It took us almost two years to finally go ice fishing. Considering what a fishing fanatic I am this is actually ridiculous. Each time we planned to go our plans were thwarted by work (the Korean last minute “didn’t we tell you about it two months ago-you have training on Saturday”) or weather (the -17°C plus wind chill factor that us Durbanites just can’t handle).
Christmas in Korea
Friendsmas Eve Dinner
|Thanks to Hedgers Abroad for the group snap!|
Christmas Day Lunch
Christmas Themed English Camp
Jirisan National Park
Snow Much Fun
Walking up the road, we giggled profusely as we slipped around on the melted snow. We wondered how on earth we were going to manage this walk up! It got a little better, with much thicker snow and by now my excitement was all there! Clapping hands and stomping my feet I couldn’t contain it. Hailing from Durban, South Africa, snow is still a super exciting and novel thing, especially when its real snow and a SURPRISE!!! So commenced the snowball fights (or more like snowballs to the bum from HaYeon) and the kids gloves were soaked before we even got to the trail head!
The actual walk was so beautiful. It wound along a little road that was completely covered in soft, fluffy, fresh white snow! I couldn’t stop ooohing and aaahing and saying how beautiful and magical and wonderful it all was! Despite the snow, we were blessed with fairly “warm” weather and beautiful blue skies. The walk to the shelter just before the peak took us a little longer than expected (due to many picture stops and the kids building snowmen at every opportunity). We were rewarded with great views and some wonderful soft white snowy areas to make some snow angels. We sat down to have our little picnic of peanuts and chocopies. Some very kind men next to us gave us one of their cup noodles to share! We love experiencing this Korean kindness!
We didn’t make it to the actual peak after having our picnic – the children were cold and tired. Mark and I also wanted to get going at a reasonable time. A 3 hour trip back home on a Sunday evening isn’t the best. In saying that, it is still an easy hike with great views and a great trail. We walked a total of 9,5kms (including the extra walk from the bottom car park) and it took us 4 hours (all that photo taking and snow frolicking). The entrance to the park was W3000 per person. We had such an enjoyable day, and we would highly recommend it to anyone! It was really great to see another part of Jirisan and experience it in a completely opposite season too!
Friday Night Lights
Korea has an abundance of many things, mountains and National Parks are near the top of that list. What better place to show of your latest hiking gear in seasonal colors than hiking a mountain inside a national park? Or, if like us, you don’t have matching couples hiking gear and when you’re keen to head up a mountain you just wear whatever is handy and go. This often brings a few stares and questions like: are you going to be warm enough, cool enough and possibly some variations of are you seriously going up the mountain in that? Maybe they were just laughing at my skinny legs?
Seoraksan National Park
Seoraksan in the Fall
Our second visit to the park was during Autumn and the main reason was the see the foliage in all it’s splendor. We were not disappointed. This time around we chose a shorter hike up to a cave that housed a temple (of course) as well as a monk who lived up there! The hike started off as a pleasant walk through the forest with lots of leaves to oooh and aaah at. Things get a bit more rough underfoot as the trail goes along a river, which was quite impressive, there had been a lot of rain and it was in full flow. The rushing water provided a great soundtrack to our hike. After this things got a bit more serious as we started to climb. The trail goes past Biseondae, a rock which has some Korean folklore attached to it. After this you head straight up to the cave housing the temple. The view from up here is breathtaking and on a quiet day the monk will even brew you a cup of tea.
This is very well managed and you can buy tickets ahead of time for a specific time that day. This means you don’t have to wait in line for ages. Once you reach the top there are a few look out points and another short trail that goes even further up. Take this trail. It’s worth it. The trail goes to the peak itself, which unlike most viewpoints in Korea has no railings or platforms. Most people just scramble up the steep mountain side to see how high they can get too take the most impressive photo. Unfortunately for us it had been a rainy weekend and there were lots of clouds about when we got to the top.
We don’t often travel with tour groups, but for something this far and action packed, sometimes it’d just easier. How do you prefer to travel – group tours or on your own?
Before I left South Africa I’d become quite hooked on running. Particularly trail running. I had done a number of races of varying distances, some stage races and a few road runs. My highlights being a 3h54 road marathon as well as the 73km Golden Gate Challenge (3 day stage race with some massive climbs). Kayley also did her fair share of running back in SA, she actually convinced me to try my first trail run. She has completed numerous trail runs, many 10kms, as well as a half-marathon.
Overall running in Korea has been a positive experience. It is a great way to explore new suburbs and trails. It also, for me at least, is a great time to think and reflect or to just zone out completely and forget about everything else. Another benefit is that it keeps off a few kilograms so you can try more of the delicious food!! This is a constant battle as we love trying all the food in new countries, and have really loved Korean food.
Do you have any running stories to share? Have you tried a race in Korea? Let us know in the comments below!
