A few weeks ago my friend Wesley and I decided to trek to a mountain that has been a part of the landscape since I arrived on Jeju Island. The mountain is called Sanbangsan (but we have referred to it as the ice cream scoop) and it looms in the panorama to the southern side of KIS about six miles away. We took off walking mid-morning with packs full of snacks, water, cold weather gear, and with no plan other than to get to the mysterious hump in the distant landscape.
On our way we were sidetracked by a small oreum (something somewhere between a mountain and a hill) that turns out to be called “Dansan.” At the top we met some quiet rockclimbers and got a better view of Sanbangsan. We took off down the mountain after a miraculous recovery of a lost lenscap and after another hour of walking found ourselves at a Buddhist temple at the base of Sanbangsan. The temple turns out to be three temples in one and culminated with a climb to cave that had a statue and an on-duty monk who sat cross-legged in front of an out of place electric fan. Walking past people who bowed on mats I climbed some stairs to a pool where you can drink out of a natural spring from the mountain and a shrine where you can light a stick of incense.
From the temples we looked down and were baffled by what appeared to be an on-land wooden pirate ship. We walked to it and found instead a replica Dutch ship with a museum for a Dutch man named Hamel who had once been stranded on Jeju and was captive for a number of years. Opposing the ship was a bizarre store that offered an eclectic mix of kitschy Dutch goods and out of place Americana items such as Route 66 signs. From there we followed a rock shelf along the coast that took us past vendors selling fresh catches from the sea.
Eventually we ended up on a beach after a full day of walking and decided that we had found ourselves a campsite. It was semi-secluded and around the corner from a city that had restaurants and supplies. At about nine in the evening, however, two loud boats lined with bright lights pulled into the harbor next to us and parked for the evening with lights on providing an obnoxious nightlight.
In the morning we took a bus to a nearby city called Seogwipo and checked out a waterfall and bridge. After lunch at the Loving Hut we took a bus to a city near KIS and hitchhiked back to campus on a Bongo (the Jeju answer to a pick-up truck.)