Falling down mountains
Trip Start Aug 25, 2012
17Trip End Feb 25, 2013
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What I did
The bus ride went off without a hitch and soon we were through the Friday night traffic and traveling through the subways of Seoul. Our destination for the evening was going to be the Dragon Hill Spa, which is one of the most famous jjimjilbangs on Korea. In case you don't know, a jjimjilbang is a bath house that you can sleep at for cheap. Neither Paul nor I had ever stayed over at a jjimjilbang so we decided to give it a try. We found our destination easily, and went inside. We paid 12 dollars each and were give a small hand towel and a pair of cotton shorts and a matching t-shirt. We went to our separate locker rooms to change into our uniforms and stash our stuff for the night
We took a brief lap around the place, fascinated by the large arcade, the numerous snack bars, and the strange saunas that are shaped and decorated like pyramids. We found the main sleeping hall and discovered that it had 2 big screen TVs playing some random Korean program loudly. Most people were milling around, visiting with friends or family. We looked down at the marble floors, which were heated just enough that they weren't cold, and then at each other. There were no blankets or sleeping pads, all we could find were little block shaped pillows to rest our heads on. Paul and I found a quieter corner to settle into and I crammed ear plugs into my ears in an unsuccessful attempt to block out the clatter of the room.
Neither of us got much sleep, the room continued to be active through out the night. At 3 am I got up to go to the bathroom and was impressed to find that every open space in the large sleeping hall was filled with a resting body. Paul and I got up at 5:30 showered and dressed before checking out to meet up with the group.
We found our tour bus easily and were soon headed East towards the mountains. Paul and I got to get a little bit more rest of the bus, but there were a few loud passengers on the bus that didn't make that any easier. We arrived at our destination shortly before noon and we were able to rent our gear for the day. I have only skied a couple of times in my life and have never snowboarded so I was excited and nervous to get onto the mountain. Likewise Paul has never snowboarded, but he has a bit more experience on skis than I do
We pulled into Yongpyong Resort and headed straight to the slopes. We walked a little ways up the bunny slope and then sat ourselves down in the snow to strap our boards to our feet. There were a few more experienced snowboarders there to help us learn and they showed me how my boots should latch onto the board.
Now that I was kitted up, the next step is to get on my feet... Oh crap. I couldn't get up. Seriously, for the life of me I couldn't get on my feet. You are supposed to sit in the snow and point your toes up and then boost yourself onto your feet without starting to slide down the mountain. I couldn't do it. Try and try and try, I just couldn't get up onto my feet. Other people were starting to learn the basics of snowboarding and I couldn't even get up! One of our guides was kind enough to help me up to my feet, but I was only up for a moment before I crashed back down to the ground. Soon I was sweating with effort and my glasses were fogging up. This was going to be a loooong day.
Paul and I decided to go up the ski lift sooner than we probably should have. We took our boards off (easier and safer for beginners) and rode up the lift. We got to the top and sat down next to each other to strap our boards on. I tried, once again, to get up the way I was supposed to and I failed miserably. Finally I cartwheeled my board over so that I was laying on my stomach on the snow, facing up towards the top of the mountain
So this is how I proceeded down the mountain. Flip over onto my stomach, start sliding down the hill backwards, turn myself around, go WAY too fast, and then wipe out in the snow. By the time I made it to the bottom I was a bit of a wreck and I was glad to have to wait in line to get up the ski lift.
My second trip down the slopes was not easier. In fact the more snowboarding I did, the worse I seemed to get. My muscles became fatigued easily and it made me clumsy and awkward on my board. Once again I was careening down the slopes and the edge of my board caught in an uneven patch of snow and I hurtled, face first, to the ground. As I slowly pushed myself up onto my elbows I saw tiny skis slide up beside me. I looked up and saw a tiny Korean girl looking down at me, she couldn't have been more than six years old
After a few more trips down the hill I was more than ready to be done and thankfully our lift tickets had basically run out. Unfortunately Paul's last trip down the mountain had been a doozy and he was limping a bit as we made our way back to the bus. We turned in our equipment and were eager to get back to our hostel where we would be eating dinner and warming up.
Our tour group fried up burgers and chicken nuggets for our dinner and we all ate standing around in one of the rooms, having worked up a massive appetite. After dinner some people wanted to go back and hit the slopes for another round of skiing and snowboarding, but Paul and I decided that we would take advantage of the sauna at the resort for some rest and relaxation.
We returned back to the hostel shortly after 10 and we were all ridiculously tired and ready for bed
It was a rough night and we woke early to eat breakfast and go back to the resort. By this point I was feeling a little overwhelmed, so I broke off from the group and found a quiet coffee shop at the resort to waste some time in. After a couple hours of peace and quiet I was feeling much more relaxed and ready for the rest of the day. Unfortunately that was short lived. When I got back to the bus to start the journey back to Seoul we were missing a couple from our group. We waited for more than a half an hour and even had people go search for the couple but they were nowhere to be found. We had no choice, we had to leave. As the bus headed away we tried to call their cell phones and started to call the resort to try to get a hold of them over the loud speaker. Nothing. No luck at all.
We go back to the hostel to pick up the last of our gear and some more members of our tour group, but we still can't get a hold of the missing skiers. We direct the bus back towards Seoul, but it is tense with worry, especially when we realize that both of the skiers have all of their stuff (including their shoes) on the bus. Finally, three hours after they were supposed to be picked up the organizer of our tour group gets a call. The pair had been found out on the slopes. They swear that they were there at the bus pick up but couldn't find us. When they missed our bus back they decided to go back to skiing. Thankfully they were able to attach themselves to another tour group that would be heading back towards Seoul so they would eventually get home.
The rest of the trip was thankfully uneventful and both Paul and I were glad to return home to our respective beds in our quiet apartments.