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September 26, 2011

I recently went on a day hike through Achimgari (translates as “morning valley”) in Gangwon-do, the province to the east of where Seoul is.  It is fairly remote, which means that, unlike most hikes in Seoul, public transportation was not an option.  The group I was with took a chartered bus, with some Koreans and some foreigners.  It took us about three hours to get there, which gave me a chance to see some of rural Korea.  The thing about rural Korea is that they grow lots of rice there.  Lots and lots of rice.

We hiked along a river, and crossed the river, and then crossed it again and again.  The organizer of the trip had advised everyone to bring a change of clothes for the ride back home, but I ignored his advice.

The hike was very beautiful.  Most hikes in Korea are based on a mountain, so the other hikers were talking about how this valley hike was a nice change of pace.  I had forgotten how clear the sky can look when you aren’t in a smog filled city.  The other hikers were all very friendly as well.

However: During this hike, I was very sick.  Very, very sick.  Based on my students’ advice, I had tried some doen-jang-guk the night before the hike  (come on, kids).  The soup had tofu, mushrooms, and some sort of clams in it.  I’m sure that it was the clams that made me sick.

I felt a little bit strange when I woke up in the morning, but I was determined to go since I hadn’t yet left Seoul since I’d arrived in Korea.  About a quarter of the way through the hike, I realized I had made a huge mistake.  I backed away from the group, and then went and threw up in the woods.  There wasn’t really much else for me to do besides keep on hiking, though, since I was in a remote area, far from any sort of public transportation back to Seoul.  I tried to keep it a secret, since I was embarrassed that I apparently can’t handle Korean food, but other hikers kept on offering me food, or asking why I wasn’t eating any lunch, so I had to tell them that I was sick.  I threw up a couple more times along the hike, and I started feeling dizzy, which made the scenery seem surreal.

Last river crossing. The perceptive viewer can spot the writer of this blog.

On the way back to Seoul, we stopped for some dinner at a Korean restaurant.  I still couldn’t eat anything, so I hung out in the bus with a guy from Turkey and a guy from Pakistan.  We bonded over our mutual hatred of Korean food (“Do they really have to put red pepper paste on everything?” “The only thing that smells worse than kimchi is people’s breath who have recently eaten kimchi”).  My hatred has already subsided, now that I’m feeling better.  The guy from Pakistan, who was studying nanotechnology at a University in Seoul, talked about how living in Korea was difficult for a Muslim, since social gatherings often involve copious amounts of both pork and alcohol.

I’m planning on hiking at Jirisan in a few weeks, which will hopefully be a more pleasant experience.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. mom permalink
    September 29, 2011 10:40 am

    Andrew, Your blog is great. So sorry you got so sick on your hike. but the land looked beautiful. Thanks so much for sharing all of your experiences with all of us back home.

    love you and miss you

  2. October 2, 2011 7:29 am

    It looks really beautiful! It was probably nice to see trees/forests of trees.


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