Jirisan National Park II

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August 15th 2015
Published: September 3rd 2015
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15th Aug: We arrived at around 3 am. It was so peaceful and the air actually felt cool, when we stepped off the bus. It was so nice to be out of the heat and humidity, even if it is only for a bit. We walked up through the small village and then the main road to reach the entrance to the national park. There is so little light pollution and regular pollution, that the sky was a sea of stars. It was truly beautiful. I think I had forgotten what stars looked like. It took us about half an hour to reach the Jungsan-ri entrance. We had to walk as our group leader had been told before that buses aren't allowed up to this entrance, but one bus did come all the way up. Obviously the ticket attendant was taking a backhander from someone.

The start of the hike wasn't too bad. It was quite pleasant in fact. But after a little while it started getting steeper and steeper. Also the path was very uneven with loads of random rocks strewn about it. I quickly slowed my pace down. This first part of the journey to Rotary shelter took me quite a while. I did happen upon a nice clearing where I could see the peak and the ridge line. I was also able to see some of the sunrise. That was beautiful. It was a little further and I reached Rotary Shelter. I found a dry bench and sat and finished off the muffin Warren had provided us with. I'd had to have a few bites earlier when my energy levels were lagging. I rested for about ten minutes and looked for the water source that was nearby, I thought it would be at the actual shelter, but it was slightly further up the hill. I had a good few glugs of water and filled up my two bottles.

The temple, Beopgyesa, was only about one hundred metres past the shelter. It was a gorgeous little temple. I would love to spend a night there, it would be the perfect place to relax after the strenuous hike up. The temple buildings were so pretty and the views of the national park surrounding it were stunning too. I think it helped that it was really early in the morning, around 6 am and the sun had just risen, so it cast a gorgeous glow over the area. Even the temple grounds were really steep, and I had to climb a lot of steps to visit the different buildings. Beopgyesa was said to have been built in 544th year of the Silla Dynasty, during the fifth year of King Jinheung's reign. It was built by Grand Master Yeongi. What is special about Beopgyesa is that there is a three story stone pagoda, and its pedestal is a rock that is over three metres in height. The pagoda is the only original structure left in the temple. There were also lots of carvings on the rocks, very unusual.

From the temple it was only 2 kilometres to the peak, easy right? Not at all, it was bloody difficult. The trail map I had looked at, at Rotary has said that that the trail I had taken from Jungsanri to Rotary Shelter and the path I would continue on were expert level. Argh! No wonder it was like hell on earth, I am definitely not an expert level hiker, I have barely graduated from beginner level. So even though it was only two kilometres, it took me about two hours. It was tough going, but there were some gorgeous views on the way up. It definitely made it worth it. I think about 800 metres from the peak the views were beautiful. You could see all the surrounding mountains. Also the peak was getting closer, it was just a shame the path up to it seemed to be vertical. There was some low lying clouds hugging the mountains and there were some funny cloud formations, but the majority of the sky was cloudless. I also saw a helicopter, I wonder if it was just a regular one, I hoped it wasn't a rescue one, springing into action.

I finally reached Cheonwangbong peak. It is the second highest peak in South Korea, and the highest on the mainland, since Hallasan is located on Jeju island. Cheonwangbong is 1,815 metres high. Normally, I don't bother getting my photo taken at the peak marker, but this time I did. After such a hard slog, I needed a photo as a reminder that I had made it. I sat and had some kimbap at the peak. There was a trail race going on, and I saw some of the runners running past, these lot were fit. From the peak I headed toward Jangteomok Shelter. This part of the hike was gorgeous, and I think my favourite part. It was only 1.7 kilometres and because you were walking along the ridge line, the views were amazing. It was cool seeing the clouds roll over the mountain and then keep moving. There were also the dead tress of Jeseokbong, which were kind of funky. Originally the area was covered with a thick forest, but during the 1950s timber thieves cut down some of the trees and started a fire. The fire spread really quickly and destroyed the whole area. So sad! I saw lots more trail runners, too.

I didn't stay long at Jangteomok shelter. I made use of the toilets, that was a horrific experience! They are drop toilets and the air reeked of ammonia. My eyes were watering from it. I then headed down to the water point to fill my bottles again. Why couldn't the water be in the direction I wanted to go. I then plodded on and on. My feet were feeling pretty sore by this point. It was a further 3.4 kilometres to reach Seseok Shelter. I could have headed straight down to the end point from Jangteomok, but I had made my mind up to do the longer route, no matter what. I didn't actually bother visiting Seseok Shelter as it looked really busy, even busier than Jangteomok, and it would have required a detour of couple of hundred metres, to get me back to where I needed to head next.

I felt like crying at Seseok Shelter as to reach Baekmudong village, I had to head uphill again, and it was up steps. Bugger, bugger, bugger! This part of the journey was about 6 kilometres. After ascending for a little while, it became downhill again. It was really pretty to walk through the valley. There was a river with lots of different branches. Some of the scenery was stunning, however I had forgotten to turn my camera off and it had died, so I only managed to get a few photos on my phone. There were lots of big flat rocks in the river and I saw lots of people chilling and napping on them. Not me though, I was determined to keep going. This part of the hike, although really pretty, was the worst. I just wanted it to be over. Every step was hurting. I came to a small stream and took my boots and socks off and put my feet in the cool water. It was bliss. I was getting slower and slower. I stopped again to eat some more food, and then again when I saw a rock that I could lie across and crack my back on. I had made the mistake of taking my boots off again. I really didn't want to put them back on.

