2013年2月26日 星期二

Along the Trail of Korea’s Mountain Spirits 追尋韓國山神的足跡


Joe Ray for The New York Times
Along the Trail of Korea’s Mountain SpiritsBy ELISABETH EAVES February 27, 2013亞洲遊追尋韓國山神的足跡ELISABETH EAVES 報導 2013年02月27日 紐約時報
THE titanium spork was a Christmas gift from my brother Gregory, a choice that seemed random at the time. I had no use for ultra-lightweight dual-use cutlery. But nine months later, almost 7,000 miles from my home in New York City and nearly catatonic with exhaustion, I was thankful for its lack of heft. Gregory; my husband, Joe; and I had been hiking for 12 hours while hoisting a 30-pound backpack over steep and slippery rock in a thick mist. After nightfall, headlamps fading, we spotted dots of light below us in the dark, and heard the eerie whoosh of a wind generator. We stumbled down to the Satgat-jae shelter, a basic cabin for hikers perched at over 4,200 feet in South Korea's Deogyusan National Park. I unpacked my spork.
It was Gregory, now living in South Korea and flush with the zeal of the newly expatriated, who had suggested we hike a portion of the Baekdu-Daegan trail. The Baekdu-Daegan is a mountain system running the entire length of the two Koreas, some 870 miles. On maps, it appears as the topographical backbone of the Korean Peninsula, but I soon realized it was also a psycho-spiritual one. The notion first occurred to me when Gregory told us that his city-dwelling Korean girlfriend said he would understand her better if he hiked the Baekdu-Daegan. And when Joe and I checked out of our ultramodern hotel in central Seoul, the receptionist clapped when I told her what we were about to do.
是格雷戈里建議我們徒步走一段“白頭大干”(Baekdu-Daegan)山系的,他現在住在韓國,因為剛剛移居國外而特別興奮。 “白頭大干”是縱貫朝鮮和韓國兩國的山系,長約870英里。從地圖上看,它像是朝鮮半島地形上的脊梁,但是我很快意識到它也是“心理—精神”上的主心骨。我第一次產生這個想法,是在格雷戈里告訴我們他住在城裡的韓國女朋友說如果他去一趟白頭大干山,他會更理解她的時候。喬伊和我在首爾市中心超級現代的酒店辦理離店手續,我告訴接待員我們打算去做什麼的時候,她鼓起了掌。
South Korea may be among the most wired and densely populated countries in the world, but its first religion many centuries ago — before the arrival of Christianity, Confucianism and Buddhism — was based on the worship of mountain spirits. The Korean version of feng shui, known as pungsu-jiri, holds that the nation's energy flows south along the Baekdu-Daegan ridge and outward along its branches. By the time of our trip, I had developed a theory that the mountains are to Koreans as the Wild West is to Americans : even if a New Yorker, say, has never set foot on a ranch, he likes to think he's got a little bit of cowboy in his soul. It's part of the collective unconscious.
Joe Ray for The New York Times
Since the '80s, as both freedom and wealth have spread in South Korea, so has the popularity of mountaineering. As it has, the South Korean portion of the Baekdu-Daegan has become hikable along nearly all of its 457-mile ridge, with trails built and maintained by the Korea Forest Service, part of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. Weekend warriors tackle it in chunks, and a hardy few attempt the entire length as an epic two-month trek.
In the spring, Gregory had m​​ailed me the only English-language guidebook to the trail. The spork had been a subtle lure, but I took the guidebook as an all-out invitation and began making plans for a September trip. My brother had lived in South Korea for much of his 20s, but, always too busy or broke from my own globe-trotting, I had never visited. Now he was moving back there at the age of 37, in love with Korea, the Korean language and a Korean woman. I wanted to better understand his decision, which seemed to be either a bold gamble on personal happiness or a crazy one. And I wanted to know the place that might be his permanent home.
Gregory is younger than I am, but he became our leader, particularly after we left the capital and entered the countryside, where we saw no other foreigners and heard virtually no English, and so were dependent on his Korean skills.
The section of trail we had chosen began in a southern farming region and took us north into 90-square-mile Deogyusan National Park. Clouds clung to the hills, a reminder of the unseasonably late typhoon that had passed over the peninsula the day before. As we ascended, we were almost immediately passed by a hiking club — 15 lithe men and women in the black hiking pants favored there, made from panels of high-tech-looking fabric. Their leader broke his stride just long enough to tie a ribbon to a tree marking their passage; some branches we passed were festooned with these brightly colored strips.
In height, South Korea's mountains are more akin to the Appalachians than the Rockies — the highest mainland peak is 6,283-foot Jirisan. They can, however, be jagged in the extreme. We planned to cover just seven miles on the first day, but the steep and constant ups and downs soon had us aching. We often had to climb using our hands, and in many places we used the chains and ropes that the forest service had helpfully attached to the rocks.
As we limped into our second morning, we decided to rethink our itinerary. Instead of sticking religiously to the trail for six days, we would weave our way on and off, stopping at villages and temples along the way. Things immediately improved. For one thing, the sun had come out. For another, we were going downhill. Soon we were following a stream, broken up by waterfalls and pools through a deciduous forest of maple, hazel and birch. We stopped to talk to a pair of Korean hikers on their way up. I would hear Gregory explain our presence so many times over the course of this trip that I began to pick up the words for sister and brother-in-law. “People look at you differently when you're traveling with family,” he said to me after another encounter with fellow hikers. “You're not a suspicious bachelor.”
