We are staying in a city called Daejeon in South Korea. It’s not what I expected. It’s much larger and more modern than I thought it would be. It’s not as cosmopolitan as Seoul, but it is Korea’s center for technology and science.
Daejeon is surrounded by mountains and is also home to one of this country’s most beautiful National Parks. A short drive out of town we found ourselves at Gyeryongsan National Park. This rugged park is home to 15 mountain peaks, full of stories and myths with a long history of shamanism, animism and the supernatural.
We headed to Mount Gyeryong and walked up the path to the Donghak Temple. A beautiful structure that was large, meticulously maintained and very colorful. Signs suggested a 2km hike from the temple would take us to the Nammaetap Twin Pagodas. Although I didn’t have my hiking boots, I enjoyed the stunning four story pagodas we had seen in China and wanted to make the hike.
Well, it was a trek. Turns out the 2km were straight up. As we climbed, the rocky trail became covered in ice and we literally were using hands, knees and feet to maneuver. Around each corner and giant boulder I thought we must almost be there so we trudged on.
I kept peering through the trees thinking I should be able to see the buildings – although perhaps they weren’t as tall as the pagodas I saw in China. Eventually, pouring sweat and panting like dogs we crested the hill to see the pagodas. Two small stone structures. Beautiful, but totally not what we expected, or anything like the ones in China. Well, we aren’t in China anymore!
We had a good laugh about it, and took photos quickly, because our sweating bodies were cooling quickly in the below freezing temperatures and we wanted to keep moving.
Going down proved to be nearly as difficult, and I sure was wishing I had packed my hiking boots. I landed on my bottom twice, but my new snow boots came through and we celebrated accomplishing this adventure as we reached the parking lot far below.
It was a work out, entertaining and beautiful. We saw lots of other Korean hikers (all prepared with better footwear and hiking sticks), but no other Westerners. I think it would be safe to say, few tourists have made this trek.
Watch for my next installment of Kimchee Capers coming soon.