Hallasan in March. Jirisan in May. Seorak in October. The three highest peaks in South Korea. With a random hodgepodge group of my roommate, colleagues and church mate, we embarked on what would be a very difficult hike. The hike started in the pitch dark at around 5 something in the morning. Our host lady was kind enough to drive our gang all the way out early in the morning. With about 12 hours of hiking ahead of us, we hit the trail and carefully made our way through the dark until the sunrise gave us reprieve about an hour into our hike.
At one point early on, I really didn’t think I could do it. It helps though when you have a whole group of people going with you. I couldn’t give up if they were still trekking. Too competitive for that. So onward I went with the incredible fall foliage unfolding as we ascended. The mist and fog was also a very nice touch to the canvas. With many breathtaking views and painstaking endurance, we made it to the freezing top. We celebrated, had a drink, and took a well-deserved photo before we decided it was too cold to stay there.
When I was younger, I always thought going up was harder. With age, it is not so. Going down proved to be harder than the climb. My knees and feet were taking a brutal beating with each step. I will say though, the route down was absolutely worth the pummeling. It was like walking through Rivendell in Lord of the Rings. We encountered waterfall after stream after gorges. Living in Korea, you can often forget how beautiful Korea is. This was a great reminder. The rest of the way down was spent admiring God’s creation. About 11 hours from when we began, we made our way to the bottom of the mountain. A very memorable trip.
Jirisan. Claims the second highest peak in South Korea. The highest on the mainland. With my newfound love for hiking, it was a must. This would be my first overnight/sunrise hike. Food list checked. Bags packed again. Hiking boots on. Along with some great company and we were off. A few highlights from the trip:
Hands-down one of the most difficult hikes I’ve done thus far. It was a very intense uphill battle nearly the entire way with almost no reprieve. Still, it’s that feeling of overcoming a struggle that makes it so worth it. Seoraksan, we coming for you next.
Spring Break 2017. I wanted to visit Jeju for the sole purpose of hiking the highest peak in South Korea aside from just getting away.
5:30am, I rose from my sleep extremely well rested thanks to the Hunt family for housing me. Ate a super light breakfast of yogurt and banana (should’ve eaten a heavier meal for the hike). Then, I was off. The drive there was beautiful being able to watch the sun come up changing the sky into colors of all sorts of wonderful. The peak could be seen clearly and I noticed it was covered with snow. What could I do? I’ve already committed. When I got there, I bought an extra bottle of water and a kimbap to go. The actual hike started at 6:48am.
“Here I go,” I said to myself. Well placed paths through the woods made it a smooth and easy beginning. I attempted to position myself so that I wouldn’t be too close to other people so I could have some peace. This went on for about a good hour until I hit snow. This was what I both expected and feared. I did NOT have the right shoes for this. I had my nike frees. Then, I thought to myself that someone long ago must’ve done this trek without good shoes at all. So with that, onward I went. I ended up hitting many paths that my shoes were not designed to tread so I used the other resources God’s given. I pulled at tree trunks, well-rooted plants, and even dug my hands into the snow to get myself up that mountain. At this point, I was really grateful for an able body.
The last 2.3 kilometers would prove to be quite difficult. Everything was now covered in snow and ice. This is when I realized how much I hated the thought of not completing what I started no matter the danger or reckless nature of it. Staying low to the ground and grabbing whatever I could lay my hands on to help me stay up, I kept at it. Then, I was somehow on it. The summit. I took in the view from the top with relief and anticipation. It was beautiful. Another self-realization: when I conquer something, it brings a deep sense of joy and satisfaction.
With the wind causing my hair flying all over the place, I took many deeps breaths in and out. I took a few well-deserved selfies and asked my other mountaineer stranger friends to take a few for me. It’s been so much easier for me to strike up conversations and talk to strangers, which was nice after a nearly 3 hour hike with silence. I looked over the famous 백록담 all frozen over. Some thoughts. Maybe I could skate on it. How do I get down there? This would look nice in warmer weather too. This place is named after white deer supposedly. Where are they?
