Yellow Sea province
WHILE wrestling Willemien’s small foldable bicycle from the taxi’s boot, I heard t he only f er r y s er vi ci ng t he i s l ands sound its departing hoot.
We wer e a t S a mmok f e r r y pi e r. Across the calm grey water of the Yellow Sea lay our destination, a string of l i t t l e i s l a n d s wi t h r o c k y o u t c r o p s wr a p p e d i n s u mmer h a z i n e s s . We rushed onboard. The f err y whistled once more before the vessel slowly left the pier. At a leisurely speed we sailed towards Sindo Island.
To our surprise, t he f err y passed Sindo, our planned point of disembarking, and docked at Jangbongdo Island.
We blamed the language problem for this misunderstanding, but an island i s a n i s l a n d , a n d we wer e c u r i o u s enough to change our itinerary and went ashore.
We waited a moment for the queuing ferry traffic to leave before and then tackled the small island’s curvy road.
For the next five kilometres the road wound through pristine i ndigenous forest, with views of the sea and surrounding islands.
We passed small valleys where strips of r i ce paddies l ay f i nely edged by different shades of green and saw an elderly couple shuffling in the rice fields. The woman’s face, barely visible, was wrapped in cloth under a floppy hat protecting her face from the Asian sun. In the shelter of small bays lay sandy beaches. Each beach had its own lining of tiny wooden cabins in the shade of ancient trees.
The outskirts of t he l ocal vi l l age greeted us with flowery gardens and log cottages. In the midday heat the village streets were filled with a “siesta” silence. One could almost hear the silence on the wind still hot afternoon.
Village architecture was a mixture of old traditional Korean dwellings in need of restoration, modern brick structures and a few Swiss-styled log cottages. Even s ome of t he most dil apidated houses had picturesque rose gardens.
Where small f i shing vessels dock stood the ruins of a burnt-down shed. Inside was a huge rusted anchor.
We walked down a narrow cement road leading along the waterfront between the sea and cliffs. Two boys on a bicycle greeted us, their waving hands causing the cycle to sway across the road in the noon silence. At the point of the bay, the heat overcame us and we enjoyed our in the shade.
Though one can spend more time on Jangbongdo we decided to move on to a neighboring island. We caught the island’s only bus back to the ferry port and the ferry dropped us at Sindo’s pier.
Sindo Island’s romantic picture is painted by Swiss-style l og cottages standing among small vineyards and vegetable gardens surrounded by natural forest.
Elderly people paused a moment from their labour on the farmlands and struggled upright to greet the passing strangers. A dirty red dwarf tractor, the size of a scooter tucking a fitting trailer, pulled out of the vineyards onto the road in front of us.
With the wife on the trailer and the farmer driving, the tractor moved at a snail’s pace as it disappeared into the forest.