Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Adventures on Jejudo, or Why on Earth did I think climbing a mountain was a good idea?

A week and a bit ago I got four days off work and in celebration of this fact took a trip to Jeju Island, the closest thing Korea has to a tropical paradise. I spent four days on Jeju and enjoyed myself quite a bit. I went with a friend from work.
The first day I got up at the ridiculously early time of seven am in order to catch a 10:30 plane. After the flight we caught a bus to Seogwipo on the south side of the island where one of our hotels was. After checking in we went walking around town to see the local waterfalls. These were pretty good.

Next to one of the waterfalls was a huge rock with some writing on it, which according to local legend was written by an ancient Chinese general.

Day two we went on a submarine ride, for which I inconveniently forgot my camera and then proceeded to get seasick. Not enough to actually be sick, just enough to make the experience unpleasant enough for me to want to get off the sub as quick as I could. In the afternoon we went to a nearby beach, where I sat on a rented plastic chair under a rented umbrella and read some of Purgatory, while my friend went swimming but was yelled at by the lifeguard if he went out further than knee deep, as did anyone else who tried to actually swim instead of just getting their feet wet.

Day three we changed hotel and went from Seogwipo to Jeju-Shi via the Manjanggul lava tubes, one of the largest lava tube systems in the world. The total length is about 7 and a bit kilometers, but tourists can only walk through about two to three kilometers worth. This was pretty impressive, although I think it would have been better if there was a section of pitch black. One of the coolest things about the other caves I've been to is when they turn all the lights out and you get to see what pitch black really is. But to do that you really need a guide, which this place didn't have, just some guys at a ticket booth near the entrance. (Actually, nearly all natural landmarks on Jeju have a ticket booth.) After the lava tubes we continued onto Jeju-Shi where we checked in with a slight hick up that was quickly resolved.

The final day we spent climbing Mt Halla. In a certain sense, the entire island of Jeju is Mt Halla, wiht Mt Halla being the volcano that spewed up all the rocks and stuff that make up the island. Mt Halla is 1950m tall, but the trail we took starts at around 800m up, so we had a bit of a start. The trail starts out not to bad, but the incline keeps getting tougher as you approach the top. The first 7.6km took about two hours, after which we stopped at the main rest stop for lunch. The final 2.5km however involved climbing about 450m. This was a lot tougher, and I think I took more breaks on this section than I did.

The final climb from about 1800m was a set of stairs and near the end I was climbing in a daze, just putting one foot in front of the other, until I was surprised that there weren't any more ahead of me. The top was cloudy nearly the whole time, so I was unable to see the lake that is inside the crater, and after sitting up there for about half an hour started getting rather cold.

The hike down was a lot easier than the hike up. I managed the first 2.5km down without a single break, and then only a few more the rest of the way. Once I got down to the bottom (well, end of the trail) I saw you could get a medal saying "I climbed Mt Halla" and I tried to buy one, but I then found out you actually needed to buy a certificate before you started and there's a guy at the top who would sign it, and then you could buy the medal. I wish I'd know that before I started climbing. After that, I was too exhausted to do anything else, so it was an early night and got up early the next morning for flight back to Daegu.

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1 comment:

Chris_the_Blogger said...

I am glad to see the JphO shirt getting around.