Sunday, November 10, 2013

Korea Holiday 2013 - Day Five

Up early to checkout so as we could enter the park - not raining anymore. About time too. We'd extended our stay because of the rain and due to the fact that it was supposed to be reasonable whether. Our initial plans had just been a staging day between Sokcho and Gyeongju so we really didn't have to be anywhere else, luckily. Parking at the entrance to the park was W5,000. It was going to be another 45 minutes until the cable car to the Gwongeumseong Fortress was open so we had a look at Sinheungsa (temple) and a short walk along the river. Ulsanbawi looked imposing in the background. By the time we bought tickets for the cable car we had to wait another 25 minutes or so for our car - popular ride today as it had been washed out for the previous two days.

Seated bronze Buddha statue (The Great Unification Buddha Tongil Daebul) - this thing is enormous
River in front of Sinheungsa
One of the guards at the entrance to Sinheungsa
More of Sinheungsa
Inside the temple at Sinheungsa
Cable car to Gwongeumseong Fortress
Entrance to Seoraksan National Park

Painting on side of building at Sinheungsa
Some smart chap built this on the river's edge
I'm sure this would be a raging torrent at the height of the wet season
Heading up on the cable car
Ulsanbawi in the background, massive Buddha in the foreground
You had one job
Reckon we took a shot like this 15 years ago

I climbed to the top of Gwongeumseong Fortress. Scary as heck but there were plenty of grandmas coming down who had done it and there was some ranger guy standing up top doing curls and things with a dumbbell. So I really had no excuse not to do it. Wonderful view from the top. And it was a bit crowded on the summit due to having been closed for a couple of days. You used all five legs coming down - legs, arms and bum.
Gwongeumseong Fortress
Leaves starting to change colour for autumn
How on earth the trees grow amongst the granite I don't know

There was a lunch offer at the Kensington Stars Hotel of steak, soup and coffee/juice for W14,000 in the Abbey Road Bistro. A la carte. Magnificent view from the terrace/balcony atop this hotel.
View from the car park of the Kensington Stars Hotel
Beatles memorabilia everywhere
Steak for lunch, exquisitely done
Panorama of surrounding mountains from the terrace atop the hotel

Plan after lunch was for some hiking in the Osaek region. There was a distinct lack of parking at Heullimgol for Yeosim Pokpo Falls and the climb to Seobugjoneung. Wonderful watching the clouds coming up the mountains as we ascended in the car. I couldn't enjoy it that much as the road was very windy. Short walk at the Heullimgol Park Ranger Post before we managed to get parking for Yeosim Pokpo (Falls). Even though it was a beginners course, and we did some stretching beforehand, it was hard work. Well, for we two oldies in the group. The young fella steamed on ahead of us and left us for dead. He wasn't waiting for us at the waterfall and we carried on. There was another waterfall ahead and a summit beforehand. Caught up with a group of school kids hiking and asked them if they'd seen him. He'd headed up to the summit, as you would expect a boy to do, and we found him on the way down. He'd beaten us by some 10 minutes or so, little bugger. By the time we summitted it was completely engulfed by cloud. But the scenery in the hiking trail was magnificent and well worth the pain in my legs that was evident and to come.
Roads are getting a bit windy - check out the GPS warnings
Around Heullimgol Park Ranger Post
Almost the right time of year - just a couple of weeks early for the best colours to be evident
Yeosim Pokpo
Clouds rushing up the valley
Wonderful granite peaks
OK, getting a bit arty now
From the summit of Seobugjoneung - completely clouded over
Descending Seobugjoneung
Bit trickier coming down, eh boy?
Not sure I would want to be standing here during the rainy season

Left at 4pm. Only 339 kms, 5 hrs and 25 mins of driving, until our hotel in Gyeongju. The IC expressway was only W4,400 for about 100 kms of driving. We stopped at Donghae where you can even buy Pierre Cardin clothing at the shops in the rest stop. Weird. Not a fabulous meal but serviceable. Only W17,000 to feed three. Lots of naval ships about and I could see eight.

Soon it was night time driving on dimly lit highway and town streets with a fair bit of traffic. Not all that enjoyable. Decided to drive like others and sat 10-20 km/h over the speed limit on the open road until the GPS warned me of an upcoming speed camera. With two stops it took us five and a half hours to reach the hotel but that was still one hour quicker than the GPS expected us to do it in, if you include the stops.

My sister-in-law and niece had reached the hotel just before us. We went out for a meal at 10:30pm, well, actually for coffee and a snack. Ate at Hollys Coffe - I had soup in a huge bread roll which was nice. Finished at five to 11, just as they were closing. Decided not to let sister-in-law drive my rental car again after that short journey.

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