Monday, October 24, 2011

Stairs, stairs, and more stairs...

            In Korea, hiking is a must! So this weekend, Ana, Ana’s co-teacher EunChi, and I headed to the famous Seorak National Park. Seoraksan (san=mountain) is apparently the third highest mountain in Korea. When I read this, I thought “it’s not like we’re gonna actually climb the mountain”….wrong! Oh man, Koreans are serious about hiking. To me, hiking is walking around a mountain, maybe some stairs, but for the most part walking….yeah! I was soooooo unprepared! hiking boots, just sneakers, I didn’t think I would need hiking gear this soon. And not only was I not prepared for hiking, but I was not ready for the weather! It was raining the whole time and no waterproof jacket, pants, or bag.
            We left Friday night to sleep on the bus, get there early in the morning and start hiking. Well there was not much sleeping on that bus. Have I mentioned how crazy the drivers are here? Well add rain and you have a bus ride from hell! I honestly thought I was going to die.
            We got to Sokcho at around 6am. Everything was dark and everything closed of course. Thank goodness we had a native Korean speaker with us. EunChi asked for a taxi and it took us to the foot of the mountain for a cheaper rate since “it was raining and we were girls” hahaha. Once there, we decided to get breakfast first. Now this was my first time having a Korean breakfast, what did I eat? Bibimbap hahaha…though delicious, that taste stays with you the whole day!
While we waited for daylight, we decide to get some ponchos...oh yeah, sexy ponchos, I got a purple one hehehe.
At 7:30am we drank our energy drinks and started the hike. The hike was about 3.8 kilometers. Again, when I saw this, I thought “oh easy!”….wrong! I have never climbed that many stairs in my life, not at Notre Dame, not at Pisa, not at the Vatican! But more on that later.

The scenery was gorgeous! Ana wanted to go there to see the peak of foliage, and though not all the trees were red and yellow, it was beautiful! 

Can you see the rocks piled up? They are wishes! =)

At first, the hike was pretty easy. After passing the first rest stop, we got separated. Then all of the sudden, I heard music/chanting and I thought, “I made it!”…yeah right, I was barely half way! This was the first stop, Heundeulbawi, aka the “moving rock.”
After that, it was all stairs! No need of a stair master in Korea…

There is a temple inside the!

Trying to move the rock haha

…And then I saw Ulsanbawi in all its glory. Ulsanbawi is a rock and I was about to climb it…more stairs (0.4 km)! Before starting, Ana and I decided to take a break and have a snack. As we waited, a couple offered us boiled eggs and cherry tomatoes hehehe more food, yay! We then saw EunChi coming and waited for her. As we rested there, we saw 3 people slip coming down the stairs :S…those stairs were so steep and slippery that I was honestly a bit nervous (and yes, it was still raining). We started the climb and again we got separated. I had to move fast because if I went any slower, I was going to lose my momentum. I tried to take it steady without too many breaks. I had to be careful about each step I took because I did not want to slip. There were rails, but my hands were freezing and I could not grip hard (no gloves btw).

0.4km of pure stairs up the rock!...I couldn't even see where the hell I was going!

...right before climbing Ulsanbawi

But then all the pain went away as I took my final step and reached the top! I felt so proud of myself! At the top, there was a nice little platform where people were drinking coffee and taking pictures. The view was amazing…but it only lasted for a few minutes because it was so foggy :/ 

The view from Ulsanbawi

we made it!!!

                The way down was supposed to be easier, but because it was so slippery, I had to hang on to dear life. Ana let me borrow one of her gloves, and though it was soaked, it totally made a difference.

Sinheungsa Temple

By the time we got back, we were all soaked…a nice combination of water and sweat!...I’ve never sweated that much in the rain lol. We then hopped into a cable car and went up to another peak…and yes, more stairs, well not as many this time. Unfortunately, the view again was horrible…

We left Seoraksan at around 6pm and headed back to Sokcho for some R&R. EunChi left because she was going to meet someone. Ana and I got a motel room and we paid 30,000W ($26)…it was cheap, but what can you expect for that price? A smelly and moldy room! Haha. Ana laughed at me because I would not even put my face on the pillow, I wrapped it with my coat!
Before calling it a night, we went out to find dinner. But we got something even better, the Sokcho Festival! The main street was closed, there were vendors, a parade, music, and of course the always freebies hehehe. We got coffee and pajeon (Korean pancake), they were also giving out a towel, but the line was too long. 

Some of the vendors at the festival

So they had a photo booth with hats from around the world, and oh yes, they had Mexico!


the parade...notice hello kitty and fiona?

So far, this is my favorite sweet snack, it is a hoddeok, or sweet stuffed pancake. It had brown sugar and sesame seeds in the middle, yum! .....ataaaaaaskate puerka!

The next day we just went around Sokcho for a walk. Ana wanted to see the Gaetbae Boat and the Abai Village where some scenes from a famous Korean drama were filmed. 

Gaetbae Boat

Abai Village

Abai Village 

Cheonghodaegyo Bridge

dried squid!

               We then made our way to the Lighthouse Observatory, more stairs!! >.<

Deungdae Beach

                 We then had to try the Sokcho's specialty for lunch, the famous stuffed squid! I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was not too impressed…maybe because we bough it at a street stand? was alright. 

By 1:30ish we were exhausted and decided to catch the 2:45pm bus back to Pohang. We bought our tickets, walked around the area a bit more while we waited, and then we were on our way!...oh man, I soooo wanted to pass out on the bus, but I knew that if I slept, I would not be able to sleep at night. When I got home, I took a hot shower, turned on my floor heater, and passed out!

            So that was my weekend…and I’m afraid I have more hiking coming up this Thursday with my co-teachers…wish me luck!

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