Rummicube at Dak-bucks

Four hours after leaving Kunsan, after driving over several dividers to correct wrong turns and countless stops for “OSI” (milk) coffee, we arrived at a parking lot we could call home for the night.  Rick pitched his tent on a grass median.  I pitched mine on the mattress in the back of Slick’s truck.  Now that’s what I call camping!


The next morning we wandered around the national park a bit more before discovering that Ganhyon climbing area was nowhere near the park.  A couple hours later, stuffed with surprisingly normal pizza, we convinced the gate guard at Ganhyon Resort that we deserved a discount, and drove through the parking lot onto the tiny streets of the resort.  Koreans stared at Slick’s huge white Dodge 4×4 with its loud diesel grumble.  We turned left over a shallow river dancing in its rocky bed.  Verdant valley walls rose around us.  The one-lane ribbon on road hugged the base on the winding valley walls.  Finally a row of shops appeared across the street from a bridge.  On the far end of the bridge, rock cliffs towered above the sparkling river.  Lean bodies dotted the rock.  One of them was my friend Heidi, whom we were meeting here.


We joined the crowd at the foot of the wall for a peaceful day of scaling walls and meeting new friends.  A Korean friend hosted us for dinner at a local restaurant.  We walked there, up over a steep ridge along a trail that tended to vanish in the darkness.  I was still hitching piggy-back rides on any downhills; my legs were still sore from the ironman.  I was thrilled to settle onto the floor in front of the dining table in standard Korean fashion.  I marveled as I looked around the table:  four Americans, two Canadians, a Korean, and a Frenchman; three teachers, a student, a military contractor, and two fighter pilots; but really just eight climbers. 


Sunday we clawed up more routes on beautiful bare rock, then bathed in the crystal stream winding through the valley.  Before returning to civilization we sat on the shore, playing guitar and singing for a long while.  I slept much of the way home, content to let Rick play navigator.  Slick drove, spurred on by many cups of OSI.


Monday we drove to Naejangsan National Park with a huge group of folks.  Of course we cheated and took the gondola up as far as we could before hiking along the ridges overlooking ridges and rice-paddy-filled valleys as far as the eye could see.  We took pictures of Carrie and me atop a natural swing made of a thick vine.  The boys raced up a steep steel set of more than 100 steps – Rooster won in 42 seconds.  Carrie got closely acquainted with a snake.  I coerced everyone to slip and slide into a slope of waterfall for a picture.  Lisa learned the value of a walking stick on such steep terrain.  We all rested on the steps of a temple – until the monk reprimanded us about lying down there.  We stopped for ice cream on the way back to the cars to make up for all the hiking.


Seeking an escape from base on a Friday evening, three of us drove to Kunsan City.  “Let’s go play Rummicube at Dak-bucks,” Sandi suggested.  I shook my head and looked at him inqusitively.  “Was that English?” I asked.  Sandi laughed.  Chandra agreed to go.  We’d just finished dinner at a Chinese restaurant inside a converted whorehouse.  We’d had our own room, complete with light fixtures conspicuously mounted on the wall above where the bed used to be.  Chandra was suspect of the need for the white seat covers.  The waitress shut the door every time she left, which made us a little uncomfortable. 


Now we were walking through Kunsan City toward Dak-bucks.  Some people used to call Koreans “DAKs” which stood for “Dumb A– Koreans”, until the Air Force understandable prohibited the term.  So when I saw the green-on-white sign for the coffee house “Dak-bucks”, a spitting image of a Starbucks sign, complete with green circle logo, I couldn’t help but wonder if they knew the connotations the name brought.  We ascended the stairs to the lounge full of plush couches, restaurant tables, and racks of board games.  Chandra and I settled into a corner table and Sandi brought over the Rummicube game.  We all ordered completely non-healthy mocha coffees and set up the game.  It was a combination between Scrabble and Gin Rummy.  Scrabble with numbers you have to match by number or sequence and color, with the goal of using all your numbers on the playing field and emptying your number rack.  Of course I enjoyed it because, in true beginner’s luck fashion, I won.  A quick game of Jenga followed to the tune of much laughter before we called it a night and drove back to Kunsan Airbase.


Hope you’re enjoying early fall.  The weather’s finally getting really nice here in Korea…must be time to go soon!




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