My final day off before term starts and my alarm goes off at 5:15am. I blearily heave myself out of bed and pull on my pre-arranged clothes whilst eating my pre-arranged breakfast. I throw on my pre-arranged backpack and head out into the darkness to catch the first bus of the day to the train station.

My destination with fellow hiking companions, Lynn and Megan, is Sobaeksan National Park, a couple of hours north. We catch our train and I zone back into a semi sleep state for the journey. I’m still in a semi sleep state as we get morning coffee before our cab to the national park entrance, so much so that I leave my fancy GPS watch sitting on the table when we leave, only to realise when we’re almost at the start of the hike. Some quick Korean phone calls to fix it and my watch will be back with me later that day, but no data for our hike.

Our plan for Sobaeksan was a 17km trail up the south of the range following a ridge line across the two highest peaks before a sharp descent down the east side. The climb up wasn’t the most exciting – with the trail being more of a small road so that cars could get up to the observatory that perched on the top. There was a fun planet trail on the way up though, with terrible representations of planets to pass as we climbed. Once we got above 700m the way became quite snow and ice covered so our pace dropped. We were all hiking in mesh running shoes making the hike pretty entertaining – the downhills could be taken as a well balanced slide and footholds for the climbs up had to be carefully chosen.

The trail along the ridgeline was a beautiful one. Snow covered landscape on one side and a more melted look on the sun facing side. Atop the highest summit we met a group of park rangers out for an Independence Day walk – their English was patchy, but passable, and had a fun time chatting about the various hiking opportunities around Korea. I’ve done the three highest peaks on mainland South Korea, with just the highest of the lot, Hallasan – down on Jeju island, to do. Sobaeksan’s peak, Birobong is a mere 25th highest at 1439m but it was still a fun climb.

We got down in the late afternoon and took a train back to the nearest transport hub, where, after a bit of confusion, we found a bus back to Daegu. I got back in when it was already dark, meaning I wasn’t exactly fresh and refreshed for today’s opening ceremony. Luckily all I have to do is stand there and smile so slightly zombified is fine.

Despite still not understanding anything that is being said, I know the procedure for these things and prepare to not teach until next week whilst they try and figure out my timetable, whilst also having my intro lesson ready to go for the standard Korean super short notice of ‘oh by the way you’re teaching now’. Today I actually showed a few new teachers where the lunch entrance was as they were looking very lost. A couple of the new ones speak a bit of English so hopefully I’ll have some new lunch companions as my favourite teacher has been transferred to a new school.

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