Korean range fas­ci­nates Kiwi

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By KRIS DANDO

Roger Shep­herd moun­tains.

The in­trepid Kiwi tour and moun­tain guide grew up in Porirua, and is glad to be back here briefly, but his heart be­longs in the Baekdu Dae­gan moun­tain range, which tra­verses the spine of the Korean Penin­sula.

He has re­cently com­pleted a pho­to­graphic es­say on the range, backed by the South Korean For­est Ser­vice, that is be­ing ex­hib­ited at Pataka un­til April 2.

The for­mer New Zealand po­lice of­fi­cer and African wildlife ranger’s love af­fair with the Baekdu Dae­gan range be­gan af­ter a friend in­tro­duced him to it in 2006 – a year later they both walked the en­tire 735 kilome­tre South Korean sec­tion, in 70 days, the first for­eign­ers to do so.

They wrote a guide book on the re­gion.

Af­ter do­ing more longdis­tance hikes in Korea in 2009, he set up a busi­ness, Hike Korea, that pro­motes Korean moun­tain cul­ture through tour guid­ing, pho­tog­ra­phy and writ­ing.

Over 70 per cent of the Korean penin­sula is cov­ered in moun­tains.

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‘‘These moun­tains rep­re­sent so much to the Korean peo­ple, they worship them and say that they are a trans­porter of nat­u­ral en­ergy for the en­tire penin­sula.

‘‘They con­trol the di­rec­tion of rivers, have been im­por­tant in mil­i­tary cam­paigns through the ages, con­tain tem­ples.

‘‘It’s much more than just spec­tac­u­lar moun­tains and ridges, they are a huge sym­bol of spir­i­tu­al­ity and na­tion­al­ism. South Korea is a high- tech, su­per-savvy place but peo­ple just love to get out and walk among their trails, it’s part of who they are.’’

What’s spe­cial about Mr Shep­herd’s ex­hi­bi­tion is it shows off the moun­tains of North Korea as well.

Through the New ZealandDPRK Friend­ship So­ci­ety, whose chair­man Don Bor­rie is from Porirua, Mr Shep­herd was able to make con­tacts in the com­mu­nist na­tion and trav­elled there last year.

‘‘I wanted to know if it was pos­si­ble to visit, be­cause it’s well-known that the Baekdu Dae­gan moun­tains are im­por­tant to both Korean peo­ples. They [North Korea] were open to my visit, see­ing it as a pos­i­tive thing,’’ Mr Shep­herd says.

He spent 18 days last Oc­to­ber in North Korea and while it was more of a chal­lenge to ne­go­ti­ate than the well­trav­elled South Korea sec­tion, due to their lack of in­fra­struc­ture, it was nev­er­the­less re­ward­ing.

North Korea has the high­est peak, Baek­du­san (2744 me­tres) on the bor­der with China.

‘‘I love the fact I was able to ex­plore it all as one coun­try,’’ Mr Shep­herd says.

‘‘In the north you couldn’t just come down from the moun­tains and find a town or city to spend the night in, but that was fine, it was a very safe en­vi­ron­ment to be in.

‘‘ There was no pol­i­tics in­volved, I stayed out of that.’’

While there is no or­gan­ised trail in North Korea, Mr Shep­herd hopes that can be rec­ti­fied one day.

He would like his pho­to­graphs to even­tu­ally be­come part of a book on the moun­tain range.

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