, chipmunks and woodpeckers - I was LOVING it, while everyone I was with (being either Canadian or American) scoffed at my innocence, but it was so novel to see these wee critters!
And to hear birdsong, it was lovely. So nice to be free of the hum of neon (excluding the welcome sign) and the constant blarring of K-pop music (as much as I do love it) and the noise of the city. Silence! Peace! And because we'd got our a into g so late, most of the Korean hikers were heading down and out so by the time we got to the base of the rock, we were almost the only ones left there.
We reached the hermitage where there's a teetering rock, which (with effort) you can make rock a little - we all failed, and then watched one single (and slight) Korean man do it almost effortlessly.
The most daunting part of all was looking up at this rock we had to scale, there was a rickety ladder bolted to the side of it and they pretty much just went right up. I'm sure at home you'd not be allowed to climb this without some kind of harness, it was perilous at the best of times. I had moments of horrible vertigo looking back over my shoulder (which I quit doing) at just how far down the ground was.
Sara and I having some well-earned Galbi
back in Sokcho