Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Day 11, Leg 9

So I'd forgotten that my arrival in Chungju proper was actually the moment when I hit the beginning of the Saejae portion of the trail. I've been sitting on top of the Saejae for two days, and today was my first full day along this, the third part of a four-part path that began with (1) the Ara Canal connecting Incheon to Seoul, then continued with (2) the Han River and Namhan River sections through Seoul, Hanam City, Yangpyeong, Yeoju, and Chungju. Eventually, I'll hit the (4) Nakdong River Trail. I'm on the Saejae path for four days. I seem to recall there being two major hills; if there are, then those will hit me during either Days 3 and 4 or Days 3 and 5. Tomorrow's walk, Day 2 of the Saejae path, is a mere 13-kilometer stroll that takes me just short of the five-kilometer doozy leading up to Ihwaryeong. On Day 3, I hit that 5K hill and end my day at San Gwa Gang Pension after a walk totaling 26.4 km, that hill included. Day 4, weighing in at a nasty 31 km, ends at the end of the Saejae, and I'll find myself at the spot where the Saejae and Nakdong paths meet. This is also the spot where I had the terrible guest-house experience two years ago, but now that I know there's ein Kampingplatz right up the street from the nasty guest house, my fat ass is going there for the night. First of four nights of camping.

Today's walk started off cold enough for me to see my breath. My fingertips even got a little cold, which made me glad that I'd thought to bring my gloves. In terms of terrain, Day 1 on the Saejae was relatively flat, with nothing to truly challenge me.

I did, however, suffer a long moment of temptation when I was about 7 km from my slated destination: I saw a spanking-new hotel called the Chungju Jayeon Hotel, and it looked to be operational. It was around 1 p.m., i.e., toward the end of my hiking day, but not that close to the end, and I seriously considered just calling it quits right there and marching up to that hotel. You'd have been amused by the devil/angel screaming match going on inside my head at that moment. It was truly biblical. Dr. M. Scott Peck, in his pop-psych classic The Road Less Traveled, argued that the most basic human character flaw is laziness. If there can be said to be a "physics of the spirit," then concepts like gravity and inertia would apply to spiritual matters. Laziness is a function of both spiritual gravity and spiritual inertia: gravity, insofar as the human tendency is to find the downward path of least resistance; and inertia, insofar as the human character resists switching tracks once it decides on a certain course of thought and action. Laziness, then, was the devil on one of my shoulders today. It's the devil that always tells me I can sleep another 40 minutes when my phone's alarm sounds at 5 a.m. It's the devil that makes me think, now and then, about how nice it'd be just to take a bus back to Seoul and spend the rest of my break lazing around in my apartment with nobody else the wiser.

Anyway, that devil was more of a challenge, today, than the terrain was. But that's going to change in two days when I have to face the Ihwaryeong climb. (For reference, look up 이화령 휴게소 인증센터 on Naver Map. Pay attention to the contour lines.) I'm happy that tomorrow's walk is only half the length of today's: I can leave my current hotel late, and I can take my sweet time a-walkin'.

What else was of note today...? Spiders. They're ubiqitous. It's almost as if they're this country's silent custodians, sentries posted everywhere and watching everything. I also saw several more of those gray-black praying mantises. Some gigantic bug tried to fly into my face, but I flailed my washcloth at it and managed to shoo it away. Oh, yeah: I had the misfortune of seeing a woman at a distance, crouching behind a car and taking a surreptitious dump. She was hidden from the sight of her fellow campers/fishermen, but fully exposed to me. Ick. Dat ass.

I tried to pay closer attention to the names of the watercourses I followed today. I remember only one: the Dal-cheon. The Saejae path actually takes you away from all the great rivers, but you do end up following some creeks and other rills and runs.

Nodded greetings to a few non-Koreans I saw on the path today. When I finally made it into the tourist trap of a town I'm in now, I ate beoseot-jeongol and later saw a confused-looking white dude staring into his phone as he stood in the middle of a quiet street. I assume he was GPS navigating back to his hotel, of which there are several in this town, with more being built.

