Monday, April 20, 2009

And if we're lost, then we are lost together

Somehow it still hasn't sunk in that I spent all day Saturday lounging on the beach, on my way to a rockin' tan .... And it's April!!

April in Canada can mean snow storms and winter coats, and at best lots of rain, and I'm running around here in a bikini ... AWESOME!

George and I also took a ferry ride from Haeundae beach on Saturday after spending way too many hours in the sun. It took us along Haeundae and then Gwangali beach, past Leegidae and finally around Oryukodo before returning the same way. It was neat to see Busan from the water. I could really appreciate how gorgeous it is, with huge mountains framing the city. The hour-ish ride cost 15 000 won, and was definitely worth it.

On Sunday we decided to hike Jangsan, the mountain that's visable from our living room window. Some quick google searches described it as an easy mountain, with lots of flat pathways for those not looking for a huge workout.

At one of the many fitness parks on the way up the mountain

Ya, we clearly did not find those paths!!!!

We started out around 11:15am, and were immediately amazed by the sheer number of people, most of them decked out head to toe in fancy hiking gear, looking like a North Face ad. We began our climb following the crowd and motoring past as many slow-walking people as possible. And believe me, there are varying paces, especially since there are thousands of people climbing the mountain at any time. We'd pass big groups of laughing, talking people, and then be hesitant to stop for water or photo breaks because we didn't want those same people to pass us. Things might have gotten a little competitive, anyone surprised!? We arrived at a picnic location after about 35 or 40 minutes, sweating and out of breath, but excited to continue on to the peak. It was at this point that things went downhill.

There were 2 pathways leading from this point, but the hikers definitely thinned out. I think many chose to end their climb at the picnic area, and since there were all kinds of alcohol being sold there I certainly hope so! We took the path that appeared to be leading uphill, but soon found ourselves doing more descending then anything, and turned around. The other path led to a fork in the road. One direction read "peak", yet seemed to also go downhill, the other had land-mine warning signs but went straight uphill. I convinced George to take the first option. It was going well for about 5 minutes when we reached yet another branch, with 2 paths clearly heading down hill, and another that snaked towards the land-mine zone, but promised to take us to the peak. This was my first climbing experience but I really thought it would be easier to find the peak of a mountain! We chose to take it but after about 10 minutes found ourselves walking alongside barbed wire fence with land-mine warnings every 20 feet. There seemed to be hikers ahead of us so we continued, staying safely on the path. After another 5 minutes I was nearing a breakdown, not sure if I should walk back through land-mine territory or continue to the peak and find another way down. A kind old Korean man saw our distress and convinced us to follow him to safety. Apparently the warnings are there because on the other side of the fence is a military base that is still active today. Either way I was terrified, and angry that we had been stupid enough to wander into an area that could have land-mines. There are no pictures of this section because we were terrified. But before you freak out Mom, I spoke to my co-worker today, he said that's the path everyone takes, it's safe, no ones ever been blown up, the signs are remnants from the Korean war. Either way - scary stuff, I'm taking another route next time!

We made it to the top safe and sound, and WOW! What a view.

We could see for miles, and even picked our apartment out. We could walk around the peak and get multiple viewpoints, and really see alot of the city.

After about half an hour of amazed staring we decided to make our way back down, which was also an ordeal. Again, one would think that getting down a mountain would be straightforward, but apparently it isn't! We must have chose the expert path, because it was wild. I spent alot of time grasping onto tree trunks and ropes strung along the route, hoping I wouldn't wipe out. We walked through almost a kilometer of what must have been a very recent forest fire. Trees blackened, ash covering the ground, and the smell of charred wood. It was enough to make me nervous - again!

After almost an hour we reach a fitness park where 5 trails branched off, and I managed to find an English speaker to direct us to the right one, which happened to start with a 500m climb ... so we definitely would not have chosen it ourselves! Even along this path there were numerous branches and we spent most of the descent wondering if we were ever going to make it off the mountain!

Overall my first mountain climbing experience was interesting. It was an incredible workout, but I could have done without the stress of feeling lost and passing through the land-mine zone. Also, I've decided I like climbing, it was great fun, but the way down kind of sucked!

Will we climb another mountain anytime soon? Stay tuned to find out!

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