Saturday, August 27, 2011

Kayaking the Hongcheon and a Heroic Moment

It’s pretty hard to resist a free kayaking trip, and why would you want to anyway? I’m not sure why it was free, but feel pretty positive the company renting the kayaks was getting something in return- a free photo opportunity.

My hiking group loaded a bus early Saturday morning and arrived at the Hong River in Gangwan-do at about 11am. It was hot and when we stepped off the bus, not a single person went unsurprised by the suns intensity. Nonetheless, we were excited.

The group was large, as tends to be the case when taking trips further away from Seoul via bus. For special trips that have a little something extra beyond hiking, we also get quite a few randoms, or people that aren’t regular hikers. Randoms can (not always) also equal whiney and disrespectful foreigners that you’re embarrassed be to even remotely affiliated with. Fortunately, they were easy to spot, errr hear, right away and even easier to separate oneself from.

The kayak ride itself was great…and also humorous. The scenery was beautiful, air smelled fresh, and it was neat to see Koreans out using traditional fishing techniques as we passed under bridges. The fishermen, however, were not too thrilled by the 30 kayaks racing toward them, some barely missing the opportunity to take them out. At times, it felt like a game of bumper kayaks, but there were also points when it was easy to escape the chaos and hide in a cave or tour the outer limits.

We took breaks here and there and despite signs informing “suyeong geumchi,” or “no swimming,” us brave souls did anyway. At the end, we started to cross the river toward some rocks on the other side. This is when I had my once in a lifetime opportunity to save a life and I’m dead serious (pun intended), I saved a life. A fellow hiker and friend of mine recalled his childhood swimming adventures and, he too, decided to make the cross. Unfortunately, his abilities in his mind didn’t quite match those of his body. I spotted him bobbing up and down and first thought he was getting his hair wet, but then I heard a quiet “help me.” Quickly, I swam over, grabbed his arm and swam to the closest shore. I tried to keep it on the down low, but I must say, I am pretty dang proud of myself. It was also extremely satisfying to see the surprised looks in the eyes of those men that did hear of the event. A girl saving a guy? No way!

Today, thinking about the incident reminds me of a funny happening way back in high school. My very first boyfriend and I were swimming across part of Hagg Lake. We made it about half way when he realized he couldn’t make it. He wasn’t actually drowning, but was certain he would if he didn’t get help. So, I flagged down a boat that pulled us up. From then on, he would always joke about my “savng his life.” It made me laugh because I think the boat would have picked him up had I been there or not. Maybe I chose the wrong profession. Maybe I should be a lifeguard instead?

Anyway, back to the story, which there’s not much more of. There was a tasty lunch followed by karaoke on the bus ride home. Today I’m burned to the crisp, but it was well worth it!

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