Published: July 27th 2009July 27th 2009
Sokcho is on the east coast of Korea. It's a pretty awesome town. They've got a few international ferries, including one for Russians. It'd be a lot cooler if it went more places. Anyway, the town has that to keep its backbone strong. Plus lots of seafood restaurants. I imagine the town's been there for a while, but it's weird 'cause so much of it looks like it's just getting built. I even saw some streets having their bricks laid. Perhaps it is in transition from hidden gem to discovered. There are 7 lighthouses, for the lighthouse enthusiast. Some beach areas. There's a good size shopping area which a rich town needs i guess; this is where i saw most of the roads just getting built, so all the shops have been there waiting for the road to come along. There's a very decent intracity and intercity bus system. They've built an Imax theater for international conferences. And there's a large national park - Seoraksan.
Bus 7-1 will take you to the parking lot right in front of the entrance to Seoraksan for 1000won. Once I got something to eat and my bearings, I headed for the highest peak. It's already
6PM so i don't expect to make it to the top, but rather am hopeful to make it to a shelter - there's a sign that says the high peak is 12km, and the first shelter is maybe 6km. I hold on to the belief that there will be a shelter because of this sign, despite some signals that it might not actually exist (including one conversation with a Korean restaurant owner about one hour up the mountain that went like:
"how many people are you with?" "it's just me"
[thinking that's my name] "ok, Me, go down. there's no shelter. Me go down."
So maybe there isn't a shelter. I press on with the contingency plan of 'i'll figure something out' which could quite possibly mean just laying in the dirt or on some rocks. Since up to this point there have been machines selling water, i figure i don't need to bring anything with me but a box of cookies. It turned out that these machines stopped existing along the mountain at about this point. So, carrying two bags on shoulders, I got thirsty pretty quickly. Oh yeah, i did have a bottle of Soju on me. It starts to get pretty dark and tiring. If you haven't done it, hiking in the woods or up a mountain in the dark isn't such a good idea. I do have a mini-flashlight on me though that my grandparents sent to me last year in Alaska (and is an awesome flashlight). That became completely necessary to use at some point. I see another sign for the shelter, now less than 1km away. So i keep walking, very slowly and carefully, figuring i'll know soon enough if this place is real. After a bit i get the feeling that i should have seen it by now. My only hope is that my sense of distance is skewed by my slower movement. Then, i see some light up ahead, and am relieved. As i approach, I'm greeted by a half dozen men who look very surprised to see me. Not good. Luckily they know some broken english. Mostly for the first few minutes they just say, "don't go up, go down." I am able to figure out that these guys are actually building the shelter, and it's not to be ready for the public for a few months. But, being an American and having the belief that i'll get whatever i want, i keep talking to them until they agree to let me stay there. There's a sort of bunkhouse that is more like one big bookcase with about 4 feet between shelves. No one is sleeping on the third shelf, so they send me up there. I'm told there's "no service" which i expected none of anyway. It's just a wooden floor, and me and my bags. While i'm reading, the one guy who is my age pokes his head up to chitchat which is very pleasant. Eventually he asks if i'm hungry which makes me smile on the inside and i tell him i'm a little hungry, but i'm really very thirsty. He produces from behind his back a large box of cookies and says he'll be right back. He returns with some tastycake-type product and 2 Pocari Sweats. It's the most appetizing thing i've ever seen. I guzzle the first can, eat, read, and drink the second can. In the morning I eat more of the treats and then the kid calls me down to enjoy breakfast with the crew - rice, kimchi, fish, seaweeds, and tea. The kid seems like he wants to hang with me and i'm willing to for a bit, but the guy who i guess is the foreman indicates that he needs to do something and that i gotta go. I'm off to find some sunscreen before it gets too bright out.
There are more photos below