Dream as if you'll live forever, live as if you'll die tomorrow.

James Dean

Monday, April 4, 2011

Journey to Tongyoung

In the late hours of friday night I emerged from the depths of a Seoul subway station to surround myself with the eager faces of 80 expats all ready to embark on a journey across Korea. Our destination was the southern port town of Tongyong where some planned to board a ferry over to the island of So Mae Moor Do while the more daring ones would hike the island of a Sa Ryang Do. With our backpacks placed underneath and the clinking bottles of soju safely stowed away, we were off. Our transportation of choice was a burgundy bus complete with kareoke disco lights and an echoing microphone. After quick introductions around the bus, the lights were dimmed and as the bus rolled down the highway we attempted to get some sleep. At about 5:30 am we staggered off the bus into the cool, crisp sea air and the promise of a great day. Sitting huddled together for warmth we quickly downed some muffins, hopped into some taxis and headed to the pier for the ferry over to So Mae Moor Do. When we boarded the ferry we all eagerly ran to the top deck anticipating the stunning views and photo ops. The views were stunning with glimpses of jagged coastlines and tiny island popping up here and there. The sun was shining and it seemed as if the weather was going to cooperate.

After about 40 minutes, however, the stunning views became less of a novelty as we instead focused on staying warm. The open deck of a ship going full speed across the water in early April is not the warmest of places. Again we sat huddled together with our faces tucked inside our hoods praying that each island that we stopped at would be ours. Eventually 1 1/2 hours later, we were there, frozen and tired but ready for the day.

So Mae Moor Do is a small island that looks more like a giant hill rising out of the sea. There is a small fishing village at one end where sea weathered ajummas and ajosshis sat selling their wares. Offering such delicasies as fresh fish, eels and octopus.
There was a trail heading around the island slowly climbing its way to the top of the hill offering stunning views out over the sea. We headed up the path happy to stretch our legs expecting a nice, leisurely hike. The hike started out great and then it slowly started getting steeper and steeper until suddenly we found ourselves clamboring over rocks at an 80d angle hoping we were almost to the top. Every so often there would be lookouts with cliffs jutting out into the sea where we could rest, catch our breaths and take endless photos.

Finally after about an hour of climbing we emerged from the trail into the brilliant sunshine on the top of the mountain. We were a little exhausted and slightly in awe of the old men and women who had gone running past us up the hill. At the top we found a sunny field where we collapsed for an hour and admired the view looking down over the fishing village below.
Eventually we picked oursleves up , climbed the steep path back down to the village, grabbed some quick lunch and boarded the ferry back to Tongyoung. This time on the ferry we were smart enough not to sit outside and instead we climbed onto the heated floors where everyone quickly fell asleep.
Back in Tongyong we settled into our motel, admired the ocean views from our windows and then rested for a few hours while waiting for those on the other hike to arrive. Finally they made it back and regaled us with stories of steep climbs, sheer cliffs and propelling down rock faces with ropes. I was very thankful that I had opted out of that hike.

Finally the evening was here and it was time to chow down on some traditional Korean bbq. Seated at tables of 6 or 7 people with others milling around at the ends of the tables we feasted. The supply of meat seemed endless and we gorged ourselves with bits of seasoned pork, dipped in sauce and wrapped in fresh lettuce, washed down with icy cold beer. It was a delicious end to an adventurous day. With full stomachs and aching muscles we climbed into our beds and dreamed of the things that we had seen.