Thursday, 25 April 2013

Jeju Island in South Korea - Part III South Jeju

Waterfall Day - Tuesday 10th April

Jeju Island is a pretty small island. It takes about 1 hour to take the bus from the south city of Seogwipo to the north city of Jeju. It takes 3 hours if you're taking the bus around the coast from both the west and east, which means that by bus it only takes 6 hours to get around the entire circumference of the island. So no surprises that it didn't take us long to get from our guest house in the north east to the city in the south. Also no surprises that we got off the bus one stop early and got lost....again....

BUT we soon realised that we were lost and decided to momentarily give up looking for our next hostel and go find a waterfall instead. That took a while but we eventually found our first site in Seogwipo, Jeongbang Waterfall. It's the only waterfall in Asia that falls directly into the ocean. What made me laugh was above the waterfall was a garden and a museum dedicated to a man called Seobul who was a servant of the Chinese emperor in the BC200's, who travelled to Jeju to find plants that would make the emperor immortal. On the wall under the fall he wrot“Seobulgwacha” which basically translates as "Seobul was here". What's even more ironic is that he's probably more famous in that area than the Chinese emperor ever was. Sadly I couldn't see the graffiti :(

Once we'd seen the sights we decided that the best way to find our hostel was to follow the coast rather than get lost in the back streets. So we followed the road down through food street, around the bay and into a valley that at the end of apparently had the next waterfall we were going to see. But we decided to find the hostel first so climbed up the cliff, walked a bit more and found it! Check in wasn't until 2pm though. We were allowed to pay and dump our bags behind the counter though so unburden we headed back down the cliff to Cheonjiyeon Waterfall.

This area was a lot more touristy than the last with buses of school kids, a few non-Asian tourists, restaurants and cafes (another Dunkin' doughnuts), and the tourist information centre for the city. After paying to get in it was only a short walk down the valley before we reached the waterfalls. The pool at the bottom of the falls is 20ms deep and the river is apparently full of eels.

We then decided to go to another waterfalls which was down the coast a bit, which meant we had to catch a bus. The only problem was we didn't know which bus to go on. We saw one at the top of the cliff and was going to ask but the woman there seemed really grumpy and ignored us, so we went to the bus station, which was no good cos we didn't understand any of the signs. At least we knew what direction it was was going in so I suggested we walk down the road to the next bus stop and grab the bus there....Let's just say 2 hours later we still hadn't found the frickin' bus. So we returned to the hostel and asked for directions. Guess was the first bus we'd seen with the grumpy lady!!! I felt a lot better once we'd got on the bus and on the way to the falls. Luckily we'd started the day off early and still had time, even more lucky was the fact the bus driver stopped outside the entrance and told us we were there (would have missed it otherwise).

The falls were on the otherside of the valley so to get there they'd built this massive red bridge with white goddesses all along it. It was pretty. It was also really high up and a surprisingly steep bridge. But we survived! We survived to see that the waterfall we'd been searching for looked like this......

I was a bit disappointed that the waterfall wasn't falling. I also read later that the waterfall was inside a cave (I think), so I guess that's why we couldn't see it. However, there were another 2 waterfalls which were grouped with this one which were further downstream and yes, they fell.

Just down the valley by the sea from those water falls was another sight we wanted to see. A place where lava had hit the sea and crystallised into hexagon shapes. We didn't time this one as well though cos there was a bus load of Chinese tourists. The sun was setting too so it was hard to get a good picture without over exposing it.

As we'd walked to the hexagon rocks we passed a huge building which I'd kept seeing on the maps as the island's duty free. What it was doing on the south of Jeju away from the airport I'm not sure, but it wasn't just a huge duty free but also a concert hall and conference venue with a huuuge hotel next to it. We explored a little and saw that everything was way too expensive for us, not that we could buy anything anyway because apparently it was illegal for non-Koreans to buy stuff from there. We managed to catch the bus ok this time and got back to the hostel safely. We were both pretty hungry so went out food hunting. That's when we found the BIGGEST burger EVER! It was about 17,000won ($17/£12) and sooo goood. It was about 12" in diameter and cut into 6 pieces. Wes and I halved it along with a bowl of creamy pasta. The burger was a flat port battie with cabbage, lettice, tomato, mayo, mustard, apple, pickles/gherkins, and ketchup. It was amazingly good!!!

