Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Haengnam Coastal Walkway, Ulleungdo

From the time I bumped into an online magical spiral staircase looking over a sparkling blue ocean with seaside geofantastic cliffs, I knew I had to go to Ulleungdo. Ulleungdo has become a hotly popular tour destination, and so getting there was just a matter of making a reservation in advance ... and of course hoping the weather would be fine enough to make the ocean crossing.

While I was obsessed with seeing the geofantastic coastal walkway, my friend was obsessed with getting some squid-ink bread. And miracle of miracles, both the squid-ink bread bakery and the Haengnam Coastal Walkway started in the same town, in Dodong, just the next port-town over from where we were staying and where our ferry came in from Gangneung, in Jeodong.

It's the little things in life that make one happy .... just squid-ink bread!
First, we had to get the squid-ink bread from the local Dodong specialty shop to appease my friend. Once she had her nibblies, she got all happy, and I was happy too. I have a bit of an issue with gluten, but these were small so I thought "Why not?" I hardly ever cheat so if I do on rare occasions, I usually don't have an issue. Oh, yeah! I'm not a bread fan, but those little buggers were soft, moist and tasted like pumpkin, which of course they should since pumpkin is an ingredient. I totally expected a bitterness or some kind of after-taste from the squid-ink, but nope. Taaty! I do recommend!

I was still fixated on that coastal walkway, so it was time to go get my "bread".

The GeoPark: Haengnam Coastal Walkway--from Jeodong to Dodong

There are two segments of coastal walkway, one that edges the Jeodong harbor coastline to a promontory on which stands Gadubong lighthouse and then the connecting segment that goes along the Dodong harbor coastline. Together they make the Haengnam Coastal Walkway. Originally the walkway continued on after Dodong but at some point this section was iron-gated off because of falling rock. Later, after showing pictures of this long walkway to a friend who had visited Ulleungdo seven years ago, she was amazed and started planning her return trip, because back then there was no information whatsoever of the walkway and she's certain it didn't exist then. Yeah, probably under construction like the segment going north from Jeodong, which is currently under construction along with a road to complete a full-island circle route. 

Typically from Jeodong to Dodong a person could happily walk the whole very scenic coastal walkway, provided it wasn't closed due to inclement weather or high seas, which would easily sweep someone off the path. However, just 3-4 days before we got to Ulleungdo a woman had been walking the walkway when some rocks broke loose and injured her. She wasn't killed, but easily could have been. The walkway was immediately blocked off with iron gates, which were already in place and are typically closed after certain hours or during high seas. Unfortunately for me, however, I couldn't get to my "bread", the spiral staircase, because it was in the section that was closed off. The rocks hadn't fallen from the staircase or near it but down closer to the water, but the gate was in place already, so it was easy to seal off the dangerous area .... by also sealing off the fabulously scenic staircase. How sad! But I still wanted my "bread"!

Walking from Jeodong to Dodong, before the blocked off section.
This is one of the most scenic spots in the whole walkway!
This is the section that got sealed off because of the falling rocks 3-4 days previous.
The spiral staircase is visible but not clear because of the morning shadows.
Lots of male fishermen, but occasionally a woman was out fishing too. And then there was this couple. How sweet!
Approaching a seafood restaurant on the segment that is open to Dodong. People hiking along the coastal walkway really enjoy stopping here for a quick raw seafood refresher. Also, it's easy to see how low the walkway is, and to imagine how dangerous it is when high seas kick up!
A fisherman just wheeled in a wheelbarrow of fresh catch: this load was sea urchin. Don't touch or you'll be sorry! Not quite sure how these are cut open and served but they are served raw. Any takers?
Fresh sea urchins! Yummy!
Now for the "illegal" shots. I climbed up to the lighthouse using the open Dodong segment of the trail and then continued past the lighthouse trail to the Jeodong segment. After winding through a thick forest I came to the head of the trail ... and the tall iron gate that prevented the picture I wanted. I just wanted a picture of the the top of the spiral staircase in the foreground and the profile of the rugged cliffs disappearing in the distance. So, I climbed the fence. I didn't go down the staircase, just had to go a few meters to top few steps to get my pictures .... and and my heart sang at the beauty. And it still sings ... because I got my "bread"!

The Jeodong coastal walkway segment. The closest part was where the rocks fell.
I'm standing at the top of the spiral staircase ... loving the view ... remembering the view ... forever!
I'm guessing, based on what our pension owner said, that across the bridge is where the rocks fell.
This is my "bread"!
From the lighthouse, the Haengnam Coastal Walkway.
A very rugged view! Lots of caves visible too. Some of the rocks have candles burning
for this is a ghost-haunting superstitious land.
From the lighthouse a view of the whole harbor and Jukdo (Bamboo Island) in the distance.
One resident lives on Jukdo, this island that is 4km from Jeodong port. The whole island is a high rock covered in bamboo. The top of the rock is only accessible via a 365 step spiral staircase. Tourists are invited to take picnic lunches there, and there are frequent ferries (2 in the a.m. and 2 in the p.m.) to the island.
Finally to Dodong port, a very tiny port compared to Jeodong's, which is also small based on mainland standards.
A wider view of small Dodong port. This is the port where my traveling companion's bread and my "bread" all happened! It's also the port that had a shaman 굿. There was so much "exotic" on Uleungdo that my eye and camera feasted.
Shaman 굿 at Dodong Port

The first time I tried to walk this trail I was frustrated, because when I had gone a long way, I realized that the rest of the route was closed and I would have to turn around and go all the way back. However, this worked out because a shaman 굿 was just starting as I returned to the port. Evidently it was to bless a boat, for whatever reason I don't know, but the shamans kept dancing in front of the boat, going on the boat and banging their timpani cymbals, the noise of which is frightening to spirits, and offering food and liquor to entertain and/or appease the spirits. 

Obviously the shaman ritual was about making wishes or dispelling evil from the boat. These wishes are made to the Dragon King, who is said to be the god of water, waterways and therefore everything that receives water, goes on water, takes food from water. If this is a new boat, was just refurbished, changed hands, or encountered a bad experience or omen, then the shaman 굿 is necessary.
The shaman bowed three times, played the timpani throughout the boat, and now waves the 5 colored flags that will tell fortune according the color the guy selects: blue, red, white, yellow or green.
I'm not sure of the significance of the fish but fish were used throughout the ceremony. A dried fish was taken to each of the four directions in the cement space in front of the boat, the fish's head was struck on the pavement and then flung to the sea, one fish for every direction. This fish was part of the waving-around-the-boat ceremony, and then it was put in one shaman's mouth while she whirled around ... to confuse the spirits perhaps? I really don't know.
The head shaman, who, one minute was like a whirling dervish and the next she was clutching her back, rasping and huddled over. But after resting a bit, she was up and jumping and finishing her ceremony. Obviously the others greatly respected "grandmother", a term of respect, and kept urging her to finish.

Again the boat owner (assumption) bowed to the spirit offerings,
which was a buffer to the spirits in the boat beyond. Three times he bowed.
The good-luck pig is essential for bringing luck in the ceremony, and if the pig is smiling, then it's very propitious. The musicians played, shouted "ulsigi" and "joh-da" at key points. Their music was to invite and entertain the spirits and then send them away happy and replete.

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