Wednesday, October 30, 2013

In Which Something Looms on the Horizon

Actually, there are a few things looming on the horizon. Most notable among them is our school's Halloween party tomorrow. We volunteered to go trick-or-treating with the kindergartners in the morning, on the promise that our boss would take us out for steak. That (trick or treating) has the potential to either be fun or else be a huge headache. Probably a headache, because the kindergartners are going to be really wound up and excited. But, we'll see. After that, I think they said we'd be carving pumpkins. And, it might be just me, but that sounds absolutely terrifying. If they give knives to those kids, we'll have to watch them like hawks with binoculars on meth, not because they'll stab each other, but because most of them have a tendency to really not pay attention to what they're doing. So, that's that. We'll try to remember our camera and make a blog post about it. It has potential to be, if nothing else, ridiculously cute.

Another thing looming on the horizon is winter vacation and our trip to China! We filled out our visa applications this evening and we'll be taking them to the travel agency on Friday so we can get the process started. We're going to Xi'an (where they have the Terracotta warriors) for two days, and then to Beijing for like five days! I'll tell you what, guys, if I had a bucket list, I would really be checking things off of it on this trip. As it is, it's just going to be awesome. At any rate, this is really just kind of a fluff post that I felt like writing. I'll end it with the usual picture of me and Nancy and call it good.

This is Captain Danger out.

Monday, October 28, 2013

In Which I Share Even More Thoughts

So, I have some thoughts on Hallasan, and also I want to post a couple videos that Nancy didn't post, because I think they're awesome. At any rate, thoughts. I think I'll do them in a way that has worked for me on this blog before: a numbered list. Here goes!

1. So, not too difficult. Seriously. I mean, sure, I'm probably in the best shape I've ever been in since like the spring of 2006, maybe even better because I was just skinnier then, I wasn't running and exercising, but it really wasn't that hard of a hike. The fact that the trail was really well maintained and that much of it was wooden boardwalk and stairs probably contributed to that.

2. While the fog was pretty cool (I kind of felt like a mistborn), it was a bummer that we couldn't see anything from up there. One of the main reasons I like to climb a mountain is for the view, and I didn't get that. That's why we're going to have to go again.

3. I would like to point out that I am immune to cold. People always say, "Oh, when you're in a humid place, the cold is so much worse and piercing and it goes to your bones and you can't handle it!" I didn't feel it. At least, I didn't as long as I was moving. Heck, even when I wasn't moving, I was okay. Here's a picture to prove that:

That's not faking, the look on my face is one of pure joy. I'm fairly certain the temperature was well below freezing here. Granted, I was wearing my Hulk t-shirt. The Hulk is also immune to cold, one reason why he's my favorite Avenger.
When we got to about the last half mile, every Korean who was coming down the mountain was dressed in a parka, and they all gave me really incredulous looks. A couple of them said "Wow!" in English, and many of them said something in Korean after looking at me, which I'm assuming was something to the effect of, "That crazy foreigner is so stupid! He's going to die!" I didn't. When we got to the top, I stood at the railing looking down into the crater, where a crazy strong (and freezing) wind was blowing across the top of the mountain and I said, "Nature, I defy you!" Or, at least I said it in my head. So, there you have it, I'm even immune to humid cold.

4. The fall colors were pretty nice, and it wasn't nearly as crowded as I expected. In fact, it was probably less crowded than Timpanogos has been on the two occasions when I've hiked it.

5. In mostly unrelated news, our branch president had us into his office on Sunday. He sat us down, and he asked us if we were making enough money to feed ourselves. His reason for doing this? Apparently I've lost so much weight that he worried that Nancy wasn't feeding me. Pretty awesome, right? I've kept maintaining that I don't think I look much skinnier (I guess I'm kind of being like a girl that way) but I guess I'm wrong about that.

6. These videos are awesome. I especially like the last one, but the commentary in the first two is also pretty fun. Here's this one, when we were close to the summit:

And this one, on the summit:

And this one, also on the summit (my favorite):

Anyway, I think that's about all I've got to say about this. Overall I had a great time, and I look forward to doing it again, hopefully when it's warmer, and definitely when we can see! This is Captain Danger out.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Journey to the Top of Korea

After four months living on Jeju, we finally made it out to climb Mount Halla yesterday.  We had been meaning to for quite some time but the summer was too hot, then the day we planned to go was too foggy, then we heard that the news said this weekend was the best time to see the fall colors so we figured we might as well wait and go at the best time.  There are only two trails leading all the way to the summit (and of course, we ("we" being pronounced like "Cliff") wouldn't be caught dead climbing a mountain and not actually going all the way to the top).  One of the two is supposedly the most treacherous and the other is slightly longer (less than a km though).  Cliff did some research when we first came, and true to character, thought the one rated most treacherous (Gwaneumsa) to be the most appealing option.  Lucky for us, one of our coworkers was also going with her boyfriend this weekend and he has a car which worked out great because there is no bus to Gwaneumsa trailhead.
We woke up bright and early to meet Ella and her boyfriend by 7:30 and we were on our way.  

