I’ve not done very much hiking so far this year. Jen and I walked the last couple of sections of the Bukhansan Dulegil and there’s been the odd river walk on the way to a football game, but I haven’t been up a mountain since I went to Yongmunsan back in mid-January.
As I’m supposed to be going up Poland’s highest mountain in the summer when I’m over there for Euro 2012, I thought that it was about time to ease my legs back into it. Jen and I had been to Cheongdo to watch the bullfighting the previous day and when we had seen enough of that we got the train to Daegu. A taxi took us across the city to the Seobu bus terminal and from there we caught a bus to Haeinsa in the Gayasan National Park. The bus goes every forty minutes, costs 6,600 won and takes about an hour and a half.
It was raining as we arrived at Chi-in village and we made for the nearest motel. There were a few of them around so I reckon that even in the height of the walking season it would be likely that you would find somewhere to stay.
Our place was ok, the main drawback being that not only would the outer door to the room not lock, it wouldn’t always stay closed. I wasn’t too bothered as it didn’t seem as if there was anyone else staying there. Later on Jen spotted a list at reception that not only showed which rooms were occupied, but how many people were in them. We had the lowest occupation rate with just the two of us, whilst other rooms had as many as eight people crammed into them.
There were a few restaurants and we selected one that specialised in various produce from the surrounding hillsides. Radishes, ferns, bracken, surplus foliage from root vegetables, weeds, that sort of thing. There was an ungutted grilled fish and some soup with bits of tofu in it. On the plus side we got a pancake and a couple of beers with it.
It was quite cold in there but as we were the only customers we got to sit next to the stove. On top of the stove was an extremely large pot full of water. I wasn’t sure if they were heating it up to make us some tea or to bath their dog.
Next morning the rain had stopped and it was a pretty good day for hiking. We set off early in the direction of Haeinsa temple with the intention of walking past it and then onwards to the 1,430m Sangwangbong. It’s about five kilometres to the top and with Haeinsa being around six hundred metres above sea level, it’s a not too steep eight hundred metres or so ascent.
Haeinsa is famous amongst Buddhists for its temple which has a load of wooden printing blocks from the olden days. Jen has been there before and they made her peek through a gap in the wall to see them, so it’s maybe not the most tourist friendly of places. That didn’t seem to stop coachloads of them turning up though and by the time we reached Haeinsa it was already busy.
I’m not overly fussed about old wooden blocks and so we left them to those who were. The trail towards the summit was the quietest we’ve ever experienced. We spotted a monk out for a stroll early on and then after that we didn’t see anyone at all until we were within about twenty metres of the top. There’s an alternative route up from the Baengundong park entrance and most people must have been following that trail. We did think about going down that way but we didn’t know if we would be able to get a bus or not.
Three hours after setting out we were on top of Sangwangbong. For a few minutes we were the only people up there before someone very handily turned up to take our photo.
There were decent views to the south with rows of mountain ranges disappearing into the distance.
The route was busier on the way down as we passed hiking groups and families who hadn’t made the early start that we had. Two hours later we were at the bottom and having a late lunch of beef and mushroom soup in a restaurant next to the bus stop.
Gayasan is another one of those places that I’d like to go back to, next time taking the route from Baengundong that goes past Yonggi Falls and then on to the 1,433m Chilbulbong peak, before descending via Sangwangbong to Haeinsa. It’s still only about ten kilometres in total and it looks as if the best way to do that one is to get off the Haeinsa bus a bit earlier at Gajo and then take a taxi to the Baengundong entrance.
And for what it’s worth, my legs knacked for days afterwards.