A few weeks ago I posted a message on Busan’s thread on Couchsurfing (couchsurfing is this awesome site where you can meet travelers and work out places to stay while traveling: https://www.couchsurfing.org/). I posted a message looking for a local hiking group or just local people interested in hiking. Most of the replies I received were from creepy 30+ year old men living in Southeast Asia, all pretty much saying the same thing, “I don’t like hiking really but I like your face, do you like soju? ::winky face, winky face::”
But there were a few positive replies including an invite to a fb hiking group called Busan Daytrippers (https://www.facebook.com/groups/busandaytrippers/) which goes hiking just about every weekend. I also got replies from a few local ex-pats who are interested in outdoorsy things and a few local Koreans, one of which invited me to go sailing-but that’s a different story.
My first hike with Daytrippers was from the neighborhood Jung Ang Dong to Gong Dashin Dong. I’m still not entirely sure the exact route we took- but we were located near or on Eomgwangsan mountain. We met at Jungang subway station exit 5 and got bus 186 up the hill. There was a big group of us- maybe 30+ (but let’s be honest, I’m terrible with estimating, so who knows) and the regular members said they thought it was probably the biggest group they’ve ever had. Imagine how we must have looked: 30 ish foreigners, decked out in hiking apparel, waiting at a bus stop, then- loading onto the bus and packing ourselves in like sardines as the bus climbed THE steepest hill in Busan. It was one of those moments where you want to look around at the views but you’re afraid that if you lean too far to look out the window the whole bus is going to tip and go tumbling down the cliff. Near the top of a particularly steep ascent we got out somewhere near Jungang Park and crossed the street to the trailhead.
The hike immediately started straight up- no mercy switchbacks or anything- and it lasted that way for a good mile or so. I was loving it because I was in that sort of mood where I needed to exhaust myself and even though I was just meeting all these people for the first time I really didn’t care to hear about where they worked or how long they had been in Korea, because I just wanted to hike. (#heretohike..)
The hike followed the ridge: up and down and up and down, around a crescent shape- first to the Northwest, then Southwest- passing through several ‘fitness parks’ and ‘rest areas’ where tons of Koreans were picnicking or getting their fitness on- and watching our big troop of foreigners march by as if we belonged to a club. Oh wait, we do.
With every ascent and descent we lost a few more people from the group and so by the end of the trail there were less than a third of us left together. In the spirit of- well everybody has a smart phone, right?- we left them behind to find their own way home and we continued on in our smaller group. We walked down through tiny alley streets somewhere near Seodaesin neighborhood and walked through a park with a botanical garden and a tiny lake. By this point I had gotten over my need to beat everyone to the top (#firsttothetopanni…just saying) so I started talking and getting to know my fellow hikers. They’re all English teachers (of course) but some were brand newbies and some have been here for years and years.
We ended up at a soccer stadium where we got some street food and watched a free game of semi-professional soccer: The Busan Transportation Corporation Football Club vs. The Ulsan Hyundai Mipo Dolphins. A fb group had been created to support team Busan and there ended up being so many foreigners there that a TV crew was sent out to capture the miraculous and rare occurrence of enthusiastic foreigners interested in something Korean. Not the best soccer I’ve ever seen but good fun nonetheless. Afterwards I was able to walk down the street and get on the subway at Dongdaesin. How convenient!