22-Mar-2010 -- After the successful visit to CP N36º E127º, I still have another day to spare for next CP visit within my weeklong holiday. Today’s weather was forecasted to be from partly gloomy to fairly sunny especially in the central part of the country, with temperature range from 3degC to 10degC. The rest of the week’s weather will have more chances of cloud precipitation thus colder, so today could be a good one to carry out my pending plan to visit CP N37º E128º located in Chungju City with a travel distance of some 150kms due east from Suwon City.
My son Jam and I left Suwon at 9:30am to avoid being caught by the traffic congestion. It was Monday and I would be driving along Gyeongbu Expressway #1 towards Yongin Interchange, a notorious bottleneck during rush hours. We had to exit at Yongin Interchange in order to take Yeongdong Expressway #50 and move eastward. This Yeongdong Expressway connects Seoul area to Gangwon province and further up the east coast. The western end of this freeway is much busier since it is merged to another major access to Incheon Metropolitan city and to a newly constructed bay bridge connecting the island where the world class Incheon international airport (ICN) is situated. From Expressway #50, we went further SE by taking Jungbu Naeryuk Expressway #45, literally means Central Inland expressway since it passes across the central Korean province of Chungcheongbuk. The last major segment of the trip was a smaller country road #38 then finally embarked local road#531 which led us to the massive structure of Chungju Dam, the location of CP N37º E128º.
Chungju Dam is the largest gravity Dam in South Korea since it started commercial operations in 1985. A good friend, Jun Lim is originally from a town that is now under the lake water when the dam was completed after 7 years of construction. Aside from the massive engineering structure for sightseeing, one added attraction is to traverse the Chungju Lake by tourist ferry. However for some certain reasons, ferry service was not operational during the day of our visit.
I knew beforehand that the CP could be somewhere down the lake, after reviewing the last reported visit 10years ago. The shortest, albeit difficult way to reach it is to descend a steep slope through dense bushes and thorny vines down the lake.
I first surveyed the near-by area by driving slowly and tried to look for an easier access to the shore. At a certain point on the road, the nearest line distance to the CP was about 110meters. I continued driving towards the ferry service port area following the southeast direction, and passed by a small police outpost. From a view deck near this outpost, I spotted a long steel staircase leading down to a metalwork bay where a police patrol boat is docked just near the shoreline. I figured that from that bay it might be possible to meander the shoreline by hopping among the rock formation and reach the exact CP location on foot. But even before I reach the entrance to check it, a policeman (with his barking dog that annoyed Jam) came out from the patrol boat signaling us to back off. Deducing from his hand gestures, I assumed that we were about to enter a secured area of the lake and needed to turn back.
Now it left us with the brute downhill approach. I drove back to the point on the road with the nearest line distance to the CP and park the car in the side street.
Realizing that it would be difficult for Jam to go down with me, I told him to stay (locked him actually) and wait for me inside the car as I go down the slope a little further. I put on my hand gloves so that I could grab on those thorny vines and not to skid down too soon. As I came closer down the slope, it started to improve my visibility of the real terrain ahead but the more I realized the difficulty and risk because going further is a cliff about 5meters high. From where I am standing, I could see down the cliff the outcrops of rock formation probably created by the dam’s strong water stream when fully operational. But during this time, the lake’s water level seems too low exposing larger bedrocks, probably somewhere there or just few steps on the water lies the exact CP. Keeping in mind the incident with policeman with the loud barking dog, down there might also part of the restricted area due to reasons of security of the dam and safety of the tourists. I settled in with the closest point I can safely reach about 35m factoring in the GPS error, took pictures of the spot and its general area.
Nevertheless, I was able to reach a point more than enough to consider it a successful visit.
Satisfied, we head back home…passed the same highways but cruised differently under heavy snowfall much to my surprise, considering today’s forecast and the clear skies above CP N37º E128º. As someone puts it -Weather is a great metaphor for life, sometimes it’s hard to foresee it, and nothing much you can do about it but carry an umbrella.