This is us excitedly starting our journey.  Naive to the fact that we were about to hike 8.7 km up ankle rolling rock paths and of course, stairs! (okay, maybe we kind of knew what we were committing to)

The vibrant fall colors.

We hiked with Ella and her bf, PyeongSu for the first maybe half of the trail.  Then somehow we ended up losing them, never to see them again.  It may be, in part, due to the fact that about halfway up the mountain we hit the fog.  It got really foggy and rather suddenly.  Sometimes to the point where you could barely see people coming down the trail just ten feet in front of you.  On the plus side, we had already passed the deciduous part (Cliff says that's a real word) so at least we weren't missing out on the fall colors.

The picture Ella snapped before disappearing into the mist behind us. Or perhaps we disappeared into the mist ahead. Seeing as there isn't any in this picture. 

As you may have guessed by my tightened hoodie strings and highly obstructed peripheral vision, the heightened altitude also brought lowering temperatures.  The higher we got, the colder it got.  And it was windy.  There was tons of condensation on all the trees from the fog and when the wind blew hard, it basically rained from the trees.  It was weird because it really seemed like it would rain for just a few feet every once in a while.  Then it got colder, and that condensation on all the trees, was ice. And that would fall on you too.  It went from quite pleasant cool fall sweater weather at the bottom of the mountain, to a winter wonderland towards the top.
Cliff posing in his t-shirt in front of the frosty trees.

Eventually, yet in record breaking time (according to the travel website's 5 hour estimate and some foreigners blog that said you could make it in 4 hours if you were "tanking it") we made it to the top in only 3.5 hours time.  It was so windy I thought I was going to get blown off the ice covered boardwalk. And cold enough, that we didn't want to bask in our glory for too long.

The icy, windy boardwalk at the edge of the caldera.

Celebrating our victory with some peperos.

The view into the caldera.  Yes, this is where on a clearer day we may someday view the crater lake at the bottom.
  Then we promptly started the 8.7 km back down.  Which proved to be even more treacherous than going up. Plus, there were still a lot of people coming up the trail which made it hard to get around the slow folks. As we started our journey down, we passed a korean girl who we had apparently passed on the way up and she looked at us and longingly said "You're so fast."
We also passed the lovely Jehovah's witness (who had given Cliff a pamphlet when we passed him on our way up) still on his way up.  Only I didn't remember it was him and so when he saw me slip a little on some slick rocks and said in Korean "try and read, right away!" I thought to myself, "what, he just saw me slip a tiny bit and now thinks I can't read?" Then I realized he was the same guy and there was the implied subject of the pamphlet.
We enjoyed some of the sights and colors again on our way down.  In between getting our joints pounded, almost twisting our ankles or slipping every step and trying to act like our legs didn't shake if we stopped walking for a second.
Some pools reflecting the leaves. 

When we got down, Ella and PyeongSu were waiting for us in the car (they decided not to go all the way to the top because of the weather) and we headed home.
It was a really great day and a really great trip.  The hiking was a lot better than I thought it would be considering how little energy I seem to have these days, but I had no problems at all and we didn't even have to stop and rest more than one time to get a quick snack.  The colors were beautiful and it was a really fun day.  We're just hoping that next time we can get a view inside the caldera.  I guess that means come spring, we will be at it again.
But for now, we can officially say that we have climbed the highest mountain in South Korea. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

In Which We See a Lot of Really Big Spiders

 So, yesterday (Saturday) we decided we'd go down to the south side of the island and do some hiking and see some things. We chose Olle Trail 8 because it passed by some cool lava formations that we've seen pictures of and wanted to check out for ourselves. Before I start, I'd like to warn readers that this post may be a little picture heavy. So, we jumped on a bus and headed down there. The first place we saw was called Yakcheon-sa temple, and holy crap was it cool. Now, we've seen a lot of temples. That's most of what we saw on our trip to Japan, and we've seen a couple here on Jeju, too. I'd come to the conclusion that, when you come down to it, the interior of pretty much every Buddhist temple is about the same. They'll have an image of Buddha or two, or sometimes they'll have a berzillion tiny ones, and maybe a few other statues. Granted, that's cool, but once you've seen one, you've seen them all. In the case of Yakcheon-sa, I was incorrect. The outside was really big, but not overly distinctive. However, the inside was fantastic! Here are some pictures.

