Saturday, September 23, 2023

a tiring walk

I survived another all-night 33K walk from Yangpyeong to Yeoju. This walk started even earlier than the previous two walks: I left the office at around 7:45 p.m. and arrived in Yangpyeong exactly two hours later, at 9:45 p.m. (Annoyingly, the train didn't empty out until we were two-thirds of the way to Yangpyeong, which meant I had to stand for most of the trip. Standing normally isn't a big problem, but I was also short on sleep. This was not turning out to be the most auspicious way to start this latest trek. But the saving grace was that the night was pleasantly cool—probably somewhere in the high 50s Fahrenheit (14ºC, roughly).

Starting this early meant that I completely avoided the 11:55 p.m. blackout. By the time I was going up the walk's one big hill, it was a little past 11, and I was far past where the blackout normally happens. At one point in the walk, I passed a cluster of foreigners and Koreans who had one dog guarding the group. The dog saw me from afar and arfed out some warning barks. As I passed the group, one of the ladies apologized, but I told her, "Not a problem. Dogs will be dogs." If anything, I thought the dog was doing his (her?) duty by guarding the group. Because I was out earlier than usual, there were more people (including bikers) and cars about. But in Yangpyeong, things quiet down after 11 p.m., and the path was largely empty in due time. By the time midnight rolled around, it was just me, the silently imposing river, and a starry sky free of Seoul's light pollution. I saw Jupiter up in the sky; later on, I saw Venus, and when a star I didn't recognize showed up, I consulted my star map and smacked my forehead when I saw it was Sirius. The star map also reminded me that, even though I had trouble seeing it, Uranus was lurking right close to Jupiter (so watch what you do with Uranus).

It was dark for most of the walk, and the two rest breaks I took were no more than a few minutes long. I started around 9:45 p.m., and by the time I limp-shuffled up to the bus terminal, it was 6:15 a.m. So that's 8.5 hours to do 33 kilometers, or an average speed of 3.88 kph—very slow. I was feeling it, too: by the time I finished, I was a mass of aches and pains, and I'd neglected to bring along any ibuprofen. I suppose the relentless darkness may also have been a factor, but what it comes down to is that I'm just slow these days.

I sometimes wonder whether my readers understand why I'm thrilled with doing what seems to be the same route over and over. (I've now done Yangpyeong-Yeoju three times this year.) I once had a highly intelligent coworker who was easily distracted, his attention always being pulled to the newest, shiniest thing. He and I (and occasionally one or two other coworkers) would go on daily walks during our breaks at work, and he was always the one wanting to explore new routes because repetition bored him. I suspect that a lot of people are like that, and I wonder if the reason has to do with seeing only the salient features while ignoring the details. For me, the "same route" is never the same route at all. The details are constantly changing: ambient temperature, the people I encounter, the state of the foliage, the time of year, the clouds and stars, my own internal state—you get the picture. So for me, each of these walks is actually unique; I never stop enjoying them.

Below is a photo essay of 49 images. Enjoy.

Ready to depart. And I see I'm developing bags under my eyes. Lovely.

A shot of Oksu Station, where I transfer from Line 3 to the Gyeongeui-Jungang Line.

Getting off at Yangpyeong Station.

The escalators were out. I'm glad I had to walk down the stairs.

Proof that I was there.

A look back at one of the bridges across the South Han. I've never crossed that bridge.

A closer look at the poor, graffiti-ravaged rabbit.

All the lights were on this time. No blackouts for Kevin.

Welcome flags.

A look down the path.

dark path, Jupiter hovering overhead

Ipo Dam in the distance

getting closer

The dam is upon us.

not my usual glove pic

I took a pic of only one jangseung this time. He represents the group.

An orb-weaver crouches in the cold.

as I pass the dam

I almost never photograph this towering sculpture, which sits at the now-abandoned campground.

I used my camera's "night" mode to get this shot, which would otherwise have been black.

