Odaesan Hiking, Saturday 13th April 2013

odaesan

One of the things I like about having this blog is that if ever I’m going back somewhere I can just look it up and find out how I did it the time before. At the weekend my plan had been to go and watch Gangneung in the second round of the FA Cup. I’d been to their stadium before, as they share it with K-League team Gangwon, but I hadn’t seen Gangneung themselves play there and, groundhopping geek that I am, I was keen to tick them off in their own right.

When I watched the game featuring Gangwon three years ago, I went across early in the morning and spent the day hiking in the Odaesan National Park. It all worked very well so I thought we’d go there this time too.

I don’t have much going on at work at the moment and so rather than set off early in the morning, we went the evening before. The 5.10pm bus from Dong Seoul managed to avoid all of the rush hour traffic and got us to Jinbu just before eight. It’s a fairly quiet sort of place with few motels. The one we chose was ok and the bloke behind the desk was thoughtful enough to offer us an extra blanket.

Eight in the evening is too early for extra blankets though and so we hit the town. Jen had seen a seventies/eighties bar that she though might have been suitable for a couple of old gits and we called in there. I’ve a feeling that the last time anyone went through the door was back when their playlist was cutting edge. They seemed pleased to have some customers though and a bloke leapt up and took to the stage, playing a cha-cha-cha style organ whilst singing whatever was popular in Korea forty years ago.

We knocked back our drinks as quickly as seemed polite and cleared off.

Next morning we were up early and on the 6.30am bus to Woljeongsa temple. Initially, like the previous night in the bar, it was just us. We were eventually joined by the only other passenger who turned out to be the bloke who manned the entrance gate at the National Park.

Woljeongsa temple before the monks are out of bed.

Woljeongsa temple before the monks are out of bed.

The early start paid off and we were at Woljeongsa temple by 7am. We had a quick look, but a temple is a temple. Most of the ones over here are in a constant state of refurbishment so it’s not often that you are even seeing anything historical.

Last time I’d been here I’d hiked on the east side of the park, from Sangwonsa to the 1533m high Birobong. This time, the plan was to have a look at the west side, following the Seonjaegil trail that links Woljeongsa and Sangwonsa temples before branching off to nip up the 1434m Dongdaesan.

Seonjaegil route

Seonjaegil route

It all went well for the first couple of hours as we followed a deserted trail that tracked the river. There were a few sections where it wasn’t easy to determine where the path was and there were a couple of places where it seemed to zig zag back and forward across the water more than was necessary. Overall though, it was a decent route.

Whoever had set the Seonjaegil trail up had gone to the trouble of signposting disused houses, abandoned railway line and at one point recreating a bridge from the olden days that apparently would have been sturdy enough to walk a herd of cows across. I had my doubts.

Maybe one cow at a time.

Maybe one small cow at a time.

As we progressed further along the 9km path it became apparent that we’d missed the turn-off for Dongdaesan. I wasn’t particularly bothered as it still looked pretty snowy high up and we hadn’t brought any spikes. We decided just to complete the route to Sangwonsa and then walk the trail again in the other direction to take us back to Woljeongsa for a hike of eighteen kilometres.

The outward leg took us two hours and forty minutes in total and we didn’t see another hiker the entire time. Sangwonsa temple was a different story though with a few bus tours having dropped their passengers off for a mooch around.

I’d pocketed a few peanuts from the bar the previous night in the hope of getting one of those small stripey squirrel things to eat them from my hand. Whilst one was happy to eat the nuts, he wouldn’t come too close.

Chipmunk?

Chipmunk?

The journey back to Woljeongsa took a similar amount of time as the outward leg, despite us somehow contriving to get lost. You wouldn’t think it possible really on a route that we’d walked earlier that morning. We saw a few more hikers too as the day went on.

More river.

More river.

On reaching the temple we couldn’t find the bus stop that would take us back to Jinbu so we did just as I’d done the last time I’d been there and hitched a lift back into town. Whenever we’ve tried this in Korea someone has always stopped for us up fairly quickly, although I was disappointed when a pick-up drove on by as I’d quite fancied sitting in the back.

We had a lift within ten minutes and an elderly couple used us for a bit of English practice before dropping us off in Jinbu with plenty of time to spare to get to Gangneung for the game. Whilst we hadn’t got up Dongdaesan it had still been a decent hike and the hill will always be there for next time.

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