On Friday morning I woke up and packed:
-Harness and Shoes
-Belay and extra gear stuff
-Hammock and sleeping bag
Everything was prepared and ready and incredibly stupidly heavy for such a small load.
After work I grabbed my bag and headed straight for the bus terminal. It's a major holiday this weekend (Children's day and Buddha's Birthday) and I needed to head out in the late hours of night in order to make it all the way to the popular tourist destination of Busan on time. With a farewell to my hamsters, "Goodbye Reggie, Goodbye you lazy piece of s*%t Hamtaro," I was out the door and ready for a long night ahead of me.
The bus from Mokpo to Gwangju left around 9. I jumped on devoid of snacks and put in my headphones to pass the time. I drifted in and out of sleep on the hour-long ride while Edward Sharpe's acidic song's left lucid dreams of endless deserts and hot winds seared into my eyes. It's a strange feeling to have not seen a desert so long and yet have every aspect of it return so quickly and with such strength. The smell of sun-baked sage and clay wafting into my brain as I walked through the chaparral landscape of home. I was awakened by the bus light coming on to tell me of our arrival into Gwangju. I jumped off the warm bus into the cold night and grabbed my bags to sprint for the ticket counter. I was able to make it (eventually) to the front of an incredibly long line. I would have a one hour lay-over here and make the 4 hour drive to Busan starting at 11. With nothing else to do, I pulled out my book and headed to KFC (the only place in Gwangju's terminal area open past 10) and sat down to read.
Sat next to a young man from Michigan during my ride to Busan. I didn't like him. He smelled and treated the Koreans around us like an asshole.... My dislike of white people in Gwangju has increased at this point.
Arriving at the Busan Central Bus Terminal around 2:30am, I realized that I had made a rather stupid mistake... apparently, the Busan Central Bus Terminal is not centrally located in Busan. It's in the middle of nowhere. The bus station I needed to go to was Busan Sasang Station... and the buses and subways weren't running until 6am... I had time to kill and no motel or jimjilbang in sight. I tried to fall asleep in the terminal sitting up and slouched over my bag in a bench seat, but I was promptly removed from the facility by a polite security guard with a cap gun tucked into a holster on his belt. I would have fought against him for my rights to sleep where I damn well pleased, but my eardrums have already suffered too much abuse in the playground war of 1999. Heading outside, I saw a sign for a "sports park" down the road about a KM away. I headed in that direction and found that true to first glimpse, this part of Busan had NOTHING in the immediate vicinity except traditional korean houses and lots of factories. During the walk, a nice homeless couple offered me their bed while they were leaving to go get recycling, but I said that I was fine and continued on my search of the sports park. Arriving to the sports park I was hit with another stupid labeling of Korean places. The sports park wasn't a park, it was an indoor cycling circuit. No open fields. No grassy lawns. No places to lie down. Searching the parking lot, I found a nice area under some streetlamps that had two great trees and big bushes on either side to hide me from view. I set up my hammock and jumped inside my sleeping bag for a few hours of rest. Unfortunately the storm picked up and I wasn't able to sleep more than a few minutes at a time due to huge gusts of wind blowing my hammock around like a parachute.
Around 6:30 I packed up and headed back to the bus terminal to catch the subway to meet Casey in town. I was pretty alone on the subway and enjoyed some peace and quiet until I hit Seomyeon station and got out. Starbucks was the only thing open for breakfast, so with time to kill until Casey showed up, I ordered a bagel and coffee and sat down to read some more 1Q84.
Casey showed up at 9, just in time to see a drunk guy who had passed out in front of the store next to starbucks get picked up by the police. We said hello like men, with firm hand shakes and lots of giggling. Grabbing some more doughnuts to go from the Dunkin' Donuts across the street, we headed out for the subway route to the crag. The subway car was packed with Koreans out for the long weekend. Many young Korean couples were out in their matching outfits (poor dudes) and many old Koreans were out in insanely expensive "hiking clothes" to hit the trails. After going the wrong way on accident during a subway line change, Casey and I found our way to our city bus stop. We visited the local HomePlus store and got some coconuts too. After that, it was just a short trip crammed into a bus of sausage-smelling old Koreans for a few minutes up a crazy-winding road to the trail. The trail was by far the most beautiful trail I've seen in Korea so far. Huge, towering pines and soft-edged fir trees shaded a trail with no underbrush. Just an endless brown and black trail of soft pine needles and leaves. It was only a few minutes until we hit the crag while singing "Girls" by the Beastie Boys. Hood life.
The crag was beautiful. A perfect face of cracked and flaking granite. All routes from 5.10-5.12, and even a few nice boulders nearby. We sat down and began sorting our gear and punched in our coconuts to get some energy. The juice was still cold and gave a good start to the day. We both put up a 5.10a that had a nice face that lead to a great little crack at the top. Overall, a good climb with many different styles of face climbing involved. Next up was a 5.10c that Casey lead and I couldn't finish while following. Following this climb, a nice old dude from the local climbers club let Casey top-rope a 5.11b called "Hey Jude" while shouting out directions to him from below. It was a pretty cool climb to watch. Following this, we took a break to watch some Koreans climb.
This old guy was crushing 5.12's all day.
There was a big group of college kids out learning.
Some college dude climbing "Yeti 5.10b" on toprope.
