Friday, 25 January 2013

Ganghwa - The Misty Island: Part 1

Last Sunday I went on my fourth trip with the Seoul Hiking Trip, this time to Ganghwa Island on the northwest coast of South Korea. It sits just a mile south of North Korea, which can be seen from the island. Our main goal was to ascend the island's highest peak, Manisan, though we also visited a fort on the north coast, and a beach when our hike was finished.

Ganghwa Island, shown in red, is separated from North Korea by the Han Estuary.
A statue we passed on the bus heading out of Seoul.
Crossing the bridge from the mainland to Ganghwa. The island was shrouded in mist when we first arrived. 
Before beginning our hike, we stopped off at a fort on the north coast of the island, so that we could see North Korea.
The coastline was lined with barbed wire fences to stop North Korean defectors from entering the country.
My first sight of the world's most secretive country: The Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The misty weather only added to its eeriness.
We entered the coastal fort to get a better view. 

Inside the fort was a pavilion over five hundred years old. 
Another view of North Korea.
A South Korean soldier surveys the waters for any suspicious activity. It is not uncommon for North Korean defectors to attempt to enter the South using makeshift rafts or boats. 
A view of the long, barbed wire fence that extends across the north coast of Ganghwa.
A small military bunker facing North Korea.

Seoul Hiking Group taking snaps of the North. The soldiers didn't seem to mind. In fact they were quite friendly.
After a short bus ride into the hinterlands, we begun our ascent up Manisan, the island's highest peak.
Warren, our fearless leader, briefing us on our mission!
The Three Friendly Walruses: mascots of Ganghwa.
The beginning of our ascent started off on a very smooth surface. This was not to last very long, however.
We climbed about six hundred stairs.

Admiring the views while we rest.

More stairs...
At last...the summit! With a small altar on top.
Korean hikers picnicking on the rocks.
From the summit we had a great view of a nearby helipad where other hikers were hanging out.
The altar, up close.
On the helipad.
Click here to read part 2 of this post.

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