So here's what I got up to on my second weekend here...
Firstly I got up ridiculously early on saturday morning, as we all had to meet at the bus station for 9am. There were 13 of us going to Byeonsan Penninsula National Park for some hiking, and possibly also stopping over for the night. As usual I had to make sure I packed everything I could concievably need for one night staying over, so my bag was pretty heavy. But at least, I had some sensible footwear, as I had left behind loads of clothes in order to make room in my suitcase for my walking boots.
All week we had been planning this trip and talking about going to the beach, and swimming in the waterfall that was at this national park. But when we woke up saturday morning it was pouring with rain! It was like your typical Bank Holiday weather in the UK. But we decided to go ahead with the trip and if the weather stayed bad we would come home instead of staying over.
We all piled onto the bus, after the one member of the group who could speak Korean got all of our tickets for us. First we were headed to a town about an hour away called, Buan. Then, we changed buses in Buan for one that would take us to the park, which was on the coast. The weather was still quite miserable-looking at this point, but it wasn't cold and it had stopped raining. I hadn't eaten any breakfast before I'd left because i was still half asleep, so by the time we got there I was pretty hungry. But there were some serious hikers in our group and they wanted to get started straight away, so I grabbed a bag of weird tasting multigrain crisps and ate them and we set off. The park entrance itself was 1km away and we had to walk up a reasonably steep hill to get to it. I was already tired by the time we got to the entrance! I am so unfit! But, believe me, if I keep hiking like this, I won't be unfit for much longer
We had barely got inside the park, when we had already lost most of the group ahead of us. They had started walking, before some of us had even paid to get in, so we never had much hope of keeping up with them. Left behind were myself, Nicky, Carmel and Theresa because we were the least experienced hikers. But we decided, 'sod it, why bother trying to keep up with them? Lets walk at our own pace and enjoy ourselves.' So we took our time and chatted and got to know each other as we were climbing up extremely steep rocks, to get to the top of the mountain. Once at the top we hoped to see a Buddhist temple, but as the people who knew where they were going were in he group ahead of us and they were nowhere to be seen, we didn't entirely know where we were going. Fortunately, being a national park, the route was well-marked, and, hiking being the favourite national hobby in Korea, there were plenty of Koreans around that we could have followed if necessary. We didn't try following any though, because a some of them were practically running past us!
It took us about an hour and a half to two hours to get to the top, and we saw some spectacular scenes on the way. Have a look at the rest of the photos on www.flickr.com/photos/claireinkorea. We got to the top and there was, what we thought was, the temple. We had a look around and took some photos. Then, very proud that we had made it that far, we decided to press on and try and find the waterfall. Unfortunately, as we set off back down the other side of the mountain, the heavens opened. I was prepared for the rain, as I had my funky, flowery waterproof with me. But it wasn't so much getting wet that was the problem. The rain was making the rocks we were walking and climbing on very slippy and poor Nicky didn't have any trainers or boots with her, so she was having to walk in flip flops. It took us another two hours to get down the mountain, across some pretty treacherous rocks. Where we discovered that we made an excellent team, because at many points along the way, we all had to stop and hold hands, to help each other, as we negotiated our way across particularly difficult or dangerous places.
By the time we got to the bottom, I was exhausted, dehydrated (I'd only bought a smal bottle with me, because I understood there were places to get water in the park), and very hungry. I vowed never to go hiking again without bringing lots of food and water with me! When we got to the bottom, we found a sign telling us that the waterfall we were looking for was about another 2 kms away. We also discovered that the temple was another 4kms away and what we had seen was a hermitage, but we were too tired to make it that far. After a rest, we pushed on, in hope of seeing this beautiful waterfall...
...We finally got to it maybe half an hour later. Only there was no waterfall! It must have been the wrong time of year because there was no water! It was such an anticlimax. We were really disappointed. But there were some very nice Koreans who had stopped for a picnic there and they gave us some food. I didn't want to stay long though, because I was too tired and i still really needed some water. We decided we would head for the park entrance that was about 3kms back in the direction we had just come from. We had no idea if the others were waiting somewhere else for us or which way back they would have gone. We also didn't know if we would be able to find a bus to take us home from this entrance as it was a different place to where we had arrived.
Fortunately, when we got to the car park, there was both a bus waiting there, and some taps for water. Theresa went to find out where the bus was going and the driver said he could take us to Buan, where we could the get the bus home. This driver turned out to be a lot of fun and he was asking us all where we were from. I have learned that my reponse to that question is 'yonguk', which means 'english'. Like all Koreans this man was very proud of his country and proud to be showing it to foreigners or waeguks. So when we were driving across a bridge with a pretty view he pulled the bus over (there was only one other person on it at this point) and he urged us to get out and take pictures. He then took pictures of us as a group as well. It was a fun end to a tiring day.
When we got back to the apartments, we agreed to all spend an hour or so relaxing and then we'd meet up to watch a movie. And as, a few in the group had never seen Willow, we watched that Of course, there was alcohol involved and after the movie finished, some of us stayed up talking. I wound up not getting to bed til gone 3am. Despite the late night, we all met up at 12pm on sunday for a proper cooked breakfast at an American-owned bar in town. Of course, you know me, I don't like anything in a cooked breakfast apart from the bacon, so I had a bacon sandwich.
After breakfast, we went to Deokjin (Duck Gin) Park and had a walk around. It was quite funny to watch all the Koreans in the park staring at the huge group of foreigners walking around together. It was a beautiful day and the park looked gorgeous. Unfortunately, I was there a couple of weeks too late to see the famous annual blooms of the giant water lillies (or are they lotus flowers? I'm not sure) that cover half the park's lake. It is one of the things Jeonju is famous in Korea for.
After our scenic walk around the park, we decided to take advantage of weather, before autumn settled, by having a BBQ. So everyone went off and bought loads of food and beer and we met back up on the roof of our apartment building, where we have tables and chairs, and a gas bbq. Unfortunately, we'd only been cooking for about ten minutes when someone noticed a flame coming from underneath the BBQ. After a little bit of investigation, we then discovered that the flame had started to melt the rubber tube leading to the gas container! Obviously, we then had to give up on using the BBQ. So four of us, using two kitchens, cooked all of the burgers and sausage for everyone. It still turned out to be a good night, and when it started to get cold outside, a bunch of us carried on the party in my room. Once again, I wasn't in bed until about 3am