So I left my eyrie above the temple…
..and flew north up a new path:
New for me, anyway, and I felt great. Some nice sunrise shots in the can, fresh scenery, and that spectacular dawn was just the opening act for another day of unbeatable rambling weather. Plus there are almost as many coffee joints as love hotels in Songjeong, and I knew of at least one that would be open by the time I arrived.
I was a little apprehensive at first as I wasn’t sure if I was on army land: those soldiers earlier, and I’d had a bad time of it somewhere around here on the first night of my multi-day coaster last year, when I tried and failed to bypass an army post via the rocks.
But those coloured strips Korean walkers hang in trees (see the picture above) told me it was probably a legit walking path — and sure enough, I soon started meeting fishermen using the track to get to their spots on the rocks. I now realised I’d erred in the darkness last year in assuming the fenced army post reached all the way to the water.
There were frequent signs that the military presence here (as along the whole eastern coast) had once been far heavier:
It never pays to congratulate yourself too soon, though: the path swung round the tip of the wooded headland and there I was out in the open again. Fishing towns clung to the ocean edge north of Songjeong, and you can see the bristling tips of high-rise towers in not-quite-far-enough-away Haeundae:
Usually I’m on the road, on the far side of that nasty stretch of “development” across the cove. They paved paradise and put in a movie-studio theme park:
A few more fishermen ambled up. Behind them, that idiosyncratic shanty, absurdly positioned inches from the water, had been abandoned to the elements, and the elements had had themselves quite a party:
All along this stretch of coast you find candle wax on the rocks — and often the candles themselves — from the shamanistic rituals that are still practised in these parts. Blows my mind that honouring the ocean gods could ever sit comfortably with dumping your shit on their doorstep afterwards:
I found my way around the excavator wasteland and into the first of those villages. A gang of stray or semi-stray cats strutted around the docks like they owned the place. These were the first felines in Korea to show me the time of day (it was around 9:30am). As in Japan, which is also overrun with strays, cats here usually turn and run at any attempt at a scratch or a pat.
Maybe it’s my face.
These characters, a ragtag bunch in various permutations of ginger, were almost affectionate, but they had places to be:
I could see how life in a fishing village could be either heaven or hell to a hungry stray, but these guys seemed a lot healthier than the misshapen outcasts in my neighbourhood that spend every night disembowelling garbage bags for their survival.
Like the cats, I had places to be. My very soul was crying out for a milk-based caffeinated beverage. I tried to escape the docks but photogenic things kept distracting me:
At last, Songjeong, where an old man was sweeping up holiday-makers’ shit, the way they do things over here. Readers might recall my horror last year at the use-it-and-dump-it mentality on display at Songjeong. Last night I’d watched a man help his young son fire Roman candles over the ocean — then dump the leftovers on the road right in front of him:
Starbucks was open, a new one and one of the most pleasant I’ve found anywhere. I had a long rest there at a sunny window, skyped with Kate, had a latte and a bagel followed by another latte and another bagel, and dragged myself reluctantly back onto the sand.
You had to admire the persistence of the surfing instructors in the face of “surf” flat enough to skip stones off:
Two fishermen of sorts had this system where they’d wade out a long way and dump a tangle of nets, then haul them in later with giant rods, crawling with tiny ensnared crabs:
And now the closing act of my final Korean coastal adventure. I left the beach for this excellent coastal path I didn’t discover till my third or fourth visit. It winds around the hills above the rocks and the old train line; the woods are beautiful, sparkling with blossom in azalea season, carpeted with fallen leaves on this, my final visit:
Here and there, gaps in the trees with lovely views. At this one…
.. the crumbling lookout post that used to sit among the boulders had been replaced with a viewing platform and benches.
I took a last hungry gulp of sights and memories and hit the trail again for Haeundae…
~ And that’s all the Goat wrote