sunset right before Jeju
I made it Jeju
-Do by night fall and rode over to the east coast next to the "Sunrise Mountain." It sounded like a good way to start off my trip there. I thought that would be a good way to start things off. I could not find a spot to camp on the mountain cause I couldn't get my bike up there and there was a cop chillin out front by the gate. I rode around till I found a spot. That was after a few mishaps. I rode down one dirt road off the highway, I saw a hill in the distance, enough to block the tent from the road. I was not interested in drawing attention to myself. I rode down past the hill and was slowing my bike down when I saw something large move about 1 meter to my right side.
I spun the tires turning around and nearly fell, then it happened again to my left. I'm pretty sure they were horses, but the sure scared the hell out of me at the moment. I couldn't see anything. Total darkness. I rode outta there like a bat outta hell. I went down another rode, that turned out to be a driveway. I was getting tired and ready for sleep. I didn't see any cars or signs of life. I pulled up next to the house and began to set up my tent about 30 meters from shore with the sunrise peak about 3 kilometers to the northwest. Close enough to make it there for the sunrise. I knew the time of the sunrise because they had the times posted out front of the gate. Convenient.
As I began laying out the tent I noticed a few small bugs jumping around the top of the tent.
my first morning there
I leaned down to brush them off. As as was down low in a five-point stance I heard a bunch of small little popping sounds coming from under the tarp which lay under the tent to prevent moisture from the dew getting through. I figured it was grass popping up from being smashed. I continued onward setting up the tent. I was leaning down putting the first set of poles into the slides and I kept hearing the little sounds, but this time more. I wondered what it could be. I lifted the tarp and there were THOUSANDS of these little critters jumping up onto my face and all over the place. Where the hell did they come from?!?! I checked the surface with my headlight prior to laying down tarp and I didn't see any cause for concern. I panicked. I had little bugs flying everywhere.
They were no bigger than ants, but they were jumping. They didn't bite or anything, but out there in complete darkness by an abandoned house along the Eastern shore of Jeju Island I was particularly startled by this. I began to move like a true ninja. I threw the tent back into the trunk and tied the tarp to the back of the bike like superman's cape and flew down the rode leaving the little bugs behind. I'm sure I was a sight to see with this giant blue tarp flapping in the wind at 12am in a small remote island village in Korea but I wanted th bugs off!
I finally setup shop behind some warehouse down the road. Bug free! It rained a bit during the evening and woke me up a few times. I didn't bring my sleeping bag at all during this trip because of space limitations so I was using all of my clothing as a pillow and blanket (I did have one thin beach towel and an airplane blanket Eddie had given me in Pohang).
I woke up in time for the sunrise and again it was not visible cause mother nature decided to keep it for herself yet again. But I saw about four ajummas around 5 am walking out on the shore to pick the morning harvest of seafood to sell and/or eat. They were quite the sight to see at this hour. They definitely spoke in a strange dialect. Once one of them noticed I was foreign and smiling at her, she smiled back. It made me happy. It was probably the most unique experience of the trip. I don't know if it was the euphoric feeling one gets early in the morning on the beach or just the authenticity of the moment, but I will forever keep it in my memory.
I watchd the ladies work on the shore for a bit. One would dive into the water and collect fresh sea goodies.
Most likely clams and things such as this. They were about 150 meters in the distance and I didn't exactly have any binoculars handy. I began packing up my things remaining hopeful for the weather for the day. I was very optimistic, so much so that I did not put on my rain gear. I began riding down the roads without aim. I stopped by the shore at one point and found a cool statue. I also saw some interesting foam everywhere. I took a few pictures of it. I am still not exactly sure what causes this to happen. It formed in the sea where the waves crashed against the volcanic rock and piled up there. When new waves came crashing in, it would cause some of the foam to lift into the air and the wind would pick it up and bring it on the grass cliff where I stood. It seemed like snow from a distance and this did not occur anywhere else on the island.
the rock fortress
As I rode down the rode it began to rain just a little. I sped up hoping to outrun the cloud, but it was relentless and it began to rain even harder. So I pulled over and put on my rain gear. Shortly thereafter, I found a little restaurant to have breakfast in. The people there were ver kind. Although, they spoke no English we chatted for a while using my broken Korean. They were more than interested in my travels. They pointed to a picture hanging on the wall and it was of them (a woman and her husband) on their motorcycle in California. I wondered why they new no English since they had visited the US. They were very kind to me. I told them to just feed me breakfast and they did. It was a perfect meal for how I was feeling. While I was in there the rain continued for a bit and then stopped.
