Seaside Adventures in Namhae(May 26-28 2012)
by Sarah-Jayne Coutts
Of all the Adventure Korea trips that I have done in the past two years, the sea kayaking trip to Namhae over the long weekend in May is definitely the best of the best!
Despite unexpected delays due to heavy traffic, everyone on our bus was in high spirits by the time we finally arrived in Dumo Village in Namhae. Upon our arrival, we quickly divided into groups and settled into our minbak (homestay) rooms. We then headed straight to the harbour where our friendly fishermen were waiting to take us deep-sea fishing. With six to eight people on a boat, it was a great chance to mingle while relaxing on a calm ocean and taking in the beautiful scenery all the while hoping for fish to take more than just a nibble of our tasty bait. Some of our group members demonstrated enviable skill in fishing with some individuals catching nearly a dozen beautiful fish.
Back on land, it was time to enjoy our day’s catch. Our dinner that evening of grilled fish and sashimi were memorable as we celebrated two birthdays as a group and challenged each other in various group games over dinner. By 8pm, it was clear that everyone was having a fantastic time and the traffic delays of earlier had been forgotten by us all. We proceeded to party it up on the beach with a bonfire and drinks as we all got to know one another a little bit better over soju, makeolli, beer and more games.
After a fairly early night in, we woke to a tasty breakfast of muffins, yoghurt, juice and coffee accompanied by the greeting of another day of perfect weather. With everyone in high spirits and refreshed from the night before we eagerly headed back down to the harbour to enjoy a morning of sea kayaking. Our kayaking guide Julio was not only friendly but informative and patient in guiding us. For two and half hours, we explored the coasts of Namhae and Moon Island by kayak. The views were spectacular and awe-inspiring.
Back on land once again, it was time to move from Dumo Village to Daranghee Village nearby. Built into the side of a coastal mountain, Daranghee is perhaps one of the most picturesque and breathtaking places I have visited in South Korea – a sentiment that many Koreans seem to share judging by the amount of traffic heading to this very village. Of course, Daranghee’s location on the side of a mountain means that it also has many steep roads which provide an excellent opportunity for us to stretch our legs after our kayaking experience.
We left our bags in the town centre and followed a winding path down partway down the mountain to where we witness firsthand the ingenuity of the Daranghee villagers. Since space is limited in this village, the fields have been designed in levels down the mountain, which create an interesting textured appearance from afar. While dressing for some light farm work, we are introduced to the Mayor of Namhae who welcomes us and encourages us to participate in the farming festival in the village. This involves experiencing ploughing a mud rice paddy with an ox in preparation for the rice planting that we also get to experience in another paddy that has already been prepped. Both of these fields have breathtaking views of the ocean hundreds of feet below us. This in itself is a unique experience that few westerners will have had opportunity to experience elsewhere.
Our thoughtful hosts, the residents of Daranghee Village, provided us with some refreshing cold noodles and homemade makeolli as a reward for our participation. After this energising snack, we’re once again on our way to a more secluded beach for some swimming, tanning, cliff jumping and general relaxation before heading back to the town centre where our homestay parents collect us and show us to our rooms for the night.
Once again, the accommodation surpassed even my most optimistic expectations! Our homestay room was not only cool and comfortable but our homestay mom really went our of her way to make sure that we enjoyed ourselves and had everything that we could need. It was like being back home with the comfort of having my mom nearby even if it was only for one night!
After yet another delicious meal, this time prepared by our homestay moms, we again met at the town centre before moving to a designated open space in the village where an entertaining relay race had been organised for us – something that even some of the local children were keen to participate in with us. Watching everyone compete for the honour of being able to designate the forfeit for the losing team is a memory that will not soon be forgotten. Watching the children who participated in these games with us was just as memorable as seeing the losing team having their faces covered in flour as their forfeit.
With the games over, it was once again time for a bonfire and socialising which included some karaoke entertainment as people chose songs for us all to enjoy. The highlight of the karaoke, however, was when Korean visitors to Daranghee Village joined us and showed us just how energetic and passionate we should be when singing. Our late night snack of hot potatoes cooked in the bonfire was simply an added bonus and, before long, it was once again time to call it a day.
Our final morning started with a typical Korean breakfast provided by our homestay moms. Once again, the amount of care and thought that had gone into each meal was really touching and many people were overwhelmed by the kindness, friendliness and generosity displayed by our hosts. With a morning free to ourselves for those who chose not to go on the beautiful hike to Juhuel Mountain, many people chose to explore the village some more and enjoy some relaxing time soaking up the beautiful weather on one of the beautiful nearby beaches.
All too soon, it was time to say goodbye to our eager hosts. Before making our way back to our bus for the long trip back to Seoul, we were surprised with gifts of citron soap from the Mayor of Namhae. The perfect weather, picturesque views, great activities and friendly hosts were the perfect combination for this fantastic trip and a great way to spend the long weekend. Even the long drive back to Seoul seemed to fly by as everyone reminisced, exchanged contact details and made plans for our next great adventure with Adventure Korea!