Dinner with the Divers
DAY 6. Well, this is pretty sweet. I’d have to say that despite some frustration, this has been the best day yet. But before I elaborate, let me set the scene in which I tap at these ridiculously small keys…
It’s just about dark and I’m sitting on the sand at a beach called Hwajin, leaning back on my pack and feeling like a king.
The beach is almost deserted and an array of plastic tables and chairs and collapsed beach umbrellas is lined up just above high-tide mark. A guy is walking along cleaning up other people’s crap and tossing it in a plastic tray he tows behind him on a rope. A loser’s game.
Small but loud surf is breaking metres from my feet, and a lonesome beacon on the point is blinking red every few seconds. The temperature is just about perfect. The crashing surf completely obscures the less pleasant drone of Rt 7 half a K to my rear.
Oh, and I should add that this beach comes with wifi!
A late start — 8:00 — but I felt so good even a singing teen male working in the 7-11 couldn’t ruin my morning. The Korean women’s volleyball team had just defeated Italy — at least I think they had; I was really just admiring those gorgeous, healthy, eight-foot-tall Korean Amazons.
Where was I?
Oh yeah, the road. An hour of speed-walking and I thought I was rocking, just breaking free of outer Pohang, when Rt 7, which parallells the coast going north, started to go bad.
It got busy, scarily busy. Motorway busy. I thought I’d outsmarted it but I’m pretty sure I was breaking the law for 10 hairy minutes — I was certainly breaking a sweat.
I mean, you’re totally safe PROVIDED those rocketing cars don’t stray into the marked verge. You try to walk facing the oncoming traffic but it doesn’t always work out. And the noise as I passed through a tunnel, hugging the wall, was fearsome.
So I bailed, down into the paddies, and spent a couple of hours getting bamboozled and sunstruck as I tried to negotiate farm roads towards the coast, where Rt 20 looked like a saner and safer option. Many of these farm tracks aren’t on Google. I gave 7 another look but it looked nasty. Back to the paddies.
Eventually I made the coast road, enjoyed some Bronze Age petroglyphs not discovered till 1989, and made good progress north. I’m enjoying the coast much more now: cleaner, nicer beaches and towns, fewer people midweek, and the road winds between blue sea and green rice paddy.
Had a swim, lost my sunglasses in the sea (forgot they were on my head) and walked Rt 20 squinting like Clint Eastwood with a bad migraine. Lunch was 1.5 litres of Jeju Island orange juice.
I was passing this group of guys cooking at one of those tables with a built-in grill; one hollered at me to come over and next thing I was eating grilled eel with chopsticks while they kept pushing cans of Coke or bottles of water at me and telling me, “More eating!” All the while an eel waited in a nearby tank, watching stoically. It didn’t look good for that eel.
These were great guys, divers, four men and the teenage son of one, and not a sniff of English among them. What I enjoyed was the lack of interrogation. They admired my splendid feet but nobody asked where I was from or going until I got up to leave.
Oh, and a delivery guy turned up with more food; I was ushered to another table and told, “Eat!” — don’t know what it was but there were these things the Japanese call gyoza, and gristly lumps of fried something you dipped in something else — I was just glad to be eating real food, and it tasted wonderful.
But soon after that, 20 became 7 again and I chickened out and came down here to the beach. Had a cold shower that cost $4 for towel, soap and SHAMPOO. I’m saving the shampoo for after the hair transplant. Charged my phone and — and now the mosquitos.
Better find a patch of sand where I can bunk down. I don’t think I have any option but Rt 7 tomorrow so I’ll start early and get the 15km to the next small city out of the way before the sun and cars get too much.
I am on course to reach my secret destination in time, I think — probably did 25 miles today or more and could’ve done another 10 easily. A blister forming at the base of my big toe is the only worry — well, that and that bloody road.
Don’t worry, I’ll be safe. I’m a natural born coward.
~ And that’s all the Goat wrote