Songrisan National Park and Mungyeong Saejae

Published: September 23rd 2016
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11th Jun: Since we weren't travelling too far, our drive wasn't too long and we arrived at our accommodation before lunchtime. We were staying at a small, I don't really know what to call it, resort is far too grand an expression, collection of minbaks situated along both sides of a stream. We ended up with three small rooms and some camping spots. The stream was cute and we enjoyed some chill out time there. After getting settled in, we headed to the minbak owner's restaurant. We sat outside and enjoyed some big bubbling stoves of kimchi jjigae. Delicious!

Feeling full, we set off to start our hike. First we took a path behind our minbaks and crossed some small roads to reach a trail. We were near the water and tgere were quite a few rocks where you could stretch out relax, and have a little dip. We continued on and after about half an hour came to Yongchu Creek. This place is famous as the way the rock is split and joined together, it looks like a heart. Well kind of, from the right angle. We took a quick photo break here as we knew we would be back later. From here, the trail started to get a little steeper. We were under the shade of the trees, which was really nice. We came to a point where the trail branched off in a few directions. Looking at the map, it was decided that we would take a circular route. We headed up the trail. It wasn't too tough but a good workout. The first part was all under the shade of trees. Eventually, I came to what must have been the ridge line. Higher up, the mountain was a lot quieter. I only saw one group of Korean hikers, and the odd one or two people. The views were gorgeous. I could see all the surrounding mountains. There was also a huge rock on the ridge line, I wish there had been more information about it as I'm sure there must be some kind of folklore attached to it. I continued on down a little and then back up to reach Daeyasan peak. There was quite a lot of stairs. Daeyasan is 931 metres above sea level. The peak is quite rocky, but I found a smooth slab to take a rest on while I waited for the others. The route down was fine, not really exciting. just down, down, down until we reached Yongchu Creek again. There were lots of people in the water and some of our group joined them. You could jump off the rocks into the water in front of the heart shaped rock. The water there is pretty deep. The legend surrounding the creek is that it is the place where two female dragons flew up into the sky. The markings on the rock are said to be that of the dragons' scales. Also when there is drought in other areas, there is always plenty of water here.

We have a barbecue for dinner. There was plenty of food and drink. We had stocked up on booze at the little shop earlier in the day. We were going to go to Noraebang as these was one just across the other side of the stream. But when we got there it was full. There was a lot of umming and ahhing about what to do. I knew that I couldn't be bothered with all that. In the end we all headed back to play some games instead.

12th Jun: We took it fairly easy in the morning. We took our time getting up and had a leisurely breakfast outside. Then it was on to our minibus and we drove to the rail biking place. Rail biking is popular in Korea and we passed lots of different rail biking places. We queued up to pay, I can't remember ho much it was, I think more than 10,000 won, maybe around 15,000 won. Since this place was quite busy, we had to wait a while for our turn. It was hot and humid standing outside, but it was fun to watch the rail bikes getting turned around. Finally, it was our turn to go. We had to divide ourselves into groups of four as that was how many people could go on one rail bike. I can't remember how long the trail was (I am writing this too long after the fact), but I think it took us about an hour to complete the track, to go to the end point and back. The trail was nice, we were surrounded by countryside. Near the start of the trail we past a small deserted restaurant that looked more like it belonged in Southeast Asia than Korea. The biking wasn't too hard as one of our group members was fit and strong and more importantly, happy to do all the work! Going through the tunnel was a lot of fun and we raced to reach the bike in front of us, to scare them. At the end of the trail there are a couple of blokes waiting to turn the track so that you can go back. We also did lots of waving and shouting, "Hi!" at the people we passed. After all that exertion, we headed to the shop for some munchies. I definitely needed caffeine and sugar hits.

We drove to Mungyeong Saejae. I recognised the place as soon as we entered the car park. I had visited the area a couple of years ago for the apple festival, but I'd only had time to look around the festival and not explore the area properly. Mungyeong Saejae is now a provincial park. In the olden days it was used as a resting stops for government officials on their way back to Seoul. It is/was also a mountain pass. I really enjoyed looking around the area. We had thought that we were going to be doing some hiking in the area, but instead we just had a leisurely stroll. We walked up to and through the big, imposing looking gates. It looks like a scene straight out of a historical drama, and I think that they do use it for that purpose, too. There was some kind of museum/house to visit, but we didn't go in there. We wandered along the path stopping at the little ponds to watch the fish go mad to get some scraps of food. There was also a really old style basic looking building, I wonder if that was where the government officials stayed or if that is where the plebs lived. We were all feeling a bit hungry so we followed a sign to a restaurant off the path. We had excellent timing as soon as we turned off the main path it started to rain. We headed to the covered deck of the restaurant and ordered some pajeon, dubu kimchi and omija makgeolli. Well, it would be rude not to as it was raining. In Korea, it is typical to drink makgeolli and eat pajeon on rainy days. I had never had omija makgeolli (well apart from a sip earlier that morning) before. Omija translates as five tastes as the berry has five distinct flavours and this area, especially Mungyeong, is known for growing omija berries since the time of the Joseon dynasty. The food, especially the dubu kimchi, was really good. I loved the makgeolli, too, much nicer than the regular stuff. After the food we walked back the bus. I was surprised at how far we had come.

The journey back to Seoul didn't take very long and even with the Sunday traffic we were deposited by the highway stop at Jukjeon at a reasonable time. We were hungry so we set off to find some dinner. There is a really nice area of Jukjeon, the name escapes me, which is filled with restaurants, bars, coffee shops and shops. I have been a few times before but always during the day. We had navered a good BBQ restaurant, so went there. We ate so much, I think we over ordered on the meat, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. We took a wander around the area. It was really busy, and I like the vibe of the area. It reminds me of continental Europe. After getting some beers at the convenience store we headed to a noraebang to sing our hearts out.

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