The trip so far
All to plan. Torrential downpour in the morning, cleared in time for the hike up the mountain, Sun in the afternoon and a spa to finish the day.
The added bonus was that I even found an empty cabin so I didn't even need to pitch the tent.
Cycling miles : 60km
Hiking miles : 8.5
Total: 119km / 74 miles
It was bucketing down. It took me a while to find the start point of the 4 rivers trail by the fact that every road was now a river...
In fact as daylight progressed, the rain got harder.
4 Rivers Bicycle Path : Yeongsangang
An old colleague told me about the 4 rivers project - cycle paths along the four principal rivers of Korea : Seemed like a good start to plan my journey. However the information desk was resolutely shut.. In fact it looked so bleak that the rusty and forlorn rent-a-bike summed it up well
The road to Wolchusan
Fortunately it was never the plan to follow this trail at this point: rather head off for a hike in Korea's smallest National Park; Wulchusan. The cycle path next to a dual carriageway soon stopped at the point where cycles were no longer allowed to continue. This was the first real map issue. Korea doesnt do maps. Show a map of an island, say Jeju, to a professional driver he or she will just look confused as to what the blue stuff surrounding the green stuff means. So I plotted my route using Naver, a Korean mapping route similar to Googlemaps, with 2 distinct advantages
Dr Wangin's Relics
As I was cycling right past here, it seemed rude not to pop in... and the guard took pity of a wet cyclist and waived the $1 entrance fee. Apparently this chap (Dr Wangin, not the guard) played an important role in Korean history and artifacts relating to his life and achievements are scattered all around South Korea. This was his birthplace.
See visitkorea.or.kr for more information
Wulchusan National Park
The temple looks as if it has just been restored. The grounds were effectively a building site, guarded by a Jindo dog - a breed native to Jindo, a large island off the coast of Jeollanam, and Mokpo in particular
Whilst the bike was looked after by the park wardens, I set off, anticipating that I could do the 4 hour walk in under 4 hours. Hahaha. There are two trails to the top, one of which goes across the Cloud Bridge, a suspension bridge attaching two sgraggy peaks to each other.
After the bridge things got trickier. Lots of steps build into the side of the cliff, and at other times, just rungs built into the stone with an occasional handhold. Carrying on was easier than turning back but there was definately an increasing nagging feeling of the difficulty of getting back down again afterwards. This is, most definately, the most demanding walk I have done in Korea.
Just before the peak, at a junction to another path, there was a gate... presumably its closed when this particular route is too dangerous to climb. I wondered who would just nip up the mountain to do such a thing (I had already walked for 2 hours by this stage).
The 5 minute rest at the peak lasted 15 minutes whilst posing for zillions of photos for Koreans who apparently have never seen a white bloke before. At least not on top of their mountain. ( To be fair, in 9 days of travelling, I met only one other westerner).
The Northern route down (also marked as Expert) was, thankfully, less precarious than the sheer drops and minimalist barriers on the way up!
On the way down, a couple of girls offered Tea (how could I refuse) and further down a couple offered me and other hikers fruit. I have yet to meet the Koreans that offer alcohol... my students seem to have got this knack, thought they havent yet learned to say "Yes" and then let me have it...