Sunday, April 25, 2010

Jet Lag and Rest - Thursday, April 8, 2010

Coming over Alaska and Siberia yesterday was very interisting. I had the chance to look out the window of the plane often and for as long as I wanted. The view was great, with hardly any cloud cover. The cabin attendants had asked everyone to close the window shades early on, just after the first meal was served. Most of the passengers tried to get a nap about then, anyway. I kept my window shade down most of the time, also, but opened it for a look outside whenever I wanted.

I guess most of the northern hemisphere had a pretty hard winter this year. The snow covered mountains in Alaska were spectacular. When we crossed over into Siberis, it was truly amazing. The landscape, mountains and valleys, were completely covered in snow. There were no trees or other vegetation of any kind. It was a stark, beautiful scene, with nothing except snow covered wilderness as far as the eye could see. I could see pretty far, too, from thirty-four thousand feet. My seat was on the port (left) side of the aircraft, about six rows back from the wing, so I had a clear view, without the wing in the way. It was mesmerizing. I found myself closing the book every couple of pages, and opening the window shade for another look. When we got back out over the open sea again, it was covered in ice, also. The sea ice was broken into different patterns, and these patterns changed in nature as we moved south.

We passed over the west coast of Sakilin Island, and I had a great view of it. There was still plenty of snow there, also, and sea ice as well. This was the first sign of civilization I saw since Alaska. There were some tracts laid out on the ground near the coast, with roads and buildings nearby. There was also a coastal road which I followed until we finally moved off over the sea again.

When we next saw land, it was as we crossed over the east coast of Korea. Civilization was clearly evident here. I knew from the route map on the seatback video monitor that we were just south of Gangneung City. We were also begining our gradual descent in preparation for landing, so the ground features were becoming easier to see. It only took us about thirty minutes to cross the Korean Peninsula. I was surprised to see that most of the mountains here had some snow, mostly on the north slope. Closer to the east coast there are some ski resorts, and they were clearly visible. As we moved closer to the west coast, the ground elevations become lower, and the population density becomes greater. In addition to all the other infrastructure, many golf courses came into view. They have a distinctive look from the air. The west coast of Korea is low, and broken up by many peninsulas and different sized islands scattered out into the Yellow Sea. Coming into Incheon International Airport almost seems like you'll be landing on water. The airport is located on an island which has been extensively reshaped with much earth moving. The natural hilliness has been flattened on one side, and extended out into the water for a ways to accommodate the long runways.

Well, what a great journey it was, with many great sights to keep me entertained. This is my third time making this trip from DFW to Incheon, and it was by far the best.

After our bus, bus, and taxi trip over to Mrs. Kim's house, we arrived to find that she was not at home. Her husband was there waiting for us, but she was away attending the funeral of one of her sisters. More sadness for Mrs. Kim. We were invited in, and made ourselves at home. After some dinner and a shower, exhaustion overcame us, and we fell into a deep, well deserved sleep. I figure we'd been awake for about thirty hours by this point.

Jet Lag is a funny thing. After about six hours sleep, we both awoke about four o'clock in the morning, Korea time, and could not get back to sleep. We finally gave up trying about five o'clock, and got on up. We tried to be quiet, because the old guy was still asleep in the next room. After the cocks started crowing about five thirty, and the sky started getting lighter, Ok Hwa started getting some food ready for breakfast. The Koreans seem to eat the same food for breakfast that they eat for lunch and dinner. We ended up eating some more of the same leftovers we'd had for dinner the night berore.

The old guy got up and had some "breakfast" with us, and a little later he got hold of Mrs. Kim on the telephone. He told her that we'd arrived, and she said that she'd be back home around lunch time. I figured I had time for a hike, so I told Ok Hwa that I was going out for a walk, and would be back in about an hour or so. She gave me her blessing, and off I went.

I'd planned to hike up to the Buddhist Temple in the mountains at the head of the valley. It's only four kilometers and should only take me about forty-five minutes each way, with time to take some pictures along the way. I set off up the road and quickly got side tracked. There's a dirt road about one kilometer up that cuts off to the right, climbing steeply up the hillside into the trees. I couldn't resist, so off I went, climbing. After a hundred yards or so, it opens up to a clearing on the hillside, a burial site. You see these all over Korea, in the cities, and in the countryside. They carve out a level notch on a hillside, and there'll be a burial mound with a stupa, and sometimes a stone memorial with writing on it. They are of varying levels of ornateness, depending, I guess, on budget. This particular one was very ornate, consisting of four levels stair stepped down the hillside. There were two or three mounds on each level, with stone monuments, stupas, and shrubbery. I took some pictures, and then found another side trail, which led a few yards over through the trees to another couple of burial mounds. These were not nearly as fancy, consisting of only the leveled out notch, and one mound each for the two levels. A trail led away from these two, steeply down the hillside to the road below, emerging a couple hundred yards up from where I'd exited before.

