Hiking Mt. Gayasan, South Korea
Our hotel, the Gaya hotel, was located right at the entrance to the Gayasan National Park.
It was a wonderful and unplanned blessing, to discover how simple it was to find the beginning of the trail.
In preparation for a long day of hiking, I ate a Korean hot breakfast which consisted of steamed rice, pickles, a soup and steamed greens.
The friendly forest ranger gave us some tips about the hike.
She told us that if we choose the hard trail, it will take us six and a half or seven hours.
If we take the easier way up, it will take us five hours.
She also added that the more difficult hike is more beautiful, with striking views.
We decided to take the easier path up at first.
Climbing a mountain is never easy, and this was a rocky mountain, which is much harder than a nicely forested mountain.
As we turned into the beginning of the easier hike, a group of about 100 weekend hikers followed us.
The prospect of hiking with a hundred people did not seem so appealing…
So we turned around and started the arduous climb up the hard trial instead.
As if they read our minds, the whole group turned around also and looked at the map of the difficult trail, and proceeded to follow us up the hundreds of stairs.
Thus started our long, eight hour difficult hike with hundreds of weekend hikers.
We let the group of a hundred pass us, so we could hike with leisure.
We like to stop often to take photos and catch our breaths, and the trail was very narrow with only occasional room to pass.
But this idea did not work out as we planned….. Soon, another group of forty hikers came by, and another and another and another…..
We resigned ourselves to the idea that we had chosen to hike on a weekend, and that we would have to make the most of it and enjoy this Korean cultural experience.
The hikers were well equipped with full hiking gear, and most were good hikers.
Almost everyone was fit.
We spoke to the leader of one hiking club, and he told us that they all go hiking together once per month on a weekend.
Gayasan was a challenge.
We started with a long and steep climb up man-made steps into the forest.
After about forty minutes of steep climbing, the forest gave way to a more rocky terrain, and our path was full of rocks.
At times, we climbed over large rocks which could have been very slippery if it had not been a lovely sunny day.
In some areas, I saw signs suggesting that you should rope together to avoid slipping and to ensure safety, but nobody used ropes and we all managed to make it through narrow pass ways and up high boulders .
The views were spectacular.
We climbed one rocky peak after another; at times, it felt like walking on the back of a mythical dragon.
We climbed and descended the scales of the dragon, climbing up and down the rocky terrain.
We could see the next peak from where we stood, and at times I could see a snake of people wearing colorful hiking clothes, climbing on peaks that seemed impossible to reach from where we stood.
Yet, as I put one foot in front of the other, we too reached that peak and then another one after it, and another….. The same way every major task in life is achieved… You take one small step at the time in the RIGHT direction and soon enough you find yourself half way there… And then you are nearly there… Etc
The other hikers brought full hot lunches with them, including thermoses of hot drinks.
We only had some nuts and a few bars of sweets.
A guide of one hiking group, who spoke good English, asked us if we had a good lunch.
When Jules said that we only had a snack, his group all sighed in sadness and offered us some sweets.
As always, the higher we got the harder the climb was.
At times, the park had erected many hundreds of steep steps to help hikers make it up the steep elevation.
We took the easier way down, which as I suspected, was not really easy at all, but definitely not as strenuous as our climb up.
The trial down followed the path of a rocky river, and in a comfortable area, we sat in the rocks, took off our hiking shoes and dipped our tired feet in the crispy cold water.
It was so cold that I could only keep my feet in the water for two minutes at the time.
Sitting on the rocks, tired and sweaty, we chatted about a patch of irritated red skin that Jules has on one of his legs.
We spoke about how it seems to get better when we go to the beach and when he swims in salty waters and spends time in the sun, and how it spreads out and gets worse, when he gives it no sun.
Jules and I have a private joke.
We do not subscribe to regular western medical practices.
We invented a personal physician called “Doctor Gumby.”
The name Doctor Gumby started when we bought some vitamin gummy bears, to take on a trip with us, so if we had the need to suck on a candy, it might as well have vitamins in it, and not just sugar and coloring.
On that trip, I got sick with the flu, and all we had with us were those gummy bears.
Jules, who during the trip told me not to eat this gummy bear junk, suddenly insisted that I take the gummy bears as if they were real medicine.
He said that those were Doctor Gumby’s orders….
Thus the name doctor Gumby had stuck with us in our jokes.
Doctor Gumby always suggests wonderful healing remedies that include eating cookies, drinking unsweetened yogurt smoothies for digestion, or Coke for diarrhea, lots of lazy time and sleep on the beach, a rest with a good book…. Etc.
This time, our personal physician, doctor Gumby, suggested that we fly to Thailand to spend six weeks on the beaches.
Doctor Gumby recommended that we needed to lazy around, eat tangy, zesty, delicious Thai food…. Snorkel and dive….. Perhaps go to the less busy Phi Phi islands in Thailand….
Anyway….. back to Gayasan mountain – the hike took us the whole day and we arrived at our hotel tired and dirty from clambering over rocks and spreading our bodies over dusty boulders.
We took showers and washed our clothes, took a long nap and woke up to have dinner, and went straight to bed again for more and more sleep…… Doctor Gumby’s orders.