The Day We Climbed Over a Huge Mountain - Wednesday 11th April

Climbing Mt Halla. 1950m tall inactive volcano in the middle of Jeju. We'd been looking forward to this climb all week. Well, Wes had, I'd been slightly dreading it. After climbing Mt Houmanzan in Japan I was worried that this was going to be just as brutal but worse because the climb was expected to take 9 hours up there and back down again. But I was still willing to give it a go, I would have regretted it otherwise. 

We got up at 7am, got dressed and ready so we could grab breakfast before getting the bus (which we checked in advance this time). It didn't take too long to get to the base of the south east trail, Seonpanak, which we'd chosen because it was the 2nd hardest trail and was supposed to have a beautiful flower field about 3/4 of the way up, so it if was too much we'd have lunch there and turn around.

When we arrived the place was full of people! Mostly buses of school kids but also buses of older people. Including one group of older people doing Gunamn Style as a warm up exercise.

The mountain climb was surprisingly easy actually. The crowds of school children made kept the pace slow, and it was mostly worn down wooden platforms and steps, and a few sections of giant rocks. We started at 600m and got to the flower field, which was 1500m up, after about 3 hours with no breaks and neither of us were tired. We took a short break anyway and had some water before heading up to the peak. It was shame the time time of year was still too cold for the flowers to be out. It was also hard to see any of the views because of the clouds, but now and again they would break and you could see down the island below.

(The southern city Seogwipo at the bottom of Mt Halla)

The last part of the climb was brutal though. It was much steeper and colder because we were so high up. When we finally got to the top we were inside a cloud that kept blowing frozen snow in our face. It was so cloudy we couldn't see the famous lake in the crater of the mountain. But we made it!

(I didn't realise how bad that waterproof jacket fitted me until after this climb -_- )

So then we just had to get down. We'd made it to the top in about 4 hours, but instead of climbing back own the way we came we decided to give the northern pass (the most difficult one) a go. I'm really glad we did too! We probably would have died climbing up because of how steep it was but climbing down was great! First of all there weren't any tourists, mostly climbers in proper climbing gear. It was north facing so all the trees near the top were covered in ice, and the views on the way down were spectacular. 

(The top of Mt Halla is the part covered in cloud at the back of the picture)

It took us another 3 hours and 20mins to reach the 450m mark at the base of the trail. On the way we could see Jeju city at the base of the mountain and came across the location of a hut that disappeared after a storm in 2007. Just disappeared...
Anyway. To say the least we were knackard by the end. We got a taxi to the bus stop, the bus back to Seogwipo. We only had dinner from the convenience store cos we were too tired to find anything else. But I'm glad to say my legs didn't hurt as much after that as after Houmanzan, and I actually think Houmanzan was a lot harder than Mt Halla. It was worth the climb.

Lazying Around Jeju City - Thursday 11th 

We got the same bus we took to Halla to get back to Jeju in an hour. We dumped our stuff at the hostel and wandered around the town, eating waffles, running into Korean Jehovah witnesses (who were very nice), and picking up food and presents from the market. It was not an exciting day but was a relaxing one.

Flying back to Japan - Friday 12th April

We flew back to Japan early Friday. It was pretty much uneventful apart from immigration which almost didn't let me back in because they couldn't understand why I was studying for 6 months on a tourist visa and not a student one (even though I explained the school wouldn't give me one). *sigh* That crisis was averted after they called NILS. So don't worry!! Wes and I were back in Japan safely with not too many disasters and many fun adventures to tell.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Jeju Island in South Korea - Part II East Jeju

Lava Tunnels and Mazes - Sunday 7th April

I mentioned before that we'd had problems trying to find an international phone, and Sunday 1am-5am was our last chance before the banks were shut until Tuesday. So in the end we got permission from the guesthouse owner to use her phone to call America, and to do it at 1am. We both woke up at 1am after a few hours of sleep and snuck downstairs to use the phone. Luckily Wes was able to get through and get things sorted so we left the Rainbow Guesthouse in Jeju early the following morning and headed to the airport again to get money out (it was the only place we could go). Once monies had been acquired we headed to the bus station to get the bus to our next location!

