Juwangsan National Park

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September 13th 2014
Published: October 22nd 2014
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13th Sept: We were picked up from the side of the highway, not too long after midnight. We drove through the night. I was unable to sleep and maybe got a twenty minute doze if I was lucky. We arrived at the national park around 4:30 am. We spent some time fannying on, everybody using the toilets, making coffee, and eating breakfast. Around five we left the car par to walk to Jusanji Pond. The pond wasn't too far away, about a fifteen minute walk. It was still pretty dark, when we got there, so we sat and waited for the sun to make an appearance. We didn't have to wait too long, as it soon started to get light. The pond was quite mysterious looking as it was surrounded by mountains and there was fog rolling off it. We stayed on the viewing platform for a bit taking some photos. We surprised all the Koreans that came around, I don't think any of them were expecting to see a big group of foreigners!

Jusanji pond isn't a natural pond, it was made by man in 1720. It has featured in Kim Ki-duk's movie 'Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring'. We headed back round in the direction we had came. We stopped and took some photos there too. That area was nice and we really should have watched the sun rise from there, as you would have seen it come over the top of the mountains. Well I know now in case I ever come back. We headed back to the bus, and got on. We drove for about two minutes and we were dropped off for the start of the hike. Really, we could have walked it, if we had been given directions.

I've been wanting to come to Juwangsan for ages, the KTO (Korean Tourism Organization) had posted some photos on line and it looked stunning. Juwangsan was designated as the 12th national park in 1976. There are a few different theories about how the mountain got its names. One is that King Juwon of the Silla Dynasty lived on the mountain after he turned Silla over the the Goryeo Dynasty. There is another legend that General Mailseong of Goryeo assassinated King Wuju, who lived on the mountain, with arrows and an iron hammer. Another is that during the Unified Silla dynasty, the rebel Judo, who called himself Juwang, attempted a coup d'etat against the Chinese Tang dynasty and he then fled to this mountain.

Our hike started off nice and easy, we spent a couple of hours walking on the valley floor. We followed the river. It was a really nice walk, not too taxing at all. I was shocked at how quiet the park was, we didn't really see any other people hiking. I wish all hikes in Korea were like this. We saw a couple of snakes swimming in the water. They were pretty small, thin and short. I don't think that they were used to having quite so much human attention. Warren, our leader, was telling us that he grew up in this area as a boy, and his Granny used to catch the snakes. This was in the years after the Korean War, when Koreans were dirt poor, so his Granny used to catch the snakes and sell them to make some extra cash. I've forgotten now if he said that male or female snakes were worth more money.

The next part of the hike, to the peak, was a killer. It was just straight up! It was bloody knackering! It took me forever, as I hike at a snail's pace. I finally made it to the top. The views from the peak were magnificent. You could see the tree covered mountains for miles. Absolutely stunning and worth all the effort in the end. We sat and had a picnic on the top of the mountain. Perfect! After a good rest, it was time to get moving again. We were heading in a different direction and not back the way we came.

We wandered down the mountain for a couple of hours. The hike down wasn't too difficult We spotted a couple more snakes. We always saw them in the water and not on land. I wonder why that is. At the base of the mountain, in the valley area, we came across this gorgeous pond with a tiny waterfall flowing into it. The sun had come out by now, and it was beating down on us. This place was gorgeous, and there was a bloke painting by the water. He had picked a perfect spot. We wandered further along the valley There were lots of interesting rock formations. Some were like the rocks we had seen in Gyeongju, near the beach. There was this really cool pillar, that looked like a face. It would have fitted right in, in the Easter Islands. There was also a rock in the river, called Adeulbawi, that had a cool legend attached to it. Adeulbawi means Son Rock. Women would visit the rock and stand with their back to it, then they would throw a stone at the rock. If the woman hit the rock with her stone, then she would become pregnant with a son.

I followed the path and came to the entrance of the park. Some of the others headed into a restaurant for food and booze, but I wasn't hungry. I found a take-out coffee place and sat outside with an iced americano. Just what I need after that hike. I was enjoying the sit down, and after a while the others appeared. We wandered along the street, it was the usual type that you find at the entrance to national parks, filled with little stores and restaurants. We headed along to the bus, which was parked in the car park, miles away, as usual.