The guy went outside to wipe the water from my bike. While at breakfast I was writing in my journal and the lady there really liked it. She was showing her husband and when they set it down, I was packing it in with my book. The copy of this book is literally falling to pieces. It's a wonder the cover hasn't rippe doff yet. It's over half way there. They got some tape for my book and taped it together for me, then gave me a plastic bag to place all of my books into. They also let me use their washroom to brush my teeth. As soon as I came out the gave offered me a cigarette. Even if I did smoke, I don't think I would like the taste of one immediately following a cigarette, unless I liked menthols I guess. My toothpaste has an orange flavor too so that would make for an even more interesting combination.
As I drove away, I couldn't help but see the guy standing on the road waving at me. He had this glorious smile on his face. There is a real good chance we'll never see each other here again. But is smile left a lasting impression in my mind. It was nothing extraordinary. Just a simple smile that said so much. It was telling me to "take care" and to "take it easy." I sure felt easy. The rain had cleared away and I could see some blue in the sky. When you have been riding on the open rode for almost 2,000 kilometers with clouds in the sky over 90% of the time, the slightest touch of blue will light you up with delight. I went on down the road continuing without aim. I found some side streets and some temples and some wonderful, beautiful nature. It was a pleasantly delightful afternoon.
I think this was the day I snuck inot the Jeju-Do World Cup Stadium. I believe South Korea played Japan here a few years back. I don't know who won and I don't really care, but I bet it was a hell of an event. The South Korea/Japan rivalry is huge here, contrary to my original thoughts of the North/South rivarly. But if you think about it for a second a learn just a tidbit of history it becomes chrystal clear why. The North is their family and both countries are ripped at the heart because they want to be one nation so incredibily bad that they cry about it if you have a serious discussion with them on this topic. I have not witness a sporting even between these two countries, but I hear that it is a sobering event full of polite and friendly gestures. Now Japan, on the other hand, is supposedly one bad ass time.
This penisula was a colony of Japan multiple times and there is a deep-seeded feeling of animosity towards the Japanese for the history and what they have done to the people here for centuries. There are still disputes over islands in the Sea between the nations. Even the name is referred to differently in the respective nation. For Korea it is the East Sea, while in the land of sushi it is referred to as The Sea of Japan. I think it is more of a symobolic dispute, although like anywhere in the world, there are resouces down there to be used for financial and maybe even political gain.
Ok, so back to Jeju. I found a camping spot near a large tourist resort, Jungmun. I found a few tents there and threw mine up immediately. I love tent communities. The people there are always polite and friendly.
This spot was no exception. A few Korean college students wasted no time to come help me with my tent. I was happy they spoke excellent English. They haven't traveled, they just said they study real hard. I try to use stories like this in class to motivate my students and I always wish I could see evidence in the future. After setting up the tent, I grabbed a fresh pineapple on a stick and headed to the beach with my book. I sat there and read for a bit till I felt some light drizzle. I went back to my tent and sat in there for a bit while the rain cloud passed. Afterwards, I decided to walk up the hill to the GS25 (our convenient stores here) and have dinner. I didn't want to rush because I had nothing to do. The kids from the camp that were helpful had packed up and left.
foam from the sea
The were on holiday from school and were cycling around the island. There were literally hundreds of people that did this. You could see them everywhere. I sat at the store and read some and wrote some. I would go in and get a 22oz drink a couple times till I worked up the munchies. Then I got a kimbap and some rameen. Headed back to the tent and crashed.
I woke up with a huge smile on my face. I didn't know why, but I was just so happy. I just new it would be nice despite the weather. I was alone camping on Jeju Island with my motorcycle and the beach was right there. I opened the fly to my tent and all I could see was blue in the sky. I stood up stretched and looked in toward the island. I did notice some clouds in the center near the peak. I thought it would just be cool there.
foam from the sea
I decided this was the day to hike Hallasan. I dressed, grabbed some breakfast and headed up the mountain. I rode through some fog, then it began to rain on me. "No way!" I said to myself. The weather was just nice at the beach. I'm going back. I went back and as I was dressing for the beach, I remembered the kids from the other day telling me how beautiful the beach was on the Northwest part of the island. I checked out the map and saw that there are some shore roads that take me all the way there. Okay, I told myself that I would spend the day up there instead of here at Jungmun. The beach was nice here and all but they said it was better there. Better is always better! I opted not to wear the helmet on this day. I wanted the wind i my hair. I unbuttoned my shirt as well.
