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We had planned to spend the last 3 days, of our 10 day trip to Jeju, in Seogwipo — the southern part of the island. Inter-terminal buses connect different sections of the island and run at a hourly frequency. We took a bus from Jeju-si (north) and reached the south in about an hour or so. We stayed very close to Jungmun Beach, a paradise for honeymooners, and yet, we never made it to the beach itself. Staying here gives you access to the beach, seafood restaurants, and Cheonjeyeon Falls. Since most hotels have a check-in time of 3 pm, we left our bags at the concierge of our hotel, and head directly to the falls. There’s a small souvenir shop and lunch house before the ticketing entrance. We settled for a meal of pajeon(Korean pancake) and meat soup.
The diversity of Jeju’s natural habitat still surprises me. So far, we’d explored scenic coastal routes, golden beaches, lave tubes, stunted oreums (parasitic volcanoes), green meadows, and dense ecological forests. As we descended towards the source of the Cheonjeyeon Falls, we discovered yet another gem — a subtropical forest. We’ve never made it to the Amazon rainforest and yet, this is what I’d imagine the vegetation to look like. The source of the waterfall originates from a cave (below a bridge) and creates the first waterfall. The pool of water, formed from this waterfall, becomes the source of two other waterfalls — formed at two subsequent steps. In November, the rain was sporadic and the first waterfall had dried. Named as, ‘Pond of God’, the turquoise water reflected the jagged edge of the rocky face of the cave. In the afternoon, there were relatively fewer tourists.
The stony walkway quickly changes to a wooden staircase as you approach the second waterfall. The path cuts through a dense thicket of trees and twists and turns at regular intervals — taking you along with it. It’s a pretty simple route and signboards are plastered all along the route. It was a warm day, and it was getting a bit tiring to keep going as crowds started building. The waterfall is well camouflaged between the trees and it takes a while to spot.
Another set of stairs take you to the main grounds and you can cross the bridge to get to the other side. When the sun shines in Jeju, the same place can look very different. Unlike the dark space below, it was a bright, sunny day with blue skies outside.
We had to cross Seonimgyo Bridge, ornately carved with 7 nymphs, to get the other side. It was nearing 3 pm and the sun was shining brightly. As I stood at the centre of the bridge, I realised how high above the ground we were, and the scale of the scene below. I found it hard to look below and not let the depth get to me. It was a losing battle and I had to get to the other side. Basil stayed back and continued capturing the scene.
Cheonjeru Pavilion offers panoramic views of the island. There’s a stunning view of the sea on one side, the mountains on the second, the second waterfall on the third, elaborate stories painted on top of the ceiling, and a quiet manicured Japanese styled garden below. As the heat increased, it was tempting to sit under the shade of the Pavilion and eat Jeju’s flavoured ice cream. We knew we still had the third waterfall to look for.
We crossed the bridge again and followed signboards to the third waterfall. The boardwalk and stairs, leading the the third waterfall, were the longest and required a reasonable amount of effort climbing down to the depth of its location. When we reached the observation deck of the waterfall, we sat for a good 20 minutes, as water gushed by. Few sounds can top the sound of gurgling water. Few tourists made it here and the silence was rewarding.
As we began the task of climbing up, to retrace our path back the main gate, we came across Olle Trail markers. These markers are usually ribbons or arrows (blue and orange) pointing toward the next point in the trail. We had stumbled on a section of Route 8. We walked out the exit (a picket fence of sorts) of the waterfall and saw a small quaint buddhist temple. The temple offers temple stay programmes and like most Buddhist temples, across the world, its location couldn’t be more apt. Tucked away in a secluded spot, with scenic views of the sea, it will be hard not to feel peace of mind here.
We continued following the markers, on the trees, and it lead us to a boardwalk that penetrated a dense maze of trees. Life chirped, or meticulously weaved webs, and even competed for the sun. We continued walking, feeling strangely invigorated with the smell of green leaves and silence. We reached a point where the trail forked into 2 paths – one leading toward the sea below and the other upward. The route that turned upwards would reach us to Baerinnae Oreum. Being the oreum chasers that we’d become, we continued climbing up. It was an easy climb with very little effort.
At the observation deck, we saw few locals stretch their legs and exercise. Soon enough, we were alone, surrounded by the wide expanse of mountain, sky, and sea around us. We tried spotting places we’d been to. The sun slowly prepared to call it a day and I wanted to stay back. We knew that we’d have lost daylight and getting back would have been a problem without light. Reluctantly, we walked on another path, through the woods, and eventually reached back to the temple. We re-entered the premises of the waterfall (we had a ticket and could do so) and traced our steps back to the main gate.