Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Mt. Karisimbi in Rwanda (4,508 m high) Dec 2010

On December 23rd and 24th, I hiked the tallest mountain in Rwanda. It is called Karisimbi at 4,508 m in height. It is one of five mountains (Muhabura, Sabyinyo, Gahinga and Bisoke) that comprise Virunga National Park, bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo. This area is where mountain gorillas are inhabitating.

[We were in high spirit before we began our journey. With the guide (Vincent) and porters]

On the first day, we left Kigali around 6AM for Ruhengeri, the capital city of Musanze District in the north. From there, we drove a little further to the Kinigi Center where you register the trip. We were a party of five: myself, Yurim (a Shalom Bible Study group member), Bohye (a Korean missionary), two young Rwandans (George and Omar) with whom the missionary is collaborating her ministry. For us, one guide and four porters were hired. Also, there were 6 soldiers who traveled all the way up to the summit and down back to the starting point to protect us from possible annimal attack, like mountain buffaloes. A $200 fee was not that expensive considering all the benefits associated with our trip.

[At the base camp after the first day hike]

We left the starting point at 10:30AM and we hiked until 2:30PM. It was a 4-hour hike. The first-day hike was through a rain forest. It was all wet and muddy. We had to wear rubber-made rain boots. Uncomfortable for the hiking, but there was no choice. Even soldiers were wearing the same rain boots. We hiked 1,200 meters in height from 2,500 m to 3,700 m. Tiring, but we were able to sustain it.

We stayed at the base camp that had only a roof cover and a wooden floor without any walls. We slept in the tents though. We arrived at the camp the mid afternoon, but we could not proceed. We had to be acclimatized to the altitude. I crawled into a tiny tent around 7PM and I rested. I had to preserve my energy. All night, there were all kinds of noises, but my intentional resting helped.

On the second day (December 24th), we woke up at 5AM and began the summit hike at 6AM with the guide and only one porter. We left all our luggage at the base camp. The summit hike was for 800 meters. Our goal was to reach the summit in 3-4 hours.

[Mt. Mekenro located in DR Congo]

We first had to go through another rain forest of a little more steep hills than the one we passed through the first day. We became more used to the hike, but it was still challenging to us. After the rain forest, we had to cross a jungle without any pathways. It was the toughest segment for me. We somehow had to manage to cross and hike up the jungle, following the guide and porter.

[This is part of the jungle we had to pass through.]

After the jungle came a steep hill with an almost 75 degree. It was more or less crawling and scrambling for us. It was above the tree line so there were no longer big trees, but only bushes and grasses. The mountain wind was blowing from our left to right. It was so strong carrying the mist of the clouds. Our left sides were all freezing. We had to hike the hill for almost an hour. It was a really challenging segment. Yurim gave up at this point because she could not handle the breathing. We could not continue more than 15 steps at a time. Each time we had to stop and control our breathing before we took the next steps. Bohye also felt like giving up at this segment, but she moved on and in fact reached the summit the earliest of us all. Hooray!!!

[Bohye was agonizing the hike in the jungle.]

All of sudden we started seeing black rocks that turned from magma when the mountain was a still active volcano. It was clear that we were getting close to the summit. The soldiers were way ahead of us, despite the rifles and machine guns they carried. They were encouraging us, saying that we were almost there. We made the final push little by little, but steadily.

At last, we reached the summit. Hallelujah!!!

We could not see anything, though, because we were in the clouds. But we were thrilled enough to be able to stand on top of the mountain Karisimbi or Rwanda. Yahoo!!!

[On top of Mr. Karisimbi]

We hugged the soldiers who traveled all the way up for us and also prayed for them as well as for the nation Rwanda. There was nothing other than a tower and it was extremely cold with a strong wind. So after taking a few photos, we had to depart the summit to get back down to the base camp.

The guide, Vincent, could not make it to the top, either. He said his lung could not sustain the height. So Deo, one of the porters, was with us all the way up along with the soldiers. He not only hiked with us but also carried a hot water container and other stuff for us. He never went out of breath and was helping the hike team members. It was amazing to us all.

The process of coming back down was also challenging primarily because of the steep hill and the jungle. But we had the excitement of the summit climb that kept us walking. It took us 2 hour 45 minutes to get back to the base camp. It was 12:45PM. We had to pack up and leave the base camp by no later than 1:30PM.