I was gonna do this in style. I was happy I did. The ride there was simply amazing. I took pictures, but they don't tell the story. I can try to communicate it here on this blog, but it won't tell the story. Perfect weather, and perfect scenery. Blue sea. White waves. Volcanic rocks along the shore. Uninterrupted nature. I stopped along the way several times to reflect on things. I found some roads that would lead out into the sea about 30 or 40 meters. I would often ride to the end of them and sit. Sometimes I would write in my journal. Sometimes I would close my eyes and listen. Other times I would just simply stare. I longed for an endless road like this. Just ride like this for days and days. Every single individual I rode past would stop working in the garden and look up at me and smile.
foam from the sea
It was their seal of approval and I liked it.
I stopped at the beach and it was good. :)
The next day, the weather was to be crap. I checked the forecast the previous night and it called for thunderstorms for three days and I could see by the radar that it was going to be an accurate prediction. I set my alarm for around 5:30. I struggled to get up immediately, but got up when I heard the rain falling. I new it wasn't going to stop this time. I packed things in a hurry and went to the ferry terminal. I got side tracked along the way cause I saw a sign that said "Mysterious Road." I didn't see anything mysterious. I later found out that if you set your car in neutral on it, then it is supposed to roll uphill. I just thought it was a funny joke cause there was nothing mysterious whatsover there.
I rode down the otherside of the mountain. I was happy cause I outran the storm. Since I was on the south part of the island when I woke up and was now in the northern part in Jeju City
, the rain was not there yet. It was nice and dry. I went to the terminal and arrived at 7:50am. I saw the 5 hour ferry to Mokpo
was scheduled to leave at 8am. Some old women cut in front of me in line. When I got to the counter is was 7:53. The guy told what time the ferry left and what it currently was. I told him I knew and we needed to hurry. He said, "Not possible." "The hell it ain't, let's hurry and quit talking.
traditional boat used to travel to Japan
How much!?!" He said it would not happen and the next ferry would be at 4:50pm. You probably could have seen steam coming out of my ears I was so mad. I went and sat down just being pissed off. I laid down and was gonna try to sleep as long as I could. After 30 minutes, I could not shake the anger. I told myself that if I had some food, then it'd be cool. By this time it was pouring rain. So I walked in the pouring rain to the nearby harbor to get some the fresh early morning catch. It was a hairtail fish and pumpkin soup. It is an island favorite and I had it before, it's just a lot of trouble to eat because of all the small bones in it. I felt much better after lunch. The rain even let up just a bit. It was no longer pouring, just a steady shower. I reminded myself that everything happens for a reason.
I just failed to see any logical reason for me having to sit at the terminal with no internet access, not wanting to cruise around anymore cause I was sick and tired of rain, for almost 9 full hours. I arrived back at the terminal and saw a Korean guy there with a bike loaded down with stuff. He was alone. We were doing the same thing. He was shit out of luck too. Perfect! I complimented his bike, but he didn't speak English. "Doesn't matter." I can speak a little Korean and there is always Konglish (the Korean words that sounds like English, just add uh and ee to the end of anything). We chatted for a bit about the places on the island we visited. I asked him to share pictures with me. I shared with him as well.
His name was 승현, Sung Hyeon. He told me that there was a boat leaving for Wondo at 1:20pm and it was five hours too.
There was my reason! A new friend and a new destination. We went inside so he could help me with the ticket situation. He went back out and I went into the office to make my purchase. When I came outside, Sung Hyeong's camera was gone! I'm curesed and the people around me absorb it. I felt worse about his camera than my own. It was my fault. I asked him to show me pictures and then he helped me inside. My camera was laying out too about 1 meter from his. This was incredibily stupid on my part since I should know better. I could go on and on and how much this bummed me out. I think it got me down more than him. I just didn't understand why someone would take it. It wasn't like me and jsut left it somewhere. His was stolen redhanded. It only took 60 seconds for it to disappear.
ajummas with tools
Maybe he was more upset about it than he lead on. There was the whole communication barrier. When he was on the phone, it was apparent he was quite distraught. I completely understood. Like myself, Sung Hyeon didn't care about the material possession, it was the memories on film he'd miss. I relayed my story to him. Not sure if it helped. I bought him lunch and we had some soju. Enough to wisk away his worries and to knock us out for the ferry ride.