The cold finally got to me and I gave a final and semi-loud so not to disturb others “woo-hoo” before my descent. I looked down and gasped a little. Had to pep-talk myself on the way down. The man-placed ropes proved to be of utmost use as I belayed myself down backwards the snow-capped slopes. The most treacherous parts came when there was nothing to really hold onto. That’s when I literally dropped to my bottom and slid down these parts. Most of the way down, I literally slipped and slid and wiped out more than I would’ve liked. I was met with a lot of kindness on the way down though. People offering me their walking sticks and helping hand. A pleasant surprise.
The snow and ice came to a stop and now came the fun part. Sprinting through the woods. Making sport of it I carefully placed my feet on the rocks and wooden planks on the run. I love the focus and attention I have to give it. I slowed down a bit when there was no one around in order to enjoy the scenery and breathe it all in before it came to an end. Along the way, I got to see a few wild deer thanks to a stranger who ended up being not such a stranger. More pleasant surprises. The hike was definitely worth it.
Bali Day 07. There’s a research that said that for every single bad thing that is said, you will need 5 good things to counteract it. That gives so much power to that one negative thing don’t you think? BUT, it’s true. This final day in Bali made me forget all the good things in Bali. Food poisoning & Jetstar.
I rarely get sick and even when I do it’s never major. In general, I also have a fairly iron stomach, but it stood no chance against whatever I consumed on my final day in Bali. I could feel a massive headache trespassing the insides of my brain. The game of cold and hot was being played throughout my entire body causing cold sweats. All this as I entered the airport for my cancelled flight. Thank you Jetstar.
I silently prayed that my eyes were deceiving me due to my current state of being, but despite every other part of my body failing, my eyes did not. It was cancelled. After an unsuccessful and irritable dispute with the representatives, I was placed on the next flight to Sydney via Adelaide. Great. Thank you Jetstar. I’ve always wanted a downgrade from a direct flight to a layover flight! Can you feel the cynicism? Arrived at Adelaide airport, still very very sick, to be interrogated and fall victim to a not so subtle form of racism as I was placed in a line of only Asians for a drug check as I watched all the other Caucasians zip through customs. Of course, after all that, I have Jetstar to thank again for another cancelled flight to Sydney. They graciously get me on the next flight, which would be in another many hours. Thank you Jetstar. The cynicism is very real and still very very sick.
As I wait those many hours during my layover laying on the ground shivering still, I secretly start wishing that when I arrive to Sydney that they’ll just deport me on absolutely no grounds. I get homesick when I’m actually sick, but doesn’t everyone? Everything in me was saying ‘give up already’. But of course, I don’t get shipped off because domestic flights don’t go through immigration. For the final stretch, I drag my extremely worn and sweating body onto the train and walk it straight home into the bed making me forget everything good. That’s right. One day with a series of unfortunate events has the power to erase the six days of amazing goodness. Crazy eh? I need to stop giving that so much power. Agreed?
This was probably the highlight of my time in Bali. The sunrise volcano hike.
Pickup time: 2:00AM Drive time: 2 hours Hiking time: 2 hours ETA: Just in time for the sunrise Difficulty: Semi-difficult due to sandy, rocky grounds. Slip and slide all day. Injury: Pieces of rock embedded in skin. No biggie. Soundtrack: “All is for your Glory” on repeat Bonus: Stars out at 4 AM, feeding lots of leftover banana sandwiches to our monkey friends and listening to Jams scream all the way down 🙂
Bali Day 04. I’ve wanted a tattoo for a while now. Like a really long time. I made sure that it wasn’t some silly phase. I gave it a few years. Like literally. So when in Bali … I ended up not getting a real tattoo just a trial. The man made it obscenely big (I’d want it smaller and just the word) but I kind of liked having one. A reminder to be fearless always.
Day 03 of Bali. Wanted to keep a low profile so decided to stick with parasailing and Turtle Island. Pretty low profile I’d say. All I will say though is that parasailing was the best two minutes of my trip. Felt like I was flying for two minutes. But still two minutes feeling like you’re flying in heaven is better than zero minutes eh? Bet that’s how I’ll feel in real heaven but like ALL the time.