Thursday, August 13, 2009

Day 109: As promised, here is part two of our vacation photos. All of these photos are from the second last day of our trip when we went to Seorak Mountain which is one of the 5 national parks in Korea. Luckily for us, the weather was gorgeous that day which made the hiking much more enjoyable. The park was beautiful as you can see from even just the entrance pictured below...
We had gotten there early (8:15 am) to avoid crowds and the first thing we did was take the cable car to the top of one of the peaks. It was a good thing we did that, because when we got back down, the line up was probably 2 hours long! Once we got to the top of the mountain, the views were breath taking as neither of us have ever experienced anything like that before. It was pretty cool being eye level with the clouds looking out at all the mountain had to offer.We got a nice couple to snap this photo for us, as this was a pretty prime backdrop (they was actually a stand taking the exact same angled shots for $20 just out of view). This was about as far as Shayna wanted to get to the edge as the drop was rather large and the safety precautions rather small. It actually surprised us how carefree these Koreans were about any of the dangers that existed at these types of heights. Kids were running around unattended, some women were in sandals, and most people generally had a non chalant attitude about the whole thing. We almost began adopting this attitude, that is until we say a young woman trip as she was walking down and do two full head over heel somersaults down the mountain and by some unforeseen grace hit a rock and stopped. We decided that it was as good a time as any to make our way back down the mountain.

After taking the lift down, we headed to a new area and came across this absolutely massive Buddha statue. Our fellow teacher Greg, tells us this huge black Buddha statue is down right scary in the night time as flames are lit all around him, we'll have to come back and see for ourselves.We followed the path some more until we came to crossroads sign. One way went to a stream, one way went to a cave. We decided to take the road less travelled on go to the cave which was stated to be 0.6 km away, no big deal....or so we thought. This simple turn in the road, turned out to be one of the most physically and mentally gruelling hikes we have ever been on. The incline was intense the whole way through and when we got to the half an hour mark we imagined we must be getting close. As the sweat poured off us, we realized that from a food perspective we were dangerously under prepared for this type of undertaking, as we had not eaten all day. We were too far up to turn back and both of our stubborn natures would not allow it. Yet as we continued, there seem to be no end to this crazy climb. We met a family of fellow climbers who assured us the cave was just ahead, but every time we looked up to see if they had reached it, they just kept on climbing. Finally we reached a small resting place where others were eating (grrr..)thinking we had arrived, only to be told by some French guy that we were about 2/3 the way there. We took in some much needed water and began what turned out to be the most dangerous portion of the hike. Just before the entrance of the cave, there was an insanely steep steel staircase that was a huge pain in the ass to climb. We finally made it and what was supposed to be a cave, turned out to be more like a nook close to the top of the mountain. We were greeted by a monk handing out fresh water directly from a stream that flowed through the cave. By that point Shay was underwhelmed, unimpressed, and down right angry. I believe he exact quote was " Why aren't people more angry than this, this is not a real cave". Brandon made a prayer at the shrine for our safe journey down the mountain and bought a cool bracelet from the monk as a keepsake. As you can see though the views were truly amazing, even if it we had to work for it.
As you can see from the picture, there was little exaggeration on how steep the staircase down actually was. Two hands were required and as much concentration that was humanly possible on an empty stomach was needed. At this point the beautiful weather became bittersweet as sweated our way back down the mountain.
By the time we made it down, we were lucky enough to come across a guy who saw how hungry we looked and gave us an apple to split, as well as some chocolate and other snacks. Despite the intense journey, the feeling of accomplishment was unmistakable, as witnessed in picture below.

We explored the area a little longer, coming across a beautiful stream, but by the point we had almost run out of steam and decided to make our way back to the front to grab some food and head home as it had been a full day.
Hope everyone is enjoying the summer back home, as we're trying to make the most of ours. As always we love and miss you and hope you're doing well.

With love from South Korea,
Shayna & Brandon xo