My next distraction came from the river, down a steep bank on the left side of the road. I could tell there had been a lot of rain recently, as the ground was pretty saturated everywhere I'd walked. It was also evident from the roar of the water flowing over the rocks in the riverbed below. This is a very rugged, fast moving river, with huge rocks and boulders strewn about all along it's course, more so this high up the valley. Up here, the mountains squeeze in pretty tight on both sides, and it's very rugged and steep. I spied through the trees what looked like a small dam, and the begining of the aquecuct system for the farms in the lower part of the valley. A short scramble through the trees brought me to the bank, and the concrete dam. Sure enough, the dam impounds a pool of water, some of it spilling over the dam, and some of it channeled off to the side into the aqueduct. About ten yards down the aqueduct, there is a juncture with two sluice gates. One leads to the aqueduct, and the other leads back into the river. In this way, the water flow into the aqueduct can be controlled. The gate leading back into the river was opened, and the one into the aqueduct was closed. It's still a bit early for the water to be needed in the aqueduct and the fields down in the valley. Everywhere in the valley now, the fields are being tilled and prepaired for planting. In a very few some of the women are starting to set out seedlings.

Well, I goofed around down there for about thirty minutes, taking pictures of this concrete works, then hiked on back up to the road. Anothe ten minutes of walking brought me up to the big dam at the lake up at the head of the valley. There was a crew with a large backhoe doing some earth moving work here, repairing some of the earth berm, or the spillway. I couldn't see exactly what, because they had put up a large metal wall to screen off the work from the road. One of the workmen came around the wall to get something out of his truck. He was a young man, and we exchanged a few words. He knew a few English words. I pointed out the big mountain in the distance to the west, which was still covered in snow. He knew the English words for "snow" and "mountain". He was a pretty nice guy.

Time was slipping away from me now, so I got to walking, trying to really cover the remaining distance up to the temple as fast as possible. The road up to the temple cuts off of the main road just as it starts to curve around the back side of the lake. This little road is a serious climb, very steep, following a little tributary to the main river. This little stream is really just a long series of waterfalls, spilling down over the boulders scattered up the mountainside. I was determined not to stop, and pretty soon I was feeling it in my legs, and especially in my lungs. I had to slow it down a bit, but finally made it up to the temple without stopping.

Up at the temple, I could really see it had rained a lot. The roadway just before you get to the parking lot had been washed out completely, and the repairs were not finished yet. You could drive over it, but it was not paved. There was a lot of raw earth on the hillside below, leading down to the stream. The temple complex seemed undamaged by all the rain, thank goodness. I only stayed up there looking around for about five minutes, and didn't take any pictures this time. I knew I'd been gone for about two hours by this point, and wanted to get back as soon as possible. I figured that Ok Hwa would be worried about me.

I hiked back down to Mrs. Kim's house as quickly as possible, without any side trips. When I got there, the old guy was taking a nap, and Ok Hwa was just sitting at the kitchen table. Mrs. Kim had not made it back yet. She did show up before long, though. It was all excitement and chatter in the house then. We visited and had lunch (remarkably similar to breakfast), and then Ok Hwa and I decided to go into town to get some different food for dinner.

Mrs. Kim's house is at the last stop on the line, so when the bus driver turns around there, he backs it up into a little side road, and takes about a ten minute break. We hopped on, paid our fare, and pretty soon we were on our way into town.

We went straight to the central food market area, the Jungang Market, and quickly picked up all that we would need. Jungang market is a warren of about forty small city blocks, made up of streets, alleys, and small pedestrian only passageways. It is jam packed with cars, scooters, deliery trucks, and pededtrians. With every kind of mercantile you could imagine, from brick and mortar stores to sidewalk vendors of every description, it is a feast for all the senses. We got a whole chicken for four dollars, and a bunch of vegetables for a few dollars more. The hardest part was waiting for the 308 bus to come back around to take us home. We waited there at the bus stop by the rail overpass for at least thirty minutes before he arrived. It seemed that every other bus came by at least twice before ours showed up. Oh, well, at least we were finally on our way home.

Back home, the ladies set about making dinner, while the old guy and I laid around. The jet lag was catching up with me again. It was only about five o'clock, but I could barely keep my eyes open. I was yawning every minute. What a relief when they finally called us to dinner. I had been reading a magazine, and struggling to keep my eyes open. The food revived me for a bit, but the jet lag caught up with me again before long. About seven o'clock all I could do was brush my teeth and fall into bed. I slept like a rock until about five a.m. What a great night's sleep!

Here are pictures from the day. Click on the image for a slideshow:

Hike to Temple

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed the travelogue and the slide show. Thanks for sharing!