Woraksan makali

“Sure. It will make a great story,” I said to Naomi as I led the way across some stones and down a winding path to join some friendly Koreans for rice wine (makali).

Naomi, Mr. Vandertramp, Darby and I had spent the better part of two hours trying not to die as we hiked up Poamosan in Woraksan National Forest. The trail had started lazily enough with wide well-worn paths, but soon turned treacherous (or at least more of a hike than my lazy self had planned on).

We scrambled up large loose stones and pulled ourselves from tree to tree in an effort to climb the smallest peak in the Woraksan range. Finally convinced we had had enough and positive there was no clearly marked trail we made our way, mostly sliding on our backsides, back down the mountain. At the foot of the trail, just where the journery had become more arduous than our tennis shoes were ready for, we saw a group of men and women enjoying mikju, soju and makali with a few snacks.

“Hello? Makali?” shouted one of the men.

We answered and soon joined them. The Koreans were very friendly and wanted to know why we were in Korea, where we were from and what we did. After a Konglish conversation, mandarin oranges and makali, we decided we were ready to take on the mountain trail again.

This time Darby, Naomi and I didn’t make it more than about 50 feet before turning back. Mr. Vandertramp, however, was determined to go on. So we waited for him saying good-bye to each Korean as they passed us on their way back home.

We meandered our way back to the bus stop once Mr. Vandertramp rejoined us. I ran along behind taking photos like the nerd I am. Woraksan was a lovely hike and I can’t wait to go back. Although next time, I might just take my own makali to share.

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Mireukri is one of the most beautiful temple sites I’ve seen yet in Korea. It’s a ruin, but it was lovely. People think the temple was built in the early Goreyo Dynasty, then was rebuilt three times before it finally fell into ruin.The Buddha statue itself is built from six rocks, but the face is surprisingly well-preserved. The locals claim they provide no maintenance to the statue. But I suspect his well-preserved face has something to do with the “hat” he is wearing.

Mireukiri is located at the base of the Woraksan mountains. We went to Mireukri on one of the last days of autumn, just as the colors were changing from brilliant reds and yellows to browns. The hazy day provided some gorgeous soft light for photos. We started early enough around 10:30 that we didn’t see too many people on the trail. (Seriously love South Korean mornings!) We even thought the haze would burn off eventually, but it didn’t. The fog hung around for a couple of days before a lovely snow, sleet, rain, ice storm blew it out of the area.

Directions: From a Chungju bus station, take bus 246 for 45 minutes going towards Suanbo. Fare is 1,200 won. When you get off at the end of the line, take the right trail head to the oldest Buddha statue in Korea. You can continue along the trail to Poamosan for a brief and vigorous hike straight uphill.

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