Hallasan National Park
13.04.2009 - 15.04.2009 10 °C
When backpacking in tight timeframe and budget, sometime a whole day can be spent in transportation. Some people loathe these days. I, however, rather like it for the simple fact that this is the time where I have to interact and surround by local people. My final destination is a motel or minbak close by the bus terminal on Jejudo. My mean - buses and ferry. My route -undetermined. There is no consistent information on the official website about when or where the ferry depart on Sundays. Some says Mokpo and some says Wando. Some says 3 and some says 3:30. Nothing I can do. I found the closest city Gwangju on the map and took a bus there from Jinju.
At the modern Gwangju bus terminal, however, the girl at the customer service kiosk could not speak English. She called an English customer service representative who told me the ferry leave at 3 from Wando. While all these time were wasted, I missed my bus to Wando by 3 minutes. Taking the next bus means that I wiould certainly miss the ferry. I became slightly impatient when I showed my ticket to the conductor who told me to board a bus to Haenam, a town in between Gwangju and Wando. This bus, of course, encountered major traffic jam. I tried to calm myself down by sleeping. Once we arrived at Haenam, my bus driver explained my situation to the conductor so I did not have to pay again. Of course, again, the bus to Wando is delayed for almost 30 minutes. I had already given my luck to destiny. When I finally arrived in Wando, I made my last-minute dash by taking a taxi to the ferry terminal not knowing if the ferry is still there or not. ‘There it is,’ said my taxi driver, pointing to the Hanil Car Ferry. I bought a ticket and ran to the ferry. The gate closed behind me. I made it after all these delays. Why did I bother to worry about things I cannot control anyway?
Once I was on board, I found myself a spot to sit down outside. I needed some salty air. I had not been in the open sea for a while. My last experience of on board a Greece island ferry was terrible because of the smoking. This time around, I managed to do some soul searching for the next few hours while watching the constantly changing patterns of the waves. The ferry docked before I knew it. Busloads of travelers and hikers boarded their shuttle buses while I waited at the bus station with a hazy sunset. A few buses changes later, I finally arrived at the terminal. I found a small motel nearby and finally checked in after 9pm. My stomach was yearning for food.
Early next morning, I took a bus to the entrance of the Hallasan National park and started the 9.6km summit trail at 8am. Getting to the Jindallaebat store/rest area on the relatively flat trail only took me little over 2 hours. For the next hour and a half, however, I ascended along the steep rocky trail until the surrounding opens up to a flat grassland. Well-made wooden steps led me to the summit (1950m), highest in South Korea, around 11:45am.
Within minutes at the summit, the fog gave in to rain. Drizzle became shower. Shower became downpour. I carried my soaked but invigorated spirit down the rocky steps again. After a much-needed cup noodle at Jindallaebat, I continued my wet journey. The louder the splashing sounds on my raincoat, the quicker my steps. At the end, I hopped down so fast that I felt like running in the river, or swimming in the mountain. I was back at the park entrance at 3pm.
After the 7-hour, 19-mile soaking hike, I was desperate to go back to my hotel. My taxi driver picked up two more hikers. Shivering in the taxi, I worried about getting sick. After driving around the east of the island for an hour, my driver, Mr.Kim, stopped at the folk village on our way back to Jeju-si where my hotel was. ‘I was in no mood for sightseeing,’ I told him honestly. However, I did need get a flight ticket to go back to Seoul in two days. Since none of the local budget airline websites are in English, I asked Mr. Kim to take me to the airport instead. In no time, he was writing down flight information for me after reserving my ticket with a new budget airline, JinAir , through his travel agent friend. He turned up the heat in his taxi to the maximum until I started sweating. After taking me to several ATMs with failed attempt to withdraw money, Mr. Kim finally dropped me off outside my hotel, 3 hours later. Another example of how strangers went completely out of their way to help me. One more time - Korean hospitality.