mini temple in the middle of nowhere
I made my way west from Busan. This was an absolutely gorgeous drive. The weather was perfect and all I kept singing was Hotel California. I especially found myself found of the line, "cool wind in my hair!" The wind was quite strong. It was the first time I had ever seen a bird as road kill. I came to the conclusion that it had tried to fly but the wind had gotten the best of it and his or her flight had descended a bit, enough to get into traffic and then BAM! Smacked my semi-truck. I was really hitting some random roads on this leg of the trip. Anything I saw I liked, I went there. If I got confused or lost, I went forward. I did not mind anything at all. I was really fond of the area. Lots of beautiful mountains and occasionally the road would run by the beach.
random country side
I stopped for lunch in a small town. A couple came in and sat at the table next to me. The gentleman started to speak in fluent English and he was asking why I was so far from the real world. I briefly told him of my vacation. He, like everyone else and myself, thought that sounded great and that I would see some gorgeous countryside.
At one point, I saw a sign for a carving of Buddha in the side of a mountain. "Why not?" I thought to myself. I rode up the mountain and wound up at a small temple. I stopped and stretched for a bit and then began to take a little self-guided tour of the area. A couple of older Koreans stopped me to chat. They wanted me to take their picture...I think. I asked them where I could find the trail which leads to the carving and they took me to the foot of the trail.
paintings on a wall leading into a temple
It was a steep climb and I was wearing jeans. The humidity was quite high as well. It was a beautiful sight. The carving was completed around 819a.d.
Keeping westward and with the clouds beginning to roll in I stopped to find out about the weather. It wasn't supposed to rain for two days, just clouds she said. I followed highway 17 as the way to the beach and then some. (At this point, this is my third attempt to write this portion. My computer at work has not played ball with me today and this was one of the best parts of my trip too.)
I decided I would follow the road until it ran out. I stopped in a small harbor village to fill up on cold drinks and find out where the hell I was. I was where I had intended to be, but I saw that more road lay ahead of me.
I kept on it for a while. I ran into some old men sitting out and drinking some soju. I asked them where I could camp. The communication was difficult, but I think they told me to go around the side of the mountain and there would be a large open field. I tried to go around and there was no road, just harbor. I turned back around and rode past them. I did not want to bother them anymore. I rode past another group of ajoshis sitting out on a small bridge having some soju over a little inlet from the sea. One of the men stared me down intently with his eye. His was scared badly on his face from an apparent blast of some sort or perhaps a fire. I figured it was from the war. I bet he could tell some stories.
I kept following the road as it would wind around mountain after mountain and through village after village.
some nice guys at a temple
Finally I came upon a national park. I was stoked! I love parks and there is always camping available. I found an empty earth parking lot. There was not too many rocks in it. I pitched my tent along the edge of the cliff there. Below the cliff was about a 100 meter drop into the sea. I did not have spikes for my tent because it was given to me the art teacher at school. I used some rocks to tie down the corners and placed all of my gear inside, covered my bike, drank a few cold drinks and headed into "town" for dinner. I decided to spoil myself because, well, I just felt like it. I ordered the blue crab stew. The owner gave me a discount and he came out and talked to me the whole time. He also broke apart all the crab for me. I thought this a very generous gesture so I gave him some of my crab.
i'm not sure either
After dinner, I sat there and wrote a bit in my diary.
On the way back to the tent, I was on the phone with a friend and as soon as I topped the hill to the parking lot, I noticed that my tent was no longer where I left it. I dropped the phone and sprinted over to the bike. The tent was hanging off the side of the cliff at the top! The wind had picked it up and moved it. I couldn't believe it. I was so incredibly lucky that everything I had was not sitting at the bottom of the sea. I quickly put the tent back and used some heavier rocks this time and some bricks I was able to find. I also put my ass in there. I decided if the wind picked me up with the tent, then I deserved to be at the bottom of the sea.
I woke up the next morning in time for the sunrise, but not surprisingly it was too cloudy to really see any thing.
