8th Sep 2013
Final day in the Mt Kumgang district. Another short drive to a start point for a longish climb to the top of another peak. A three hour trek up well prepared paths and steps. OK, nothing exciting but magnificent scenery and great exercise. This bit of the diary just shows a few views on the way up.
The weather was sunny and not too warm. The environment here is remarkably clean and unpolluted with crystal clear rivers and pools. Not sure what the fishing is like.
Right: Just another view upwards.
Left: Towards the top is the fairly impressive Kuryong Waterfall. This is not the 'wet' season, so it wasn't in full spate.
On reaching this stand at the falls ( over two hours march ), there was a couple of girls who had set up a stall selling cold drinks and snacks. Presumably they carried their goods up here, and back, every day and I can't think they made a lot of money out of it; after all, they could only sell what they could carry. I bought a bottle of water for $1 ( iniquitous ), but happy to do so. They deserved the custom. Who says that there is no 'free enterprise' alive and well in N.Korea. It goes on everywhere, I'm sure, but denied by the PC dogma.
After the falls another very steep climb ( 45 min ) up more steps and ladders to the peak top for a dramatic and vertiginous view below ( right ).
Left: Down to the rock pools below called the Fairies Pools. Not sure what 'fairies' they are referring to.
Right: The platform at the peak.
Left: Viewed opposite were many deeply carved inscriptions in the cliff faces. These were done in the 'dynastic' era when these mountains were of great religious importance to the Buddhist community.
Right: Cliff face inscriptions.
Left: ...and more. For once, this rock face graffiti pre-dated Kim Il Sung.
Another sweaty walk back down, and passing groups of giggling young Chinese tourists on the way up, we arrived back at 'Base Camp' ( i.e. near where we left the bus ) for much appreciated refreshment. There was a bar with draught beer. We actually waited quite a long time here because one of our party was overdue. I mused, given the many opportunities to fall off rock-face ladders on the steep bits, what would have happened if someone had done so. There was no rescue service at hand. We were beginning to draw straws ( a new concept to Song Sim ) to decide who would go back up to search when, fortuitously, he arrived. Lunch followed at a very pleasant 'pavilion' style restaurant nearby. Again, as far as food and drink was concerned, we were seriously spoilt.
Back to the 'resort' where, for the first and only time on this tour, we had the rest of the afternoon 'off'. We could explore at leisure the shops and facilities in the small resort area. Most of these were closed, but there was one quite large shop selling 'duty free' drink and stuff. Local honey was much on display plus a vast array of 'genuine' Rayban sunglasses. I went inside and there were many staff hanging about who greeted me like a long-lost friend. I happened to be the only customer, and I didn't want to buy anything.
A visit to the local spa was then muted. Four of us went along for a massage to soothe our aching limbs. On arrival ( with our guides in tow because it was at least half a mile from the hotel ) the place was open, but there were no masseuses. It took another hour for the one guy in charge to round up a collection of muscle-beating volunteers to look after us. We all suspected that they had been gathered in from the surrounding fields at short notice. We got our massages, of sorts, and it was quite expensive. As always, we were the only customers. The place was, incidentally, infested by flies.
One of the things that was notable, here as elsewhere, was the almost total lack of visible wild-life. Few, if any, birds and the only wild animals which showed themselves were curious little 'chipmunks'. These endearing creatures were quite common, but I never managed to get one to sit still long enough for a photograph.
The bar opened to much acclaim at 6.00pm.