After a little while of watching, we moved onto the next crag. I lead a 5.10a and Casey followed. Then he went up a 5.11a. At this point in the day, the crag was incredibly loud and busy. We decided to chill for a while before leaving, and while we were hanging around, a couple of foreigners showed up. A Chilean dude who had done nothing but alpine climbing before got along great with Casey and they headed off to talk about some of the routes. The other foreigner was a Korean-American girl, we got along great talking about music and crack climbing. After a few minutes we went off to climb some offwidth boulder cracks. She was a really good climber who was recovering from an ankle injury, which was apparent as she would foot-jam and could only hold it for a few seconds before it started to shake and waiver. We took turns leading this nice slightly-overhanging hand crack route before Casey and the Chilean came back and we all parted ways.
Back in town we decided to head to the department store Shinsegae. The store in Busan is the biggest department store in the world, so we figured that I would be able to find some shoes in my size. We boarded the subway and immediately found that we had, again, gotten on in the wrong direction. Coming out of the underground we were confronted with the possibility of buying new tickets since ours had already been checked as "in". An old lady came to our aid with a map and told us to just jump over the turnstiles while there were no police and get on the opposite subway. She laughed pretty hard as we both struggled to jump the turnstiles with full packs on. I slipped and crushed my calf in the turnstile, not fun. After another 20 minutes or so of subway, we made it to Shinsegae. Unfortunately I couldn't find anything, but we did get to see some great falls at the local ice-rink and I got a sweet picture of the store's Guinness Book of World Records award.
Oh, I'm sorry, this is just a picture of a SHARK ZAMBONI!!!!!!!
Leaving the department store we decided to head to the college district of Busan to hang out and find a place to sleep. We boarded the crowded subway car, with me making jokes of a "threepeat" only to instantly realize that we were just dumb enough to actually get on the wrong subway again. Once again, relying on the kindness of Korean strangers, a nice man showed on the map that we were already near the end of the subway line and that if we just waited, the subway would reverse soon and head in the right direction. With that info, we sat down with our beers and waited. Eventually the cars all emptied and we were left alone.
Oh yeah, just an empty subway
Stoked on life.
After the last stop, the subway car rolled on with just the two of us... Then it stopped... in a dark tunnel... and most of the lights turned off... "This is how I die" jumped into my head, but then the doors opened and a team of old Korean women jumped in armed with mops and brooms to clean the cars. Next thing we notice is the conductor sprinting down the cars towards us, we thought for sure we were going to get kicked off in the middle of the tunnel and made to go street level from there. But the conductor just laughed at us and told us to sit back down and the train would move soon. Before long the cars lit back up and we started heading in the right direction. By stop three, the cars were filling up a little bit. A middle aged man wagged his finger in my face and pointed behind me. There was a sign saying "reserved for elderly, pregnant, and handicapped." There was only one person in our car who was over the age of thirty besides this middle aged man and he was sitting next to me. One old man occupying one seat of the 9 reserved seats. I got up because the middle aged man was glaring at me, Casey just laughed and sat there. The middle aged man was rather angry at this. But in a few stops, an old lady got on board and Casey jumped up immediately and gave her his seat, the middle aged guy looked rather smug... until the old lady told Casey to sit next to her. She wouldn't take no for an answer and even gave Casey a cookie. The middle aged man looked about ready to lose his mind and scream at Casey, but our stop was next and we bailed quickly.
We stumbled upon a local college and in the middle of its athletic park there was a little hill covered in trees that was perfect for our uses. We memorized its location and headed out into the Busan night-life. We didn't get far as neither of us are big partyers and we both had large packs on. We just walked around and laughed at the nightlife, including a guy in a sad-puppy costume who made us laugh way too hard at his portrayal of a sad puppy.
Eventually we got bored and headed back to the college, we went to this little campus store area and sat down. I walked into a popeyes chicken place, but was immediately told they closed five minutes ago. So like the dirtbags we were, we just sat outside sharing the bigboy of Hite beer that we had while snacking on a bagel and peanut butter that Casey had crammed in his pack. When the beer ran out, we went into the CU to get another. Not only did the CU not have any beer, but when we walked outside, another CU worker had ran and taken our chairs since they were closing. We were left with no chairs and no beer. We figured this meant the end of our night, but once we got back to the hilltop we were met with Korean college kids who gave us beers and didn't mind sharing the hill with us. We set up our hammocks, drank our beers, and crashed out for one of the better sleeps I've had in a while.
The morning came warm and sunny, no clouds in the sky and a light breeze. We hung out in the hammocks for a while and then decided to get some breakfast. Heading into town, we found a McDonalds and grabbed some McMuffins and coffee. It was a breakfast worthy of champions. After a couple hours of chilling in McDonalds, it was time for me to head home. This could have been the saddest moment of my Korean living (besides saying goodbye to Lynzy when she left). I really had fun with Casey and I was sad to see him go. I think we both wished that we could have known each other longer in Korea, but as it turns out we didn't and that's just how it is. I think I'll try to keep in touch with him to see how his Australian trip is going and I hope that back in the states we get to climb together again.
My trip home was rather uneventful, except my bus from Busan to Gwangju was called a "VIP Busline" and had this psychedelic ceiling with red and green lighting that made everything look like what a 3D movie looks like without the glasses on. Oh, and at the rest stop, the Korean lady sitting next to me bought me this little snack cake that had redbean paste inside and sunflower seeds stuck to the outside, it was delicious! Then just to make my trip feel complete, I listened to some more Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes on the bus from Gwangju to Mokpo.