第二天早上我們緩慢而費力地前行時,決定要重新考慮一下我們的旅行計劃。我們打算不再連續6天都嚴格沿著步道前行,而是時不時地迂迴一下,到附近的山村和廟宇歇歇腳。情況馬上變好了。一是太陽出來了;二是我們開始走下坡路了。很快,我們沿著一條溪水前行,沿途看到了瀑布和潭水,穿過了一片落葉林,裡面有楓樹、榛子樹和樺樹。我們停下來和兩位上山的韓國遊客交談。一路上我多次聽到格雷戈里跟別人解釋我們的關係,我都知道用韓語怎麼說“姐姐”和“姐夫”了。 “別人如果知道你是和家人一起旅行,對你的看法就不同了,”又一次跟其他遊客碰面後他對我說,“他們就不會再認為你是一個可疑的單身漢了。”
Two nights later we found our way to another park shelter, this one just below 5,282-foot Hyangjeok-bong. At sunset we climbed to the peak and had the 360​​-degree view to ourselves. To both east and west, mountain ranges in shades of gray, blue and black, each one silhouetted against the next, stretched away like waves on an ocean.
After sunset, at a picnic table outside our shelter, we encountered the two best-equipped hikers I have ever met. Kwang Sub Shin and Jin Koo Suk, who both work for a bank in Seoul, hike sections of the Baekdu-Daegan on weekends . Each had a headlamp strapped to his forehead. Music played from a phone, which was attached to a solar battery. Bottles of ice-cold rice wine were scattered around the table. Mr. Suk cut pieces of sweet potato and added them to a bubbling pot of fish broth. From atop a second camp stove he served hot barbecued duck. They put to shame the instant rice and curry we'd been subsisting on.
日落之後,在小木屋外的野餐桌旁,我們遇到了我見過的裝備最齊全的兩位徒步旅行者。申光燮(Kwang Sub Shin,音譯)和石鎮丘(Jin Koo Suk,音譯)都在首爾的一家銀行里工作,週末的時候在白頭大干山系的部分地段徒步旅行。兩個人的前額上都戴著照明燈。用太陽能電池供電的手機裡播放著音樂。桌子四周散放著一瓶瓶冰冷的米酒。石先生把紅薯切成塊,加到沸騰的魚湯鍋裡。另一個野營爐上是熱騰騰的烤鴨。我們用以果腹的速食大米和咖哩顯然相形見絀。
Fortunately we had two items to add to the feast. Both had been controversial when we set out (the less heft the better): canned peaches and boxes of soju, the national tipple. The temperature dropped with nightfall, but the steam and aromas from the table kept us warm. With Gregory translating, I asked our new friends if they thought my cowboy metaphor made sense. Did Koreans all have a little bit of mountaineer in their souls? Mr. Shin looked up from under his headlamp and replied with a simple but emphatic “yes.”
The spring outside our shelter had a sign on it, which Gregory told me said the water was drinkable. The next morning, though, seeing me filling my bottle, Mr. Suk dashed toward me in alarm. “Ah,” Gregory said. “ It says do not drink this water.”
小木屋外的泉水邊有個警示牌,格雷戈里告訴我上面寫著泉水可以飲用。但是第二天早上我往瓶子裡裝泉水的時候,申先生驚慌地向我跑過來。 “噢,”格雷戈里說,“牌子上說不要喝這裡的水。”
“Sorry,” he said, and then, in the tone he uses when waxing philosophical, “the window is only half open.”
IF Gregory's window onto Korea was only half open, then mine was barely cracked. It occurred to me that this sense of traveling through a half-understood world was something we had both sought many times over. Moving to a different culture meant the world suddenly became more mysterious. It could make you feel like a perpetual outsider. But it also made you feel as if you were always learning.
After hiking another stretch of the Baekdu-Daegan, we descended steeply out of the national park and took a bus through fields of garlic, peppers, zucchini and ginseng. We had one more stop to make before ending our pilgrimage, at Haeinsa, a Buddhist temple draped over the folds of Mount Gaya. On the sunny Sunday afternoon when we arrived, swarms of day-tripping urbanites were taking the half-mile stroll from parking lot to temple in full regalia — stretchy tops, hiking boots and black super-pants — as if their gear were a type of modern religious raiment.
在白頭大干山系又走了一段之後,我們順著陡峭的山路下山,離開了國家公園,乘坐公共汽車穿過一片種著大蒜、辣椒、西葫蘆和人參的田地。在結束我們的朝聖之旅之前,我們還要再去一個地方——隱藏在伽倻山(Mount Gaya)山谷裡的海印寺(Haeinsa)。我們到達的時候是周日的下午,陽光燦爛,成群的城里人來這裡進行一日遊,他們從停車場走半英里來到寺廟,身穿全副盛裝——彈力上衣、徒步靴和黑色登山褲(super-pants)——好像他們的這身服飾是一種現代宗教服飾。
Certain temples, Haeinsa included, allow guests to stay overnight, but you have to follow their rules. Gregory and Joe were sent to share a spartan room, while I got my own. We ate silently in the monks' dining hall. Just before sundown we gathered in the central courtyard, where, standing under a pavilion's carved and painted eaves, a young monk in gray and maroon robes beat on a drum taller than he was, the deep sound echoing off the mountains. When it was dark, we ascended to the main worship hall, from which golden Buddhas shone like suns. We took off our shoes and sat next to an enormous window open to the night. Chanting rose and fell around us.
I couldn't understand the words. But I did understand a little more why Gregory wanted to be there. He'd learned enough to know that he could spend a long time learning more.