After all that’s happened in the previous week or so, it was imperative to do something that would revive my faith in humanity. We needn’t rehash all that you can read on the January 22 entry (https://nikoli28.wordpress.com/2011/01/22/217/). It’s good to know that people are out there doing positive things and enjoying their experiences here, like Jill (http://www.theothersideofthemoon2009.blogspot.com/), who is buying our bed from us today.
Also, from the lack of in-depth writing or even providing much photographic evidence, you may think that our training for Nepal has fallen off. This isn’t exactly the case; I’ve been jogging, Nic’s been doing a regular cardio program, and we’ve still managed to get out on the mountain a few times a month. Nonetheless, both Nic and I were a little nervous about the big hike we’d planned for Sunday with Pete. We didn’t lose sleep, but would our fitness and the old nagging physical deficiencies exacerbate over the cold 8 km day?
The weather wasn’t that cold. In fact, it was the best day for hiking we’d had in three weeks. Low winds and a temperature in the upper 30s had us peeling off layers of clothing (including my new windbreaker from REI) before we even reached the ridge. At 0930, we started at Silla University on the trails where Pete and I used to hike around a couple times a month back when I started teaching at the uni.
By 1030, we were on the ridge where we’d spend the rest of the day trekking up and down peaks, summiting five or six throughout the day. Along the way, we said hello to the many people, shared our oranges with a group who gave us warm deok (a sticky rice cake coated with powdered red bean). So many times on the mountain, I’ve received food from strangers (one time, even a couple swigs of cognac to wash down a kim bap). Most of the time, I don’t care for doc, but the cake was still steaming. We each had some and were grateful, the fruit and water we packed may have been a little light for the day’s undertaking.
Despite our under-planning in the food department, the locals along the way helped us out. We (meaning Pete, who has more than survival hangul skills) verified our bearings with a friendly woman and we made it, after five hours, to the cable car in Gumjeongsan Park. As we rode down, I took stock and realized my knee joints were fine since they were nice and warm the whole day. The muscles surrounding my joints were satisfyingly fatigued and sore (as muscles should be). Nicole had no problems with her asthma, leading the charge up the last steep climb like a sherpa.
We got to the first warm place we could, ordered home-brewed dong dong ju (rice wine), hae-mul pah-jan (seafood and green onion pancake) and bin dae duk (pork and veggie pancake, firmer consistency than pah-jan). At my behest, HunJong joined us for these traditional Korean hiking treats so he could talk with Pete about their respective websites.
HunJong later departed and we went to a German-style beer hall nearby. We arrived at 1730, ordered some sausages and pilsner and awaited the Bulgarian band to start at 1900. Shortly after the band started, the place was packed with Koreans coming off the hill and families who’d spent the day at the largest spa in Asia (Hurshinchong) upstairs (http://www.fnetravel.com/english/pusanhotels/nongshim.html). Yanick and his Korean friend Andy joined us. Soon, we were dancing and mingling with the locals. Nic and I took a twirl in our hiking gear, much to the delight of the surrounding revelers. Nic even befriended a couple little kids. By the time we left, we’d been at the beer hall for more time than it took us to do our hike.