Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Cheorwon Weekend Trip
This weekend I went on a overnight trip to Cheorwon County. The trip was run by a travel company called "Adventure Korea" and nine of my friends went on it. The whole group was foreign ESL teachers and I got to meet some great new people. The tour bus picked us up in Daegu and then we drove for six hours northward to get to the Hantan river were our group went rafting. Years ago I went on a fantastic rafting trip on Idaho's Salmon River compared to that this was like the jungle cruise. It was nice float down the river with beautiful scenery. The best part of the trip was jumping out of the raft and swimming in the river. It was a perfect temperature on such a humid day. After rafting we were driven to this bridge. It was here that 26 brave souls were going to bungee jump off of this 50 meter bridge.
I heard about this trip seance my first night in Korea and my response was always. "There is no way I am going bungee jumping." It has always looked scarier than sky diving and I had no desire to throw myself off of a perfectly good bridge. Yet as we drove up to the bridge I got off with the jumpers thinking "just in case". I continued to this "just in case" until I found myself strapped to a rope looking 50 meters down into a river.
I have never been more scared. Ever. The first time I walked to the end of the platform I wimped out. As I watched others go my only thought was "I can't be the only one who wimped out". Then at 8:30 at night with the crescent moon shining and my shame as motivation, I closed my eyes and ran off a bridge.
I watched every person jump and one thing everyone shares. You might scream a little at the top but you don't start to really scream until you bounce back up. Until then you simply too scared. I spoke to one girl after the jump who said she blacked out. She couldn't remember anything until she bounced back up at the bottom. For me everything went silent. I have never been so scared in my entire life. After what seemed to be a lifetime I hit bottom and bounced back. I then flipped onto my back and fell again watching the night sky, by this time I'm screaming like a crazy person. My friend took a video of this by the way and I promise to upload it the moment I have a copy. When I used up all of my momentum I hung by the cord and waited for the man in the inflatable boat to come and pick me up. I had to stand up for him to remove the harness but I was shaking so hard the most I could manage was a squat. Would I do it again? Without a doubt (although it will surely cost more, this was just 30 bucks). Never have I felt adrenaline like that and maybe next time it will be more fun than fear.
After bungee jumping we drove to Odeami village. Odeami's farmland is famous for two things, legendary rice and on of the bloodiest battles of the Korean war. Our group ate dinner and then two of my friends and I took our stuff to were we would be staying, a traditional Korean home. The family who lived there must rent out that room to tour groups every weekend because they completely ignored us everyone squeezing into one room as we took the other. When then returned for a "campfire" which in Korea looks more like this.
At midnight we all went for a walk in the dark past the Baengmagoji Monument were the Battle of White Horse took place in 1952. The monuments themselves were hard to see because it was midnight but they weren't the really reason we hiked up there.
This picture might not look like much yet it was exciting being close enough to the worlds most secretive state to take it. The three white lights in the middle is the central tower in the middle of the DMZ. If those three lights go off for any reason locals know something big is happening in the DMZ.
The next day we toured a few of the more scenic areas of Cheorwon including a little river and a rather pathetic waterfall (living in the northwest spoils me, i'm sorry!). We where on our way to the DMZ. Between 1974 and 1990 four tunnels have been discovered connecting the two Koreas. Our trip was to the second tunnel which is one of the least visited. The second tunnel is six and a half feet tall and wide but is often much lower as it was common to hit your head. For once in my life I needed the hard hat my tour guide forced us to wear. The tunnel was about a 15 minute walk and drops us off in a larger cavern with a armed guard. A grate at the end of the tunnel says that I was now 200m from North Korea. Looks like they might have a tourist invasion on their hands. Watch out!
Although the South Korean soldiers manage to keep us on our toes with a well placed sign or two.
After the tunnel we continued our "security tour" by going to numerous other observation towers, bombed out remains of a train that connected North and South and strangely enough a museum consisting entirely of taxidermy birds. As we were shuttled to each site we had to drive through numerous security check points and military barracks. Every time drove past one I was shocked by the number of cute and cuddly painting. One even had two soldiers making their arms look like a heart?! I managed to take this picture on the back of a checkpoint, armed by three men with automatics. I had to take this or else no one would have believed me!
I had a great time during my trip. It took me out to the Korean country and I jumped of a bridge, two things I would have never done otherwise! Thank you Mom and Grandma for your letters. Its been fantastic to come into work and find a letter on my desk. I have lived in Korea for exactly one month now and time has flown by. It's because there is so much to do here in the summer. I'm sure winter will drag on...