21 May, 2006

Sogeumgang, Odaesan National Park, Today

So, here I am, blogging about something that happened earlier on the same day! Em knows how exciting this is to me, as I am constantly complaining about being so backed up with my posts.

If you follow the 'k' in 'Park' to the tallest peak, that's Birobong. If you go diagonally down to the left, to the orangish flag, that's Sogeumgang.

Having had such a successful day out in Korea yesterday, I decided to attempt continuing that trend on my own with a solo hike. I enjoyed our last hike at Odaesan (Birobong Peak), but it really was quite a production to get out there, and I wasn't prepared to deal with the sketchy bus situation again. I'd got word about a direct bus from downtown to a different part of the park, so I thought I'd try that. However, it wouldn't be a 'Marge story', as Em calls it, if I had all the details worked out beforehand, and true to form, I didn't. I've become rather spontaneous in recent years when it comes to certain things, and sudden decision-making doesn't always include detailed planning. But whatever. I headed downtown around 10:30 with a vague idea of when and where to catch the bus. I at least knew it was the 303. I texted Marc to confirm the location knowing it was very unlikely I'd hear from him so early on a Sunday morning (turns out I never did). I found the main stop I thought it was, and sure enough, it said 303 on it but didn't have a timetable. After waiting until 11:10, I started getting suspicious and thought maybe I should try the main stop that was down a bit on the other side of the street. As I was waiting at the crosswalk, I saw the bus go by--on the other side of the street. For a split second, it crossed my mind to sprint into the street after it, but there's no way I would have caught it or not been hit by traffic. I took a moment to be grumpy but then got over it and continued walking to the other stop (if I'm not going to plan things ahead, I can't be uptight when things go wrong, right?). Sure enough, the 303 was listed on it as well, along with a timetable. I had just missed the 11:10 bus, and the next one wasn't due until 1:10! I hadn't eaten breakfast, so I used my spare time to grab some food and do a little reading in my Lonely Planet Korea (got some good ideas for more 'Marge trips'!). With twenty minutes to spare, I went to the stop, and this time, I caught it.

The bus route took roads out of the city I'd never been on before. Relying on taxis for transport doesn't allow for much aimless wandering about the city. It was very interesting to see a new part of it. The ride was about forty-five minutes. When I got off, I asked the bus driver what time it returned, and he waved me toward the bus stop sign. I got off and looked at it, and there was again no timetable.

Deciding not to sweat it, I started up the restaurant and shop-lined road that led to the trail. There were many people on the trail which I found mildly frustrating, but it was a lovely day, and people watching in Korea is always fun. I can't believe the things they wear on hot days. I was sweating healthily in my tank top and lightweight pants, but I saw men and women, old and young alike, wearing long pants, long sleeved shirts and jackets--zipped--and counted no fewer than fifteen people wearing gloves! And they don't sweat! It's unbelievable. The hike was short--2.2km one way--but beautiful, following the river up to a small waterfall. The trail keeps going to Noinbong Peak and then over to Sangwonsa Temple, but I didn't have time for that. Next time. At the falls, I asked a couple to take my picture. The man looked very wary of me. I sat for a few minutes and enjoyed the water (but not the crowd of people or buzzing flies) and then flew down the mountain like a ninja--I wanted plenty of time to figure out the bus.

I took off my shoes and sat on a rock outside a little restaurant by the bus stop. After twenty minutes or so, the restaurant man came out and tried talking to me. I asked him about the bus, and though I didn't understand what time it came, I was pretty sure he said there was one coming. Cool, that's all I need. A few minutes later he came back. 'Man you know-- immaterial-- aaah-- imitation-- aiiish.... invitation! You come, eat nice potato pizza, man you know.' I said no thank you a couple of times but then thought 'why not?' I motioned to him that I would put on my shoes and come in. When I went inside, I understood what he had been trying to tell me. The couple who had taken my picture at the falls was there, and they had invited to me sit and eat with them while we waited for the same bus. They spoke even less English than I speak Korean, but with the help of the very funny restaurant man, we chatted a little. And then, what do you know, the bus came! And I was home before dark! All around a fantastic weekend.

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