The final walk took us another 2 hour 45 minutes. It was not as difficult as the climb, but it was still not easy because our legs were aching and moreover it started hailing/raining after one hour of hike. The wet and muddy pathway became even wetter and muddier. Yikes!!!

[Bohye, George and me together at the summit. Omar later reached the top after Yurim gave up 200 meters before the summit.]

Instead of buying one, I borrowed a pair of rain boots and it was a mistake. They were apparently too old to be used for the hike. They did not have any traction and I kept slipping. After surviving 20-30 times of near slipping, I finally slipped and fell down in the muddy water. Ooooops and oooouch!!! I got all wet and dirty... Yikes.... But we had to move on.

By the time we arrived at the starting point, we were all exhausted and barely dragging our legs to the vehicle. It was 4:30PM and all in all it was 10 hours and 30 minutes since we began the day's hike at 6:00AM. The hike alone was approximately 9 hours and 30 minutes. It looked like a miracle that we were still in one piece.

[On the way down. Yurim with soldiers]

We thanked the Lord for His grace upon our journey. We thanked Him because it did not rain while we were hiking up. It would have been almost impossible to hike up with the rain boots that did not have any traction. We thanked Him also that no one was injured. We also thanked Him that most of us made it to the summit and that we even saw the snow at the summit. His creation was indeed marvelous all the way up and down. Praise the Creator God!!! - Jeffrey

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Maputo, Mozambique (October 2010)

[A gorgeious sunrise that I luckily took at 5Am on one morning. It took only seconds for the sun to rise.]

[Cathedral that stands lofty downtown.... The Iron House designed by Mr. Eiffel, but unlivable because of the heat and humidity since it is made only of steel. Now it is a heritage center.]

[Central Railway Station that is 100 years old. The War Memorial Statue with a woman holding a snake that she caught using a hot portige soup. But commemorates the solidies who fought at The World War I.]
[Southern Sun Hotel where we stayed ... It is facing the Indian Ocean and the scenery was panoramic.]
Kristin and I traveled to Maputo, Mozambique taking advantage of Jeffrey's trip to attend the OI Africa CEO conference held in Maputo.
We arrived on Saturday (October 16th), very late, and the next morning we discovered that we slept right at the beach. It was a pleasant surprise! Ahhh... the soothing sounds of the breaking waves.
We took the city tour on Sunday: Central Railway Station, The Iron House (designed by Mr. Eiffel who designed the Eiffel Tower in Paris, The War Memorial (interesting a woman statue holding a snake), Visit to the Central Market (We bought a lot of cashewnuts), Botanical Gardens, Cathedral. several ministry buildings.

There are three-wheeler vehicle that you can ride to take a look around the city. They are called "Tuk-Tuk." We were planning to ride it, but ours had a bad engine so we ended up using a taxi. And I forgot to take a photo.
On Monday and Tuesday, we were originally planning to visit Swaziland, but we ended up cancelling it because the costs were too high for a marginal benefit, in light of the border fees to pay to entere the Swaziland and reentrance visa fee to Mozambique, and transportation fees. So we ended up deferring it until later, hopefully.

So we relaxed quite a bit on both days, but we enjoyed the famous seafood of Mozambique every dinner. We went to Sagres, Costa do Sol and Spicy Thai. They all were wonderful! I ate a lot of delicious seafood so that I may not miss them for quite some time.

One morning at 5AM, I caught the moment of the sun rising over the horizon. As usual, it was a breath-taking and gorgeous. So here they are.
We were grateful for the opportunity to see and experience another African country. - Jeffrey

Monday, October 11, 2010

Accra, Ghana (September 2010)

[At the memorial center for Dr. Kwame Nkrumae, the first president of Ghana who led the country as part of the Pan-African vision.]

I participated in a week-long Opportunity International Africa conference that took place in Accra, Ghana, in September 2010. I had an opportunity to look around in the city of Accra, the capital city of Ghana on Friday and Saturday.

Ghana is called "the Gateway to West Africa." It is the transportation hub to many neighboring countries. It borders with Togo (East), Burkina Faso (North) and Ivory Coast (West). All neighboring countries are Francophone, but Ghana is Anglophone along with Liberia and Nigeria.
[Huge bamboo trees]
Ghanians, as they are called, are very friendly and warm people. Ghana is a safe country with political stability. But the country's weather is hot and humid since it is close to the equator and facing the Atlantic Ocean to the south.
Together with other conference participants, I walked around the Makalo Market located in the center of Accra. It has everything you need, literally. It is huge and you can be easily lost if you do not know the way around. We also visited an Art Center where you can buy many traditional souvenirs. It was full of small shops where very aggressive solicitation was rampant. We also visited the Memorian Center for Dr. Kwame Nkrumae, the first president of Ghana. He was a visionary who saw the Pan-African vision and actually shared resources to help other neighboring countries attain the state independence, such as Guinea.

