The Scariest Temple Adventure Ever!

Written by on May 19, 2014 in Travel, Worldwide Korea Bloggers

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The parking lot on the mountain where my near death experience started at Mitaam Hermitage.

Hello Again Everyone!!

So in this posting, I thought I would talk about the near death experience I had while visiting Mitaam Hermitage and Hwaeomsa Temple in Yangsan (not to be confused with the much more famous one in Jirisan National Park).

A lot of the time I visit temples and hermitages way off the beaten path. Not just a little, but waaaaay off. I’m so far off, sometimes, that Korean hikers have asked me how I even found the hermitage or temple in the first place. When I do visit these places, often the road can be quite hazardous in my two-wheel drive KIA Pride. Such was the case when I visited these two mountain temples.

The initial climb up in the car was rather smooth. Then I switched it over to low gear just to be sure. Eventually, I came to a parking lot that had quite a few vendors. At first, I was going to park my car here, but then I realized that the road continued and Mitaam Hermitage was a further kilometre away. At this point, I was completely ignorant of just how much the road conditions would change.

Continuing, the road’s gradient quickly change. No longer was it a respectable 15 degree angle; instead, it had become a 30 degree angle (at best). Finally, nearing the point where the road ends, there’s a narrow plateau where two or three cars can park. Unfortunately, all of these spots were taken up. This is also the place where the trail for Mitaam Hermitage begins. Having not found a place to park, I decided I would continue up the road and visit Hwaeomsa Temple first. Then, I would backtrack and have a look at Mitaam Hermitage later. The only problem with this plan is that the road abruptly becomes a 40 degree angle and it’s at a bend.

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The trail that leads up to Mitaam Hermitage. It’s also on the neighbouring road that I skidded and slipped down the side of a guardrail-less mountain road.

So I revved up my car and attempted to take the angle and gradient with a bit of speed. Unfortunately, I didn’t take it with enough speed because my tires started to spin. Then, my car started to roll back because of the incline. I got to a point where I was nearing the edge of the road: a road that has no barriers or guard rails. Instead, all that awaits you is a steep kilometre long drop-off. I thought, so this is how it’s going to end. Fortunately, my wheels finally did gain traction and stop spinning, and my car eventually did stop rolling backwards. It was a bit touch and go as I turned my car around, but I was finally able to do it. With my emergency brake on, and my car parked at a 30 degree angle, I explored Mitaam Hermitage, which lies 400 metres up the trail.

It wasn’t until much later that I finally plucked up enough courage to make my way back up to Hwaeomsa Temple and the steep and dangerous mountainside road. It should be said that the second time did the charm and the beauty of Hwaeomsa Temple was nearly worth risking my life. Nearly…

For more on Mitaam Hermitage, follow the link.

And for more on Hwaeomsa Templefollow this link.

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The beauty of Hwaeomsa Temple on Mt. Cheonseongsan in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

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About the Author

Dale Quarrington

Dale Quarrington has lived in the Busan and Gyeongsangnam-do Province area ever since arriving in Korea in 2003. He’s visited all of the Korean provinces, exploring both the known and unknown temples and hermitages around the Korean peninsula. While he’s not traveling, he enjoys reading books and learning about Korean history.