I space vacant spot allowed for a little orange hue to get through around 5:45am. I laid back down to sleep for a few more hours. It was so easy to sleep there. All I could here were the waves crashing against the shore beneath me. Quite soothing. Around 8am I woke back up and packed up my things. I headed back the way I came because that was the only place to go. The weather didn't look that good and I knew there was a storm out in the sea, so I wanted to make my way inland quickly.
I stopped at the fish museum for a bit. It was not too bad. A few live fish, turtles, sharks and seahorses. they had the internet too so I could check the weather forecast. It wasn't looking that good. I headed back into the mainland area and off the small peninsula.
carving of buddha from 819a.d.
I stopped at another temple along the way. I had a feeling that this one would be special. Let's call it intuition. as I topped the hill and began to descend, the water to my right and gravel and dirt beneath the tires, I felt like this was a true pilgrimage to a special place. When I arrived, I parked my bike along the driveway and a kind gentleman came out to greet me. I told him I was just a tourist here for pictures. He began speaking English to me and told me that he called his friend who lived in New York City for 32 years to come chat with me. Choong, his friend, arrived and greeted herself. She inquired about my knowledge of Buddhism. I explained my lack of. She invited me into the temple where the monk was performing is afternoon chants. I told her that I've never been inside of one when she asked because I did not know the culture of Buddhism and I did not want to be disrespectful by observing the tradition incorrectly, instead, I told her, I usually just keep my mouth shut and take pictures.
Once inside the temple, she said it is basically just common courtesy to bow. She showed me the proper technique and order of bows and asked if I wanted to stay for his chants. I, of course, said yes to her. She got me a map and I had a wonderful opportunity to perform traditional Buddhist rituals. It was an interesting and humbling experience. I knew I may get many opportunities like this. I stayed quiet and respectful to their faith. After quite a while, but what only seemed like moments, I excused myself and stepped outside to sit on the porch. I reflected on the experience and life. I wanted to stay right there. I was very content. The scenery was beautiful. The chanting and music was sobering. The air was pure and free of daily life. It was a wonderful environment to contemplate a next move.
offerings for the buddha carving
I was ready to saddle back up Jahyoo when Choong invited me down for coffee. She offered me a juicy apple as well. I had nothing yet that day, so the coffee and apple was quite nice. After chatting for a while, as I was putting on my gloves, the monk came around the corner and invited me in to his office for some tea. Who would say no to that? really
His office was absolutely amazing. Everything in there was very earthy and traditional, except for his water machine. This was state of the art technology, that and his cell phone. We had a good discussion for quite a while through the translator. he spoke not a word of English and I was a bit shy to use my Korean. He was soft spoken and kind. I want to learn Korean and return.
I drove along the highway taking pictures of the country side of SouthWest Korea for what seemed like forever.
the forest where the buddah carving is
I stopped to call Liz, my host in Mokpo. She said she would not be off for a few hours and I was pretty close to her hood. So I came to a fork in the road and decided to ride south a bit to see if I could get lost again. That's exactly what happened. I drove over a lengthy bridge and saw a sign for a town that I should not have seen. I turned around to ask directions at a gas station. The guy filling his car up told me that he was heading to the same town and I could follow him. His son rolled down the window in the back seat and said, "Follow us please." I always love hearing English. So I did as directed and followed them. As soon as I saw the sign for Mokpo, I opened up the throttle and blew some dust back. It was starting to get dark outside and I was ready to be done for the day.
They caught up to me at the redlight and his son rolled down the window again and I gave him an impromptu English lesson on the side of the rode for 20 seconds, then again at the next redlight. I was surprised the dad could keep up with me cause I was cruising.
I met Liz and she was a great couchsurfing host. Just a downright genuine experience. She let me use her shower and had a spare towel for me (she may have done this just cause I was quite smelly at this point I'm sure). We went out for dinner and had a pitcher, then went out with her friends and they were all good.