A tiger, a monk and his nearly-bride

South Korea

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.

Malcolm and Margaret’s Excellent Adventure.

South Korea

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.