The campground that I pass right after Ipo Dam used to be a lively place until COVID reared its ugly head. I think the campground is now closed, but as I walked through it this time, I saw some scattered RVs and random people, probably taking advantage of the campground's desolate state to do some free camping. 

Not that many Koreans really camp at these places: either they've got campers, or they pitch their tents on these wide, wooden platforms that sit about a foot above the ground, sucking all the joy and fun out of an earthy, organic camping experience. I can't stand those facilities. And even worse is the abomination of glamping, i.e., glamor(ous) camping. You're basically in a motel masquerading as a tent, with A/C, a real bathroom, and often a kitchenette. How or why anyone thinks this is a good idea is utterly beyond me.

approaching the bridge after the campground

"sharp curve"

I simply didn't photograph anything for around 8-10 kilometers: it was too dark to see much, and the phone camera wasn't picking up anything. So between the above photo and the one below, there's a huge lacuna that would've been filled had it been daytime.

much, much later in the walk: "bicycle path"

With Jupiter now directly overhead, this bright star is Venus. You're going to see several Venus shots.

Yeoju Dam in the dark

Vader's castle next to a factory?

Bright lights on the opposite bank made it hard to photograph things. But this is where the water spills over.

a distant part of Yeoju

crossing the dam

King Sejong's hunminjeongeum in the dark

Luckily, the same writ is on the other, better-lit side.

Venus glares balefully down at the dam.

Venus watches over the final 6 km.

Something about how this light is nestled among the blades of grass made me want to photograph this.

long stretch ahead, Venus in the upper-left corner

My love of straightaways cannot be suppressed.

This curve indicates that we're about to enter the city proper.

The sky lightens, and Venus persists.

A wide shot as dawn breaks.

I'm in Yeoju for real now.

The swastika can indicate a temple or temple-like structure. If the latter, it's probably a fortune-teller's place. (Addendum after reading Charles's comment: having seen many places like this, I was pretty sure this was a fortune-teller's place. I don't think that was clear from what I previously wrote.)

red, metal gate; dilapidated dwelling

I saw this a lot on my east-coast hike: a 24-hour mart that was closed. Fuckers.

Are the flags out for Chuseok (9/29) or for Foundation Day (10/3)? Note the old-style hangeul that's a tribute to King Sejong, whose town this is.

I've survived. Here's the inter-city bus terminal.

Eyes are a bit red, but I'm otherwise OK. Just tired and achy.

my bus

It was a nice ride home. I caught the 7:30 a.m. bus again, like last time. Since I arrived much earlier this time, I had longer to wait. With idle hands being the devil's workshop, I strolled over to a local convenience store and bought some snacks.

It was a good hike all in all. My shoes are still holding up, and while my feet and lower back were killing me, I was fine for the most part. I took my usual victory nap on the bus, then caught a cab back to my place. I've now finished writing this entry around noon, and I'm going to go to bed. As I promised, I plan to be useless for the rest of Saturday.

I shouldn't have, I know

In the ongoing campaign to use up leftovers, I had some beef, shrimp, veggies, cashews, and generic Asian sauce from a previous effort at cashew shrimp on rice. I didn't think I had enough left over so I went to the grocery and bought myself some buldak (fire-chicken) sauce, thinking that the added spiciness would make the overall sauce feel "bigger" somehow. Instead of rice, I bought some small packs of udong (thick, Japanese-style noodles called udon across the pond) since I wanted something texturally different. 

So a few days ago, I threw everything together, frying up the cashews to brown them a bit, slicing up the veggies in that pretentious on-the-bias way that Westerners associate with Asian cooking, slicing and frying up the beef, and throwing in the shrimp toward the end. The result was what you see below, and it was magnificent. The third pic in the series is from the following day. I don't even know what to call this dish. Soegogi-saewoo-udong bokgeum (쇠고기 새우 우동 볶음)? How about Surf & Turf Asian Pasta?

This was made the following day with a different packet of udong.

Sweet, spicy, carby sauce and super-carby rice noodles, but so damn good. I need to make this again, at scale, for the office crew. My boss tried a sample and liked it.