About 2 kilometers from the end, I met up with Warren. He totally spurred me on to keep going. he is a fast hiker, and I upped my pace to math his. It was so nice to have someone to talk to, it took my mind off my feet. We reached the end of the trail and headed to a store to get some supplies. Some of the other ate some ramyeon, but I was content with a cup of makgeolli and a bottle of water. We all chatted about how we had found the hike. It was about 4 o'clock, when I reached the end of the trail. A good 13 hours of hiking! After a nice rest, it was back on my feet. Our pension would happen to be the one at the other end of the village.

We arrived at the pension. I headed down to the bus to grab my stuff and help unpack all the other stuff. After finding space in a room, I joined the queue for the shower. When it was my turn, I was so happy, the shower was heavenly and just what I needed after the long, long hike. I wish I could have stayed in there a lot longer. It was a joy to put fresh, clean clothes on. Sometimes it really is the little things in life. I headed down to see what help was needed with preparing dinner. It was nice, chilling and chatting outside with a few beers. I was starving, so I was really happy when the food was ready. I scoffed down some samgyeopsal. There was also a DIY make your own bulgogi burger table, there were lots of different ingredients, bulgogi stew, cheese, stir fried veggies, and salad. I had two burgers as I was starving from all the hiking I had done. I spent a while sitting outside chatting, but I was tired and it was starting to get a bit cold. I ended up in bed before 9 pm. I'm so rock and roll.

16th Aug: We were roused around half eight by Warren, who was full of the joys of spring. We was beating on pots and pans to get us up. I was already awake but my body was still wrecked off yesterday. I don't mind sleeping on the floor at all, in fact I do find it pretty comfortable, but it was murder trying to stand up. Then I had to walk down the stairs to the living room, that was not cool. I was hobbling like an old Granny, I still couldn't walk straight and had to get down them sideways, holding on to the banister. I took a quick shower and by that time breakfast was all sorted. We made improvised burritos with the tortillas, and the left over veggies, potatoes, and cheese from the night before. it tasted great! I could have happily eaten another one, and I can't remember whether I did or not. We nipped up to the shop to get a coffee, and then back to the pension. We were all sorted before the bus driver was due, and we left on time or maybe even slightly ahead of our 10 am departure time.

We drove for about an hour, I had managed to score a seat to myself this time, to reach the place where we would be rafting. I had been looking out of the window for much of the journey and it was the usual small country villages we drove through. We reached the rafting place in Sancheong. We had all already put on the stuff we were going to wear to raft in, on in the pension. Because we were a group we got a discount on the rafting fee. It was 20,000 won instead of 25,000 won and this included entry into the local sauna. We stood around outside for a bit, waiting while other groups were suited up and sent down to the river. This place was heaving. I bet they were making a fortune! We were sent into a container to kit ourselves out with life jackets and then we got our safety helmets and put them on. After that we were split into two groups and we assembled around our rafts.

We walked carrying the rafts down to the Gyeonghogang river. Our guide explained some basic safety points to us and then we got into the water. We weren't allowed to get into the boat dry, so we had a good time splashing each other. Then it was onto the raft, I was totally clueless as what to do as I had never done it before. Some of the other guys seemed like pros, so they helped our guide out. The first part was a bit of a ballache as we kept getting stuck on the rocks. I don't know if it was that there were a lot of stones or that the water wasn't deep enough. Finally we got going and we paddled down river for a bit. It was quite tiring, especially when some lazy feckers were just sitting there doing minimal paddling. It was great fun going past the other boats as we had big water fights, using our paddles to splash water at each other.

There was a point where the water was quite deep and some people got out to swim. I decided to wait for later, even though they said that the water wasn't cold. We paddled a bit further down stream, in some parts we had to paddle, but in other parts we just let the current move us. We came to another deep part, where the guide had us play a game. We all had to sit on the edge of the raft, and place our feet in the middle. We then had to bounce up and down, the guide told us we weren't allowed to hold on. Since I was sitting at the edge, I was one of the first to go overboard. I could feel I was going to go over the side and instead of trying to fight it, I just let it happen. The water was really nice, not hot, but it wasn't too cold. We all had a bit of a float and a splash around before we got back onto the raft.

There was a part where we had to go over a kind of drop, that was really fun! We all wanted to do it again. We had to make sure that we were all attached to the raft and had it going dead straight before we hit the drop. We paddled a little further down stream and then we could get out and swim for a bit. It was definitely warmer to be in the water than out of it. We swam near to the river bank, and the guides pulled all of the rafts together and made a long runway that extended out into the water. Lots of people had a go at running along it and jumping into the water. I didn't as it looked like it would be quite slippery and I don't have great balance. We spent quite a while there, and then we were on our final journey to the end point. We did a bit more rowing and then all the boats lined up and had a race. We were pretty shit and came last or close to it.

We carried the boat up to the road and dumped all our safety gear in it. Then it was onto a bus to drive us back to the starting point. the drive was about ten minutes. I was impressed at how far down the river we had come. Then it was back on to our bus, the bus driver wasn't very happy about letting us all back on, as we were all wet, but at least we wouldn't be on for too long. We drove for about ten minutes to the local sauna. The price for this was included in our rafting fee. We were only given half an hour to get sorted, but we all managed it. Back on the bus we made peanut butter and jam sandwiches, I was starving and it went down a treat. I was expecting the bus journey home to be very long and torturous as it had been a long weekend for some people. However the traffic was amazing for most of the journey. We arrived back at around 6 pm. Unfortunately there was a torrential downpour, so I got well and truly soaked on my way to subway station.

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