We left the national park and drove for about an hour and a half to two hours. We ended up at Whale Beach, a pretty small and quiet town. We headed to the 7-Eleven to stock up on supplies for the evening an some emergency instant ramyeon in case either dinner or breakfast were crap. Warren had found us a minbak, that was right where the bus had parked up. We went and got our stuff and took it up to the minbak. We had all the rooms on the top floor. We all sorted ourselves out and divided ourselves up among the rooms. Only about ten of us were staying in the minbak, the others were camping on the beach. We spent ages preparing dinner. It was canny, stir fried veggies, real meat cheese burgers, and mashed potatoes. However all the effort that went into making it was a bit much, it would have been so much easier to go to a restaurant. I am more than happy to pay for ease, than save a few quid, but have to do a load of legwork. After dinner, we just chilled in our room with a few beverages and played some games.

14th Sept: I got up around eight, I had been awake for ages, but just couldn't be bothered to move. It was tough sleeping on the hard floor with thin pads, compared to the luxurious futons we had last weekend in Takayama. Even though we had our own bathroom attached to our room, there was no hot water upstairs, so we had to head downstairs to use the bathrooms down there. Stingy minbak owner! I got a surprise and a good laugh, when I went into the bathroom, on the towel rack there was a clear carrier bag filled with Granny minbak owners enema stuff! funny but gross at the same time.

Breakfast was okay, we had a feeblish breakfast burrito. There weren't many eggs, so we could only have a little bit, the veggies were nice, but it was definitely missing the bacon and hash browns they used to come with. We were staying by Whale Beach, and we had a bit of time before the bus left, so we headed down to the beach. I don't know why it is called Whale Beach, and I think the person who designed the whale statue in the centre of town was a bit confused to what a whale looks like, as the statue looks a lot like a dolphin. The beach was gorgeous though. It stretches for about ten kilometres and gently slopes round, so is a kind of bay (?), I think, it's a long time since I studied any geography. Some of the others in the group were swimming in the sea, it seemed to be pretty shallow, although a bit too cold for me. I was happy on the shore. It started to rain a little when we were on the beach, at first we just kept going on our walk, but then we changed our mind and headed back to the pension to pack up our stuff and get on the bus.

We left around 11 am and drove for about 40 minutes. We were dropped off by a coastal walk path. We had about an hour to spend there. We walked down about a million steps to reach a pagoda that people were picnicking in. There was another path going down to some rocks just in front of the pagoda, but the path looked a bit dodgy and I didn't fancy it in my flip flops. Instead we took the proper path, which was slightly better maintained and walked along the coast a little, before finding some quiet benches to chill and catch some sun on. The coastal path was pretty disgusting there was rubbish everywhere. by the pagoda there were bags and bags of rubbish piled up. People, take your rubbish home with you, the fairies aren't magically gonna appear and take it away for you. The steps back up, which I had been dreading, weren't too bad at all, even if my legs were still aching from yesterday. When we got back to the top, we still had a bit of time to kill, so we went into the little shop to buy an ice cream. I had a frozen Greek yogurt with blueberry cone, it was canny nice.

Back on the bus we drove to the town of Yeongdeok (I think). This place is famous for crab, however since it isn't crab season at the moment, the crabs that are all on sale, are imported from Russia. Some of us wanted crab and some of us didn't, so we split into two groups to try and find restaurants that would accommodate us. I didn't fancy crab, as I am lazy when it comes to food. I like it all done and ready for me to eat, no faffing around picking the meat from the legs. When I had crab before in Korea, it was just too much hassle. We found a restaurant and had a pretty mediocre Dwenjang jjigae (soybean stew). We raided the bakery afterwards and stocked up on loads of sweet stuff for the bus journey home. We left around 3 pm and made it back to Bundang just before eight. Dinner was some delicious samgyeopsal (pork belly), which more than made up for our crappy lunch. The ajumma in the restaurant was so sweet, that I actually wanted to tip her. However, tipping is done in Korea, so I had to hold on to my pennies. Also I can't speak Korean to explain why or what tipping is.

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