Day 7: Hainsa Temple
I’m scared of heights. It’s difficult being the only one with vertigo in a family of fearless climbers; growing up I was forced to either swallow my fear or remain on the ground, watching them gradually disappear into the depths of the sky.
On Wednesday, my mom and I took a bus to visit the Haeinsa Temple, which is nestled in the arms of a mountain range, miles away from civilization. The temple was marked for destruction during the Korean War, but an enemy pilot went against direct orders to bomb the village and flew away, recognizing the area as a place of great beauty and importance.
My mom and I bought bags of dried mushrooms and tea made from the red mountain pine, and then we headed up towards the peak of the mountain. The hike was steep, and the path was broken up by narrow staircases drilled into rock faces. The trees were so dense that we didn’t realize we’d reached the top until we were already there, and we could stand on a boulder overlooking the entire valley.
If you suffer from even the slightest degree of vertigo, you can imagine the exhilaration of standing on top of the world, mountains punctuating the distant skyscape, with nothing but fate and the desire for self preservation keeping you from plummeting over the edge. When you have vertigo, you take comfort in nestling at the foot of something much greater than yourself, knowing that you are not the highest point on the horizon. Up on that mountain, however, there was nothing.
Maybe it was the lack of oxygen, or maybe it was the inertia from the four mile hike, but something made me swallow my fear and stand at the edge of the mountain. I even managed to - gasp! - do a handstand on a narrow bridge spanning the girth of the mountain, which is something I’ve always secretly dreamed of doing.
**Side note: that purple drink is a sweet potato latte, and YES, that is an enormous bee. My phobias don't extend to the insect kingdom, and I have a fondness for furry things with wings. It crawled all over my arm before getting bored and leaving me alone.