After dealing with figuring out the bus fare for 10 minutes with the bus driver telling 2 old Korean women how much we owed him and them trying to communicate it to us, we finally ended up back in Sokcho where we made a decision to head up towards Sorakson so we could start our hike in the morning. We hopped on a bus going back the direction we just came from (since Sunrise Park is where the bus turns to go up the hill) and landed ourselves in a hostel (a very nice one at that)! We decided to hike Ulsanbawi in the morning first, which is known for having 808 metal stairs to get to the top of this giant rock and was about a 4km hike. We also had to hike 2km from our hostel just to get to the national park. That was a very fun hike with a very rewarding view of the ocean and Sokcho as well as the rest of the national park. There were lots of schools on the hike that day and we made many friends in the 12-16 year old girl category. Some were scared of speaking English to us and literally ran away, and others embraced it and like to practice and find out where we were from. When we got to the top, they were very excited to see us there and offered us many congratulations. They were adorable. We also saw this 4-5 year old girl climbing all those stairs and her mom was all about her daughter having her picture taken with us at the top (apparently we’re kinda famous?) so I snapped a picture of her too. This also gives you an idea of the age range of people climbing all of these stairs (4-70)! We hung out at the top for a little bit and some lady gave us some sort of delicious nut. I wasn't really sure how to eat it until she showed me, but it was quite yummy.
If you push this boulder it will rock side to side.
These are the ghetto old stairs people used to have to climb.
general age range...4-80
The nuts I ate that were yummy.
We hiked back down (of course making more friends along the way) and then grabbed some food. Amanda was explaining to me that Koreans don’t like to be uncomfortable, and they will do what they can to make themselves comfortable. With this in mind, you must realize there were many places to get food and water along the way (and by food I mean you could have bibimbop made for you right there on the mountain). All we brought for our journey were 2 apples, a can of tuna, a box of crackers, a small can of peanuts, and some rice ball things.
After our lunch and 8km of hiking we had already, done, we started our 9 km trek up Deachongbong, one of the top 3 biggest in Korea (its actual standing is currently in debate by a few friends). As we hiked up, many people were coming down. Lots were giving us their greetings, others stared at Amanda and I because we were in tank tops and she was wearing shorts (it was HOT going up but they seemed to think we were freezing), and still other being like “You’re climbing Daechongbong? Today? Really?” YES! Yes we are. We were originally planning on camping somewhere along the way, for we had seen there were marked “shelters” in the guidebook and figured we could camp by one. Little did we know you need reservations to stay at said “shelters” (remember Koreans don’t like being uncomfortable). As we were approaching the second shelter, we were told that it was full and that we were going to have to camp outside. This would have been fine had Amanda brought a sleeping bag. Instead we had 1 blanket, 1 sleeping pad, 1 sleeping bag, and 1 tent. Her intent was to wear the blanket and wrap herself in the tent so as to avoid freezing to death. We finally arrived at the shelter and a couple had us sit at their table with them. We cracked open our tuna and everyone laughed their little heads off and then were like “what are you going to eat that with?” We had planned on scooping it with our crackers, but that was not ok with them so we used chopsticks. As we were enjoying our dinner of tuna and crackers, the first people we had met a little earlier on said there was room for us in the kitchen with them to sleep, so Amanda went and checked it out and decided that would be much better than sleeping outside. We left our elderly couple and headed inside where we found a model for traditional clothing and her husband, and a group of 5 men who were climbers, 2 of which were also monks. The one who spoke English the best informed us that he had lead a 2 pitch 12.d trad on sight that day (to the climbers out there, that is INSANE, to non climbers 2 pitches means 2 rope lengths, 12.d means 100 degree angle with nothing to hold onto, trad means you place your own gear which makes it harder and scarier, and on sight means he had never seen anyone climb it before). Not to mention they were all in their late 30’s or older, including one man who has been teaching climbing for 40 years who we aged at around 60. We sat down in the kitchen with them at 7, and had to pretend we were cooking until 9 when the kitchen was closed, otherwise people would kick us out and try and take over our space to cook instead of them. 9 rolled around, we all snuggled up, and the chorus of snoring began. Not only was it only 9 and we had just had coffee to warm us up, but there were 9 of us in an 8x12 kitchen. We were smooshed. All in all, I probably got 45 minutes of sleep. We woke up at about 430, ate breakfast of ramen and rice (thanks to our climbing friends) and started on to our summit by 530.
Our original goal was to see the sunrise from the top of the mountain, but we realized about half an hour into our hike that that wasn't an option. We did still get to see the sunrise from an amazing point on our hike and then continue to the top. There was a time when I didn't think I was going to finish because of the amount of exhaustion and struggle I felt, fortunately, the last 1.2 km were probably the easiest. It was absolutely gorgeous from the top and I’m so glad we finished the summit (1708 m).
On our hike down, we made some Korean friends that helped us with the bus schedule to our next destination and taught us some Korean words (although I don’t really remember what they were). I have also decided that my first, or maybe second, big investment is going to be taking Korean because it is absolutely driving me crazy to stare blankly into someone’s eyes and have NO idea what they’re saying to me.
That night, we arrived in Andong with the intentions of going to a traditional village, the mask museum, the paper making museum, and the soju museum. We stayed in a jjimjilbang, which is essentially a spa where you can also sleep on the floor. There also happens to be a lot of nakedness there which was a little frightening, however I've never been to a spa in the US so I don’t have much to compare it to.
The traditional village was really awesome. I don’t really know how to explain it so I’ll post some pictures below.
The rice patties
Really cool village
These people are picking peanuts...who knew they grew underground.
There they are.
Really cool cliff by this village.
There's the village and rice patties
We didn't end up making it to the mask museum, mostly because we decided we saw plenty of masks in the traditional village, nor did we make it to the soju museum, mostly because we were exhausted. We did however make it to the paper making “museum” which actually just turned out to be a demonstration. I’m not sure if they often do these sorts of demonstrations but we joined up with a university class and they let us partake in the process as well. We got to make our own paper!
First you scoop it.
Then you shake it.
Then you press it.
Then you dry it. and that's pretty much it.
To sum it up; travelling with Amanda equates to quite an adventure, but it sure does make for a good story.