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Secrets of Jeju's north westExploring Suwolbong and its surroundings with professor Shin Young Dae
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승인 2016.07.28  15:47:14
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▲ Suwolbong Peak is one of 12 geosites on the island with Global Geopark Statusy Photo by Matt Collison

In the second part of a tour of Jeju's hidden landscape, The Jeju Weekly joined a group of visitors to explore Suwolbong and the north west region.

Suwolbong is part of Jeju Island's Global-National Geopark, an UNESCO-linked network which seeks to protect the planet's geological heritage while promoting the sites for sustainable tourism and development.

Arriving early for our 9am trip on Saturday July 16, I read an information board in the hope of gleaning some background knowledge of this oreum located on the westernmost tip of the island.

"All of Jeju Island is a Geopark having nine important geosites with World Natural Heritage Site," stated the outdated sign.

In fact Suwolbong Peak is now one of 12 geosites on the island with Global Geopark Status, which the island was awarded in 2010.

Biyangdo Island, Udo Island and Seonheul Gotjawal were added to the list of nine by UNESCO-affiliated Global Geoparks Network in September 2014.

Thankfully, there was no risk of being misled by our tour guide - Dr Shin Young Dae of Jeju Tourism College, an expert on the island's oreums and protected landscapes.

He tells us how In 2011, a Geo Trail opened around Suwolbong, the first place on the island to have such a trail. The walking routes seek to raise awareness of local cultures and geological heritage within the particular landscapes.

▲ Dr Shin Young Dae, of Jeju Tourism College, conducted a tour of Suwolbong and its vicinity Photo by Matt Collison

Just a few weeks previously, Dr Shin had taken us on a tour of the geological features and hidden energy spots of the Sanbangsan area, so we were keen to hear what he had to tell us about Suwolbong Peak and the north west coast region of Jeju, up to Hallim-eup.

He began by re-telling the legend associated with the oreum, involving a brother, Nokgo, and his sister, Suwol, who came here to find a herbal medicine for their sick mother.

Suwol fell to her death while trying to pick the herb from the oreum cliff-face, leaving a grieving Nokgo to weep the Nokgomul Springs that can be found nearby.

With it’s springs and sweeping coastal views Suwolbong is certainly impressive .On a clear day there are excellent coastal views of the islands Gapado, Marado and Chagwido. As Jeju's most westerly tip it also offers some of the best sunsets on the island.

But Suwolbong is not a climber’s oreum. Instead, a road leads almost to the top of this 77 meter Tuff Ring.

Perhaps more interesting though, at least from a scientific view, is the oreum's rock formation viewed from the foot of the cliff.

The volcanic deposits are recognized as "the best exposure of pyroclastic surge deposits in the world" according to the Global Geoparks Network.

Volcanic 'rock bombs' flung from fierce lava eruptions some 18,000 years ago can be seen embedded in the rock face layers of ash sag, lending the strata an other-worldy appearance, as if showing the stormy surface of some harsh alien planet.

▲ Suwolbong peak offers some impressive coastal views Photo by Matt Collison.

Meanwhile, dotted along the base of the cliffside, hideout caves dug by the Imperial Japanese Army and store to hide ammunition for Japanese suicide bombers can be seen.

We continue the tour taking in closer views of Chagwido, Jukdo and Wado islets. The latter, Dr Shin tells us, resembling the form of a sleeping man.

Next we are back in our cars for a journey to the north-west part of the island at Hallim-eup and the Moonpil Jibong rock.

The professor says the tip of the edifice is shaped like a calligraphy brush and villagers believe spirits associated with the rock have helped attract writers and teachers to the region.

Nearby is Aewol-eup, where the Handam coastal walk offers more dramatic sea views.

Named after the scholar Jang Han-cheol, the trail has a monument in honor of the Jeju born scholar from the Joseon era.

He wrote Pyohareok, a book about his ship being set adrift in Okinawa as the scholar was on his way to the mainland.

▲ Suwolbong peak Photo by Matt Collison

Today, Jeju Special Self-Governing Province is installing night lights along a 1,450 metre coastal stretch of the promenade.

But it is by daylight when the 1.2km trail is probably best walked to enjoy the picturesque ocean view. It's an easy stroll and is popular with families whose children can run freely along the pathway.

The rocks lining the path also make a good spot for rest and relaxation, a point not lost on Dr Shin who encourages us all to take a moment to meditate by the ocean waves.

After refreshments in one of the scatterings of nearby cafes, it's off on the final leg of our tour.

We head inland towards the village Nabeup-ri and make a brief stop to view a touching stone before arriving at Geumsan Park.

According to legend, Dr Shin tell us, this village was once regularly struck by fires believed to have been sent from nearby Nokkome Oreum.

Since the forest was allowed to grow and logging prohibited the blazes stopped. Today villagers annually carry out a Confucian ritual to pray for peace and safety.

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