Urambi Hills Summit Walk

For many Mt Painter in the northern suburbs of Canberra is the ‘go to’ walk for scenic views of the northern part of the city, with minimal effort. While some consider Mt Arawang to be the Mt Painter of the south, for me the Urambi Hills summit walk earns this accolade though it is a little longer at 2.1 kms return. Either way, both walks offer sweeping views of the southern part of the city and out across the Murrumbidgee river towards the Brindabella mountains to the west.

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The Kim Jong Suk Middle High School – Pyongsong

After lunch at the  Jangsusan Hotel it was off to school, the Kim Jong Suk Middle High School, one of the classier schools in the county, for gifted children. Gifted children in North Korea will always be from families with higher ‘songbun’ or status within the country – academic ability on its own being insufficient to meet the criteria.

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The Konji-Ri Revolutionary Site

Earlier in the morning we had visited the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum (note that the link is to my 2014 visit review) in Pyongyang, an amazing museum by any measure, with its focus on the history of what foreigners refer to as the Korean War. On completing our tour of the museum, we jumped on our bus and headed north, on a ‘field trip’, to visit one of the sites mentioned by our guides in the museum. Our destination was the Konji-Ri Revolutionary Site which was the headquarters of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) for much of the duration of the Korean War.

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Pyongsong en route to Mt Myohyang

When I visited Mt Myohyang (best known as home to the International Friendship Exhibition) in 2014 we went there directly from Pyongyang and returned to the city with no stops en route, in either direction.  In 2018 we had a few stops on the way up in South Pyongan Province and one, in North Pyongan Province, on our return to Pyongyang.

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South Korea’s Sunshine Policy and the Mt Kumgang Tourist Region

In 1998 South Korean President, Kim Dae-jung, referenced one of Aesop’s fables, ‘The North Wind and the Sun’, in the creation of a new policy to improve relations with North Korea – essentially a shift from a failed coercion approach to one of co-operation. In the fable, the sun and the wind competed to remove a man’s coat. The wind blew strongly, but the man clutched his coat and kept it on. The sun shone warmly, and the man voluntarily took off his coat to enjoy the fine weather. 

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En Route to Mt Kumgang

Leaving Wonsan, unlike most visitors who return west to Pyongyang or head north to Hamhung, we took the coastal road south to the Mt Kumgang region. This mountainous region borders with South Korea along the infamous demilitarised zone (DMZ) which is ironically one of, if not, the most militarised areas in the world. Tourist access to the DMZ on this side of the country is not possible.

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Samil Lagoon/ Lake – Mt Kumgang

En route back to our hotel from a spectacular hike to the Kuryong Falls we made a stop for a short walk to a viewing platform over Samil Lake.  

Samil Lake is an 80 hectare freshwater lake, 9-13 metres deep, within the Mount Kumgang Tourist Region, in the south-eastern part of North Korea. It sits about 2 kilometres from the coast of the East Sea of Korea ( the Sea of Japan to non-Koreans) and 9 kilometres north-west of the border with South Korea. 

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Kuryong Falls – Mt Kumgang Walk

Mount Kumgang, or the Kumgang Mountains, is a spectacular and stunningly beautiful mountain range, also referred to as the diamond or the thousand peak mountains. The mountains are located in the South East corner of North Korea, bordering with South Korea, on the other side of the infamous demilitarised zone. Between 2002 and 2008 hundreds of thousands of tourists from South Korea, in particular, visited the area. Since then it has very much reverted back the ‘the unseen North Korea’ visited by very few international tourists. While the mountains are a hikers delight and one could easily spend weeks here we were limited to an afternoon’s hiking to Kuryong Falls and a short visit to the Samilpo Lake (see seperate review) – but what a delightful afternoon it was.

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The Kumgangsan Chongnyon Railway Line – North Korea

Having left Wonsan our next stop was Mt Kumgang, three hours drive to the south, and to get there we drove along the (mainly) coastal National Highway 7 (AH6). For much of the way the highway runs in close proximity to the Kumgangsan Chongnyon railway line. Being a bit of a railway buff I enjoyed a bit of train station spotting en route to Mt Kumgang though sadly did not see any trains. In this post I share a few details on the line together with a few pictures of the stations I passed as well as a few other railway related snaps.

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Shoreline Walk – Return via Western Foreshores Walk (part) – Googong Foreshores

The Shoreline Walk is a popular and easy four kilometres return lineal walk along part of the western foreshore of the Googong reservoir, within the Googong Foreshores reserve. Rather than return via the same route I continued along Shannons Inlet (otherwise the turnaround point) until I connected with the management track and the Western Foreshores walk and used that track to complete my walk. This added nearly a kilometre to the walk’s length and sightly increased its difficulty but it let me walk through, and enjoy, an area of open grassland with sweeping views of the countryside, the reservoir and the Queanbeyan escarpment to the east. It also gave me a less picturesque view of suburbia housing in Googong village, off to my left, as I approached the end of the walk. Give yourself at least an hour and a half to enjoy this walk.

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