I am supposed to take the ferry to Vladivostok today, but “due to natural disaster” it has been postponed. I receive the email from the friendly Dongchun ferry employee on time, and I’m happy about it. Now I can go hiking Soraksan with Malia and Andrea. I wonder what the “natural disaster” would have been, but it’s probably not a big thing. Everything not directly caused by humans we will describe as a natural disaster for insurance reasons. The crew getting too drunk the other night is a natural disaster, too. We had a laugh about it when we got ready to hike in the famous Soraksan (“rough rocks”) mountains near Sokcho. Soft bread with red and green chickpea cream, orange juice, yoghurt.
The hike is great, the mountains even better than I remembered from several years ago. A short busride takes us to Soraksan, a very well-equipped national park with a little entrance fee. The tidyness, the civilized behavior of the Koreans contrasts to the rough peaks constituting the Soraksan region. We get halfway up one of them, and after climbing a steep path and some long metal stairs we reach a small cave with a Buddhist shrine. There are a few monks singing mantras when we arrive. We take off our shoes and I pay the Buddha lip service by kneeling down in front of its statue as I know it from the movies. This spot is amazing, and resembles the cavity I have actively dreamt about in a period of solitude craving. Living up there, overlooking a mountain range, being self-supportive so that only a few trips down would be required each year, writing poetry and books of endless wisdom. That was my adolescent dream and I was surprised as you can imagine by how much this cave resembles my imagination. We take pictures, and we get down, we take the same way back, pass the giant Buddha I forgot to tell you about before, and jump on our bus back.
We sleep late after a game of “risk” in which I did not conquer but a vast region of Eastern Siberia. Tomorrow I will travel there for real. There is a difference between reality and appearance, a difference we may stipulate with subtle remarks and a little bit of the human touch.