Monday, October 13, 2008

Chapter Fifteen: Climbing Apsan

Yesterday, I went on another one of my solo journeys. It was great and while I still feel sad about being so far from my friends, as well as having such trouble making friends, it was really important to do this for myself. I was able to push myself, keep climbing for myself, and do everything because I wanted to. I didn't feel judged, I didn't feel pressured. I was in my own world. In the past, I'd never wanted to do anything physical because I've always been so out of shape. I always feared people would judge me. Also, it seems like the only chances I've had in the past were with people who were pretty into hiking and climbing. When I'm new at something, I want to explore it on my own. I don't want people always telling me the right ant wrong way. Are the rules really that important? I also had so much time to think about everything on this adventure. What is my personality, now? In this new life I lead? In Korea, after Smith, after The Breakup, as an adult, as a teacher, as cook, as an ex-pat? What am I really doing with my life, what do I want to happen each day, each week, until I leave? What do I want to happen when I get home. I'll save the introspection for later, now for the pictures of Apsan!
This is quite a long post, feel free to just look at the pictures. I may add a video later of me talking about my experience if you're not inclined to read.

Above is the park at the base of Apsan. It was a nice park and got me ready for my climb. I was so anxious that I didn't really notice anything about it.

The most beautiful thing I've seen in Korea so far! This is what I had expected it to look like! This is the entrance to a Buddhist temple (which was active and had people worshiping so I quickly got out of there). I cannot believe the detail.

This is what I thought Korea would be like. I mean, clearly, not everywhere, but I was really happy to finally see it. It looks like the cover of my guide book and I was standing right under it! It's the most amazing ceiling I've ever seen, and it's just the entrance. And seriously, I saw some amazing things in the UK and Greece- but this beats them all.

No need for words.

You can see the people worshiping in there. I wish I could have gone closer, but again, did'nt want to intrude!

All these things were really powerful to see. I feel kind of silly blogging about them when I can't do them justice. But I need to keep a record.

Lit candles, I wonder for what?
I think at this point I had been climbing for about half an hour and I was using my zoom to try to determine how high up the peak was. Answer: Far. Real' far.

Another temple. I walked up a paved path to this point, hence the cars. I'm pretty sure if you don't take the wrong route, you might be able to drive up the mountain? Inside the temple, there are people worshiping. I didn't want to get any closer because I respect them and don't want to disturb. But I wonder what's inside, it must be so pretty!

Just a little closer to take a picture of the cute cartoon monk!
Seeing all the Buddhism made me spend a lot of time thinking about people and spirituality on this hike. I don't think I've been very good at seeing "the light" inside of everyone since I left Smith. While I'm still an atheist, I really wish I could go to Quaker meeting here.

So the path started off paved, then went to cobblestones, then somehow I ended up on a dirt path. At this point in the climb I am starting to worry that I took a wrong turn off of the tourist path because... it's definitely not easy anymore.

About 20 minutes later: What the crap? This is the path that I have to climb? This is definitely not a tourist path anymore. But there is no way I'm turning back to find the easy path. I just keep going. There are no more business men on their cellphones and everyone has real hiking gear. I think I am the only one without a walking stick. They all smile and seem to respect the foreigner for not being stereotypically lazy. Eventually, we are all so exhausted. We share those "boy howdy, I am so tired. What am I doing?" smiles.

A few minutes before I took this, I got the sense that I might actually be getting near the top. I had no clue up 'til now when I started seeing a lot more light coming from up ahead. I can't read Korean so I have no idea what the trail signs were telling me about distance. At this point, I know, it's the top. I am still in disbelief, thinking it must be some big ledge. How long has it been? Probably about an hour and a half, I can't possibly be at the top. But man, if you thought those huge rocks were hard... stairs. They really did me in. Each one was like tearing all the muscles in my body.
You know that Dylan Moran sketch about how he can't handle talking about Germany and all the advances they've made in the past 60 years because he just keeps thinking "Nazis, Nazis, Nazis" and that they look like pork? Yeah. I look like pork. I have probably never been so red in my life. I was exhausted, dripping sweat from even the front of my knees, but I never felt so good in my life. I just walked up high enough for my ears to pop! That's crazy!
Which path to choose? I ended up going one way for a long time, then turning around and coming back. It was a nice hike.

Another peak in the distance, it seemed higher, so I decided I must get over there somehow.

