If you go to a place called Hwareyong [화령재] along Korea's Baekdu-Daegan Trail, you'll see something about like this:
Following are more pictures of the area around this giant stele [seven meters (23 feet) in height] and comments:
A third attempt at video-making a part of my hike (the first two: post-158 and post-157).
It was a rainy and eerily-foggy October 10th. When the rain let up for a while and the fog lifted, it looked like this:
Try to imagine what it was like on this particular day--
I reached Yukship Pass [육십령] on the afternoon of October 4th, following my detour to Nongae Shrine (post-160).
These passes are often tunneled to preserve the integrity of the ridge-trail above:
Like most of the southern half of the trail, Yukship Pass sits on a political boundary, dividing Gyeonsang Province from Jeolla Province. The two southern Korean regions have different accents and are in fact different in a lot of ways. It seems they've disliked each other for longer than Europeans have been Christian. (They had competing, rival states for a long time, until one of them was finally stamped out of existence by the other over a thousand years ago.)
I saw that there was a village on the Gyeongsang side of the pass, only a few hundred yards away from the border itself. Here's what I want to know: Do the residents have "Gyeongsang accents"? Do they dislike Jeolla? I don't know, but one indication of how strong the rivalry between Jeolla and Gyeongsang is (maybe), even at the border is this:
I veered off the trail on Friday, October 4th to visit a nearby (impressive) shrine to a minor Korean historical figure called Nongae [주논개]. It was near her birthplace in Jangsu, Jeolla Province.
The shrine was mostly empty at midday on a non-holiday Friday, which was good; it was also free, which was better still. The grounds were very large and well-kept.
Who was Nongae? She was a patriotic assassin.
The Japanese, it seems, conquered the Korean city of Jinju in 1593. Afterwards, they held a victory celebration, and they compelled the local gisaeng to join in (a gisaeng was a Korean female entertainer like a Japanese geisha). One of these, named Ju Nongae, won the affection of a top Japanese general. During the victory festivities, the general and his entourage (including Nongae) moved to a scenic spot on a high rock overlooking the river. Suddenly, Nongae embraced the conquering general around the neck and threw herself over the edge, which took him down as well. They both drowned.
Earlier this year, I also happen to have visited the very rock on which this murder-suicide happened. The rock is called "Uiam" within Jinju Fortress. (Nongae is given the title "Uiam" in honor of her act.)
Nongae is a symbol of patriotic loyalty for Koreans.
Here are some pictures from the large, open grounds of the shrine:
I spent the weekend of October 19th-20th in Jeomchon [점촌, 문경시] in Geyongsang Province, taking a break from hiking. I was happy to find a large Homeplus there to stock up on supplies. They even had a pretty-good potato salad.
Here are some pictures of Jeomchon:
Like post-157, here is another attempt at presenting, in video form, a moment in my ongoing long-distance hike.
From the top of (what's left of) Mount Geumsan, near the town of Chupung Pass [추풍령].....I hope you enjoy:
Some more information about Geumsan:
A little video I took at the summit area of Samdo-Bong [삼도봉] ("Three-Province Peak") and then edited together with text. You can adjust it to watch in HD, I think:
Summary and Explanation
This footage was taken by me on the early morning of October 13th at the summit area of Three-Province Peak [삼도봉] where I had camped the night before. More information about the peak below:
I am now in Gimcheon, not far from the train station. This city, or this part of it, seems to be dominated by students: Everywhere I've looked, at all times of day (in my two days here), they've been loitering or walking or talking or eating or whatever else. I can only guess why.
I regret that I haven't had the opportunity to post much during this trip, due to lack of computer access (though I have kept notes in a notebook). I've only written two substantive posts on my hiking trip as it's developed so far, though I could've written many more.
At the "PC Room" in which I now sit, I've majorly revised and updated post-155, "The Mystery of the Halmi Holes (Or, Finding North Korean Foxholes in the Mountains)". I'm not certain that what I found are North Korean in origin, but I think there's a compelling case to be made for it. I'm open to all suggestions and I think it's an interesting subject.
I have to pay by the hour to use the Internet at these "PC Rooms". This one costs 1,200 Won ($1.00 U.S.) per hour. I'll leave here soon and try to find the E-Mart in this city. It's my only hope, I think, to find some peanut butter to make sandwiches for the next big leg of the hike.
One way or another, I'll return to Seoul around November 1st. Thanks for reading.
The following is the story of how I came to ask myself:"What would foxholes dug in 1950, abandoned for sixty years, look like today?" I'd found what I suspect(ed) were North-Korean-made foxholes near the trail. It was October 5th.
October 5th is the day I reached Halmi Peak [할미봉], with its spectacular views:
My day began on a seldom-visited stretch of trail north of Yukship Pass (육십령), still a few miles south of Deogyusan National Park (덕유산). I'd camped the night before. It was windy all night.
As I was packing up in the morning, a solitary thru-hiker came through, another middle-aged Korean man. He'd slept at Yukship Pass and he asked me something [in Korean]. I'm about 80% sure that he asked me why I'd camped in the forest and not down at Yukship Pass. (The afternoon before, I'd asked a guy sitting in front of the closed grocery store at Yukship if I could camp there, and the guy had said "No" [in Korean], so I moved on. I have no idea who he was or by what authority he'd said 'No'.)
The man was soon on his way. This all happened before 6:30 AM. We were both headed north, approaching Halmi Peak (Or Halmi-bong [할미봉]) and from there entering Deogyu National Park.
