Mountain rescue with park rangers – Wunaksan

 

_DSC7092_DSC7105

A day trip to Wunaksan was full of blue skies and cheery friends as the beautiful scenery slid by.  We climbed around bends, up stairs and enjoyed fresh mountain air joking about everything appropriate and significantly less so.  Naughty nicknames, dirty jokes and cries of awe made our trail the perfect place for a Sunday.

_DSC7098

 

 

 

 

 

_DSC7096

It was a chilly winter day although not quite as frigid as my last winter hike.  Luckily hiking warms you up and we quickly took a few layers off.  Even so, before I knew it I was sweating so much that I attached my jacket to my backpack as the ice & snow began mixing into with our trail.

_DSC7112 _DSC7169 _DSC7166

_DSC7118

_DSC7135 _DSC7137
Slipping and sliding along ironically someone ALWAYS fell when we discussed hiking boots, slippery spots or the necessity of crampons (spikes).  This brought about even more bouts of laughter when suddenly, the main peak came into view!  I scrambled up the rock for a better view while the rest of my party opted for the easier trail around.  We posed for a few GoPro selfies as I envisioned the beautiful panorama seen below.

_DSC7227_DSC7129 _DSC7134

Wunaksan Panorama

The section ahead looked treacherous.  It was barely wide enough for one.  Fortunately a fallen tree acted as a handrail and the ice wasn’t too bad.  Suddenly I heard Warren shouting.

“SEOUL HIKING GROUP!”

“When I say Seoul, you say HIKING!”

We excitedly joined in when it abruptly changed to “1, 2, 3 SUZY!” (not her real name).  We followed along not quite sure why the change but shouted with him while hiking.  Moments later we found him in a panicked phone call.

“Can’t you just climb down?” “What do you mean you’re stuck?”

“1, 2, 3 SUUUZZZZYYYY!”

The worst had happened.  A hiker was lost and panicking alongside our fearless leader.  Warren’s stress level was rising, and the language barrier wasn’t helping.  I immediately took over. Continue reading

Lost in Namdaemun Market

Namdaemun Market was recommended to me by a coworker last Friday.  Its a market at the South Gate of the royal palace.  Namdaemun translates roughly to “South Gate” and my Sunday plan was to wander around the market in the afternoon and grab lunch.  I googled the market and took out my map, it appeared to be near Seoul Station so that’s where I headed.IMG_20130908_151248

After a few stops and a transfer on the subway I found myself exiting Seoul Station up a long escalator that took me into a vast open pavilion with towering skyscrapers surrounding me.  There was a taxi stand and an abundance of people flooding in from all directions.  I heard hundreds of Korean phrases but that didn’t hep me figure out where to go.  I took out my map and found Namdaemun to the south and west of Seoul Station.  I oriented myself with a quick glance at the afternoon sun and off I went.

IMG_20130908_151345

Walking down the busy streets I saw an assortment of art and sculptures.  Their addition to the already vibrant cityscape helped brighten the scene.  I walked past a number of restaurants as signs of poverty became more frequent. The sidewalk grew dirtier when suddenly I saw a sign for a homeless shelter and foodbank.  At the next intersection I took out my map and found a sign indicating that the Sookmyung Women’s University was to the right.

IMG_20130908_153332

IMG_20130908_153337

The streets climbed uphill and the shops became livelier.  The sidewalk was lined with college students and brightly colored advertising.  I had to be close.  The street I was looking for is parallel to this one, now to find it.  I turned down a sidestreet in search of Namdaemun.  As I left the university I saw more garbage on the side of the roads and small unkempt apartments.  The backdrop of luxurious skyscrapers gave an odd aura to the scene.IMG_20130908_153441

IMG_20130908_153641

Namdaemun had to be here somewhere.  I kept going weaving in and out of the main road; the market is supposed to be massive.  How could I have missed it?  I turned the next corner and saw the entrance to, well, something?  A huge rock and banner likely told where I was, unfortunately it was in Korean.  I kept walking up the steps and quickly realized I had stumbled upon a school.  There was a middle school baseball game being played not far ahead but no market.

IMG_20130908_153727

IMG_20130908_153821

Heading back to the main street I found a map indicating that I was near Namyeong station.  I took out my map to try and get my bearings with the two when I heard in nearly perfect English, “can I help you?”  A couple noticed I was lost and offered some much needed assistance.  I told them I was looking for Namdaemun Market, apparently I was 3 subway stops away with a transfer.  I had been heading towards Namdaemun on my map but apparently that was just a street name.  The actual market is at the Hoehyeon subway stop. These two stops flanked Seoul Station.

IMG_20130908_154954

IMG_20130908_165555

A quick ride corrected my error.  Inside the subway station there were even signs for the market; I followed them and as I exited the subway I could hear the bustle of the market growing louder.  Upon exiting the subway I was thrust into the middle of it all.  Hundreds if not thousands of people surrounded me as we all perused the goods.  The first shop I saw was selling fruit on a stick; I had my choice of watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple and a few I didn’t recognize.  I opted for pineapple and began chowing down as I headed deeper into the market.

IMG_20130908_162742

The sights and smells were overwhelming; everywhere you turn there was something new being sold.  There were all kinds of jewelry, clothing and footwear; exotic snacks and tourists struggling to understand how much their souvenir cost.  Locals came through for their groceries and household goods while others like myself were simply enjoying the atmosphere.

I turned down a corridor with permanent shops.  The path was narrow as I was forced to walk between a merchant and his wares.  He mumbled something in Korean.  I kept walking having no idea what he was telling me.  There was a tailor measuring a customer not far up while his counterpart or perhaps rival sat meticulously sewing away.  A store with glimmering kitchenware caught my eye.  I could use a new frying pan and perhaps a couple dishes.  I browsed his wares but, finding nothing that suited me, kept walking.

IMG_20130908_162902

The corridor ended abruptly in a T.  To the right I could hear traffic on the street although it was hidden from my view.  I went left and the path opened up again to the crowded market.  Was this the same section as before?  I couldn’t tell but was enticed into an haberdashery.  I took note of a few items but decided I didn’t want to accrue more luggage until my school situation was sorted out.

IMG_20130908_163520

At the next intersection the bustle came back to the market.  The smells were tantalizing here.  Fried dough, fresh fruit, seafood of all kinds and other exotic delicacies.  I passed a pile of steaming crabs, the chef had to keep dragging them back to the pan; they were obviously unhappy at their predicament.  I opted to try a snack that resembled a corn dog.  It was some kind of fried doughy coating surrounding a choice of sausage, cheese, crab, squid or mystery vegetable.  I got the sampler with a small piece of each.

IMG_20130908_163713

I strolled past a bar with foreigners struggling to order while Koreans chatted away.  Having finished my snacks and realizing I wasn’t buying anything I decided it was time to head home.  Finding the subway turned out easier than I expected.  In my latest wanderings I found myself next to the fruit stand from earlier. Getting home was much easier than getting here but then again now that I know where to go next time won’t be so bad.