Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The First Weekend Trip- Taebaek

Great weekend! London and I traveled to the Taebaek Mountains (pretty much straight east from Suji) on Saturday morning. It was exciting to just be on a bus, knowing that we were leaving the great metropolis of Seoul for somewhere calmer, greener, and less-polluted. We arrived in Taebaek with pretty high hopes of clean air and nature!

However, we were in for a rude awakening when we stepped outside the Taebaek bus terminal to a dingy, run-down looking town. And cool temperatures (which we did not pack for). And rain (which we foolishly had not accounted for). We had about 5 hours until London's boyfriend Fred and his roommates arrived from Pohang...and some pretty downtrodden spirits!

We saw a sign for some caves and tried to walk toward them...out of town...in the rain and cold...carrying our travel packs...for over 5km. There was NO way we'd turn back, even though the signs for the caves were becoming fewer and far between...and the hiking along the roads was becoming a bit treacherous! We needed Taebaek to redeem itself! We did reach the caves, a few hours later- and they were worth the trek. My first cave! A real, underground cave! We got our hard hats and were on our own underground...I can't believe I didn't even get claustrophobic. Apparently Korea has been good for me in a few ways!

And speaking of conquering fears...the next day we hiked up Taebaek Mountain, to the Munsubbong peak. This was a real mountain climb- climbing over rocks and boulders, hanging on to rope railings at the more unstable points. We couldn't see much of any view until just about the top- I think that saved me from feeling the vertigo! Bridget just reminded me today about how scared I was to climb Diamondhead Mountain in Hawaii all those years back...she says that I must have been doing that all for attention, if I'm climbing mountains with no problem now!

The views at the summit of Taebaek were absolutely amazing...I kept telling myself that I wasn't going to give in to all those cliches of becoming so inspired and enlightened by reaching the summit...but I had to! It was such an awesome feeling to reach that peak- there were 360 degree views of mountains as far as you could see...and amazing stone altars scattered across the plateau at the top of the mountain. I had heard that the mountain is integral to Korean culture- something about how they believe in its power and spirit. It was so easy to understand that while standing atop the peak- not only because you could see other Koreans meditating, praying, and even singing to the stone temples there, but also because the feelings of just being there were so overpowering. I can't put it into words too well- but I hope that some of my pictures captured it.

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