Speaking of hotels: I'm back at the expensive Suanbo Sangnok Hotel, and I don't know why. Even with a 40% discount, the cost of my room is W91,000. I guess that's fair, given that my room has three beds in it. Unfortunately, it's also got an ondol (floor heating) system, which makes the room way too hot. I'm trying to counteract that with the room's A/C, but as they'd have said in the 1980s, the A/C is worthless and weak. (The 1980s is a time long before people used witticisms like, "This sandwich is made of fail and AIDS!") You'd also think that such an expensive room would come with a fully functioning desktop computer, but no: it's just Wi-Fi here, and surprisingly weak Wi-Fi at that. So again, no link to the Google Drive folder with all the walk photos. Sorry.

But I'll splash a few pics below for your delectation. Let's start with today's walk stats:

Let me revise what I said earlier regarding the calorie count: while it is indeed the gross figure, you may as well take it at face value: the count starts at midnight and represents all calories burned up until the moment I take the screen shot, and what's more, I'm walking while encumbered, which the counter isn't taking into consideration.

Side note: I'm still fat, but I've officially lost two inches off my waist. Belt holes are a standard one inch apart, and I can now cinch my pants' belt two holes tighter. Woo-hoo! That ought to be six inches by the end of the trek: a whole average-sized penis, if global stats be trusted! (Yeah, yeah: I can hear some of you going, "Speak for yourself.")

The stone at the corner of Chungju's famous martial-arts park:

I forgot to mention that I limped into a store last night and got into a discussion with three older people who saw my tee shirt and asked me what was up. I wish I'd had my camera with me; they were warm and friendly and curious. They gave me some barley tea to drink while we talked; the lone man in the group proudly mentioned that he had biked the Nakdong River section of the Gukto Jongju. In the end, they wished me luck; I walked out, and that was that. It's a shame, sometimes, that my introversion keeps me from forming deeper connections with obviously worthwhile people. At the very least, I wish I could have taken their picture.

The beginning of the Saejae section:

Morning mist:

A bumper crop of Styrofoam this year:



Korean suburbia:

Utterly random stone otter:


Arachnid guardian:

Stone lion:


We speet at zee glamping, non?

Fresh chilies:

Un pommier:

Rice, almost ready to harvest:

How you know you're in the Suanbo area:

Jovial jangseung:

The restaurant where I ate lunch was empty because it was around 4 p.m., i.e., not quite the dinner hour. The lone lady tending the place was a good sport about my awkward arrival time, though, and she served me with no hint of resentment.

Pre-prandial selfie:

The side dishes that came with the mushroom stew (beoseot-jeongol, 버섯전골) I'd ordered:

The lady herself, not stopping for a pose:

And finally, the mushroom stew:

I'd been seeing ads for this stew for the past several days, so, curious, I finally ordered some. It wasn't bad; I appreciated the earthy taste of the several varieties of mushroom. But the broth wasn't particularly strong; and the thinly sliced beef in the broth basically disappeared into the background. This is the opposite of a dish like ddukbaegi-bulgogi, where the beefy taste is front and center. In the end, though, I found the dish inspiring enough that I want to try making my own version of it. If I use proteins at all, they'll be more along the lines of fish, shellfish, and/or chicken. I actually think those would go better with the mushrooms. The West has its own traditional mushroom soups and stews; I'll be looking into those as well, especially as the weather gets colder.

And that's it for today's entry. Knowing that I can leave fairly late tomorrow and still make my destination with time to spare, I took my time putting this post together.

Photo essay (October 8 pics):

1 comment:

  1. Another good day it appears. Enjoyed the photos you managed to post.

    I can really relate to what you say about the "physics of the spirit". Gravity is a bitch for sure, and I wrestle with that devil all the time. Anyway, on today's Wednesday walk I had that screaming in my ears thing going when a couple of the guys took a shorter route. But I plugged on thanks to your inspiration on overcoming laziness...

    Keep it up!