Saturday, September 28, 2019

Day 1, Leg 1

To be frank, Day 1 of the walk was kind of brutal. I ended up popping two Advil caps about halfway through the walk, and I'm pretty sure that the meds, plus about an hour's rest (normally, I never stop for an hour), allowed me to finish the day's walk without collapsing into Kev-jelly. My feet hurt. My back hurts. My hip joints hurt in a way they haven't since 2014. I'm a little bit worried that I might develop pains that prove to be impossible to ignore or to fight through.

It's not helping matters that, despite having taken over 100 pics today (I promise not to do more than 20 from now on), I can't upload them all at once to Blogger via my phone: I have to upload the little fuckers one at a time, dinosaur-style.

Tell you what: I'm going to upload only 35 images (via email, and then file transfer) to capture the spirit of today's walk. I'll eventually put everything in Google Drive and allow free, read-only access to the pics. Here we go.

I left the motel later than I had wanted to, but I also hadn't slept that well: I overslept, in fact, and despite oversleeping, I got only two hours' sleep. I had wanted to reach Geomam Station (below) and hit the 5:55 a.m. train to Cheongna International City Rail Station so as to be ready for the official start well before 7 a.m. Alas, I reached Geomam Station at 6 a.m. and ended up taking the 6:15. Here's the pylon with the station's name:

The station itself, which is clean, well-equipped, and very nice-looking:

Below: a lost (or tossed) bauble. An omen, perhaps?

The familiar windmills that normally mark the end of the line for me whenever I walk from Seoul to Incheon—a thing I've now done many times. This time, though, my approach was from a different direction, and that felt weird to me:

Is it tragic to round the figure up to 633 kilometers (about 393 miles)?

Step over to the other side of the arch, and "FINISH" becomes "START":

Dead, thoroughly flattened snake. An omen, perhaps?

You see that blue sign for the Four Rivers trail (below) all the way down to Busan. It really is a well thought-out, well constructed, and nicely maintained network of paths for biking and walking:

Couldn't help myself. I see a shwimteo (쉼터), I photograph it:

"The beacons are lit! Gondor calls for aid!" Smoke beacons:

Another shwimteo:

As potted plants go, this is one big-ass bastard:

God's cock ring (and people can walk all over it—scandaleux!):

Do you see the kids on the stairs in the pic below?

I took a long, long rest underneath the Gyeyang Bridge (계양대교). Not knowing the exact hanja for gyeyang, I like to think it means "eggsheep," some mythical creature from a Korean folk tale that brought fortune to a farming family until the evil uncle got selfish and slaughtered the eggsheep, golden-goose-style.

I rested here for a bit over an hour to give the Advil time to work its subtle magic on my aching feet, shoulders, and hip joints. The meds work fast when you've got an empty stomach, and while it's a shame to be using the meds already on Day 1, I really didn't have much choice. It was meds, or give up.

This text on the side of a nearby coffee truck descended into Konglishy gibberish almost immediately, and I loved it. I want to encounter the legendarily rapturous, diabolical, and angelic soft ste.

Go to the geese, thou sluggard: consider their ways and be wise!

I'm not sure that geese are the birds to learn from. From what I saw, they were just a bunch of white, honky motherfuckers.

The stretch of the Ara Canal that you have to walk to get to or from the Four Rivers Trail's starting point is about 15 km long. It's a pleasant walk, and you see a lot of bridges along the way:

There's a sculpture garden along the Ara Canal path. It's not far from the Han River. I decided to break the "don't step on the grass" rule and photograph my good friend, Mr. Gorilla:

This Hyundai Cruise boat passed me a few times, going in both directions along the canal. My brother David used to work on the Odyssey, a dinner-cruise boat that plied the Potomac River. The idea is that you pay a premium fee for a high-end dinner plus some entertainment, and you have plenty of opportunities to walk along the outside of the boat and enjoy the passing sights for about three hours. David told me, back in the late 90s, that the boat captain got sick of all the couples doing the Jack-and-Rose "I'm flying!" pose after "Titanic" came out in 1997. As a country, we've outgrown that particular behavior, but I think we're now mired in others.

Flower pics! For Bill Keezer and others, including me. Korean landscaping is a fairly cynical business that has nothing to do with working with nature; plants are shoved into the soil, then a few months later, they get ripped out and carted away while other plants are shoved into the soil in their place. This can't be good for the plants, but that's life in Korea.

However, the two flowers shown above were growing in the wild:

There were some huge orb-weavers out along the path today. I pulled a Brian Dean and put my hand behind one spider so my horrible phone camera could focus on it (enlarge the photo below to see the detail!). In all, I don't think I was as successful as Brian, but the pic came out well all the same:

This next spider pic was taken with my camera's digital zoom, which actually allowed the camera to focus—sort of—on the spider. I especially like the dramatic angle of this shot (which you can also enlarge):

The flowers and the spider pics were all taken after I had left the Ara Canal and begun to walk toward the Han River path. There's a stretch of about two kilometers that feels liminal, i.e., you're not quite done with the Ara Canal, and you're not quite at the Han River.

