World Athletic Championships 2011 but mainly a Hike and a Trip to the Zoo

Yes, I know, it’s a bit out of date, but less so than my trip to England, which was a month ago. The weekend after we got back, we headed down to Daegu for the World Athletic Championships. Craig had organized our tickets months in advance, so we were able to sit in the VIP section one night (free buffet and beer!) and we were sitting in front of the sand pit the next night for the long jump. Both nights featured running events and we were able to witness that a) Usain Bolt is incredibly fast and b) he is not the most gracious winner. In fact, he could be one of those American football players who gets fined for excessive celebrations. Also, apparently only supermodels are allowed to do the women’s high jump these days.

At least she's got modeling to fall back on.

Mr. Modesty

If you want to read about the sporting events we witnessed, you can check out Craig’s version of events. It was fun, but it wasn’t the highlight of my weekend. That would have been Geumosan.

We only had tickets for evening events, but we went down to Gumi Friday night. So, to while away Saturday morning, we went hiking at nearby Mt. Geumho. It was about a 3-4,000 won cab ride from our hotel. We got a cab early Saturday morning, since Craig doesn’t understand that Saturday’s should begin with a lie in. At first, it seemed like the driver wanted to take us up the mountain, but it turned out the parking lot was just at a slightly higher elevation than Daegu. I should have appreciated the head start.

The walk started out quite nice– a very slow, but steady incline. That lasted about a couple of hundred meters. Then, we reached some stairs. Fortunately for us, we didn’t realize those stairs went up about a mile. We kept going up, thinking the stairs must surely end sometime soon. Eventually, they did. For about two minutes of walking. We FINALLY got to the top, shortly before having heart attacks, and the peak was covered with some sort of TV masts or cell towers or something in the metal-tower-surrounded-by-fences family. We stopped long enough to take a photo of each other next to the rock that all Korean peaks have giving the name and elevation, then headed back down.

Finally, a place to sit.

We didn’t go too far, though. There was a temple about 50m down and we stopped their to pee (no sinks! Ewwww… I thought cleanliness was next to godliness.) and to have some lunch. The view from the temple was much nicer, but it was a bit of a wind tunnel, so we found a spot where the jutting rock face was a barrier and just looked at the worshipers genuflecting in their hiking uniforms, rather than the view of the valley below.

Trust me, this view was much better than the one from the peak.

Time for lunch! Also, glad to be going down the stairs.

Lunch out of the way, we began the long hike back down the stairs. Usually, when we go hiking, our main interaction with Korean groups is to stand aside while they bound past us. We must have gotten an earlier start than most of the groups, though, because we passed a number of groups on their way up. More than a few of them asked how much further to the top. I took that to mean that as validation that it really was a trek up there. Granted, it was pleasantly done– the stairs meant there were no ropes or scary bits where Craig just ends up picking me up and moving me because I’m taking that long to move myself. It’s just that the stairs never ended. There wasn’t a break, or even many spots to stop and rest, except where the wooden stairs switched to stone ones and vice versa.

Imagine this times two hours.

By the time we got down, my legs were actually shaking. My calves were still sore when we were walking around Hong Kong the following week. I clearly had forgotten what I learned in step class years ago (back when I went to a gym): always step with your entire foot. I had been using the front of my foot for a lot of the uphill journey and paid the price.

Anyway, we got back to the hotel in time to shower and head over to the World Cup Stadium. The event seemed well-organized, except that, as foreigners, we were only allowed to pick up our tickets from one booth. Even though I spoke to the girl in Korean and she answered in Korean, we still had to go to the far end of the numerous ticket booths so that they could print out the tickets and hand them to us in English.

We wandered around outside the stadium for a bit, because a lot of people seemed to be wandering around, but there wasn’t really anything interesting to see. When we came out, a lot of them were still there, having picnics, so that explained that. Sort of. It’s not like they had screens showing the events, which were playing live on TV, or anything. Craig reckoned there was a fireworks show still to come or something along those lines. If you are interested in the events we saw, I will once again direct you to Craig’s blog posts. I will just mention the wheelchair races. I think they were meant to build up excitement for the Special Olympics or Paralympics, which I’ve seen advertised around (with no info like dates or places). There was one female Korean who had obviously been put on the field for the hometown crowd. She got lapped by the other girls cooling down. She didn’t quit, though, even though it looked like she needed a break long before the finish line. The two Korean men both got medals, though, so they at least were chosen based on merit.

Craig did his homework. We had a great view of all of the events.

On Sunday, we were once again up and out early with no events to see until evening, so we went in to Daegu and headed to the zoo/ park. It was a bit crap as far as zoos go, as most zoos in Korea are. There were livestock animals and most of the more usual “zoo animals” were singletons with a couple of pairs thrown in. There was a group of monkeys, though, which everyone but us was feeding. When I was a kid, you could buy food to give the elephants and monkeys at home, but that’s been frowned upon for ages now. At any rate, these people were throwing their snacks at them, anyway. Why bother with food in their food chain, when caramel popcorn and cheez ballz are readily at hand?

Either this was an adolescent, or all the cheez ballz (look closely) have stunted his growth.

He's begging for snacks and eating grass in between tasty treats. You can't see, but he's missing half of his right tusk. Perhaps he overreached and knocked it on the concrete on his way down into the pit.

We wandered around slowly, though, since we had lots of time. In fact, we wandered around so slowly, the volunteer in charge of foreigners talked to us twice. We felt very special. He recognized us, at least. I’ve had Koreans approach me before to invite me to their church or tell me they wanted English friends and put them off, only to have them approach me a second time, obviously not realizing they’ve just spoken to me ten minutes earlier. That always makes me wonder how many people they must bother in an outing that we would all blur together.

Anyway, we went to the final night of the WAC and then took a train home and arrived back very late on a work night, as we often do.