Our next hostel was called the Lefthander on the east of the island, but on the way was a number of lava tunnels that we wanted to check out. We got our tickets ok and the bus, but despite the fact that each stop was announced in Korean and English we missed our stop! Not only that but the stop buttons didn't work on the bus so it took us a while to indicated to the bus driver that we wanted to get off. Luckily public buses on Jeju are super cheap so we jumped on one coming the opposite direction. Although the sun was shinning it was a freezing cold day because the wind was so strong and cold. So when we got of the bus and a taxi stopped to offer us a ride to the caves we took it (it would have been another 20min walk ontop). Luckily that made up for lost time and it was cheap again.

So the lava tunnels are incredibly long but only 1km is open to the public. The lava tunnels and natural volcanic structures across Jeju are UNESCO World Heritage Conservation sites so they attract a lot of tourists. Meaning there were a lot of people at the tunnels, and the whole place was lit up with paths over the more rocky areas. What was insane was one we saw one woman with 3 inch heals walking out of the cave. I don't know how she managed to walk naturally in them let alone through a dark cave with uneven ground.

(At the end of the tunnel was this amazing lava column that I thought looked like a petrified undead goblin king)

Just down the road from the caves was a maze which we also wanted to check out. Luckily this wasn't too far so we walked it. At the maze someone had set up a wooden box with straw inside and a plastic roof and it had a cat inside! (When we'd finished the maze there were 2 cats with one asleep ontop of the other. It was adorabubble). The maze was good fun and a good level of difficulty. We got very lost before finding the middle. I think how they'd designed it was with a lot of long single pathways so if the choose the wrong way you end up following the path for a while before you realise it's no good.

As we wandered back to the main road we found the other 2 lava tunnels that had been discovered but the entrances were blocked off because they were dangerous. So we grabbed the bus again and headed to our next location in Sangdo-ri. Finding the hostel was a lot easier this time because they signs. So we dumped our stuff and went exploring. We were right by the sea and although it was windy it was really pretty. Right next to the beach was an amazingly nice cafe and the women there spoke English! So we got some hot chocolates and muffins which were amazing! The cafe itself was pretty modest with a seaside feel to it and a wood burner in the middle.

We explored the area a bit more after that but most of the restaurants in the area seemed really expensive. So when we got back to the hostel we asked if we could have dinner with them, which is another service they offer. For super cheap we had home cooked Korean food including kimchi, other spicy side dishes, duck and azuki rice. Korean food is very different from Japanese. It's similar in the way it had a main with lots of sides and perhaps some rice and soup, but those sides, rice and soup are all very very different. The soup was a seaweed soup, the sides were mostly spicy and the rice seemed to always be mixed with azuki beans. It was very good but very different.

Oreum Tour and Seongsan Ilchulbong - Monday 8th April

Another service the guest house offered was a free tour of some of the nearby oreums (volcanoes - I mentioned before there was about 360 small ones on the island). So we decided to go with the guy who owns the guest house and 4 other guests on this tour. It was early in the morning (9am) so we were finished by lunch time. The owner took us in his minivan to a nearby oreum explaining on the way how everything is made from volcanic rock especially the walls that separate the small farming fields. As we arrived to the first oreum (called Dragon Oreum because it looks like a sleeping dragon... apparently) he stopped the van to point out a number of mounds with carefully built walls around them. He explained that they were graves, a custom of burial unique to Jeju. And these weren't just really old graves but more recent ones as well mixed in. 

