There’s about ten thousand people on this ferry. Pretty much all of them Korean tourists then there’s just a handful of Chinese guys, Nicole and me, the only Westerner. I would say 80% of passengers are decked out in fiercely colourful hiking gear. Probably about 90% are absolutely hammered. For every lubricated Korean head swaying around there’s a mountain range more soju bottles. The men are yelling and the women are singing. I feel like I’m in a space age zoo exhibit where a flock of mutant birds of paradise are ceremoniously devouring a glacier.
We’ve got four and half hours on this ferry. Typically, we’ve bought the cheapest tickets. The space allocated to us is just a sterile windowless room. I’m about as attracted to it as I am a morgue.
The other option is the games room – loud, constant bleeping, aggressive flashing but it has a window, a few seats and a heater. We went there for a while to dry off our wet clothes* but in doing so turned the atmosphere from comfortable to desert.
Looks like the dinning hall is where it’s at.
My sluggy shin was feeling rather bright yesterday so Nicole and I dropped our plan of circumnavigating the island in favour of a hike up the island’s most famous site, the Ilchilbong crater.
A really, really big hunk of stone. Beautiful, epic and all of the other regular adjectives landscapes desire. This I know not from being on or in it but by looking at photos. Unfortunately the only way you can get a grasp of the crater’s huge scale is via helicopter. Otherwise standing at the peak just looks like a fairly regular sloped plain with a few cascading rocks on either side – beautiful sure but not as lost worldy as the the helicopter shots make out.
At the bottom of the mountain/crater there’s a lagoon. It’s not famous for being beautiful but for it’s residents – generations of hardcore diving fisherman – or women I should say. The dangerous business of catching abalone and octopus has been run by middle age women for over a century.
If I was a lady, a pretty one I hope, I would be all over Bop Jo. Hugs, kisses, nudity and every morsel of a man a pretty lady can get at. But I’m not a lady so I’ll continue to admire him non-sexily
Yesterday Bop and Mihi, another guesthouse friendship, took us out to dinner. Cold noodles, beef bulgogi and a free serve of grilled mackerel – cripsy, juicy and world changing. Sadly Mihi got dragged to some work event so Bop was left to host the rest of the night.
flabersize tastesize Bop took us on his favourite walk of the city. We ended up on a bench by the sea with the Lion King soundtrack blazing behind us*. We talked about love, school and circumcision. A delightful evening.
Bop is from Gwanju. He’s lived in Jeju for 6 months but he’s never done any sightseeing. Yesterday he accompanied us to look at a famous nutmeg forest. We hitchhiked there with a gaunt American guy and his pretty girlfriend. He had left over milk to give and she was a horrific driver. At the forest we talked about god, girls and how people in cheap rain jackets look like giant condoms. It rained, we ate forest berries and got very wet.
Being a typical handsome, nice guy, Bop shouted us lunch at a Korean pheasant restaurant. He wanted to order us dumpling soups each and then an entire pheasant to share but the owner refused. “It’s too much”, he said. The dumplings were enormous, soft and delicious.
Nicole and I had planned to get the ferry that afternoon. It was the wrong direction for Bop but he hitched the 60km to the ferry building with us anyway. Our driver was a fashion designer from Seoul who wants Korea to have a compulsory vote. When we got to the ferry building Bop bought us 6 bottles of local Soju, some octopus jerky, a pack of chocolate biscuits, 6 icy poles and some almond candy. We light heartedly tried to refuse but then gave in. I think it’s really important to accept gifts. When we waved goodbye to him I felt like I was leaving behind my family.
*It rained a lot on the way to the ferry and we got completely soaked
*Bop brought a speaker