I made my way back to the dam near Yongwon in due course and it has since become my go to dam for a quick outing after work or before work in the summer.
|Some of the fish caught there|
The technical stuff
All three are relatively easy to fish off the bank as you can walk around most of the banks. There are lots of well worn paths from other fishermen. The small dams do have a lot of vegetation on the banks and by the height of summer some areas were inaccessible. In summer I also found there to be quite a few ticks around as well as hordes of mosquitoes so plan/dress appropriately.
|Few more fish, the two in the right were caught at night.|
Korea has been blessed with a few things – endless mountains immediately spring to mind. But they also have an incredible number of islands and peninsulas scattered along their coast line. Some of these are absolutely stunning! You could almost believe you were on a tropical beach anywhere else in the world. What better way to enjoy them than with some beach camping?
As we had gotten there quite early we had the beach almost to ourselves. Later in the afternoon a few other families set up camp just for the day. A large hiking group came to celebrate their hike, but left as soon as it got dark. We spent the day lounging around on our inflatable “sofas”, sipping on local makgeolli and taking dips in the ocean to cool off. This led to us hiking up the side of the small cliff next to the bay to watch the sun go down. Excellent idea as it was an absolutely stunning sunset. The beach is also referred to as sunrise beach – they are quite impressive there. If you’re not to keen on waking up early the sunset is a great alternative…
Here’s a quick video of our weekend in Goheung!
Hooray for public holidays and Buddha and his birthday… especially when you want to go somewhere far away in Korea and use public transport to get there! This day off in May was welcomed with open arms as it gave us the opportunity to make the seemingly endless bus trip from Busan to Sokcho on a Saturday morning. Giving us almost two full days in this seaside town.
Things started off a bit rocky though as we couldn’t book tickets for an overnight bus online while using the English website only to figure out too late that we needed to use the Korean site to make payments, by this time all the tickets were sold out. When we eventually got to Sokcho and wanted to check into our ‘confirmed’ guesthouse, only pay when you arrive no deposit needed, we were told our room had been given away as it was a long weekend and he had called our friend who made the booking and she hadn’t answered. We did eventually find a motel who agreed to house all 5 of us in single room with 4 beds. Was a bit squashed but manageable. (the owner/manager was also really friendly and gave us rice cakes)
Dinner that evening consisted of the famous, dakgangjeong (sweet and sour chicken). As for most famous things in Korea, this involved lining up in a queue at one of the many stores in the market, all selling the same style chicken! It was pretty damn good, though! This was followed by production line sandwich making for our hiking trip in the morning. We planned for an early start in the morning to head out to Seoraksan National Park (SNP).
The day started with a local bus to the park gates, we got there at about 7am. Surprisingly enough there were already lots of people!! We had scanned blogs, websites and brochures and decided on a hike up to Ulsanbawi rock for the morning. The 4km hike up takes roughly two hours to reach the peak. You can see a large amount of the park as well as all the way to the coast and the seaside town of Sokcho if it’s clear enough. This was quite a strenuous hike to the top and there were loads of stairs to climb up the rock face. The views at the top and the sense of achievement were well worth it though. This was also our first ‘real’ hike in Korea and we were very surprised at the amount of walkways, stairs and bathrooms along the way. As well as the beer/drinks/snacks for sale at the Buddhist temple halfway up and right at the top! Hiking in South Africa is very different.
After we made our way back down we needed some ice cream to recuperate and sort out the jelly legs!! Suitably refreshed we decided we hadn’t had enough for one day so we would attempt another hike, to Biryong Falls. A much less strenuous hike, but still scenic. It was quite an easy walk along a river running through the park and up to two waterfalls and back down again along the same route. Of course at the top we joined the rest of the hikers in taking off our shoes and socks and dipping our feet in the somewhat freezing pools. The scenery along the way was beautiful and I was constantly stopping to peer into the pools along the way to see how many fish I could spot.
After this we went and waited for our bus back to Sokcho and headed to the beach for a swim, the water was freezing though and we didn’t last very long even though the day had turned out quite warm. That evening we went for Shabu Shabu, which we felt we deserved after all the strenuous hiking. This was also our first introduction to SoMek (beer and soju mixed) which went down rather well.
Our bus back to Busan the next day was only in the afternoon so Kayley and I rented bicycles and rode around the Yeongnangho Lake for an hour or so. This is a naturally formed lake, with bicycle paths, walking bridges, sculptures, foot baths etc running just about all the way around the 7km perimeter. We were quite surprised to be stopped along the way by a Korean family who then handed us some juicy tomatoes to snack on. Since then we’ve experienced this kind of hospitality on countless occasions and find it to be a very endearing cultural trait!
The furtherest we had been away from “home” in Korea at this point. But what a great trip. WE have a little policy about not visiting a place more than once (only because there is just soooo much to see in this beautiful world) but we couldn’t get Seoraksan out of our heads, and had to try it again in the fall.