I came to think that South Korea is quite similar to Turkmenistan in terms of describing the country's landscape.
"Come and take a look at our grand buildings!," the Turkmen people were saying with pride. But besides a few buildings the country is a great landscape of wild desert which natural beauty is undoubtable.
"Come and take a look at our nature!," say the Koreans locked in their landscape of urban constructions.
So Turkmenistan is the beacon of modern civilisation and Korea that of nature and wilderness and everybody is just living in their own fairy tale.
Anyhow, I end up finding a nice place on a small hill above the sea in the north of Jeju island and set camp. I also buy a lot of candies and I'm set for the night. I have no mission here, just rest.
The only annoying thing about Jeju island is the weather.
|The moon shines|
I pass by the base camp and build my tent a bit further, in the middle of the trail.
|The roughest of all trails, warns the sign.|
|The trail is well organised|
|Walking the snowy trail|
|A man gave me his walking sticks|
|Almost at the top|
|Trees covered in snow|
|The top of mount Halla|
|View of the sea.|
A friendly guard comes to me and asks me, in a very polite way, to get down the mountain.
"No. I am going to camp here."
"I am going to camp here. I want to see the sunrise"
"Sorry sir but it is impossible."
"Why? Is the sun not rising tomorrow?"
Pitching a tent sounds like a very possible quest for me. In fact, I have done it a number of times and the snowy ground provides a soft mattress to sleep on. I wonder what could make putting up a tent impossible.
"It's against the law."
"I know it is against the law!" I reassure him, "But I am going to do it anyway."
"You can't do it!"
"It's against the law!"
Appearently the concept of being against the law is so strong here that it should put an end to any argument. While being unaware of the law may be a possible outcome, knowing and ignoring the law is something Koreans don't seem to understand.
Usually when dealing with the authorities, I try to play dumb, pretexting that I don't know the law but in this case, it would make an already unclear conversation even more foggy.
So I put in some good will and I try to clarify the cultural difference between us.
"I know that it is against the law. I understand that by pitching up a tent I am breaking the law. However, I stick with my decision of pitching up a tent."
"If you do not get down, you will get a fine."
"But I don't have money."
The woman on the phone seems embarassed, I feel sorry to have put her in such position; she seems like a nice and polite lady but as many koreans, she lacks imagination. So I try to help her out.
"You can call the police on me, maybe you can arrest me, put me in prison for example"
That's the kind of threat the corrupt Kyrgyz cop would use. Unfortunately, the poor lady is thrown off balance even more.
"Do you want to get arrested?"
"No I don't but that's the point. It's a better threat than just saying it's the law. That just will get you nowhere."
"Ok, we will arrest you."
"Allright. Come and get me."
This whole conversation is both amusing and extremly ironic. I am just sorry for the guards of the national park who really feel bad and embarassed about the whole thing.
"The police will arrest you"
"Will they shoot me?"
"Of course nobody will shoot you! Don't worry about such things!"
"Ok, I'll build my tent then."
The lady pauses for a bit.
"If you don't go down, he'll lose his job."
Damn she got me. Here I was, thinking that I am so smart, that I can face any threats. In many countries including and especially the western world we have power-hungry security guards who like to place themselves above their victim, to show their strenght and legal and physical superiority. They'll point guns at you, beat you, scare you, it boosts up their ego. But here in Korea, security forces don't have this small penis complex. They are ready to communicate, they can get things done and today, they just got smarter than me.
Maybe it is true that this guy would lose his job, maybe not but I can't take that chance and she knows it.
She has read me, she understands that I like to play american hero and martyr facing forces stronger than me and the real way to win is to put the security forces in the victim position. Today, I am the bully and I hate it.
"Allright, I am considering going down but can we find a compromise?"
"You can go to the Jindellabat shelter and we will accomodate you for a night. This is already exceptionnal treatement."
I get accomodated in the radio communication cabin. It is heated by a small electric heater, I have electricity and a confortable bed. Last but not least, I get deliscious dinner with a room with wifi.
|My room on Hallasan!|
|My cabin is covered in snow.|
|Shelter at the top|
|Me and a snowy tree|