Seriously the most ornate interior of a Buddhist temple we've seen so far!

Probably the coolest light fixture ever!

Just for proof that I was there.

This temple had a belfry AND a drumfry! How cool is that?
This temple, in my opinion, ranks in the top three of the temples we've seen. I think I still put Daigo-ji and Kinkaku-ji in Japan at one and two, respectively, but I think this temple falls at number three, though I guess the fact that I just learned that it was built in the 1990s makes it a little less exciting. It's easier to make your temple awesome when you make it in modern times and it hasn't burned down like five times, I guess. It's still pretty sweet, though. It remains number three in awesome, in my mind. I think the dragon light fixtures are what sealed the deal for me.

Something that we noticed almost immediately was that this may be the wrong time of year to do these trails if you don't like spiders. Holy crap there were TONS of them and the majority of them were HUGE! We're talking the body an inch long huge, and they were very brightly colored and had webs everywhere. Luckily a pretty good amount of this trail was on city streets and on the coast, so the spiders weren't as big of a problem. But we might have to wait for the dead of winter before we go into the forests on the island, because that's just gross.

Anyway, we saw some other cool stuff on this trail, too. We hiked along a cool lava coastline and saw some of Jeju's apparently famous Haenyo woman divers free diving for edible sea creatures, which they sell. They're actually a pretty big deal here in Korea, though I had never heard of them before I started learning about Jeju. Apparently they've made it so Jeju has historically had a matriarchal family structure, which is a big deal in Korea, which still has a fairly male-dominated culture (And yes, the feminists are welcome to chime in and say that America still has a male-dominated culture. Have fun.). At any rate, that was kind of cool. We also saw some rock formations called columnar jointed lava, which was pretty awesome. I'll show some pictures. We also got to go to Jungmun beach again, and see a pretty killer sunset. Also, the beach didn't have a berjillion people on it like the last time we were there, and even better, no Nazi-esque beach police. Overall, it was a pretty great hike. Here are some more pictures.

Orange groves! I'm pretty sure that oranges are one of Jeju's main crops, which explains why they're so cheap here.

View of Hallasan from the south side of the island. It looks different. We're planning on hiking to the summit next Saturday!

Cool lava formations.

Cool view down the coastline. Those floats in the foreground are Haenyo divers. You can see the one on the left's head.

Looking the other way down the coastline. That's Sanbangsan in the distance.

That's the Jeju African museum in the background. It's a replica of the Great Mosque of Djenna in Mali, which is the largest clay building in the world. (This one is a little smaller.) It's still made entirely of clay, though. It also made an appearance in the K-drama "Playful Kiss."

Columnar jointed lava! Pretty awesome looking.

Sea water running off of the pillars. I thought it was artistic.

Proof that my hair wings and I were actually there.

I thought this formation was pretty sick.

Then Nancy decided to look way prettier than the rocks.

View from the top of a hill (It was technically an oreum, but I don't really differentiate. I just like views.)

Nancy crossing the river.

Awesome picture of me on a bridge.

Sunset at Jungmun Beach!

We managed to be the only ones in the picture!
So, that's that trip in brief. It was pretty fun, and it was good to see more of the south side of the island, which has a lot more of the exciting things that people come to see. That's all I've got for this day. This is Captain Danger out.

Friday, October 18, 2013

In Which I Realize That We've Been Here For a While

Tonight, I finally came to a strong realization that we've been here in Korea for quite a while. Friday night is usually our date night, and we usually try to go somewhere pretty nice for dinner. Tonight, we went to McDonald's. And Nancy was totally cool with it. In fact, I'm pretty sure it was her idea. That fact, that we now consider McDonald's an okay date destination, shows me that we have definitely been in Korea for a while now. Not for too long, just for a while. I mean, I'm cool with it. I probably would have been cool with McDonald's for a date back home. Nancy wouldn't be, though. Anyway, I think I could probably repeat the point I'm making four or five more times in different ways. I'll refrain. I'll post a picture to end this one:

I'm pretty sure I haven't put this one on the blog before.

This is Captain Danger out.