I don’t have much of an interest in Korean politics other than, as with everywhere else, the general wish that the left will do better than the right. What I do have an interest in though is getting a day off work for the day of the Presidential election. As I don’t have a vote, it leaves me free to spend the day doing something else.
Jen and I had planned on hiking in Sobaeksan National Park last summer, but once we got there it turned out to be too hot and we settled for a wander around the caves instead. Winter is better for hiking though, or at least it is for me and so I thought we could give it another go.
I nipped out of work early the evening before and we caught the 7.10pm mugungwha train from Cheongnyangi to Danyang. Cheongnyangi is a station that took me a while to discover. Previously I’d only been checking options from the main stations of Seoul and Yongsan, but leaving from the smaller Cheongnyangi terminus meant that we could get to Danyang on the Tuesday evening and then get an early start the next day. The journey takes around an hour and a quarter and costs about eleven thousand won.
It didn’t look as if there were any hotels near the out-of-town Danyang railway station and so we took a taxi into town and found a room in a hotel across the road from the bus terminal. It was the same place that we’d stayed at in the summer, although I think they charged more than thirty thousand won last time we were there.
It didn’t quite work out as planned the next morning as, possibly due to the previous night’s wine consumption, the early start turned into a late one. It was already mid-morning when we got into a taxi. The driver suggested that we should go to the Eoulgok park entrance and we took his advice. He dropped us off twenty minutes later with a warning that we should hike quickly in order to be able to complete the route before dark.
Our intention had been to hike up to the 1439m Birobong peak. It’s only 5.1km each way but has an estimated hiking time of six hours. The route starts at around 400m in height and looks to have a fairly even gradient gaining a couple of hundred metres in altitude every kilometre. It was hard going in places with a mixture of fresh snow and old ice and without spikes it wouldn’t have been possible to have got beyond the first twenty yards.
We didn’t see too many other people all morning, possibly because they will have set out much earlier than we did. There were some impressive sections of frozen river though and in the places where the water was still running ice resembling jellyfish had formed around the stones that broke the surface.
Two hours in, we’d hiked 2.5 kilometres and got up to 940m. With another 2.6km still to do and another 500m of ascent it became apparent that we weren’t going to reach the top. Jen’s feet and legs were just about numb with the cold and I was feeling the effects of the previous night’s over-indulgence. It wasn’t a difficult decision to call it a day and head back down.
We made the reverse journey in an hour and a half and were fortunate enough to see a bus waiting at the bottom.
I don’t know how often the buses run to Danyang but it seemed a rare enough occurence for kids to stare and wave as it drove past. Everyone on it, bar us, seemed to know each other and each new arrival was given a cheery welcome as they got on.
Despite not getting to the top it was still a decent day out, three and a half hours in the hills beats a day sat at my desk every time. It’s a pity that the elections only take place every five years.