Getting thereI have lived in Korea for over a year and I always thought that Bukhan-san looked like a good place for a hike. As I was starting to get a bit flabby from all the Korean meat I'd eaten, I decided to give it a try.
I went with my Korean friend who lived near the area as he also wanted to shed the pounds and he obviously new the way to get there.
After arriving at Suyu station, we caught the number 120 bus and then a 'free' bus to the temple. I say 'free' because the bus is laid on for worshippers who want to pray at the temple. If you're wearing full-on hiking gear they won't let you on. Fortunately (or not) I was wearing shorts, t-shirt and sneakers.
We got to the entrance, paid the 1600 won fee and set off.
From this point on, the gradient became steeper. Wire cables driven into the rocks helped us climb up the steeper rocks. Still not too challenging and the air was becoming cooler.
At about the 1.7 km mark, there was a well (and a ludicrously priced restaurant) where we could replenish ourselves. A couple hundred metres or so up, we reached an old fort where we could see the summit above us, almost there. Now comes the hard bit.
It wouldn't be that if it wasn't for all of the people, millions of them! All scrambling to get to the top, and come down as well. Quite a few rock faces here that were almost verticle, with big drops to one side. The guide cables helped, but when there are about 300 people (I exaggerate not) coming the other way it felt a lot more dangerous. We hauled ourselves up the last 100 metres to the summit. Fantastic views but it was more akin to a theme park then a mountain top. There were hoards of tourists (like me) and there was an old woman selling trinkets and Korean candy to the punters. Even so, I felt that I had achieved something in getting there. But I wasn't looking forward to coming down.
Coming downAt this point my legs were like jelly. I'm desperately unfit and I had a fear that my legs would just buckle underneath me on the descent and I would go crashing down into a) a swathe of Koreans or b) oblivion. I tentatively hoisted myself down the guide cables and I feel I was quite fortunate that I have really long legs and I could reach further with them.
After the steep descent I felt much better but now the temperature was hotting up as it was about 1 pm. About a kilometre to go I was stopped mid-stride by an American who accused me of being in the military, I really need to grow my hair.
I practically ran down the last kilometre and had a well earned cigarette after I comically stumbled out of the park gate.
A good experience and one I'd definately do again, when I lose more weight.