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Eco Party program launches in SeogwipoWalkers flock to Yerae-ri for eco tourism celebration
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승인 2016.07.26  16:16:26
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▲ The first Eco Party guided tour took in splendid views of Yerae Ecological Park and Jungmun Seakdal Beach Photo by Matt Collison

It was a hot, July afternoon when dozens of walkers gathered in Yerae-ri, in Seogwipo, for the first in a series of parties aiming to celebrate eco-tourism on the Island.

About 70 trekkers comprised of visitors from mainland Korea, Jeju locals and members from various media organisations arrived for The 1st Eco Party at Yerae Ecological Park at 3pm on July 23.

The event, organised by Jeju Tourism Organization and Jeju Special Self Governing Province, was one of four being planned to take place each month until November.

Explaining the aim of the Eco Party, James Shin from Jeju Tourism Organization, said each will take place in different areas of Jeju - be it a rural environment, or coastal setting - but all will share a common theme of promoting sustainable tourism on the Island.

Mr Shin said it was becoming increasingly important to offer tours which help conserve the Island’s natural beauty.

He said: "The purpose of the event is to show people who visit Jeju and local people that eco-tourism is more important than we think, especially these days."

July’s Eco Party began in the cool shade of an underpass by the Yerae Ecological Park, Yerae-ri where far more than the expected 50 registrants had gathered.

After grabbing an ice-cool bottle of water, and listening to a speaker’s introduction to the program, walkers set off on a two-hour hike around the Park.

▲ The first Eco Party guided tour Photo by Matt Collison

A guide was on hand to take hikers through the Park,stopping to inform walkers of points of interest which included fresh-water springs, an array of plants and spectacular views of the Seogwipo coastline.

We passed So-Hwang-Su, one of the area’s streams, which unlike most of the Island’s rivers and waterways, brings flowing water 365 days a year from its source at Mt Halla to the ocean.

Our route attached to Olle trail number eight and diverts along a path offering spectacular views of the Yarae river valley to the east and Gunsan oreum looming on the western horizon.

The trail winds down towards Gaetggak Bridge where visitors can seek out fireflies at Korea's first Fireflies preservation area, opened in 2002.

We arrive at Jungmun Saekdal beach - or Yerae beach to locals - where to our left lies Gaedari Fall, Jusangjeolidae and further along still caves, where prehistoric remains have been found.

We walk along the coastline taking its unique, ‘bubbly’ rock structures, formed by lava flowing from Halla and reacting with the cool sea water.

A short walk to the west bring us close to Nonjitmul spring, where despite the time of year the water remains a constant 17 degrees celsius. It’s a tempting spot to take a refreshing dip in the water, but our guide is keen to show us more and the tour turns inland along the Yerae Ecological Stream.

Thankfully, it’s not long before we finally get a chance to rest our hot and weary feet and cool off at Dombeng-Imul fresh water spring, part of Yerae’s other perpetually flowing stream -the Daewangsucheon.

▲ The first Eco Party guided tour Photo by Matt Collison

Taking the opportunity to speak to JTO’s Mr Shin, I ask him what he likes about the trail. Thanks to its preservation it brings back good memories, he replies.

“As a Jeju citizen, I used to like walking a lot when I was a child. On these type of walks, I can remember those times,” Mr Shin said.

When we arrive back at our starting point in Yerai-ri a little after 5pm, we thank our guide for the tour he has given.

The Eco Party continued with live bands performing on stage while the smell of local food cooking on barbecues wafts towards us.

It wasn’t long before walkers were enjoying a feast of delicious locally-sourced cuisine, including bomal and octopus rice porridge, Bing-ddeok, a stick of octopus, conch and kimchi.

As the early evening’s entertainment got underway, it was clear from chatting with some of the walkers that they had appreciated this eco-tourism event.

Eco Party plans to continue the events in August with a trip to Harye-ri for a tangerine-themed tour.

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