There’s something about small towns. I guess, the warmth of people appeals, even before, the place can grow on you. As we left the bustle of Jeju-si (north) to head towards Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak (east); the scenery, outside our window, quickly changed from towering grey monsters to flat brown plains — licked by salty waters. It took us about an hour to reach the last stop (prompted by the bus driver) from Jeju Intercity Bus Terminal. We looked a little lost at the bus stop and before we could figure the route, a helpful local who didn’t speak a word of English, called up the owner of the pension house, while making her impatient bus driver wait — until she was done with the call. The owner of the pension house, a Korean woman in a fifties, promptly swung by in her car, and picked us up. If only, all trips were this easy!
We couldn’t believe how close Seongsanpo Love Pension and Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak were. Our two-storied apartment had all the basic amenities, to cook our own meals, and had a view to sigh for. The owner stays in the same building and was definitely one of the warmest hosts — we’ve met.
During our stay, the restaurants (below), weren’t functional, and we decided to have a walk around — to find a good meal. Being so close to the sea, it would be hard to find anything other than seafood. It was our first meal here, so we decided to have a small celebration of sorts, and indulge in a hearty lunch of braised mackerel. Keeping our linguistic barriers aside, we smiled, and nodded to what the waiting staff recommended. The view outside was stunning and this was becoming a habit — we could’ve gotten used to.
After a quick rest-break in the room, and a small survey of the area around Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak, for our sunrise hike the next day; we head back to the main road. There’s a paved path running parallel to the green water and connecting roadway. It’s perfect for cycling or even long walks, and I think, it could be one of the well-marked trails. We didn’t have much luck with the sun, and the sky was overcast with grey clouds, and yet, everything looked pretty stunning.
We kept walking (in the direction of Seopjikoji), without having to reach anywhere, or having a destination in mind. And that’s one of the best walks — you could ever set on. En route, we passed by pavilions and traditional fields (on opposite sides of the connecting road). I think, we also stumbled on the starting point of an Olle-Gil Walking Trail. My best guess would be Route 2.
As we walked further away, we kept making small discoveries. We chanced upon a black sandy beach, Gwangchigi Beach, with a dramatic backdrop of Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak — in the far distance. The water had retreated far behind and it was possible, for us, to walk on the rocky bed of the sea. Jeju is an island formed out of intense volcanic activity and walking on this slippery bed, of ancient volcanic rocks, would put any doubt to rest.
A lot of what we saw, reminded us, of another island known for its volcanic activity — Iceland. And, we were taken by surprise with what we saw. Red algae clung to rocks, some of the rocks had turned pink, life was moving and we couldn’t identify what it was, and moss grew freely. It’s not always easy to see what lies beneath those choppy waters. It’s as if, the sea, had opened it’s treasure chest for us. And, I don’t think, it would possible to take a bad photograph here. Everything was spectacular. And, the location — was one that you see — on someone else’s travel blog, leaving you a little sore. A part of me felt that we shouldn’t have been here.
Even death and decay looked so beautiful. It was hard not to be spellbound, in this natural world, that we clearly hadn’t done any research on.
I didn’t believe the tourist brochures, when they wrote: Jeju is one of ‘the new 7 wonders of nature‘. I expected (from what I read on popular portals), Jeju to be a beach holiday getaway or a museum retreat, for those, who live in Seoul. And, I’m so glad that few people venture here, and maybe, it will be better preserved.
It was hard to walk back and even with daylight fading — the beauty of this location — didn’t fade away.