Back in England, it’s time to dust down our walking boots again.  As we stepped out today, on a beautifully fresh and clear early Autumn morning, we contrasted our walk from nearby Masham with hikes we’d gone on in Korea.

It was the weather we noticed first.  Probably it’s colder there now too, but then, we wore t shirts  and battled against the humidity.  We wore fleeces today.  We tramped through fungus-laden woodland in both countries.  Here though, as we glanced at the tussocky meadowland near the River Ure, we saw sheep, sometimes cattle .  There, valley floors were terraced with paddy fields, citric green with young rice.

Here, there were distant views of solid stone barns and farmhouses – even a country house, Clifton Castle.  There, we were more likely to come upon a hidden Buddhist temple, its solid, yet graceful wooden form painted cinnabar, blue-green, white, yellow and black.

In Korea, woodland in the countryside is dominant once you get away from ‘civilisation’.  Here, we drifted between woods, meadows, ploughed fields and ground by the open river .

We enjoyed the lot.  But today, we appreciated saying ‘hello’ again to our familiar local landscape.



From Siberia to Sweden

We’ve been back from South Korea for a week now.  We’re jogging back into routine, but the jet-lag won’t go away.  A week on then, I think I should share my final holiday snaps.

These are from the plane.  Much of our long, long eleven hour journey was above thick layers of cloud.  But when we could see down to the ground far below, we were thrilled.  We could barely comprehend the vastness of Siberia.  Mile after mile after mile after mile of forested mountains, dusted with snow.  How could it be that in all these endless miles we saw not a path, not a field, not a settlement?  How could anywhere be so …. uninhabited?

Eventually though, there were settlements.  Straight roads passed between towns that seemed to be all about industry and factories, with large rectangular fields beyond.

Then there was the Volga, immensely wide, lazily spilling itself over plains and valleys, dividing, re-forming, leaving sandy islands in its midst as it meandered northwards.

We travelled over a cottony carpet of white cloud for a very l-o-n-g time.  And emerged over islands round Sweden.  There were coastal villages, isolated farms, fishing boats.  We spied on communities whose ways of life looked as if  they had changed little over the years.   And then it was cloud again, all the way to England.

These are terrible photos.  They’re fine for me as souvenirs of a tantalising journey offering glimpses of lands I’ll never see, and that few others have seen either.  Except distantly, courtesy of a journey in a plane.





Goodbye Korea…

…… goodbye Emily. It’s been wonderful.

Here’s a photo we took this evening of one of Seoul’s old main city gates, Dongdaemun. Next to it is a street market, several modern hotels and high-rise buildings, endless traffic, shops, cheap restaurants. A real slice of Korean life.

WP_20161004_13_04_02_Pro_LI.jpgWhen hiking in Korea, it looks as if you need an objective. There and back to see how far it is won’t do.

So yesterday we became Korean hikers for the day, and followed upward, ever upwards the path to Nammaetap, the Brother and Sister Pagodas.

This is the story. Back in the days of the Shillas, a monk living in a cave right here in the mountains found a tiger who appeared before him in agony, with a bone in his throat. Of course the monk helped him. Days later, the beast reappeared with a thank you offering. A beautiful girl. The girl said the tiger had snatched her away from her marriage ceremony. The monk sent her home, but too late. The wedding had been cancelled.

The pair agreed to live as brother and sister, and devoted their lives to the service of Buddha. They passed into Nirvana on the same day, and are remembered in these two pagodas, situated high above the temple at Donghak-sa. This is one of the few monasteries in Korea where you will find Buddhist nuns.

Even without the story to entice us upwards, this was a wonderful, tough walk through woodland, along streams, up a steep rocky path to views at the top from those two pagodas.

Here we are, out in the sticks, just outside the boundary of the Gyeryongsan National Park.

Only it turns out we’re not really in the sticks. Down the road are two villages. They mainly exist for tourists, and are edged by hotels.

Not walkers in woolly hats and fleeces though. Instead, visitors lounge around in one of the dozens of coffee bars. The walkers – and there are plenty – just use the public car parks and then yomp straight up a mountain.

This is the scene as the sun goes down. The hotels light up, and stay lit up till six the next morning. There are displays of coloured raindrops or flashing rainbows.

Blackpool illuminations, right here on the edge of Gyeryongsang National Park. Best stay in and shut the blinds.

We hated Jeonju on sight. High-rise hell. It got no better, so we cut and ran this morning, having booked the only place we could find in Gongju within our price range. Well, just outside Gongju, anyway …

KTX (High-speed train) to Gongju Station. It turned out not to be all that handy. The station’s 20 km.from town. And our hotel’s 30 km. away, in a different direction.

The woman from Tourist Information at the station had clearly had no custom all day. She took our problem to heart. She thought hard. The best she could come up with was a bus (journey time 1.20 minutes), due in a while, then a taxi.

The bus arrived. She ran out to talk to the driver. Success! He would take us beyond the terminus to the bus garage, and from there we could walk.

Our bus bumbled along country roads, climbing and climbing into the mountains of the Gyeryongsan National Park. It was beautiful, yet shabby, rather like the Ariège with added paddy fields. We were the only passengers, and entirely happy, looking out at scenes of Korean country life.

Suddenly, the driver stopped the bus. He indicated we should wait and dashed into a rural Police Station. Did he need a pee?

After five minutes, he reappeared, in the company of a police officer, and motioned us to dismount with our luggage. He was smiling cheerfully.

The PC had just a little English, and explained he’d take us to our hotel. And bundling our luggage into his patrol car, that’s exactly what he did.

So here we are, stuck in the mountains for our last three days. Do we feel stuck? Not at all. Our plans may have changed, but in a good way. We found a little restaurant for our evening meal and became quite the centre of attention. Koreans come here a lot for a bit of mountain air. The English? Not so much.

This could be just what we need.

A tale of three cities


Since we left Busan, we’ve been doing our Grand Tour of Korea. We chose three cities:




Before my next post, will you make sure you can pronounce each one perfectly, so it doesn’t sound like any of the others?

Thank you.

The photo was taken en route from City One to City Two.