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  • Subject Words from a new arrival: Escaping COVID-19
  • Writer Leanne Cooper (DATE: 2020-02-19 10:26:17)

 

Three weeks of quarantine somewhere in China is too much, even for this inherently lazy lady, so two flights later, I had escaped to Seogwipo, on beautiful Jeju Island! Staying away from the city and donning a still essential face mask (in case I brought more from China than just my luggage), I headed out for the short walk to the coastline. Just the sound of sea crashing against black, basaltic lava rock (after almost a month of hearing nothing but Chinese TV dramas)  made an immediate impression. Moving along the shoreline, a small rock pool, a lighthouse, little islands in the distance, dog walkers, scuba divers inspecting their gear, a photography club setting up in hopes of another grand sunset... I knew I had truly made it out of a life halting situation that had caused me to do little more than stare out a window onto the cautious existence nine floors below.

 

                     

                    

 

 

This area of Jeju Island, just west of Seogwipo, is also home to Gunsan, an Oreum of some 334 meters above sea level. It got its name after people remarked it looked like an army camp ('gun' means army and 'san', mountain). Starting the journey from my accommodation on day two, I wandered uphill past homes, a kindergarten and convenience stores before quickly finding myself in tangerine country. Lugging myself ever up, I passed many plantations on either side behind the Island's iconic stone walls, their farmers loading orange crates onto little blue trucks. I wondered how they possibly drove up such steep inclines!

 

                    


 
 

 

While a month of winter remains, the early presence of bright canola flowers (yuche) caught my eye along the way, and greenery I felt I hadn't seen in a very long time! Glancing back, the blue of sea gave such a glorious contrast, evermore vast as I continued my climb.

 

Seeing a car park on a level  surface, I wondered if I had finally made it to the highest point I could go. No such luck. At 180 meters above sea level, this was where the more sensible hikers parked before making a long stair climb to the peak.

 

But it's not just about getting to the top. Gunsan holds even more fascinating points of interest along the way. About half way up the stair climb, taking a path to the left, you find one of many caves dug by the Japanese during WWII, a perfect vantage point to keep a watchful eye on enemies advancing by sea. Further on, there is a natural drinking fountain. Drinking ladels are hung by a cut in the rock face, where fresh water drips out from inside the mountain into a small pool. The sound is calming and the cool water a godsend.

 

                     

 

Reaching the top of Gunsan, it really is as pointed as it looks in from the ground; a small clump of once gas bubbled lava, known as scoria, which you must carefully climb to plant your flag. I was at the top! Mt. Hallasan in the distance, majestically taking centre stage on the island, still wearing her white winter dress; Seogwipo to the far east, it's grand football stadium obvious against a backdrop of white, high rise apartments; and the bright blue sea. There is always the sea.

 

                    

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