(Grave in front of the Dragon Oreum)

The oreums were mostly really small, no bigger than most hills in the UK. It only took us 30 mins to climb it and walk around the creator. We were the first group up there and were really lucky to get a glimps of a white dear which are rare but famous on the island of Jeju. We then climbed down and drove to another oreum just down the road called the King Oreum. This one was the second largest oreum on the island so took us a bit longer to climb up it. But climb it we did!  

That was the end of the tour but Wes and I had plans to go to Seongsan Ilchulbong (aka Sun Rise Peak, or to translate Castle Mountain) which was just down the coast. This is another pretty famous location on Jeju because it's a rock that formed 5000 years ago from a volcanic explosion. It's pretty iconic for the island as we saw so many pictures of it before we even got there. Sooo no surprise that it was full of tourists. That was 'mountain' 3 that we climbed that day, not bad practice for Mt Halla.
But before we did that we were starving and after some lunch. Unfortunately most of the resturants in the area seemed to be the expensive ones we'd seen before but we decided to give it a go. Although a number of things were expensive the portions seemed big enough that you're meant to share them so we got some grilled mackerel and Korean okonomiyaki which were both amazingly good! They also came with a pile of side dishes so we were pretty stuffed afterwards.

When we got down from that we climbed down some steps onto a beach under the rock where there was a restaurant and some female divers. The female divers of Jeju are again pretty famous. Long ago income taxes on working men was pretty high so to save money the women would help earn money through diving in the sea for octopuses, urchins and other sea creatures in the shallow water. They free swim up to 20m before the water and now get paid 2,000,000won ($2000/£1500) a month now because they're rare and they sell their produce to local restaurants and markets. Apparently there aren't many of them left so most of them are old, but there's a whole museum dedicated to them and you can see pictures of them all over island.

It was still pretty early in the day and neither of us felt like going back so we stopped off at the Dunkin Doughnuts (which Wes was excited about cos there aren't any on the west coast of the US but they were all over this tiny island in the south of South Korea) and got some cold drinks. We then just wandered down the road exploring this small temple and then the coast until we got bored enough to head back to town to get the bus. 

We had dinner again at the hostel which included a spicy mackerel stew and then got an early night. Then next day was going to be going to the south side of the island to the other city before climbing Mt Halla and heading home.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Jeju Island in South Korea - Part I Jeju City

So how our trip to Japan is working out we had paid for 11 weeks of general Japanese lessons with NILS followed by 12 weeks of intensive JLPT study. Tourist visas to Japan only last for 90 days (unless you're from the UK when you can extend it to 180 days but USA people can't). So we decided that the week we had spare at the end of the 11 week course and before the JLPT course we would go abroad to South Korea so that we wouldn't violate our visas and get kicked out of the country.

The original plan was to go to Seoul and then visit people in Osaka but Wes and I are both poor students so we re-evaluated our funds and decided to go hiking around Jeju for a week. Jeju is an island in the south of South Korea that is famous for it's nature and volcanic rock formations. The island itself is a dormant volcano covered in about 360 mini volcanoes called "oreums" and in the middle is Mt Halla which is a 1950m high mountain that takes 7-9 hours to climb up and down it (more on that later).

((This'll probably be pretty long and detailed (we did a lot) so I'm splitting this entry into 3 sections))

Arriving in Jeju -  Friday 5th April

Our flight was in the morning meaning we arrived in Jeju at about midday. We had arrived in a different country where we didn't know the language with no plans and no where to stay. I had luckily done a bit of research before hand and written down a load of hostels that speak English and listed a few places to see, but our main plan to was to go to the tourist information in the airport and plan from there. The women at one information desk wasn't really helpful although she did  help us reserve the first hostel I had listed called Rainbow Hostel. We also got a pile of leaflets and a decent map and directions from the other tourist information desk. Our next step was to get money out which we could only do in the airport. I managed to get my funds for the week out but Wes had a minor problem in the fact that he hadn't told his bank he'd be in South Korea. I got some extra money out and we agreed we'd spend the afternoon finding a computer with skype to call his bank. So we head off to the first hostel using the bus system and the directions the tourist info lady had given least we tried.

