...because part of Skippy's toolbox includes going to bed early, or at least putting my feet up on the recliner.
So I've got the itch to travel today, and badly. Seoul was a serious possibility until I realized all the Friday night trains from Seoul to anything near here were sold out. I had no desire to sleep over, especially since there really aren't any places to rent for the night near that station. I know, I've checked. So I take the bicycle out to coffee, just down the hill to the City Hall area. I pack my brace but don't put it on, since the calf muscle needs the exercise and the ankle will tolerate it. I have a fresh waffle (a possibly significant detail later) which I rarely do, and a coffee and I'm still ready to go out and about. I figure the little train from the old Pohang Station would be nice, even though the coastline track to Busan is no more. Apparently the Donghae-Nambu was Korea's answer to the Coast Starlight until they expanded the line and the coast route just would not accept a second track. The tourist sites say it is now the hottest hiking trail in the area...
But hey, sitting on a train looking out the window is a nice, Skippy-kind way to pass an hour. So I bike and walk back to my apartment to put the bicycle away and Skippy finally wakes out of its pain-free slumber and gives me just a twinge. Okay, I decide, I'll put the brace on when I get to the train. There's a temple on the train route and temples are always cool, peaceful if long walks, so I head that way. Turns out that if I wanted it in the next hour I'd have to make a connection, no big deal. I remembered the long train from Kumamoto to Osaka and thought it would be nice to compare Japanese podunk trains to Korean ones. Simple pavement platforms in the middle of nowhere, the main difference being that the stairs between the tracks went below ground in Gyeongju and above ground in...was I in Arao? I did get a picture of the platform, and if one fine day I ever get around to tagging my couple thousand photos they'll make a nice comparison.
So I get off the train at Gyeongju, shlep the stairs and hop on the connection. It's a ten minute train to Bu******sa Temple (can't quite remember its name right now, blaming the muscle relaxants) but FML there was the happiest little kid on the seat across from me and he wanted to tell the whole damned world about it. He sounded about four years old. This is my day of zen, so I whispered curse words to the train window and was glad to get off at my stop.
Yep, little pavement platforms are much the same everywhere. We passed two that had been abandoned, just weed-struck bricks next to the track, their little shelters gone. I pity the folks who work at Lear--how do they get out of town?? But this B--- Temple station had a station, and it was an old station much like any other. The sweetest guy was behind the counter and he tried to explain to me that there simply were no return trains between 4pm (I'd arrived around 3:10) and 9pm that night (the temple, as it turns out, closes at 5). I was flying on happy travel juices, hadn't had anything but water after that breakfast, so I asked for directions to the bus terminal and didn't worry about it. The temple proved too far to walk so I backtracked to the bus stop where three idling but empty taxis stood. The sweetheart at the train station seemed to think there were no taxis worth mentioning in town so I was glad to see these. It took me a minute to figure out they were in their office and to wave one out that way. He said the trip to the temple was 5 bucks and that suited me fine, though in hindsight it might have been a touch high. No matter--this handful of guys has that dinky little town wrapped around their little fingers. He gets me to the temple and I worry about getting back, make sure to get his business card.
The temple itself wasn't much of anything, sadly. Most of it was recreation--necessary in a country where temples and palaces are made of wood--and it looked like a dozen palaces I'd seen. Skippy was smarting so wandering up the hill to the main grounds was not going to happen. The gardenish area contained some of the few authentic relics, and this being a Shilla era temple those were ancient and worn. I loved them better than the buildings, of course, but that's me. Got a lovely sunset shot.
Stepped into the souvenir shop and it smelled heavely of incense, but I own more incense, candles, and vapor fluid than I can possibly use so I passed on that. I eyed a counter full of amethyst jewelry. In the middle was a necklace with four opals, so of course my eye was drawn to them. Either manufactured or a good quality Australian, since these sweethearts had fire. I leaned in to get a better look and I swear the salesperson was embarrassed that they were not amethysts, because in half a second she'd folded and latched those four opals into an amethyst butterfly. It was everything I could do not to scream. It was magical. Alas, it was also 110 bucks. Couldn't justify that price for myself especially since I wear pins and rings and very rarely necklaces. Even the idea of going back--there's a lovely tourist village down the block that reminds me of Yeoju--the only person I know who loves purple butterflies would probably go batshit trying to maneuver those tiny little latches. Still, everything I could do not to scream in joy. I settled for a CD of meditation music, sort of New Age as performed by a Korean Classical Orchestra. It just finished playing now.
Obviously photographing that was out of the question.
One other photo that got away: the main bus stop by the train station as well as one on the highway to Gyeongju, someone had put two old comfy chairs next to the bus shelter bench. Hard to believe but there they were, and it had just rained the day before.
So a train back from B- Temple wasn't going to happen, and I get out of the temple at 5 on the nose. Two taxis were waiting--did someone call them? I stepped over to one and made the phone hand sign. He put his passenger window down and I saw a little kid fast asleep in his front seat, and either a massive pile of clothes or two more kids zonked out in the back. Apparently this guy was camping out in the temple parking lot playing dispatch for the other cab drivers! I negotiated a taxi to Gyeongju, the next major town and 10 minutes by rail, where I knew there was both a train station and a bus station. Had him drop me at the train station and the first one out was at 7. I looked around for a sit-down place for dinner, no luck, so I walked towards where they directed me to the bus station. I never quite found the station I was familiar with, since it was the only stop I'd ever made in that town before. Instead after passing it two or three times I found a bus stop with a convenience-type store that sold tickets. I had to ask about four locals to even get that. At this point I'd already taken my one anti-inflammatory (mental note to always pack more than one of those!) and as soon as I got on the bus I took a muscle relaxant as well. I did mention that I biked around for a whole kilometer this morning with no brace on, right? I mean, 1km was chicken feed back in Daejeon but I hadn't torqued up my ankle at that point either. I probably walked a solid km and a half trying to find the damned bus stop. But I found it, got one of the last seats on there, and got back to Pohang. Went up to the food court in the mall (right next to the bus station) and had dinner, then posted to FB from an after dinner coffee. Hot bath and typing this, and maybe I can get through the night without a Charley horse.
I wonder if I'll be able to walk at all tomorrow? If I do, it will be a combination of good drugs, good shoes, a cane and quite a bit of luck.