Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Crossing off items on my Bucket List - Part 2

After Geumsansa we decided to conquer Moaksan, or Moak Mountain. Remember that 'sa/사' means temple? 'san/산' means 'mountain' and calling it Moaksan Mountain will result in you being cut. Just so you know.

Another warning about this blog post - it features pictures of me all gross and sweaty. Yay!

Pre-hike. FACT: Korea has increased my usage of peace signs 300%.
There are a number of trails to the peak but the one we took goes right past the temple gates. Farting man from Gimje told us that the walk would take 5 hours, so we got a little bit freaked out and called our friend Lauren who reassured us that it would be a mere 2. It took me 4 hours, it took Tom about 3 and a half, but we stopped to eat at the top (recommended.)

From the temple there's a 30-40 minute walk on a moderate incline through the bush. The trail meanders along a stream with a few small waterfalls and pools. It is getting rapidly warmer in Korea at the moment, so as we walked I fantasised about swimming in each of the pools and annoyed Tom by doing so. I'm ridiculously unfit so this part of the walk was a challenge and had me sweating buckets:

Damn tourists!

After 2 and a bit kilometres, you'll reach the base of the mountain. From there, it's about an hour of solid stair climbing. I wish I was kidding.

Contemplating will to live. There's 2.6 kilometres of this stuff.
The steps are seemingly endless. When you get higher up they morph into proper wooden staircases that stretch as far as you can see and for a great deal of the hike you can't tell how far you've come. At one point, when I'd been climbing for 40 minutes and I spotted a sign that said I had another 1.2 kilometres to go, I cried.

Pretty much hating life right now.
To give the mountain some credit, it's beautiful. The trees are a gorgeous green, the path is well constructed and it's peaceful, especially if you head up in the late afternoon when the trail is nearly empty. The only sound is the heavy breathing of one lumbering waygook as she tries to burn a few extra calories. I had to take a break every 20 - 30 steps as I was zonked, Tom muscled on ahead and reached the peak about 15 minutes before I did. We passed about 6 other people on the trail. 

When you reach the summit there's a cluster of strange (and if I'm honest, really ugly) buildings and aerials. One of the buildings houses a gondola that ferries people up from the path at the bottom and the other ones host a few satellite dishes and lord knows what else. On the very top there's a helicopter pad for... mountain... rescue... agh, I don't know. It was nice to stand up there and the view was absolutely stunning, but the buildings were UUUUUUGLY.

Smidge of ugly buildings, one tired Anna.
When we reached the top we sat in a small pergola and ate some lunch, after 3 hours of walking and 7 hours of not eating it was probably the Best Lunch Ever. As we were there quite late all of the buildings were closed, I'm not sure if there's a store or a vending machine up there so I'd advise you to buy some water at the temple first. I took two bottles and was dying by the time we got back down. Also, it's windy at the peak and I didn't bring a jumper so I was bloody freezing, take one with you - it's worth it even though you have to lug it all the way up. Learn from my mistakes! After a few photographs it was time to head back down.


The walk downhill was almost as unpleasant as the uphill journey but at least it went faster! My legs were tired and wobbly and the steps are an annoying not-quite-big-enough for two paces, not-quite-small-enough for one pace so I had to stop a few times just to get my bearings back in order. About halfway down, a Korean man caught up with us and kept us company until the car park. We had a stilted conversation in my terrible Korean and his limited English, but the three of us were keeping an eye out for each other. The 5.8 kilometre journey from the peak to the bus stop took us just over an hour.

After buying some water and some delicious Fanta, we boarded the 7:44 bus back to Gimje and then on to home. Today I'm at school and in a moderate amount of muscle pain, but I feel pretty proud of myself. If you live in the Jeollabukdo area I totally recommend Geumsansa and Moaksan for a day out. 


  1. The "contemplating the will to live photo" hahaha! This is how I feel every-time I hike in Korea... I have yet to see a trail that did not involve copious amounts of steps. Damn Koreans and their crazy mountains!

    Still I always feel so proud of myself for getting to the top in the end. :D

  2. I felt super proud, but I'm still hurting from it today! After seeing your photos I want to hike to the 'golden' spring, the view looks amazing! Not at all keen on the steps tho.