We were wondering around for about an hour walking in circles trying to find the place and in the end I suggested we try this Community Centre. We went in and asked if anyone spoke English to while everyone pointed at one woman who had a look of terror on her face. I tried to explain that we were lost and looking for the Rainbow Hostel which they found online. She gestured to a co-worker and said he'd give us a lift and although we tried to say we could walk it we didn't know the language well enough to say we just wanted directions. So he drives us round the corner to a road that we'd passed but hadn't walked down *facepalm*. We had been so close!

We get into the hostel and it's warm and smells nice and the people there were so nice! We dumped our stuff and asked if their computer had skype which is did but no headphones! One employee said he'd go out and get some but we later found out that he forgot *sigh*. In the mean time we decided that because we couldn't do anything anyway because the banks in the US were closed we would walk down to one of the city's attractions. On the way we found this cool bridge over a river with blossoms growing around it.

On the other side of the bridge was the dragon rock. Apparently a 40 foot long dragon that wished so hard it turned into stone with 30 feet of it's body under the water and the last 10 above it. Most pictures of it online are of it during sunset, but I found it way more amusing to take a pic of it eating a hostel sign on the other side of the bay. Omnomnom

We were actually really lucky the whole time we were there and seemed to arrive at most of the attractions before coach loads of tourists turned up. It was spooky.

Anyway, we walked back through the city to the hostel where they said they were having a party with food and drinks which turned out to be fried chicken and the Korean alcohol called makori which kinda tasted like sake but different. We got talking with one of the employees at the hostel who could speak really good English and played a couple of games of Rumikub with her (which Wes had never played before!) It was good.

Rainy Saturday - Saturday 6th April

Our original plan had been to climb Mt. Halla on the Saturday when we arrived but the only problem was that it was raining and they close the mountain when the rain's really bad. So we decided to give the mountain time to dry and try climbing it on Wednesday. Our next plan was to find an internet cafe with skype and a headset or an international phone. We found a few pay phones in the international hotel next to us but weren't sure how to use it so we asked the desk if they knew of any internet cafes and one guy suggested something called PC Zone which was just down the road. But it wasn't exactly an internet cafe. We learnt something very interesting about South Korea...

I'd heard of people in South Korea dying from playing games too much without eating or drinking and I finally understood how that could happen. The PC rooms (which were all over the island, not just the city) were dark cigarette smelling rooms with rows of huge PC screens and big plush computer chairs. I looked at the price list and you could rent a computer for 13 hours for only 13,000 won (£7.50/$11.50). Unfortunately the clerks could not speak English and although their computers could connect to the internet and had headsets they did not have skype, only online role playing games. Interesting but ultimately a failure. We also only had a small window open that morning before the banks in the US shut. We had one more chance the following morning between 1am and 5am when the bank opened at the weekend. Plan C was to find somewhere to buy a headset or find some other way to get in contact.

Because we couldn't do anything about the bank we decided to check out the local museum and park which was just round the corner from us. Turned out the park was the location for the origin of 3 gods who landed on the island 5000 years ago, married 3 princesses from a nearby kingdom and set us the basic society for people living on Jeju. It was quite interesting and said how Jeju has a number of sites related to the legend of the 3 gods and how they founded the Jeju people. You could even see the 3 dents in the ground where they apparently landed. But they'd blocked it off so you could just see the dip in the ground surrounded by stones and 3 alters which they use for a ceremony each year offering pig heads and incense and fruit to the 3 gods.

Just round the corner from the park was the Jeju Natural History and Folk Museum which started with a display about the volcanic rocks and their formations on the island. Then into a section about the local wildlife ironically through taxidermy. Then into a huge section about the old practices on the island like hunting and important ceremonies in their lives. And then finished with a fish display including a huge replica of blue whale bones.

