Tuesday, August 24, 2021

masking up

One concern I have, since I'll be passing through so many towns and cities on my way down the coast, is whether anyone is going to give me shit about not masking up. When I did my reconnoiter late last year, I noticed that a lot of people on the east coast weren't abiding by the mask mandate at all. Oh, sure, there were plenty who were masked up, but there were also plenty who weren't, and it was enough to make me wonder whether the people of that region had a rebellious streak.

I'm not actively trying to look for trouble. If the police approach me and demand that I put on a mask, I'll do it, albeit grudgingly. And then, when I've gotten far enough away, I'll take the mask off. I'm gambling, though, that most of the police have better things to do than write citations for being maskless. That's my hope, anyway. Still, the concern niggles at the back of my mind.

Monday, August 23, 2021

rethinking this trip

I admit I'm ambivalent about doing the east-coast walk, but I've decided to keep my chin up and reorient my thinking to make this a more enjoyable experience. And the way to do that is to embrace the fact that I'll be walking through so much civilization as opposed to untamed nature. Specifically, I'm going to think of this trip not as a long walk to Busan but as a food adventure—a movable feast down the coast as I go from seafood place to seafood place. And there will be no shortage of seafood places, that I guarantee. (Maybe I'll finally eat some san-nakji.) So expect the usual pics of whatever trail or road or street I'm on, but also expect photos of whichever resto I pick for that day's post-walk meal. This will be as much a foodblog as a walk blog. Onward!

Monday, August 16, 2021


If you've been following the main blog, then you know I've been losing a ton of weight over the past two or three months. I'm currently down from a high of 128 kg (282.2 lbs.) to my current 102 kg (224.9 lbs.). I still have another 12 kg/25 pounds to go to hit my goal weight (and I may decide to reduce further), but I'll be losing the remaining weight at a leisurely pace while on my keto/fasting diet.

Anyway, the above personal info is relevant to my upcoming walk for a few reasons. First, it means I'm now naturally lighter on my feet, which I hope translates to far less foot pain on the trail—fewer blisters and less irritation. Second, if we think of my weight in units called "backpacks," in which 1 backpack equals about 12 kilos, then I've lost more than 2 backpacks' worth of weight since mid-May. This is significant as it applies to what I can carry without strain.

Now, with my east-coast route having been plotted out months ago, I know I'll be traveling an average of 25 km per day, which is fairly easy (there are a couple 30-kilometer days in the schedule, but 30 km is doable without needing two days' rest; it's only when I do 35K or more that I feel I need to stop longer). More important, though, is that I now know the east coast is chock-full of civilization, so there's a motel or pension at every stop. Ergo, no need to carry a full backpack!

What will I carry with me, then? In terms of actual items needed for travel, my load will be a lot lighter. Consider: every hotel and pension provides the basic amenities for hygiene—toothbrush, toothpaste, sink, toilet, shower/bath, bath towels, etc. So there's little in the way of toiletries that I'll need to carry (I need to worry about contact lenses, deodorant, first aid, and my various medicines). I'll be cutting my nails before the walk begins, and in 26 days, my toenails will be long enough for another cut, but I won't need to bring along my extra-big toenail clipper; the small clipper for my fingers (which will need weekly trimming) will do. I also need to carry water bottles with me; judging by previous hikes, I doubt I'll need more than 1.5 liters on my person, and with civilization all up and down the coast, finding more water if I run low shouldn't be a problem.

I suppose I'll be bringing along a portable power pack, although I doubt I'll need it: my Samsung S21 has a bigger battery than my old S4 has, and while it's been a few months since I bought the S21, I've noticed that the phone stays at a fairly high level of charge throughout the day. That said, bringing along a portable power supply might be wise. It's a few extra ounces, but better safe than sorry.

There's the practical question, then, of how I'm going to carry these items if I'm not using a backpack, and for me, the obvious answer is a combination of pants pockets (my cargo pants have leg pockets, for example) and belt pouches. So I need to go buy some large belt pouches that will hang on a belt off my waist. This has the advantage of taking pressure off my shoulders, so my spine won't become compressed. (Even with a hip harness, a backpack's weight can still end up compressing your spine.) That will be a huge relief: walking without any pressure on my back. The pouches I buy need to be large enough to contain things like a rolled-up poncho for rainy days, but small enough not to impede arm swing. To that end, I'll hang two pouches off my front and two pouches off my back; that ought to do the trick. My travel items, water and all, will weigh a few kilos in total, but you get used to that.

So one mission, over the next couple weeks as August draws to a close, will be to shop around for some decent belt pouches. I need to figure out how to say "belt pouch" in Korean first.

Oh, and I think I've settled on my travel dates: September 18 to October 14. This takes advantage of some holidays like Chuseok, and minimizes the chance of prying eyes from my company peeping into my office while I'm gone and going, "Where's Kevin?" I'll put in for two official weeks' vacation to cover the period from October 4 to October 15. That, too, should minimize suspicions.

I'm both looking forward to this hike and dreading it. Based on what I saw during my two days walking along the east-coast trail earlier this year, this Gukto Jongju is not going to be a series of wide, panoramic, natural vistas—it's going to be a procession of fishing towns, wharves, hotels, shipyards, and tourist hotspots. Civilization. With plenty of streets and roads, there will be plenty of cars and trucks as well. So, pollution, too. But, that said, it'll be an experience (seafood restaurants!), and at the end, I'll be able to say I've walked South Korea's east coast.