Shields, Cones, and Tubes
Feeling great after the win, and adequate sleep, we decided to park our bags at a hotel and head immediately to South Korea’s highest mountain, the shield volcano Hallasan, to reach the summit. As a rule, Jon is not a fan of hiking, nor any form of practical exercise that does not promote the development of ‘beach muscles’. But after countless obscenities and 10km of ascent, he was even more excited than I to reach the volcano’s crater rim summit. The photo above is the victory shot. (Of course we wore our couples shirts). The walk down destroyed our calves, and we limped in hilarious agony around the island for the next 3 days. Actually, we did as little walking as possible, thanks to Mr Lee……
Mr Lee’s Bike Shop
In accordance with Korean law, Lee can only rent motorcycles and scooters to foreigners with international drivers licenses and at least one year of riding experience. I possessed neither. But we thought we could compensate with charisma and charm. After a ten minute discussion, he acquiesced to lending us a motorcyle and scooter. Feeling pretty proud of ourselves, we sat down to sign the waiver. He then plucked an extra waiver—for foreigners without proper licenses—from a rather handy stack beside the normal waivers. Perhaps we weren’t the trailblazers on this path of illegality.
We had more fun on the bikes than I thought possible. We criss-crossed the island to walk through cold, dripping underground lava tubes (the world’s largest), and summit a stunning tuff cone jutting 200m straight up from the beach in Seongsan (well, I did. Jon napped). We cruised the winding roads of the interior through foggy conifer forests and between lush green cinder cones. We navigated through the city, Korean-style: Lane-splitting, running red lights, riding down sidewalks. And since our motorbikes didn’t have front plates, we flashed smiles and peace-signs as we sped, well over the limit, right under the numerous speed cameras.
I’ve come to realize that one major attraction of traveling, especially when engaged in a steady routine of work, is its ability to slow time.
Thanks for being my tour guide, Jon!
P.S. The photos are uploaded. Twenty three photos; twenty-three mini stories. (For now). Visit them by clicking the photograph above. And don’t be shy to leave a comment.
Addendum: What Lies Ahead
Despite having a quarter less GDP than Canada or Australia, I think SK is way ahead of both these countries technologically. I noted a few examples:
– Eight-megabit 3G internet on the subway (that’s almost certainly faster than your high speed internet at home)
– Geothermal, wind, and wave power generation
– Fifty-inch flatscreen touchscreen television for interactive learning in Jon’s elementary school classroom.
– Mobile reception everywhere; even on the open ocean ferry ride, or a 9 hour Hallasan mountain hike.
– One subway card you can refill, that worked in two different cities, 500km apart
– Elevators that allow you to unselect a floor
– Live television in taxis; for checking the latest traffic cameras (or more commonly, for watching soap operas while driving)