[personal profile] niori_1709
I will fully admit that most of my time when I first got to Korea had been spent in and around the Seoul area. I love Seoul, and I am so lucky to live so close to it. I always have something to do, something to see and somewhere to go. That said, that means there's one aspect of Korea that I really haven't gotten to explore. That is the more rural areas of Korea, the natural settings that Korea has to offer. I've passed through a few times, but never really been able to slow down and explore. I know that Korea is a beautiful country, and I have been lucky to see a small corner of it.

Mt. Seobeag National Park was my first foray into the natural areas of Korea. It's about twoish hours south east of Seoul, in Danyang. It's a landscape of mountains, beautiful rivers, wonderful caves and interesting rocks. It was, above all else, a fantastic example of the natural beauty Korea has to offer. I went with a large travel group, and it was a wonderful trip.
Our journey began with a ferry ride. The ferry (two of them actually, as we had to transfer boats about half way there) took us for a ride on Chungju Lake. The scenery this ride provided was absolutely stunning. The water was blue, and (since it was still early March) there was still a thin coating of ice skimming the top of it in some parts). There were mountains on either side of the lake, stretching as far as I could see. Where one started, another took over. As we grew closer. the shoreline stopped being green hills and turned into rocky cliffs. The rock formations that made up those cliffs were interesting, and I watched them pass by from the deck of the ferry. Everything about the ferry ride was peaceful, calming and wonderful. The scenery reminded me of the setting of a historical or fantasy movie...and I felt like I was truly in one.

After the ferry docked, we got back on the bus and headed to the main feature of our trip. The main event, the thing that drew me in, was the chance to go caving in Kosu Cave. I love caves. I find them mysterious and fascinating, a perfect mix of interesting and just a little nit frightening. This cave didn't disappoint. Kosu Cave is a superb example of all the things that make caves so cool. It's estimated to be around 2 ~ 300 years old, with the lime formation where the cave formed about 400-500 million years old. That's one of the things I love about caves- how old they are, and how young they make me feel. In the caves, there were great examples of stalactites, stalagmites, flow stones, limestone domes, cave pearls, cave flowers/helectites and tufas. It was dark in there, despite the lights that they had set up. It seemed that everything was in shadow, and it was so very quiet, despite all the people milling about. Every sound echoed, especially the sound of dripping water. There was water everywhere, dripping from the ceiling and lying in pools along the floor. Sometimes the cave opened up into great caverns that I couldn't seen the top of, and others it was nothing more than a tunnel, where I could reach up and run my hand across the rocky ceiling. Thankfully, there was a clear, marked path that you can follow, including railings and stairs that take up you further and deeper into the caves. It took us about half an hour, walking at a normal pace, to come out the other side.

In the area outside the cave, where a few market buildings are set up, there's one other thing of interest. Someone has set up a sort of palace, made up with individual smooth stones, in between two of these buildings. It looks amazing and complicated, and actually reminded me of home. While they're not as extravagant, it reminded me of some of the stone structures I've seen built on the beaches of not only St. Martins, but in New Brunswick in general. It was a brief, enticing glance of home.

Mt. Seobeag National Park has a lot of amazing things, but it's most well known for the Danyangpalgyeong, or Eight Beautiful Scenes. Those scenes are intriguing geological formations, and I got a chance to see two of them. The first scene I got to see was Dodamsambong Peak, also known as the Three Strange Rocks. They're three huge rocks in the middle of the water, and the middle one (which is bigger than the other two) has a pagoda building on it. There is, of course, a story behind it. The rocks are said to be people. The middle rock is the husband, and the rock to his left the wife, who is turned away with her back to him. She's turned away because her husband brought a concubine into their life in order to get a son. She's the rock on his left. They're cool looking, but I have to admit that I found the story behind them the most interesting. Even the geology gets some drama in Korea.

The second scene I saw was within walking distance of the Three Strange Rocks. Admittedly, that walking distance is up a pretty steep hill (frankly, most things in Korea are) and down the other side of it, but if you're up for the exercise, you can go and see Seongmun Stone Gate. The stone gate is a hole in the wall, something that many people from St. Martins are familiar with (given the fact there's one in the harbour, after all), albeit on a gigantic scale. The gate is in the shape of a rainbow, and the coloured foliage on the top only added to that image. Legend has it that a alcohol and cigarette loving woman died there, and she became the rock. It's not as dramatic or soap opera-like as the story behind the Three Strange Rocks, but still pretty interesting nonetheless.

After spending some time looking at the rocks, it was time to head back home. It was time to leave the absolute beauty of Korea's nature and head back to the city. Chungju Lake and Kosu Cave showed me how beautiful the natural landscape of Korea could be. Dodamsamgbong Peak and Seongmun Stone Gate showed me how quirky the stories surrounding that nature could be. One thing that all four of them taught me, was that I needed to get out into it more.



August 2017

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