First glimpses of the city. I cried. I could not believe I had made it up there; I had really done what I set out to do. I couldn't believe this beautiful place is so close to home, that I live down there! This is really my life.

I've stopped being so red and I'm feeling really good. After only a few minutes of walking around the top, I felt amazing. I couldn't even imagine what I must have felt like just a few minutes before when I couldn't lift my own legs. I felt like I could keep hiking for hours, and did!

I was over on that ridge not too long ago, looking over at this one!
Everyone's feeling pretty introspective.

Again, so red-faced. Doin' a Korean pose, just like the people standing right next to me.

I sat down to eat my homemade carrot cake peanut butter sandwich (I'm really getting amazing at this stove-top baking thing!). I was in heaven, it totally hit the spot. Then this really sweet old lady, whose family I had ended up walking near pretty much the whole trek, gave me rice cake! I love old Korean ladies. I'm told that they just really, really want us to like Korea which is amazing. Did I mention that I did not see another foreigner at all yesterday? Seriously, my whole trip to Apsan, up Apsan, and back from Apsan- not a one! I guess that made me stand out. Also, I think she was thinking "What the hell is that Westerner eating? That is not hiking food." What's funny is that the two types of food have pretty much the exact same principle: carbohydrates to get you going (carrot cake and rice cake) and protein to keep you going (beans and peanut butter). I was honestly thinking that I should bring some extra to share in case any Korean ladies give me food. Next time, I will for sure. They also tend to give me free stuff when I am shopping with Nicole and Arthur. It's quite a life. Of course, I thank them emphatically.
My new hiking shoes, all nice and dirtied up. This was definitely the best large purchase I've made in a long time. I would have died in my Saucony's. They were also on sale, which made them infinitely better. Instead of 156,000 won, they were only 80,000 won. (If the won weren't doing so poorly right now, that would be roughly $80.)
My buddy here sat with me while I ate my lunch.

The Ice Cream Shop at the Top of the World! (ala Douglas Adams and The Restaurant at the End of the World). One ajima, one pack, a lot of ice cream, and a lot of dry ice becomes an ice cream shop. Not one person walked by her without buying ice cream. It was impossible to refuse. You think, "I just climbed this freakin' mountain, hell yeah I deserve some ice cream." I'm always amazed at ajimas and how they can alway sell things, but climbing a mountain with a pack full of ice cream and dry ice, that's a new level (okay, she probably took the cable car).

I pointed to a melon wrapper, she said "No melon," and handed me vanilla. So I got vanilla while I definitely would have prefered red bean. Then I saw her give melon to a kid, I guess she was saving it for them? Or do Westerners not get melon? I couldn't complain, really, because I was in such amazement that for a mere 1,000 won I could have ice cream up here!

Eating ice cream at the top of the world! I love this photo and I think it's kind of an explanation of who I am these days. I'm on my own, but happy about it. I'm at the top of a mountain that I climbed myself (gag me with the metaphor!), looking exhausted, eating ice cream, with a huge sprawl of civilization not too far behind me. Also, I look silly and happy, which I generally am, honestly.

Hey look, there's something down there. Must go investigate.

I'm pretty sure I was that high up before.
The Restaurant at the Top of the World! Much like the Ice Cream Stand at the Top of the World! I had though about the Douglas Adams correlation with the ice cream stand long before I even saw the restaurant. It seems bizarre and out of place, a definite symbol that I am getting closer to the more developed side of the mountain.
Getting deeper into the developed part of the mountain top.

On this side of the mountain there were a ton of power and phone lines. Probably for the restaurant at the top of the world!

Daegu from the fortress wall thing.

Phone booth at the top of the world! This is right near the cable car, so it's less strange. There's another restaurant nearby.
View from the cable car. I took the car down because I was afraid that I would take a wrong turn on the way down and end up on the wrong side of the mountain in some strange district and not be able to get home.
Korean totem poles! I didn't actually notice these on my way up, I was so tired already.

I know you can barely see it, but there's definitely a Korean fighter plane hanging out in those trees. You could probably go look at it, but I was too tired. Another thing I didn't notice on the way up!

1 comment:

  1. Hello...

    While I also run eflblogs.... thanks for the contribution... i teach and live in daegu as well... i know korea can be a tough place at times... sounds like you have made some decisions but regardless i wanted to offer my support to you!!!

    again thanks for the blog add and get in touch if you ever need someone to chat with.. etc