On Saturday, we visited the city's Botanical Garden that was built by the British colonists 110 years ago. We saw very interesting trees, plants, flowers and vegetables.
[A ficus tree emptied by a parasyte tree. This photo was taken inside the tree towards the top.]
More than anything else, I was able to enjoy a variety of dilicious seafood that is rare delicacy in Rwanda.

Overall, it was short but sweet. - Jeffrey

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Woonlim Sanbang...(May 2010)

Huh Ryun was also called Sochi. This name, Sochi, was given by his master/teacher Choosa Kim Junghee. Choosa was one of the most famous caligrapher and painter in the Korean history. Choosa was comparing him to Daechi of China who was renowned as a painter at that time. It was a great honor for Sochi. He was one of the King's painters working at the King's palace.
After Choosa died, Sochi came down to his home town at Jindo Island and established Woolim-gak (Woolim means Cloud and Woods literally. Woolim Sanbang means Clouds and Woods and Mountain Place.) He painted, wrote and enjoyed the beauty of the nature. He showed great talents in three areas: painting, poem and caligraphy. I could see his great talent by looking at some of his work at the Exhibition Center.
Huh Ryun's artistic talent did not stop with himself. His DNA continued with his son Huh Hyung (Midang) and Midang's two sons Huh Geon (Namnong) and Huh Rim (Rimin). Noteworthy is Namnong Huh Geon. Sochi's Woolim-gak was sold by one of his grand children for mony, but Namnong bought the property back and restored the buildings as shown in the painting. Then he has donated it all to the government. Now it is one of the national treasures. Namnong made great efforts to teaching and built a memorial center, called Namnong Memorial Center, and donated it to the Mokpo City.
Huh Ryun's heritage continued beyond third generations. Huh Rim artistic greatness was short-lived because he died at 27, but before he died his paintings gained a lot of recognition from Korea as well as Japan. Huh Rim's son Huh In carried on the family's articstic DNA under Namnong's teaching. Now Huh Rim's two sons are continuing with painting.
All in all, Huh Ryun's artistic talent is flowing into five generations, probably very rare even from the world's point of view. Great achievement and great art work. I felt awesome at the talent, dedication, great work. - Jeffrey

Beautiful Korea Cholla-Namdo...(May 2010)

I have posted separate blogs on some, but Korea's Cholla-Namdo was beautiful overall. Here are some additional photos.

[Kris in front of stone sign with a well groomed tree in the background. The sign says "the spirit of Yudal mountain." It is in Mokpo City where I was born. --- something like this is all over the places.]

[Kris in front of the statue of 'Admiral Yi Soon-shin' who legendarily defeated the Japanese ships in all battles (23) during a war, called "Imjinweran." He is known to be the most respected admiral in the world's naval history. He also invented the "Turtle war ship" that was invincible to the Japanese. - Mt. Yudal, Mokpo]

[Pine trees growing on rocks. This beautiful scene is not even counted as one of the sites to have to see. - Ttanggeut maul, Haenam]
[It means "Like in the beginning." This phrase profoundly states the suggested attitude for everything we do. The description says that we should begin each day newly with an attitude like we are doing it for the first time. Like a baby bird facing the sky for the first time and a new sprout that is stepping up on the soil for the first time, even when the sun is setting, like in the morning, like in the spiring.]
[Traditional Korean house in the background. The tree in front of the house is 156 years old and it is still blossoming during the winter. - Seyoon-jung, Jindo]
[Kris and me at Sebang Nakjo. This place is known to have a beautiful sunset, but due to schedule we could not see it. In the bbackground, there were many beautiful islets. Reportedly, there are 1,400 islands/islets in the southern and western seas of Korea. Sebang, Jindo.]
[A sunset seen from the hotel room. The hotel Hyundai was built by Hyundai Heavy Industries to accommodate the engineers and buyers for the ships they are building at one of its several shipyards. Mokpo]

End of Earth in Korea...(May 2010)

[Tom to bottom and left to right: A few pine trees growing on rocks ... Kristin in front of a tombstone indicating the "end of earth" ... Kristin in front of the observation tower at the summit ... A scene from the observation tower.]
Kristin and I have been to the end of the earth ... well ... of Korea. We climbed approximately 300 meters via a mono rail and at the summit we climbed another 8 floors at the observation tower. It was hazy, so we could not see very much, but nonethless it was the end of the Korean peninsula, like the Cape of Hope in Cape Town, South Africa.

