Part Two: (If you missed the first portion of this story, please click here.)
A good amount of time went by in a highly tense rental car before I received another text from our Korean angel.
The ferry company noticed ur depart time doesnt change. It will 1600 as well. Depart from Jeju ones were changed. Sorry for confusing.
I wrote back how thankful we were for her updates, which she did out of the goodness of her heart and told her I’d like to buy her lunch when we I returned. I also mentioned changing our departure date and asked how we could do this, if at all.
If you want to change the arrival date, pla let me know. They said it has to be canceled and re-booked. If I cancel and book on Saturday, you can print out in the port. Plz let know. Be careful ur driving!!
With her help, we changed our tickets to Saturday via text message and I once again sat back in my seat, allowing myself to relax. Sort of. There was still the matter of crossing the ocean over swirling seas. I thought about the pool floaties that were deflated, folded up, and packed into my backpack. If the boat went down and there weren’t enough life vests, my family would be floating in the middle of the ocean on those babies. I allowed my mind imagine my husband punching any grown adult in the face who so much as tried to take away my kid’s floatie.
By the time we got to Wando the sky was cloudy and bits of rain fell here and there. The water was a little choppy, but nothing like the scenes from the Weather Channel with Jim Cantore braving 50 mph gusts, standing at a 45 degree angle. Once inside the port, we got in line and waited our turn to ask questions, hoping as always, that a combination of the person up front knowing enough English mixed with a game of charades would be enough to get an information swap done.
She didn’t know enough English. I shouted back through the line asking if anyone did. Thankfully, one man came forward, and he helped us ask questions like, where do we get new tickets printed out for our return trip, how do we get the dog on the ship, where do we drive to load our car and where is the bathroom?
The ferry ride over to Jeju was exactly three hours long. Very unlike what I had expected, on board chairs are in short supply. Instead, rooms are provided, carpeted in a substance very reminiscent of Astro Turf. You are to take off your shoes when entering and sit, or lay, on the floor. I watched as some locals slept right there on the floor while others gathered in groups to play card games. I have no idea what kind of games they were, but I could tell they involved gambling, as evidenced by the money and Soju circling about. It was a great experience. Everyone was happy and safe, free to do their own thing at will.
Bill and I cracked open a couple of Coronas out on the deck while we watched the Wando horizon fade into the bleak, stormy horizon.
By the time we arrived in Jeju the sun had disappeared beyond the outline of South Korea’s highest mountain, Hallasan. The plan was to set up our campsite the first night at Gimnyeong Seongsegi Beach (you can find information about all the beach campsites in Jeju here). This beach is famed for its white sands and for having the clearest water around the island. Besides that, it was in a prime location for the activities we wanted to do the following day. However, taking into consideration the 30 knot winds and gusting rain, we decided to find a hotel instead. Tired, but happy to be “on vacation” we drove in the direction of Gimnyeong Beach, hoping to find a place to stay along the way.
Despite being turned down at multiple hotels on account of being full, we finally found a bungalow type motel with small, individual houses serving as rooms for guests to spend the night. Believe it or not, these accommodations were, by far, much cheaper than the local hotels and so we quickly pushed our 50,000 won into the owner’s hand – who happened to recognize us from the ferry! – and began to set up shop for the night. Bill hurriedly passed bags from the truck to the bungalow door, trying to keep our belongings as dry as possible from the rain that was coming down at a definite pre-typhoon pace. I cooked dinner in the small kitchenette and the kids set up a makeshift bed for themselves on the floor.
The following morning, feeling refreshed, we packed up our stuff, said goodbye to the Jeju bungalow owner, and set out to find some picturesque moments and a coffee. We found both.
Never before have I seen lava rock tide pools. The black and holey rock that once spewed forth as magma from the innards of our earth were now beautifully placed all along the shorelines of what I could already tell was a majestic island. Even in the midst of a wet and dreary day, I stood on top of them in awe at the beauty of all. Below is a home along this shoreline. Not exactly San Diego.Also discovered that day were the amazing lava rock walls that adorned every landscape requiring a formal outdoor barrier.Additionally, we came across massive windmills, apparently intended to harness energy for whatever future purpose. They stood like giants along the landscape.
But these sights were just what we found on our way to our first planned stop, Manjang Cavern. This cave, unlike any other I’ve been to, is made up of the world’s longest known lava tubes (daily, summer 9-6pm, winter 9-5:30pm). Although they reach 8.5 miles long, only .5 miles of them are open to the public.
Because of the all the rain, we were advised to wear rain coats, or at least bring an umbrella, because of all the water seeping through the ground and subsequently dripping from the tops of the tubes. We were also warned to dress warmly as the temperature stays between 50-68 degrees F.
After a picnic lunch we traveled a short distance to Kimnyong Maze Park. This is no corn crop maze for kiddos three and under, although they’ll have just a much fun here as Bill and I did. The five of us started the maze at the same time, all taking off in different directions. Our son beat the rest of the family – by a long shot – to the end, where he promptly rang a bell signifying that the rest of us had been beat!
At this maze there was also a beautiful garden area and a plethora of cats for visitors to pet to their heart’s content.
As we drove to our next stop, the Bijarim Forest (daily, summer 9-7pm, winter 9-5pm), I found this man tending to his garden. The crops look a bit like tea plants to me, but I don’t really know for sure. I watched him for a moment and thought about the life he might have.The Bijarim (Korean nutmeg) Forest is the most amazing gathering of twisted, gnarled trees, providing a seemingly mystical and definitely most secluded scene. I was in heaven here.
At the end of a wonderful day we set up our tent at Hado Beach in frenzied chaos. As I mentioned before, Bill and I hadn’t camped since we were kids ourselves, and so putting up shelter to protect our children from whatever the night might bring as the sun was setting caused us some concern. Still, we got the thing up with only a few setbacks, one being a pretty ticked off Korean who had words with the other Korean we’d paid (5,000 won or about $5 USD) for our campsite. Apparently we weren’t in the “right” spot, or something like that, judging by stiff body language and spit flinging from his lips. The man we’d paid motioned to us that this other man was a pain in his neck by pretending to slice his throat with his own finger. As Grumpy walked off in a huff Bill and I set about perfecting our new home for the night. I laid out mats and blankets and Bill fired up the charcoal grill. Gumbo and s’mores were on the menu and we were all very much looking forward to it.