Sunday, May 3, 2015

Weekend (5.31.14 - 6.1.14): Hiking Seoraksan

It's the penultimate Korea post, yaaaay.
After this there are a couple more from my second trip to Japan last year (Hannes' visa run), the college Romanian adventure I've to this day been unable to satisfactorily put into words, a couple lengthy ones about artists I never finished from about 3 years ago, and then, bam, I'm finally caught up to within less than a year before now!


Anyway, I left this one alone for a year because I didn't feel like thinking about this guy I had dated for about a month, the same summer that I met Hannes. Actually, the first time I met him outside a show at Club Spot, I was with this guy, Ryan, who said that Hannes looked like Stephen Merchant. I laughed and agreed, but assured Hannes - who didn't know who that was - that he was definitely more attractive, just in case he Googled the guy later and felt disappointed.

I met Ryan at HBC Fest, when I broke away from the people I desperately needed to be away from toward the end of that very dark and lonely period of my time in Seoul to go see ...Whatever That Means play with Patrick and Amy (who'd just gotten back from New Zealand).

This was also the last time I ever got to hang out with Jules before she went back to the States. I slept through her going away thing because of our ridiculous split schedule. She's so cool, and I hope I can think of what to make and send her in the mail soon!

I want to think I'd seen Jeff and Trash's band play once or twice before this, but maybe not. I hadn't gone to more than a few punk shows in Seoul before last summer.

During the show Jeff had been advertising this one dude in the front as painfully single, and that dude ended up being Ryan. He approached me, we started talking, hung out for the rest of the night, and the next day he took me to my first-ever soccer game, at Olympic Stadium, and introduced me to all his friends. 

I had a clumsy conversation in Spanish with an Irish chick, who was equally hungover/drunk, and continued drinking (cider) throughout the game. We stood the entire time, and talked to a young Korean guy who was writing an article for a local magazine about the somewhat notorious group of foreign fans that goes to all the FC Seoul games, Los Diablos Blancos. He took a group picture that I ended up in, but I never saw it.

Outside the game I ran into one of the Berlitz managers from another office, and we had a short conversation about how shitty and hungover we felt, and how we were both wearing the same clothes from the day before. After the game, we went to Shamrock and Roll and Ryan bought me dinner and more drinks. I had an interesting conversation with one of his other Irish friends about animal cruelty, because the owners of that bar not only insist on playing the worst music ever at an unhealthy volume, but also subject a large and too-thin labrador puppy to it by keeping it in the hectic, crowded place and letting it walk around to beg for food. 

That was just the first weekend.
After dating for less than 2 weeks, he asked me to come away with him for the weekend.
I was like, sure.

He's stupidly active, maintaining a constantly high energy level by using a perfected mixture of alcohol, dietary supplements, and vitamins. Really into cycling, and hiking. I was a little worried about keeping up with him on Seoraksan, one of Korea's most impressive mountains, but I'm proud of the fact that I managed to and had a good time to boot.

At this point I just needed to start getting out, meeting people, and enjoying myself again.
Living at the oil refinery in the middle of nowhere (see the Misty Mountains Cold post) during February had been helpful and therapeutic, but when I came back to Seoul and finally settled into my own place, it was the beginning of an awkward spring that felt like I was just waiting around for my time in Korea to be over.

We stayed in a hotel (well, motel, really) just inside the mountain preserve area, and took a long walk the night before we went out hiking all day. There were a bunch of pretty white moths around. I let one climb onto my finger, and then it just lazily walked around my arm and wouldn't let go, even though I tried to shake it off. Ryan thought I was super weird for adopting it for part of our walk. 
There were some other things, too, like the fancy resort we passed and decided to walk into just to take a look at their lobby and bar, then running full-speed down their steep driveway back to the road; sitting in a swinging seat outside the one convenience store that was there, near the motel, drinking; and not the first or last time he was extremely insulting and condescending. In this particlar instance we had been talking about invasive plant species, and he was impressed the way you'd be impressed when your dog caught a peanut you tossed at it that I knew what caulerpa taxifolia was.

Anyway, that's enough backstory. I'm just feeling reflective today. 
Onto the subject and photo dump at hand!

This park was easily one of the most impressive places I saw in Korea, if not number one.

We chose a short-ish hiking course that I think was supposed to take 2 or 3 hours full-circuit, probably taking into consideration the time people would want to spend at the awesome temple carved into the cliff at the top. We powered right through it and finished it in, like, an hour and a half.

Pretty badass, right?

Next we decided to go to Ulsanbawi, a distinctive granite precipice jutting out of the mountain range. This hike was quite a bit harder, and I was springing from rock to rock like a goat to keep up with Ryan. Toward the end of it, when you actually get to the base of the rock formation, there are also quite a lot of stairs that I can't say I really enjoyed, but the views were worth it.

It's so smooth and contrasts to sharply with the sky and trees, it almost doesn't look real.

The defining characteristic of hiking Ulsanbawi is that there's an 800 to 900-stair staircase bolted into its side that leads up to the top. It's seriously ridiculous to even look at, and I was legitimately tired at this point and had already tried to talk Ryan into going back down before we'd gotten a look at it.

After giving me crap about not quitting after we'd already come this far and so on, he took one look at the sheer rock face and the absurd stairs - the moment's equivalent of that ancient rope bridge in Indiana Jones - and just said, "Nope".
Turned right around and started back down.

I was like, thank god.

On our way back down we ran into a couple of Dutch girls who asked how it was. I asked if they knew about the stairs or had seen them, and they hadn't. They already seemed a little apprehensive about going all the way, and I told them they'd probably change their minds the same second they laid eyes on them.

Before leaving, we decided to take the cable car up to the dragon spine's highest peak before leaving. The walk back to the hotel alone was a good 4 or 5 miles, and even a guy who's got a lot to prove to the world knows when it's time to call it a day. 

If you didn't infer it from his reaction to the precipitous stairs of doom, Ryan is terrified of heights. I scared the shit out of him by running toward the edge you see here and then stopping short. He couldn't get anywhere near it or look over the side.

It's one of those things that photos don't do justice to. 
It's also totally insane that they let so many people - including little kids - up here with no supervision, guardrails, or anything when on the other side of the spectrum they have to make simple, easy hikes into paved roads with fences, stairs, and convenience stores.

Before leaving the next day, we went to nearby Sokcho so we could drink while looking out onto the sea, and so that Ryan could get his ojingeo sundae (squid rings stuffed with veggies and things and fried in egg, the same thing from the cute hand-drawn sign above) fix, since it's the regional specialty of the northeast coast.

I was crazy enough to be one of the maybe 3 people on the beach to get into the water, which is intolerably icy to all but people who grew up with that kind of thing even in June and July.

I'm not sure what these are; some kind of edible sea squirt?
They just look like human hearts.

Even though it wasn't an ideal situation, I'm so glad I got to see Seoraksan while I was in Korea. I highly recommend it. It's supposed to be especially breathtaking in autumn, and I kind of wish Hannes and I had gone back to see it at that time of year, too.

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