Monday, July 12, 2010

White Water Rafting

So this weekened I had the exciting experience of white water rafting in Korea! I've done this kind of rafting before, even once in Nepal, but its always an adventure.

We had to meet the bus at 7:30am in Hondae - which is about an hour and a half from where we live. So just do the calculations - an hour and a half to get there (that would be 6:00am) a half an hour to get dressed and ready and another to get on the bus would leave us getting up at 5:00am to go on this trip. There was no way this was conceivably going to happen so we did the smart thing - we found a jjimjjilbang (sauna) in Hondae that was about a ten minute walk from our meeting place to sleep in.

The plan, in general, had both negative and positive elements to it. When we got there, the place was a little crowded but not overly so. But we found it really hard to sleep in a public place where people were always coming and going. Drunk people. Because Hondae, the University district, is home to more than its fair share of bars and clubs. By the time we had to get up at 6:00am, the place was packed. None of us had slept very well because of the noise and the lights. Our jjimjjilbang in Suji has a separate sleeping room and was much nicer than this one. In general, sleeping at the sauna is a good last minute option when you don't have a hotel, but its not a good idea if you have something physical to do the next day.

We were woken by a group of obnoxious Americans stumbling in after a night of drinking. They were looking for mats to sleep on - the mats provided by the jjimjiilbang had long since been used - and had decided that this one Korean woman had two. One of the guys was talking very loudly, trying to tell her that she couldn't have two mats ,when we decided it was time for us to leave. We gave our mats to the drunks so they would stop bothering the woman but we really wanted to just disassociate ourselves with all of them.

As we left one of the girls was asking "But why do they have to give up their mats? Why are they leaving?" I had to restrain myself from telling her that we were leaving because we didn't want to be associated with them.

We were exhausted, but the hot baths in the shower room revived us a little and yogurt smoothies at a local coffee shop helped too. We had a little mix up because we were waiting for the trip people inside the exit of the subway when they were standing outside. But it worked out in the end and we started our three hour bus ride to the Hantan river.

Throughout the whole trip there, there was this obnoxious British guy talking very loudly in the back on topics ranging from the virtues of all the women he met at the bar last night to the amazingness of the three laws of thermodynamics. My seat partner and I were taking bets as to whether or not he was actually British.

When we arrived at the launch point we bought these nifty little water shoes (mine were day-glow yellow) and split up into teams. Of course, the British guy was in ours. Stephanie, Ryan and I got into a group with British guy, his two female friends who were a lot more sedate than him, and a girl named Rachel whose co-workers had abandoned her.

As it turned out, our group was the best. Every time we passed another boat on the water, they were silent, and staring at us. Our boat, which we named the Bounty to try and freak out our guide, we decided was a boat of Viking-Pirates. We would follow another boat, singing the Jaws theme (one of the other girls and I would hold our paddles in the air, touching in the middle, like it was our dorsal fin) and when we got close enough we would initiate a splash battle. The problem was, we were the slowest boat and therefor couldn't catch anyone unless they fell behind. I told my boat-mates that it was okay, because we were subtle Viking-Pirates.

Our guide, whose English nickname was Theo, was a good sport about it all, even with the frequent talk of mutiny. He even got into the whole 'splash attack' thing. When we tried to just say hello to a boat of Koreans (we were trying not to give a bad impression of foreigners) he was all "Hello? We don't say 'hello'! We Attack!".

Sometime later, we were playing games who's purpose was specifically to get us all thrown in the water and I was doing my best to stay on board. I was leaning dangerously over the side and Theo reached around, ready to pull me in the water. It was at this point that the three years I half-heartedly took Jujitsu classes at Eckerd paid off. I grabbed his forearm with my right hand and his shoulder with my left and swung him into the water. I followed soon after due to a combination of gravity and the fact that everyone on the boat was now determined to see me in the river - as it turns out, I couldn't throw them all into the water before they got me. The guide was surprised he had been caught so off guard - and by a girl - that he just sat in the river for a while going 'wow' and 'oh god'. I managed to throw British guy in, too - purely in self-defense, of course.

The rapids were honestly pathetic, the monsoon season, thus far, had been unimpressive. Our boat got caught several times because the water was so shallow. But we stopped on a beach to play games and we used the rafts first as a slip and slide then as a floating wrestling arena. Rachel and I wrestled - and I won! Ryan and British Guy (whose name is Martin) wrestled and though they both went into the water at the same time, I prefer to think Ryan won because Martin's shorts were ripped so indecently he had to wear his shirt as a kilt the rest of the trip.

We had a late lunch at an all you can eat Korean buffet - which was great. And ended the day lying on sun warmed rocks by the river watching some members of our group bungee jump of the bridge. Since I had never had any desire to bungee jump, the last couple of hours of the trip were relaxing as we debated whether or not the person would actually jump. Some people had to be pushed. But no one in our group. Because we are all crazy way-gooks. And Viking-Pirates.

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