February 18, 2013
Geumodo: Wait, Did You Say Hiking?
Geumodo (금오도) was stop number two of mine and Dana’s trip to the south coast for Lunar New Year. After enjoying the natural beauty of Suncheon Bay, and later stuffing our faces with some rather good dalkgalbi, Dana and I boarded a bus heading to Yeosu, where we planned to stay the night before taking a ferry to Geumodo in the morning.
If you remember my post about my resolution to Korea and myself, I lamented the fact that I wouldn’t be able to get to any of the Korean islands. However, I should’ve done a little bit of research – it’s really not that hard to get to one of the islands in a weekend. After looking at a map and looking up ferries in Korea, it became clear that a day trip from Yeosu was completely doable. Hooray!
Dana and I took a ferry at Yeosu ferry terminal, bound for the port of Hamgumi (함구미) on Geumodo. It was the day of Lunar New Year itself, and there were a lot of families on the ferry going to visit relatives on the islands. However, most of them disembarked at Gaedo (개도), leaving Dana, myself, about five men and the crew to complete the rest of the journey on our boat to Geumodo.
Pulling into Hamgumi port, after a journey of about ninety minutes, it was clear that we were way off-the-beaten path. A few residents lay in wait to great the men getting off the boat, and Dana and I headed off in search of Geumodo’s Bireonggil (비렁길), a series of hiking trails around the island’s coastline and cliffs that start in Hamgumi, and continue on to the island of Ando (안도), which is connected to Geumodo by a bridge.
Dana and I were pretty much alone for the entire duration of our hike. There was a man pumping out some old-school Korean music, singing to them and swigging some makgeolli who was a few steps in front of us for a portion of the journey, but he sat down to chill (I assume to continue on his mini-rave) and we never saw him after that. We walked 12km, on courses 1 and 2, from Hamgumi, to Dupo (두포) and Jikpo (직포) , before getting off the trail and walking down a road that cut across the island, in order to get on a ferry at the Uhangni(우학리) terminal, situated in Nammyeon (남면) village, to take us back from Geumodo to Yeosu.
When we walked through the small villages (for they cannot be called towns), we were greeted by smiling locals and, “annyeonghaseyo” (안녕하세요, hello in Korean) said in chipper tones. Everything was completely shut down for the Lunar New Year holiday, so Dana and I were pretty relieved that we’d stocked up on food before heading to the island – sandwiches for him, blueberry ice cream Oreos for me. Even the ferry terminal in Nammyeon was unmanned until about twenty minutes before the ferry was due to depart.
At this point, you might be a little confused. Are you really reading my blog? I mean, I’m writing about, you know, walking and nature. Don’t ask me what on earth possessed me to do a 12km hike. Along cliffs, no less. But not the totally scary kind of cliffs that play on my phobia of heights – there were trees to shield my view of the occasional death-drops below. I’m not exactly the active kind, and my friend Michael was bemused enough to ask me on Facebook, “what’s with all this getting back to nature stuff?!”
I think the reason is that my time in Korea is slipping like sand through my fingers, and I am going to dearly miss this country when it comes time to say goodbye to it (well, until 2014) at Incheon Airport in the first weekend of March. Geumodo was a completely new experience, and it opened my eyes even wider to the fact that there’s a lot more to Korea than identikit cities and superficiality. Adventure is there, wherever you are – you just need to look for it, and hopefully you’ll come up trumps like I did with Geumodo.
So there you have it, folks! Now, I want to hear from you! Does Geumodo seem like the kind of place you’d enjoy? What’s your favourite Korean island, or island anywhere in the world? Are you confused as I am about the fact that I actually enjoyed my time hiking on Geumodo? Let us know in the comments below, or shout out on Facebook or Twitter.