This was the view along the way:
I think it's no exaggeration to say that it felt a lot, to me, like "being in a cloud" to be on the summit of White Cloud Mountain (Baegunsan in Hamyang County, Korea [함양군 백운산)]).
I was 1,279 meters above sea level, and totally alone.
I reached the top on October 2nd, about 5:30 PM, or 45-60 minutes before navigable daylight was gone for the day. (I'd worried I might not be able to make the steep ascent before sunset; that I did make it was cause for celebration.) I'd come from Jung-Jae Pass.
White Cloud Mountain rises from 695 meters above sea level at Jung-Jae Pass to 1,279 meters above sea level at its summit and the guidebook writers warn how hard it is. I'd just come off of two days' rest in Hamyang, lucky for me, so it wasn't too bad.
On October 1st, I woke up in Hamyang, marking two weeks that I've been on this hiking trip.
Walking around Hamyang reminds me of Forest City, Iowa (near my father's hometown). They are similar in size, both have clear main streets, and despite being small they are "the city" for their respective counties.
Hamyang Population and Density Comparison
In post-150, I wrote:
I am now in a small city called Hamyang (pop. 20,000 in the city [읍] another 20,000 in the surrounding 250-square-mile county [군]), making the county area very rural -- 80 people per square mile versus Seoul's 45,000 per square mile. As I am resting in Hamyang the next two days, I have the time to relate the.. [....]
On second thought, the city population must be less than 20,000. That number is for the "eup" [읍], and the "eup" includes the area around the city proper, too. The city, the area of densest development, doesn't much exceed one mile by one mile (1.5 km x 1.5 km), but the "eup" is 27 sq.mi. Korean administrative units are confusing.
I see that Hamyang County has a population density of 145 per square mile, equal to New Hampshire's in the USA. This is way below the South Korea average of 1,300 per square mile, not to mention Seoul's intimidating 45,000 per square mile. (My home, Arlington County in Virginia, is now over 8,000 per square mile, but was about 6,500-7,000 per square mile when I was growing up -- or so I calculate from Wikipedia just now).
Hamyang County [함양군] outside the Town of Hamyang [함양읍] has a population density of only 80 per square mile, which is, fittingly, about equal to West Virginia's in the USA. I rode a bus through rural Hamyang County after I emerged from some days in the mountains (where I had met and traveled with one, and then three, friendly and helpful Korean hikers in their 40s who fed me and took care of me. That great story must wait for another time).
Speaking of West Virginia, a park ranger in Jiri National Park asked me where I was from. I said "Virginia". He began talking about how much he liked West Virginia. I think he believed "Virginia" to be short for "West Virginia".
Here's a map Hamyang City, "such as it is". Zoom out to see where it fits:
Here is a picture I took Saturday, Hamyang County [함양군], Baekjeon District [백전면], Unsan Village [운산리].
I caught the bus from near this spot in Unsan-ri to Hamyang Bus Terminal at about 7:10 AM. There were no marked bus stops anywhere in Unsan Village, causing me confusion. A Korean man, in his 50s or 60s, with an old-style hat was out for a walk that morning. I tried to ask where the bus stop was. He answered with the Korean version of "Huh?" , so I repeated slowly. "Buh-seuh". He got it that time. The man seemed to say that the bus would be coming around such and such a place in a few minutes and turning, and so I should just wait in the intersection and wave it down, not that I understand most of his words, but I think that was about it. I thanked him and he walked away, and the bus was already visible in the distance, winding its way towards us. The man's suggested method is exactly the one I used to get on the bus, and so began my ride away from Unsan Village.
Note the church on the left. I once had the idea that Christianity was mostly urban/urbane in South Korea, with rural people being more Buddhist or something, but small towns and villages also have their own churches. In the small city of Hamyang, I later saw several churches, and one woman even handed me a church leaflet and small free gift (a very typical thing to happen in the Seoul area). I didn't see a comparable Buddhist icon in the village.
Speaking of Buddhists, the bus driver was a bit fat, quite bald, and had a round Buddha-like head. His voice surprised me; it was a baritone radio-announcer voice. This baritone Buddha bus-driver was involved in a conversation at length, for most of the forty minutes from when I got on to when she got off near Hamyang City, with a woman passenger who sat in the front seat.
I was surprised to see that the bus already had about six passengers when I got on, because I knew from my trail guidebook that there was only one stop before mine, at Junggi Hamlet [중기마을] to the west of Unsan and at the very end of the county road. Mountains were all around it. That hamlet is near Jung-jae Pass [중재 or 중치], the place I had emerged from the mountains the day before.
The bus ride cost 2,000 Won ($1,85). Only cash was accepted. There seemed to be a machine for reading electronic cards, but nobody, of the two dozen or more who got on and off, used it. It must have been just for show!
Of the other passengers, all but two were elderly or nearly so. Many seemed to know each other, of course. I think the bus passed through the districts of Baekjeon and Byeonggok (백전면, 병곡면), the total population of both being 3,000 according to Korean Wikipedia. I presume many or most of these riders have been living there since birth.
People got off almost wherever they wanted; they'd just ask the driver and he'd stop. Most were "going to town" to take care of some business or other, and got off in the city. I got out at the County Bus Terminal (시내터미널), close to the Intercity Bus Terminal (시외터미널). Here is the Intercity Bus Terminal, looking very North Korean:
Here is a shot of the inside of the Intercity Bus Station, with characteristically-elderly people loitering. I think the man standing was some kind of station manager.
I was in Hamyang.
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