This sign, like the one in "M*A*S*H," points everywhere:

Middle-aged dude on utterly random rock-climbing wall:

What I failed to photograph were the cute young ladies standing at the bottom, waiting for the man to splat (so they could dig through his innards and eat his heart...?). But, wait: we're not done with the flowers:

Nor are we done with the spiders:

The Gayang Bridge is where I stop walking east and turn south to duck back into Seoul. This has become a traditional stop for me: there are hotels and motels in this part of western Seoul (called, appropriately enough, Seo-gu, i.e., the West District), and there's a certain restaurant that serves mediocre food, but which has become a mainstay whenever I'm in this part of town. The bridge is close:

I don't actually walk up to the bridge. Slightly before it (as you see below) is a set of stairs winding around an elevator that takes the old, the handicapped, and the infirm up the easy way. Once you're at the top, you cross over the freeway (I assume this is the Olympic Expressway, but its name may or may not be different in the Seo-gu area) and find yourself in a bustling part of town.

I'm walking toward my restaurant, now, and when I look at this landscaping rock, I think it's striated like a brisket, and now I want to eat the rock:

A peek at this area's version of downtown:

Another peek at downtown: a centennial celebration of athletic competition:

And here's a closer look at what appeared to be a decorative leather-bound book sitting on a shelf in the restaurant where I ate lunch. Looks can be deceiving:

So I'm here in the EG Hotel, and I'm still alive. The walk started fairly early but ended late because of both the extra distance (5 km) and the unwonted need to take an hour-long rest break in the middle of the walking day. I don't regret taking the rest break, but given how long it takes my pain levels to reset to zero, I need to finish my daily walks as early as possible so as to maximize resting time.

In terms of equipment: my Gregory Baltoro 85 backpack seems to be working just fine, including the chest strap, about which I'm still paranoid. Any aches and pains associated with wearing the pack are no different from the aches and pains of my previous (and slightly larger) Gregory Whitney 95. There are a couple straps on the back of the pack that are becoming a pain in the ass because they obstruct the U-shaped zipper that allows the hiker access to the pack's main compartment. I guess I'll get used to the way the pack is set up; I just need time.

We had an equipment casualty this morning, alas: I somehow failed to repack my bamboo Hyoja-son (roughly, "hand of the filial son") back-scratcher, so now, it's in the clutches of the Techno Motel staff, I guess. I might buy a new scratcher when I'm in Yangpyeong since I plan to stay two nights there. Plenty of time for a little emergency shopping.

Stats for today, according to the pedometer, which is accurate only when it comes to counting steps:

The miles are definitely exaggerated. 25.68 miles comes out to 41.33 km. I walked only 35 km, and slowly. Luckily for me, 35 km is the longest distance I'll have to cover until we're at the very end, when I'll have a 38-km leg to walk just before I reach Busan. Not looking forward to that, but I ought to be several kilos lighter by then, so that ought to help. Keep in mind, too, that the 5400-plus-calorie reading is a gross measure, i.e., it's my activity plus my basal metabolic rate. I may have burned a gross total of 5400-some calories today, but I probably burned around 4800 calories purely by walking.

As for the water situation: I ran out of water with 15 km to go. That's not horrible, but experientially speaking, it is kind of horrible. Being thirsty while walking is a morale-drain on the order of walking in cold rain. Luckily, there were vending machines along the way that allowed me to buy bottled water, so all was not lost. What this means, though, for my hydration plan is that, while I'm probably going to ditch my heavy hydration gear in favor of bottled water, I'm also going to have to buy three liters of water to last me through any given day. There's a point during which I'm camping two days in a row; on those days, I'll have to plan ahead and buy more water since I'll no longer have my filtration/purification system. We'll see how that goes.

Day 2 is only a 30-kilometer (18.6-mile) walk back to my apartment. This ought to be a lot easier than today was. I'm just glad to have gotten through the day with my sanity intact and my feeties still functional. I did buy some extra ibuprofen once I got back into town: this is the el-cheapo Korean stuff, which means you have to take two capsules at a time, not just one. We'll soon see how good it is at quelling pain. Tomorrow promises to be a test, too. Fingers crossed.

Apologies for typos and weird editing. I'm half-asleep and half-dead as I type all this, so my ability to spot errors and own-goals is mightily diminished. I'm also wondering about the photo-upload situation on those days when I don't have access to a decent desktop computer. No matter: I'll figure something out.

Photo essay:


  1. Congrats on finishing the first day!

  2. Ouch! Well, no pain, no gain and all that BS. Seriously though, I hope this was just a day 1 body adjusting to a new reality kinda thing.

    Great photos, look forward to more.

  3. Good to hear that you are still alive! Good luck on the next leg.