Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Seonyudo Island

A 7 AM start and we were bound for shinae bus terminal. £1.80 and ten minutes later we were on a bus towards the port city of Gunsan on the west coast, an hours ride from Jeonju. The day was already heating up and the sun was out, all the promises of good weekend on a picturesque island.

After a short taxi ride from the bus terminal, our party of 11 arrived, rearing to go, at the Gunsan international ferry terminal. Unfortunately for us we hadn’t had the foresight to think that the ferries might be booked at the beginning of a three day weekend for the Koreans.

As usual we roped TK into translating for us and were told that there were no seats available on any boats all day, and there was no way that we could squeeze onto the boat due to health and safety reasons.

Disheartened, we all sat down, not really knowing what to do next.

The thought of a day spent in Gunsan didn’t fill us with joy.

Known only for its port and American air force base, it didn’t have quite the same appeal as a long weekend on a beautiful island.

Somehow, twenty minutes later, with the help of TK’s diplomacy, we were all getting on a rusty old boat and the party was back on.

Passing a myriad of small uninhabited islands on its way, our weathered tin can took about an hour and a half to chug the 43KM from the mainland to Seonyedo

Upon arriving at the jetty on Seonyudo we were bombarded with Korean men in vans and golf buggies with offers of places to stay. Before we knew it we were bundled onto the back of a van and driven a few hundred meters to our accommodation. Our digs were to be a minbak, a big room with a heated floor and lots of blankets and thin mattresses to sleep on. We paid our £5 each, dumped our gear and were ready to get going.

First stop was a little Korean restaurant for some kimchi chigae (spicy kimchi soup) and twenjan chigae (fermented bean paste soup).

With everyone fed we took ourselves off to hire quad bikes. After a while messing around trying to find sufficient quad bike numbers we settled for the only one on the island that seemed to work and took off up the road to explore the island.

Climbing up through the winding mountain roads, we left all the happy Korean couples on their tandems in our dust and two stroke engine fumes.

After exploring a few small fishing villages we drove back to the beach to meet everyone else.

As me and Han came tearing across the sand, somewhat disturbing the tranquility of the place, everyone was wading through the sea on the way back from a little rock outcrop just off of the shore.

In true Hannah fashion, she decided that the best course of action would be to drive the quad bike straight into sea to meet them. Following a short discussion about how this probably wasn't a good idea we decided to wait for them on the shore.

After tearing around the sand for a while it became time to take the quad back to whence it came, so with money for a beer run and Eve on the back I drove off across the sand.

Not having previously taken into account the tide, I realised that the only route that the bike could take on and off of the beach was now underwater. Hoping that I wasn't about to destroy the bike, I revved the engine as hard as I could and flew as the submerged path in the hope that somehow if I was quick enough maybe we would make it through.

With clenched teeth we ripped through the water spraying wet sand all over us. Luckily we streaked out the other side still going. I chose to ignore the slightly altered engine tone and just keep revving trying to get across the deep water filled caterpillar tracks left behind by some reclamation work on the beach. Eventually we popped back on to a solid road and drove back to the hire shop. The Korean owner didn't look too happy that his quad bike and us were covered in sand and water. We quickly left.

We picked up some bottles of Cass and headed back to the beach. We spent the rest of the day sunbathing, playing games, watching Hannah juggle and spin poi and poking a bloated dead seal with a stick.

After a meal and showers we all headed to the beach for a bonfire and more drinking.

Despite the freezing cold of the sea, Han and eve though that it would be a good time for a swim. With a few gasps as they went in off they both ran into the sea. After a few minutes in the water watching the phosphorescent plankton light up the water where they moved they ran back out and back up the beach to the much appreciated warmth of the fire.

The next day I awoke to matt complaining about how un-Korean we were for bringing our shoes into the room. We all got ourselves dressed, ready and left the room, to find that someone had stolen Matt and Ian’s shoes from outside the room!

We all got some breakfast, not being able to face anymore rice and kimchi, especially for breakfast, I opted for two ice lollies and a pack of digestives.

A few hours of sunbathing, relaxing and reading later, half of us headed back to get the earlier ferry to the mainland. The remainder of us headed off and hired some bikes to explore the island.

Me and Hannah got a tandem and with TK and Aiden on another tandem and Helen, Eve and Mairead on mountain bikes we took off towards a bridge to a second island. We crossed the bridge with amazing views of the island and carried on down through small fishing villages and farmland to a small deserted cove on the other side of the island.

An hour’s cycle back the other way brought us to a second fishing village, the sea front lined with washing lines drying squid and Monk fish in the sun.

We watched the sun go down and returned our bikes. Exhausted from the sun, the beer and the cycling, we all returned to our minbak.

TK went to enquire about somewhere to get some good food on the island and within twenty minutes me, Han and Eve were sat in the luggage compartment of a golf buggy with everyone on our way to an unknown restaurant.

After deciding on sushi, we all sat at a low table in a waterfront restaurant. Our meal arrived and consisted of three different types of extremely slimy sea slugs and sea cucumbers, some lettuce and some raw fish. Having previously tried the delicacy of sea slug, I elected for the raw fish.

The meal finished with some soju, rice and the innards and head of the fish that we had just eaten in a spicy broth. We bought some playing cards, jumped in the back of a van that appeared magically outside and were delivered back to our minbak for a night of drinking games

The next morning we woke to another glorious day on the island, we packed our gear and headed back to the jetty for the 10AM ferry back to the mainland. This time we were on the fast ferry and were not allowed on deck. We found some space on the floor and all started to fall asleep, exhausted from our awesome weekend.

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