Sunday, October 20, 2019

Day 23, Leg 20

I can't tell you how glad I am that the worst weather of this trek did not coincide with the worst terrain of this trek. But I again managed to dodge a bullet thanks to whatever compassionate angel or bodhisattva is guiding Naver Map because, for a second time, Naver plotted me a route that skirted around a mountain and avoided the second of two very nasty hills. The route it chose, though, was kind of dangerous as it put me onto back roads that had little to no shoulder. The final 7 kilometers of today's route were off the beaten path of the Gukto Jongju, but the plotted course led me to the CF Motel in Namji-eup, so no worries: I'm still walking an unbroken line down to Busan. Alas, I nevertheless had to deal with the first nasty hill of the day, and it was more of an ass-kicker than I remember. I also didn't remember that the hill had curves: in my memory, it was a merciless straightaway tilted at a wicked angle. But, no: in reality, the hill had curves, and the curves hid the fact that the hill kept going up... and up... and up... I remember being halfway up the hill and realizing I still had the other half to go. Any notion of Accept every hill fled my consciousness, to be replaced by the word FUCK.

So I was a bit like a beaten dog after I'd climbed that hill and rested for a bit. I knew a second, equally nasty hill awaited me later in the day, so you can imagine my relief and elation when I realized that Naver was steering me clear of the second major obstacle of the day. Not that there weren't other, minor hills to challenge me, but there were no other hills like the one I tackled this morning. Thank Cthulhu that's over. And if I'm not mistaken, that's now it for the hilly terrain from here on in. There might be more minor hills, but there won't be anything scary or discouraging.

So I'm back at the CF Motel. A different, less-helpful lady greeted me this time. At first, she flatly stated she had no rooms available. I said okay, pivoted, and started to leave. Suddenly, she called me back and told me she had a room for W40,000, and she'd give a W5000 discount if I paid in cash. So I did. I asked her about staying two nights, and she said she'd have to check, so I need to consult with her tomorrow morning. It would be a real pain in the ass if I had to move to another motel tomorrow. Checking into a new place before noon would probably mean having to pay an early-bird penalty.

Anyway, I have a room for at least tonight. I limped out to find my fried-chicken place; when I found it, the guy actually remembered me, and I asked him to make me the same awesome chicken tenders he'd made last time. God, I love Nae Nae Chicken. (I think they might romanize it as "NeNe.") They're not shy with the breading, and they fry their chicken until its crunchiness is actually loud.

I took the opportunity to air out my sleeping bag and wash everything else in the bathtub: my muddy groundsheet, my poncho, my windbreaker, my backpack's rain shroud, and of course, all my skanky clothing. Then I gave myself a much-needed shower, and here I now sit, all a-sparkle. It was a bitch to find places from which to hang-dry everything, but after an hour or so, I'll shift things around and use the room's electric fan to assist in the drying process.

This isn't the same awesome CF Motel as before, though. The fridge was a leaky mess; I had to use a wastebasket to catch a massive amount of water that had pooled into a fridge tray. Maybe, if it turns out that I will have to move tomorrow, I'll go next door to the spanking-new Hotel Heitz, which still has its Konglishy "Grand Open" signs out. I bet their fridges don't leak.

Walk stats for today:

And now: some pics from yesterday.

A different truck driver dropped me back at the dam in the morning. He parked in the exact same space as when the first guy picked me up and took me to Jeok Gyo Jang Motel the day before.

Here, I'm walking across Hapcheon Changnyeong Dam:

A view from the dam:

Each dam has its own unique structures:

Did I mention that Hindus attach great significance to churning water? The confluence of two rivers, for example, is of great religious importance in Hinduism:

One of many long stretches:

Rock face:

A variation on my me-and-my-shadow pics:

A wide shot of the Nakdong River:

Let's switch to this morning. If ever there was a day when I didn't want to get up and face the challenges before me, today was the day. My phone's alarm rang at 4 a.m., but I stayed inside my bivy until 6:30 a.m. and didn't get under way until an hour later, after I rolled up my sopping-wet (and muddy) camping gear and overdosed on meds to get me going. I admit I really, really didn't want to face those big hills.

I actually slept better last night than I had during my first night of camping, despite the creepy noise of local predators that made angry "Mrawr. Mrawr. Mrawr." noises, sometimes uncomfortably close to my campsite. I still don't know if those things are mammals or birds. My boss guessed, back in 2017, that they could be Korean neoguri. Whatever they are, they can't be making that noise when they're hunting: they'd frighten their prey away. So whatever the noise means, it's probably related to social communication, territory, dominance/threat, or some combination.

Animal noises aside, I did eventually get up, pack, and trudge onward into the morning mist:

At the end of today's walking day, I think I'm now about 100 km away from my goal:

What the phrase "dew-bedizened" was coined for:

The nasty hill begins gently, somewhere before the 10K mark, before it turns vicious:

At this point, I think I've photographed enough dead animals and insects to create a "Poor Bastards Who Didn't Make It" gallery:

Photographing the snake gave me an excuse to stop and catch my breath. The hill now steepens and worsens:

The graffiti on the concrete walls flanking steep rises tends to be in Korean, but this English-language graffito caught my eye and echoed my sentiments:

This is a photograph taken at the halfway point. Very demoralizing. I don't think this hill is much more than a kilometer, if that, but let me tell you: by the time you reach the top, you've earned every fucking meter:

Nearing the top:

Made it to the shwimteo! Time to pop some pain pills, down some water, and take a 25-minute siesta to give the pills a chance to kick in:

Victory's-eye view #1:

Victory's-eye view #2:

This Korean-language graffito seems to be the cousin of the scrawl I'd shown earlier: this one below says, roughly, "Ow, this is tough going."

The descent:

Un village pittoresque:

View from a bridge:

Every abandoned glove tells a story:

Part of my dangerous route, thanks to Naver:

Entering Namji-eup:

An aggressively painted church:

The hilariously named (Just) Okay Restaurant:

The Aquarian angel who watches over my motel bathtub:

So I'm either here at the CF for another night, or I'm off to a different motel tomorrow. Whatever happens, at least my clothes and my equipment will be clean.

Hard to believe that this coming week is my final week on the trail. On Tuesday, I'll spend one night at the Miryang Arirang Auto Campground; on Wednesday, I'll walk halfway to Yangsan and spend the night at the Nakdong River Inn. On Thursday, I'll arrive in Yangsan and spend two nights there. Then on Saturday, I'll finish my walk and end up in Busan, at the Nakdong River Estuary. Tuesday's walk to the campground will be the last walk that's over 30K in length. I'll be glad to be done with such long walks. Hell, I'll just be glad to be done.

Photo essay:

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