This day went extremely well and feels a bit undeserved. To get to my current location, I walked only 12,000 or so steps, which comes out to almost exactly two hours and, according to Naver Map, almost exactly eight kilometers.
So what happened? Wasn't I supposed to walk 17 miles along very hilly terrain to the Nakdan Dam? Yeah, I thought that, too, but last night was a night of internal struggle, and things turned out differently.
I had almost nothing to do yesterday. I was rudely awakened by the ajeossi who, standing outside the house, slid open my bedroom window at 7:00AM and barked that breakfast was ready and would be ending at 7:30AM. I sleepily told him I'd be skipping breakfast. Since the guest house wasn't serving lunch, I planned on skipping that, too, opting to munch on Survival Tabs. And since dinner wouldn't be served until 7PM, I knew I'd be skipping dinner as well, so as not to have to poop on the trail the next day (I know my intestines quite well).
After that encounter, I was left alone all day. I exited my bedroom only to do laundry; no one was home, so I did my laundry in the house's machine with no one the wiser. My bedroom was, annoyingly, being heated by an ondol (traditional Korean-style heated floor), which I longed to turn off. The heat had a soporific effect, making it hard to concentrate as I looked over my maps and my schedule. The greenhouse effect from sunlight and an 80°F day wasn't helping matters.
I had looked up my current guest house's location in relation to the first guest house, and I saw I was almost 24 kilometers, generally south, from where I had stopped. When the driver had picked me up the previous day, I asked him about the possibility of taking me back to my stopping point so I could avoid skipping parts of the path. I never got a definite reply from him, and I don't think he told anyone else about my need to be dropped off at that stopping point. All day long yesterday, I was alone, so there was no one with whom to discuss plans. I became convinced that a courtesy dropoff wasn't in the cards.
So I started mentally exploring alternatives, and the choicest one to come to mind was simply to walk to Nakdan Dam from the second guest house, especially since I was now so much closer to my destination-- only 8 kilometers away, in fact.
I wrestled with the idea of doing this, I'll have you know. It was a real moral struggle. The lazy part of me was glad to skip all that hilly terrain, but the honorable part of me argued that I was compromising the trip by not walking every inch of the way down to Busan.
In the end, this is how I worked things out for myself: along the way to Busan, I'll do (as I did in 2008) some extra "make-up" walking to compensate for the distance I skipped when I was driven to the second guest house. That way, I'll at least be able to say I walked the entire distance from Seoul to Busan, but I won't be able to say that I walked the entire way from Seoul to Busan. To make up for that deficit, I'll go back to that first guest house a weekend or two after the walk is over, and I'll walk the entire distance from there to Nakdan Dam... but without a backpack. Once that's done, I'll truly be able to say that I covered every inch of the path from Seoul to Busan.
With that dilemma resolved, I got some sleep. Not much, thanks to the unnecessary ondol, but enough. Around 10:30PM, my bedroom door slammed open: it was the ajeossi again. He simply stood in the open doorway, saying nothing until I rolled over groggily and mumbled, "Yes?"-- at which point he muttered "Sorry" and re-shut the door. What an asshole.
I rose at 5AM, all too eager to leave that place. No one stirred as I packed, filled my water tank, folded up my blankets, cleaned the floor, and left by the front door. A farm dog lying on its side by the house next door lifted its head when I exited my minbak, then went to sleep again as I walked off. Warning: your watchdog's quality may vary.
I was in a farming village where properties were connected by a confusing network of roads, so I relied on real-time GPS from Naver to get me out of the labyrinth. Once I hit a main road, the rest was easy, despite a few stretches where there was no safe bike path to follow.
Because this walk was going to be only eight kilometers, Naver's magnification was pretty high, and the red dot on the map that represented me was moving pretty quickly from landmark to landmark. I have to say, it was a pleasant walk. Things got a tiny bit hilly at the very end (which is where I met that cute puppy), but those hills, while steep, proved short and inconsequential. In no time (well, in two hours), I reached my destination of Nakdan Dam (낙단보). There was no way that any yeogwan was going to accept me at that early hour, so I decided to begin making up my skipped distance then and there. 17 miles minus 5 miles is 12 miles, so I needed to begin making up for 12 miles. I walked enough to go from 12,000 steps to my current count of 20,624 steps. That makes up for almost 4 of the 12 miles; I'll make up the remainder during my future "rest" days.
Part of my make-up walk took me out to a bridge. I decided to settle in its shadow, enjoying the coolness as I sat down on a brick embankment. At its top, the embankment's brick became dirt and gravel and sloped down the other side, all the way to the Nakdong River. After texting with my buddy Mike for a while, I went over the berm and took the most magnificent piss I've ever taken: hidden from the view of any bikers passing behind me, but totally exposed to any and all people on the far bank of the Nakdong, I let fly with a lusty torrent of urine while bellowing, "HELLO, KOREA!" to any observers. Having achieved a state of bliss and gratification, I lumbered beatifically back over the berm to my backpack, walked another mile away from town, then doubled back to the dam. On the way, I stopped in a mini-mart and bought a soda. Once at the dam, I watched the river's slow flow and met the two old bikers mentioned in a previous post. After that, I got my Chinese food and asked the lady manager about which motels she recommended. She pointed me to the neighborhood I'm in now.
So yeah, it was an absurdly easy day. Two hours' hiking followed by an extra stroll to make up some skipped distance, and here I am, ensconced in my tits-and-ass motel.
Tomorrow's walk is supposed to be easy, too: not even 12 miles. I think I have the option to camp or go to a fancy pension. Haven't decided what I'm going to do yet. Camping seems the more economical route, but camping legally is the issue. I have the luxury of deciding along the way, so I'll ponder my options tomorrow.
Ah, yes: about today's stamp from the certification center: because I skipped so much distance, I missed the chance to get a stamp at the Sangju Dam certification center, which was on the way, had I begun today properly. So along with doing that segment of the walk next time around, I'll be collecting the missing stamp then, too.
210 minutes' walking
10.48 miles walked
1805 calories burned