Last weekend I was surprised to find myself hiking 20km up a mountain. I mean, I knew that I would be hiking; what was casually omitted by the friend who planned it was the length of the trail and the severity of the incline. Not that knowing in advance would have changed anything. I still would have agreed to go, but perhaps I could have mentally prepared myself to hike 10 kilometers up 1000 meters (that’s 6 miles and 3000 feet for my fellow Americans) in one day and back down it the next.
Nevertheless, three of my friends and I can now say we conquered Jirisan, which turns out to be mainland Korea’s tallest mountain. That’s one for the grandkids.
If you haven’t noticed by my recent posts, I’ve been on a bit of a hiking binge lately. The weather is about to turn me into a shivering hermit so I’ve been trying to squeeze the last bit of hiking I can out of this country before I depart in a few months. And by spending nearly every weekend on a mountain recently, I have come to understand the norms, for better or worse, of hiking in Korea.
so, so many people. hiking is Korea’s favorite past time (after drinking, I think)
They Will Travel in Packs
droves. hoards. large tour groups arriving on buses. entire corporations on their company outing.
They Will All Wear the Unofficial Hiking Uniform
every. single. one. except for the occasional girl wearing a mini skirt and heels.
They Will Carry Ski Poles
and they will ask you incredulously why you don’t have any
They Will Crowd You and Mow You Down
personal space, what? move over or be shoved off the cliff
They Will Drink
they don’t stop for snacks, they stop for makkeoli rice wine
They Will Litter
they litter in the streets, why should the mountains be any different? (eye roll)
They Will Play Obnoxious Traditional Music From Speakers As They Walk
because apparently the mountains are not the place you go for peace and quiet
They Will Greet You
they will say hello, like normal. but if you’re foreign, they might also stop and say, “wow, you’re so beautiful, let me shake your hand!” (that happened) or they’ll shout, “Russia!” (meaning they think you’re probably a prostitute) or (in Korean), “Wow, look at the foreigners” followed by pointing and laughing
They Will Eat Huge Meals on the Side of the Trail
and you will feel a little jealous
They Will Not Hike Very Far
the ticket to hiking success: hike farther than the Koreans are willing to, which usually isn’t all that far. then, finally, take a deep breath and enjoy the serenity.
but all in all…
It Will Be Beautiful
and the lovely sights will make you forget about how everything else makes you want to punch an ajumma
Check out my other hiking-ish posts for more pretty pictures of Korea’s mountains and a few ridiculous stories: