Adventure to a remote island
By Yun Suh-young
Leaving on a journey all on your own to an island far away from home is an exciting but risky adventure, especially when the island is not somewhere you can easily get to.
How would you feel if you were stranded on an island far off the coast by accident and were stuck on the island for the day? Of course in this case you boarded the last ship heading to the island and there are no return sailings until the next morning.
Then what you should do is relax, take a deep breath and savor the fact that you have somehow drifted to a remote island and enjoy every moment there back. Because that’s what this reporter did on a journey to the island of Heuksan.
The reporter’s journey to Heuksando or Heuksan Island somehow resembled that of Huckleberry Finn. The means of transport may have evolved from a wooden raft to a modern ferry, but the randomness of the person in it had succeeded.
Originally intended to land on Bigeumdo or Bigeum Island, the reporter accidentally missed the stop and failed to get off the boat. What happened next is as mentioned above.
First, panic engulfed. The sheer thought of being left alone and having no power to stop the ferry was fearful.
Then came seasickness. The ferry was shaking hard from side to side and front to back. Every time the boat crashed on the waves, the nauseated feeling increased. This was because once the boat leaves Bigeum, the strength of the waves increase as the boat reaches the open sea. Heuksan is located farther away from the smaller islands of Bigeum, Docho and Haui, not to mention farthest from the mainland.
The journey from Bigeum to Heuksan took an hour. It originally takes an hour to get to Bigeum from the Mokpo ferry terminal.
To first-time visitors, the boat trip can be painful. One tip to boat riders to prevent seasickness is to sit at the very back of the ship and take an anti-seasickness pill 30 minutes before the ride begins.
When the boat reached Heuksan, this passenger was in terrible shape.
A night in Heuksan
With the help of officials at the provincial office of South Jeolla Province, the unexpected guest managed to find a decent lodging.
Together with the owner of Heuksan Resort, who kindly volunteered to be my guide for the day, this reporter embarked on a road trip.
Heuksan is a beautiful island to travel around. The day this reporter visited was a rainy day and the island was foggy, leaving little choice in taking pictures. But the fog that covered the ocean was a great spectacle itself, creating a mystic atmosphere.
When you reach the top of the mountain, you may get a full view of the curved road and a view over the ocean with fog hovering below the mountains. On a sunny day, you may get a great view of the mountains as the island is known for its intense greenness.
Heuksan is literally translated as “Black Mountain” but it was given the name because the island was so green that it almost looked black.
The best place to look over the island is at the peak of Mt. Sangla. Called Bongsudae, the mountain has an observatory located on the top. Here you may get a full view over the island and glimpse of smaller islands in the vicinity. A little below, there is another observatory called Sanglabong where you may get a valley-shaped view of the ocean between two mountains.
Views of the Map Rock (a rock that is apparently in the shape of the Korean peninsula) and fishing ports such as Yerihang or Jinrihang, are also fantastic. Heuksan is famous for producing abalone and soft shell clams. The fish farms that can be easily spotted around the island look like black squares floating on the sea but the scenery at sunset is beyond description.
But all of this is available only if you make a round-trip on the S-shaped mountain road which is 25 kilometers long. It will take you about two hours to make a round trip back to where you started off. The total length of the island’s coastline is 185 kilometers and the island’s surface area is 49.25 square kilometers.
An island of exile
Heuksando used to be an island of exile. Famous scholars such as Chung Yak-jeon, the brother of Chung Yak-yong, a renowned scholar and a civil servant during the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910), were exiled there island. Chung was sent there for becoming a Catholic.
There is a site that commemorates the works of Chung who researched various marine species while he was living on the island.
A glimpse of Bigeum
The following day, the reporter was finally able to reach the island that she initially intended to go to.
Taking the very first boat off from Heuksan Island, we landed on the island of Bigeum an hour later. The second boat trip was much pleasant now that the reporter had taken a pill and sat at the very back of the ship. Focusing on the TV located at the center of the ship and listening to music also helped get rid of seasickness.
Bigeum is a smaller island than Heuksan but also has beautiful scenery. The name itself means the island looks like a bird flying away.
The Hanuneom Beach also known as the “Heart Beach” is the most famous tourist site at the island because it once appeared on a popular TV drama. The beach, when viewed sideways from the mountain next to it, looks like a heart shape with the waters surrounded by the mountains.
Another great view of the island is its salt farms. The island is most famous for producing salt boasting of the best quality. The province was the first in the country to begin solar salt farms.
A journey’s end
This adventurer’s trip to a remote island was rocky. But the unexpected and unintentional landing on a faraway island was surprisingly soothing and relaxing. The island somewhat resembled the Italian city of Venetia, full of romance and beautiful scenery.
Anyone with courage and curiosity is strongly recommended to visit the islands off the coast of Shinan, South Jeolla Province.