Extreme sports are gaining popularity in Korea, especially in Gangwon province, an area known for its untarnished mountains and rivers. In the spring, summer and fall, there are ample opportunities to go rafting, bungee jumping, rock climbing and paragliding, among other adventurous, outdoor activities. Last weekend, I chose to spend the day rafting on the Hantan River, taking advantage of the dwindling days of summer. I traveled with Adventure Korea, a budget travel company catering to foreigners in Korea, who again sponsored my trip.
At first, I was a bit hesitant to join this trip, since bungee jumping was on the itinerary. I’m not afraid of heights, but I wasn’t particularly dying to jump off a platform into thin air. However, I wanted to go white water rafting before the weather cooled down, and I knew that bungee jumping would be an exhilarating experience. I felt guilty, avoiding a chance to try something new, so I signed up for the trip, forcing myself to jump.
And I’m glad that I did.
Our group of 40 members departed the bus station at 7:30 AM on Sunday morning, and journeyed towards the Hantan River, in Gangwon province, where we would begin rafting. Most of us bought a pair of funky, fluorescent yellow aqua shoes so our sneakers wouldn’t get wet.
Photo © Shawna Saari
My friend Charlie and I posed in our rafting gear.
The river was quite peaceful, and we could easily relax and enjoy the enchanting scenery. We didn’t encounter many rapids, but everyone’s clothing was eventually soaked due to the short bursts of rapids in combination with swimming and splashing fights.
Our group posed with our guide in the center.
After a couple hours of paddling, relaxing, racing with the other rafts, swimming, splashing and diving off boulders, we carried our equipment back to the rental area and changed into dry clothes.
A buffet lunch comprised of rice, potatoes, pork, egg rolls, kimchi, fish cakes, dried seaweed, and soy bean paste stew awaited us on land. The food was hearty and delicious, and I almost regretted eating so much before embarking on our bungee jumping mission.
26 members in the group opted to jump. Some wore body harnesses and other chose to wear ankle bindings, having less control over their body’s movement. We jumped off a 50 meter high bridge, located over the Hantan River, ten minutes away from our rafting spot. A young guy worked on the platform, attaching each person’s bindings to the bungee cord, making sure everyone jumped safely and offering words of encouragement.
Here’s the second group of bungee jumpers. I’m in the front middle.
Seeing the bungee cord dangling limply over the Hantan River was a bit daunting, knowing that I would soon be connected to it, forcing myself to free fall over the river. I chose to wear the body harness rather than the ankle bindings, because I didn’t like the idea of being upside down the entire time. I wanted to take in the beauty of my surroundings as I fell and bounced up and down in the air.
For several minutes, I stood on the platform, waiting for my turn. The height didn’t bother me, but the wait time seemed to drag, since only one person can jump at a time. When my turn finally arrived, I held onto the side rail as the young Korean guy attached my harness to the bungee cord. I walked towards the edge and I started shaking a bit. My hands began sweating. I knew that I had to jump soon, or I would become even more nervous.
“Can I run?” I asked him.
“Yes, but don’t stop. That’s very dangerous.”
“Okay, I won’t.”
I mentally prepared myself for a few seconds before suddenly leaping off the edge of the platform. I started free falling, feeling nothing but wind as I plummeted to the ground. As I fell, my high pitched scream pierced the surrounding atmosphere. The fall seemed to last forever and no time at all, as the bungee cord stretched and I began bouncing up and down. It was absolutely exhilarating to have no control over my body for those few seconds that I was in the air, before shakily stepping into a raft with a guy who helped me out of my harness. What a rush!
Here’s a sequential shot of my epic jump, (click on it to zoom in), and my friend Charlie shot the video below.
After each person jumped, a man in this raft unhooked our harnesses and bindings from the bungee cord and paddled us to shore.
Around 5 PM, we gathered our belongings and returned to Seoul by bus. I watched the countryside of Gangwon-do turn into suburbs with rows of high rises and cities filled with bright, florescent lights as we slowly drifted away. Rafting on the Hantan was an ideal way to enjoy the last warm days of summer, and the bungee jumping experience now makes me sound more bad ass than I actually am. I wouldn’t be opposed to bungee jumping again if the chance arises. Maybe next time I’ll try the ankle bindings.
This trip is called “White Water Rafting & Bungee Jumping.” Adventure Korea leads this trip several times a year, and it costs 49,000 won (approximately $45), including transportation (a chartered limousine bus), rafting fee, equipment rental and guide, shower facility and lunch. The bungee jumping fee is 35,000 won (approx. $31), and must be paid on site and in cash to the bungee jumping company directly. For more trip options, visit Adventure Korea’s homepage.
*Note: This is a sponsored post, but the opinions are, of course, my own.
-Text, photography, and video by Sarah Shaw @ www.mappingwords.com. All rights reserved.