On one side, we were able to see many islands scattered around the southern and western part of the peninsula. On the other side, we were able to see the beautiful bay area where many sea lives are growing.
At this place, called "Ttanggeut-village" (meaning End of Earth Village", you could see the sunrise as well as sunset.
This place called "End of Earth" is not the End of the Earth in the bible. Nonetheless, it was an experience of the "End of Earth." - Jeffrey

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara in Japan...(May 2010)

[Top to bottom and left to right: The place that produced a premium sake called "Jung-jong." .... Kristin at Merican Park in front of Kobe Port Tower ... An interesting shape of Oriental Hotel at Merican Park ... An old ship used to cross the Pacific Ocean ... Kristin showing the poster for Osaka Castle ... The Osaka Castle ... The Chungsoo (meaning clear water) Temple ... The gate to enter the temple worshiping the "god of success" or Toyotomi Hideyoshi who was born to a poor farmer couple but rose to the ruler of the nation ... The street called "Dotombori" full of restaurants and snack bars ... Kristin with the Dotombori River at the background ... The Buddah Statue made of bronze housed at the Daedong Temple. (Reportedly 16 people can stand on his left palm.) ... The Daedong Temple's main building.]

Kristin and I also traveld to Osaka, Japan from May 21st through 25th, 2010. We joined a packaged tour program led by Ms. Hyunjoo Koh. She is a Korean, but her Japanese was impecable and her knowledge about Japan was impressive. She explained well and clearly about Japan's history, culture, places and people.

During this short trip, we visited Kobe, Osaka, Kyoto and Nara. These cities are full of Japan's old historic heritages and cultural treasures.

Kobe is famous for many things: i.e. its premier beef, premier sa-ke, and premier rice. They go with hands in hands. Without premier rice, they cannot make premier sa-ke and produce premier beef. We visited a traditional sa-ke producing place that is now preserved as Japan's museum. We also visited Merican Park that housed Kobe's Maritume Museum, Mosaic Walk, Kobe Port Tower etc.

Nara was the place where Japan's royal family was established, arguably by the descendents of the last King of Baek-Jae, one of three countries in Korea. Japan denies it, but one of the emperors admitted it. Again, truth prevails. The royal family lived and rulled in Nara for 500 years. In this city, we visited a Buddist temple, called "Dong-Dae-Sa." This temple was built by one of the emperors because of much contribution made by one of the Korean monks who introduced the Buddism to Japan. This temple houses one of the largest bronze Buddah scultures in the world. Reportedly, 16 men can go up on the Buddah's left palm open flat. That is pretty big...

Kyoto, literally meaning Capital City, was the city where the royal family reigned the country for 1,000 years. Kyoto has at least 20% of Japan's cultural heritages. There are many buddist temples and "Shin-sa" places. (Japan's traditional worship place for gods according to its "pan-theism.") We visited one of the famous temples, called Chung-Soo-Sa (Temple of Clear Water) that also houses a Shin-sa.

Osaka is the second largest city in Japan, next to Tokyo. It has a castle, called Osaka Castle, which is the pride of the Osaka citizens and even of many Japaneses. Kyoto is nearby and this castle was initially built by one of the greatest heroes of Japan, namely Toyotomi Hideyoshi. He was a Samurai who unified the entire country and established the central control. The most notable of him was that he was born to a poor farmer but rose all the way to the top without any parental inheritance. No wonder he is treated as a "god of success" among the Japanese. We clibled all the way up to the Chun-Soo-Gak that is located at the center of the castle and is now the castle's museum.

Now the Japan's capital city is Tokyo, literally meaning Eastern Capital.
This short trip included a rigorous travel plans, but we were grateful for just following the instructions and for all transportation, lodging and foods pre-arranged. It was a convenient travel! We had to follow the canned schedule, thus disallowing us from staying longer at places that were of more interest to us, but overall we enjoyed the packaged tour, particularly led by such a well experienced guide. Probably we will give a try again. - Jeffrey