Now at this point the weather had turned for the worst and it really starting to pore down with rain. Wes suggested we check out a cafe in town that he saw in a magazine that seemed to have some really good hot chocolate. So we go out in the freezing rain and get to the cafe to find that we can't see hot chocolate on the list and we can't speak Korea to ask about it! We um and ahhed for a few minuets and I ask "hot chocolate" to the clerk and he points out the chocolate latte...turns out that's what hot chocolate is in Korea *facepalm*. We order 2 of those an a brownie to split and it was good!!! What was great was the cafe's atmosphere and layout. I really wish they had somewhere like this in the UK.

The hot chocolate and warm cafe was perfect after the cold rain but we had to leave eventually and just round the corner was apparently a Chinese refuge ship. We got there to find out that it was just a replica with a small museum inside say how at the end of WWII a similar ship had carried some Chinese refugees to Jeju.

Wandering back we stumbled across a market...and not just any market, the most awesome market ever! It had so many back allies we had to go down all of them. There was one section that was all oranges and local chocolates and touristy stuff, and another section with veg and kimchi (spicy pickled cabbage) and barrels of spice, a section selling clothes, one with meat counters with pigs heads out on display, and a huuuge row of fresh fish. And I mean fresh. Bikes were driving us with live fish in buckets which they'd transfer to larger tanks full of fish. There were muscles, sea cucumbers, crabs and other gribbly sea things alive and dead. Flat fish and other kinds were cut up into fresh sashimi (raw fish). Silver fish we'd never seen before. A women was carving up a whole tuna, and we say another guy take out a massive fish and smack it on the head with a hammer for a customer. It was impressive and we tried to get as many sneaky photos as possible without looking too much like pesky tourists.

Before heading back to the hostel we decided to eat dinner. We'd found earlier in the day an underground shopping distract that didn't have too many interesting shops but did have a cheap looking restaurant that we decided to try out. I got a simple pork katsu over rice and Wes being Wes decided it would be a great idea to get something spicy because we were in Korea....Yeeeaaah that didn't work out so well. He really struggled to finish it off but was determined to not be beaten no matter how hot it was. 

When we got back to the hostel it had got a lot busier including 5 guys from Seoul who were in Jeju making a video about cycling around the island. They decided to interview us about why we were in Jeju which was pretty funny when they couldn't speak very good English and we couldn't speak Korean at all. But it worked out in the end. They actually asked us togive them Western names! So in the end we knew them as Messi (he was wearing a Barcelona shirt), Peter (Pan cos he had a baby face), Charles (wearing a Paris shirt), Cillion (cos Wes was crazy and thought he looked like the actor), and Enrique (cos he looked like Enrique Iglesias). We then had a pretty intense game of old maid with them and some other people (the person who lost had to wash up). 

(See if you can guess which one was which)

Shortly after that we went to bed which was in our separate dorm rooms again. The next day we were going to the East of the island where there were lava caves and a maze and more cool stuff!!! 

Friday, 12 April 2013

Hanami ~ Cherry Blossom Season

From the beginning of March to the beginning of April the sakura went from tiny pink buds bursting into white flowers before turning pink and dropping off the trees. It was officially spring in Japan, the time when the last year ends. This is the time when school kids have spring break before they start school again in April, as well as the time new employees start their new jobs and people move house. It's a busy time in Japan. But  typical Japan it's also a good excuse to go out, enjoy the nice weather and celebrate with friends and family with picnics and alcohol under the sakura. In other words, Hanami (flower viewing).

Our first hanami was with the school the week before the hanami season officially started.

Outside our apartment there's a long park running down the middle of the road. This part is full of sakura trees and so we decided to take a stroll down it in the evening when we got back from class.

A few days later we went strolling through the park again, only this time it was raining. But the great thing about it was the fact that there weren't any people at all in the park! Although it may have also had something to do with the fact that sakura season hadn't 'officially' started. It's official start was on the weekend (March 23rd) and because of that people in the park were setting up stands to sell things like taiyaki and takoyaki and okonomiyaki (omnomnomnom).

