Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Finally back on the road.

Autumn festival just passed in Korea (Chuseok), and we had a four day weekend to celebrate.

Gord and I went on a cycling/hiking tour of the area north of JinJu. We visited two National Parks, summited two peaks and cycled a couple hundred kilometers through the country side. We stayed in a Zen Temple, camped on a riverside, and spend a night at a JimJil Bang. It was a trip with a lot of firsts for me in Korea. I'm looking forward to seeing more of Korea in the coming weeks.

We stayed at Haeinsa Temple. It's another UNESCO world heritage kind of place in Gaya San National Park. They keep a hundred thousand or so of these 500 year old wooden blocks that some monks made to print Buddhist Sutras. We attended the evening chanting, and woke up to the gong at 3 am for more chanting and meditating. It was a really great experience.

We summited Gayasan on the first day after cycling to the park. A nice peak with a good view of the valleys below.

Too cool for school.

On the second day we left the park to cycle 70 k to the next park. Note the Autumn colours! I realized I haven't experienced autumn in three years (Taiwan being tropical/sub-tropical).

This pagoda was just across the bridge. I was just stepping off the bridge when I saw a small brown snake at my feet. I stepped quickly to the right and found myself standing over a much bigger snake with bright green, blue, and red markings. I jumped up in the air at the same time that it lunged at me and managed to get a few steps away. To be honest, it was not the lightning fast lunge that you might be imagining. It was fairly early morning, and I think the snakes were warming themselves in the sun. They weren't in top form anyway.

Yellowing rice fields along the way.

We found a great campsite just outside of the second park set against a natural waterfall.

Gord raided the apple orchirds in the morning for breakfast. That apple was almost as big as my head.

The third day we hiked 9 k on a deserted trail to summit a mountain that turned out to have a gondola on the other side! This is what that looks like. Gord is indicating that this is the seventh National Park he has visited. He's trying to visit all 20 National Parks in the country and climb their respective peaks.

After the hike, we rode into the nearest town and checked into a JimJil Bang. They must be a phenomenon unique to Korea. It's often called a Sauna, but it includes hot baths of differing temperatures as well, including a refrigerated pool. The unique part is that after bathing for a couple hours, you can retire to common rooms where everyone passes out on thin mats for the night. These places are full of families passing through town, so it's an interesting atmosphere, made more interesting by the fact that everyone is wearing matching cotton shorts and t-shirts. There was a restaurant, big screen televisions, and coin operated computers located among the common rooms. Good times.

And finally, a portrait of my bike. Two of these carvings (male and female) were traditionally found outside of every village to ward of evil spirits. But, these two were just looking good on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.

And that was that.


Katherine said...

Aaron, I love the portrait of your bicycle. Those carvings remind me slightly of totem poles. Always good to hear of you adventures.

Aaron Franz said...

And maybe they have the same function as a totem pole?

Can't remember.