Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Other Side of the Mountain

When I first arrived at my new home in Busan I noticed that we seemed to be stuck between two mountains, and Korean Father rapidly encouraged us that we had to climb these twin peaks. Regularly. Unfortunately he was to be disappointed, because it's taken over six months before I set foot on the mountain behind our apartment building. Well you know how it is, I've been busy. On Sunday afternoon it was Korean Mother who finally persuaded us that rather than go to a health club we should get some exercise the old fashioned way and up Dongmae Mountain we went. A steep road rapidly turns into an even steeper dirt path, but as this is a small mountain (210.4m tall from our more-or-less sea-level starting point) it probably takes no more than twenty minutes to climb to the top. As it was, we elected to take a more circular route which made it longer, but it did give us chance to walk through an outdoor gym...

While it may sound odd there is a kind of logic to it. Koreans generally love walking in the mountains and consider it one of the best forms of exercise - so much so it's practically a national pastime. Walk in the mountains for any length of time and you'll be especially struck by the number of elderly people in walking gear making their way up and down. So, why not put exercise equipment up in the mountains as well? And indeed, this is what happens - resulting in the sight of forest clearings where people are using hula-hoops and lifting weights. Nevertheless, Dongmae Mountain beats anything else I've seen so far, even featuring a covered area with cycling machines which look like they've been retired from a proper gym somewhere. It's all free of course and there's merely a sign nearby asking you to respect the equipment. Locals believe Dongmae is particularly healthy because, unusually, most of the trees are pines, and this makes the air here better than that on other mountains, though perhaps this is just what they tell themselves in order to avoid the higher peaks in the city.

Further up, there was an even larger exercise area, though the range of equipment wasn't quite as impressive, and the cycling machines were merely old road bikes sunk into the ground. Lots of people were busy exercising. As we neared the top of the mountain we passed several unmarked mounds which I suspected might be graves, and then just below the top there were a couple which were marked, which seemed to confirm the theory. Judging from the weathering on the stones and inscriptions, they are very old.

At the top of the mountain there is... a great big electricity pylon (of course!) Koreans may be somewhat aligned with nature in certain respects but much like the Japanese I'm not sure they let it get in the way of function, and if you need to get an electricity supply over a mountain and that means putting a pylon on top, so be it. In any case, like many mountains in Busan it's heavily forested even at the summit so aside from a small clearing - and even more exercise equipment - there isn't much to see. Spotting something through the trees and clambering through them, I did managed to catch the sunset over the Western edge of Busan.

Another thing I learned was that while taking photos of sunsets from mountain tops is all very well, it also means that you're likely to be walking down it in the dark, and with the light failing we just made it back to the bright lights of civilization, though not before I'd fallen twice.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Is this mountain near Sinpyeong-dong?

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