(Our apartment behind a sakura tree)

(Old men setting up lanterns along the park ready for the flower viewing)

Once the stands had been set up we visited the park a lot so Wes could take photos and just to take in the atmosphere. We had okonomiyaki for lunch one time and Wes discovered green tea custard taiyaki so got those for about 5 days in a row! (The stands and people going to the park to picnic went on for over 3 weeks)
While wondering through the park one time there was a group of old drunk guys who spotted us and asked us to sit down with them. Wes said yes and they gave us whisky and was really weird...really weird. They really liked Wes though, although couldn't remember his name so called him 'Mike'. 

We were also invited out to do hanami with Mami and her friends on the 31st. There was a huge group of people there as it was mostly people who attending an English Speaking cafe, so also a number of foreigners.   At this point the sakura had been blooming for about 3 weeks and was starting to fall. We had a lot of food! The people running the event were nice enough to provide food for 1000yen entry, and most people took along their own alcohol although juice and tea was also provided. The people there were all really nice and there was an interesting mix of people learning English or wanting to learn English, each for their own reasons and at differing levels. The foreigners who were there was also a mix from JET teachers to people actually working in Japan and a few students.

(A group of kids next to us who seemed to have come with their traditional Japanese instruments band.)

(The park was crowded)

The blossoms continued into the beginning of April and people were still picnicking all the way up to the 7th but they had mostly fallen by then and by the time we got back from Korea had completely vanished to be replaced by bright green leaves.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Climbing Houmanzan

So I mentioned before the chatting salon which Wes and I got to meet a few people through. One person Wes met the first time we went invited us on a hike up a mountain with a bunch of people which was on the 23rd March. We'd cycled a lot on this trip and I'd walked up hills before but wasn't really expecting the kind of mountain we faced that day...

We all met outside the Dazaifu station at 11am, not an early start but they did say not to be late. Despite that people were late and we finally set out at about 11:40. There were about 11 of us in total, 5 foreigners and 6 Japanese guys. Myself and a Chinese girl were the only girls there. When we arrived one of the guys had a small drum which he was playing with. Once everyone arrived we had to get the bus to the shrine at the base of the mountain. It was still sakura season so the cherry trees were still in bloom.

So I said I hadn't expected what we got on that hike. When we started it said 2km to the top. The mountain is only 850ish metres tall but taking into account that you can't walk vertically the route was about 2km. That's fine, I thought, I've walked that before. But not up hill. Not even "up hill" I'd say the hike was more "up boulders" the whole way. Someone (I'm guessing a very long time ago) decided to make it easier for people who wish to walk up the mountain by putting steps in. Imagine each step being 3 times the size of a normal stair step and that's the kind of steps I'm talking about. We were basically doing knee-ups for 2 and a half hours straight. Allow me to show you...

Ok, so it wasn't massive steps ALL the way up the mountain. At the beginning there were reasonable sized steps like the ones bellow but after a couple of hours I was knackard. I think there was about 5 different points when I thought we'd reached the top. It was like the final Lord of the Rings all over again "How many endings does this mountain have!? WHEN WILL IT END!?"
What makes it even more ridiculous was the number of elderly people climbing up and down this thing faster than we were, and even a number of people jogging it!

But we did finally reach the top! First things first was sit down and food! Now despite the fact it is was a beautiful sunny day from the top of the mountain we couldn't see very far. This may have been because of the fact that we were too high or because of the pollution from China. The view at parts (of things closer to us) was still pretty impressive though.

After lunch and rest and group pic (on Wes' camera) we began climbing down the mountain. Faster but equally tricky as with each large bolder you step off you have to support your body's weight on one leg. Needless to say we were even more exhausted by the end...or at least some of us were....

My legs were hurting for another 3 days least it's good practice for a weeks worth of hiking in Korea including 2 trips up a mountain!

*BTW it may sound like I'm complaining but I had a lot of fun and met a lot of really nice people. I'd defiantly be up for doing it again....just maybe a different mountain.