Gwanju and Jirisan National Park
Trip Start Jul 20, 2004
207Trip End Jul 20, 2014
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In Gwanju, I stayed with CS host Nathaniel who is an old Korean hand being in the country for 5 years. She took me to the village where she teaches Korean teachers and we walked around the Eco Park and indulged in delicious Korean vegetarian food.
Then it was off to Jirisan National Park where I planned a 3 day hike from HWA-EOMSA to DAEWONSA (the entire ridge) at a length of 45 km with a difficulty rating of 5 - very strenuous.
The usual "traversing course" refers to the course running from Hwaeomsa Temple to Nogodan, Yeonhacheon Stream, Byeoksoryeong Valley, Jangteomok Pass, and Cheonwangbong Peak, to Dawonsa Temple
I got to Yeonhacheon shelter around 6pm and decided to stay there. I knew I would not get a place in the shelter but hoped for a spot outside. Upon arriving there it was already crowded with people camping, sleeping or eating outside, so picking a sport, any spot, was of immediate urgency as more hikers were out on the trail and would arrive sooner or later. It was either muddy or rocky, so I opted for a partly dry and rocky sport. I chomped down my dinner as I was starving and then kicked back and enjoyed watching the Koreans. For them hiking is a social affair and many of them carried huge backpacks stuffed with lots of food and rice wine and all kinds of cooking utensils
I was tired and went into my sleeping bag around 9ish and looked at the clear sky and the stars before falling asleep. It didn’t last long as by about 10:30pm I was woken up by rain, not heavy but steady rain, which lasted about 30 minutes. I had no rain cover and no place to go except for the stinky toilets so I just stuck it out and hoped for the best. Luckily it stopped and for the rest of the night I got a somewhat wet sleep. The part that really sucked was rolling up the wet sleeping bag the next morning and putting it into my backpack which made it automatically heavier. I got on the trail at 6am and figured I will try to make it down the trail all the way to Daewonsa temple which would have taken about 12 hours or more unless I could find a shelter for an overnight stay. Cheonwangbong Peak was peopled out and covered in fog, so no view from there. I continued until I came to Chibanmok Shelter which was a small shelter in a forested area. I liked it immediately and asked if they had space and they did. After a big cup of coffee, I relaxed, ate dinner, got a wash and just kicked back. Later that evening, I joined Mr. Lee and Mr. Soon for kimchi dinner and a talk about world travel and Korean life in general. This, I thought, was the perfect ending for my 3 day/2night hike in Jirisan.
The next day, I headed down to the temple, which is in fact is a nunnery. Though a beautiful and peaceful place, I didn’t linger too much around as the temple ground was busy with tourists.
From the temple, I headed down the road to the bus station and took a bus to Jinju and from there back to Gwanju. I was done hiking; I smelled and looked terrible and all I wanted was a loooong shower. By 9pm, I was in bed. Two weeks Korea is not enough to see the country but July/August is not a time to visit here. So, as I plan to go back to Japan one day, I may stop over in Korea again and do some more travelling. But for now, for the time being, I am not going to travel for a while.