You wipe salty sweat from your eyes with a do-rag already wet enough to be rung out into a cup. You pull out a bottle and drain it, hoping to find more water soon. Your feet and calves ache from one more climb, just one more climb. Exhausted, you know you’ll need to rest very soon, as you turn a corner to hear:
Silently, you thank the shouting, entrepreneurial gentleman who filled a Styrofoam box with melon-flavored ice cream pops and strapped it to his back before hiking up the same modest Busan mountain you just labored to climb. He doesn’t even look winded as you pull out a pop and slip the man 1,000 won. The treat is cool and creamy and came just at the right time.
Before your deserved break, before beginning the descent off the mountain, a photo must be taken to commemorate the accomplishment. This usually is by a rock, etched with the height in meters those achy feet just conquered. And for all the stinging sweat in your eyes, sunburned shoulders and silent swears you committed at the sight of another climb just moments before, in this moment — looking out over the vista at the vast city below — you absolutely understand why hiking is one of the most popular ways to stay fit in Busan.
A few years ago, a few expats realized that hiking is often better with friends. Joe Carrier, an English teacher and sole Busan Daytrippers founder still in Korea, helped create the Facebook page for anyone — expat or native — to meet and enjoy the great outdoors together.
“I came to Korea from the American Midwest, and I originally chose Busan because of the beaches,” he said. “But, when I arrived I fell in love with the mountains.”
Carrier said he started the group hoping to find other expats to hike with. “Over the years I have met a lot of great people through the group and seen a lot of beautiful places,” he said.
Daytripper trips have included noontime jaunts to Beomosa Temple, all-night treks on Yeongdo, even weekend adventures in national parks outside Busan.
No matter where the hike goes, it often will be lead by Alicia Stambaugh, a Canadian English teacher who says it was her initial foray into the group that developed what has become a passion for hiking.
“I’ve only been hiking since I arrived in Korea a few years ago,” she said. “Before that, it wasn’t a sport I did regularly.”
Stambaugh said participation in the group’s activities is a great way to either stay or get into shape as well as spend quality time outdoors and maybe even make a friend or two.
But her hikes aren’t the only ones. Any member can lead or suggest a hike — on a mountain as intimidating or as modest and as close to home or as remote as preferred. “We encourage anyone to organize a hike, so don’t be shy,” Stambaugh said.
Photos provided by by Alicia Stambaugh