Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Ulleungdo, Mysterious Island: Day 3

(Arrr, this was suppose to be Tuesday's post. I wrote most of it at school and was going to add the final bits once I got home, only I went home to a broken internet. I shook my fist menacingly and turned the modem on and off many times, but it remained broken and this is being backdated from school Wednesday morning. When it became apparent that the internet wasn't coming back before went to bed, I briefly considered running to the nearest PC bang to post it, but that would require putting on pants and braving the cold. I'm sure you understand.)

Dokdo Observatory, Ulleungdo
Haengnam Shore Walkway as seen from the Dokdo Observatory

Ulleungdo, day 3. Tuesday morning, our last day on the island, dawned bright and clear and there was much grumbling that we had to evacuate now that the weather had finally cleared up. We took advantage of the good weather and rode the cable car to the Dokdo Observatory. On clear days, the island of Dokdo, 54 miles away, is faintly visible from the observatory, but most days it's too hazy to see. There were, however, some spectacular views of the coastline. On the way back to town, Caroline and I stopped to explore Haedosa (Haedo Temple), a Buddhist temple in Dodong. It was tiny, just a few buildings, but it was new and all the paint was bright and fresh.

It was warm and sunny, with clear blue skies for the first time in WEEKS, and it was hard to believe that a storm was suppose to hit that afternoon, but half way through the three hour ferry ride back to the mainland, the sky turned gray, the sea turned choppy and by the time the boat reached Donghae Harbor, we had to duck our heads to the rain as we ran to the bus. By the time we reached the first rest stop, the rain was coming down in sheets. We were maybe an hour into the trip when I felt the bus start to hydroplane and then shake as we slid off the road and onto the shoulder. Everyone was sitting up, trying to figure out what had just happened, when the second bus hit the back corner, raining broken glass down on the passengers, and scrapped its way down the length of the bus until it too rocked to a stop. In the middle of the craziness and confusion and demands for explanations and bemoaning how late this was going to make us getting back to Seoul, someone looked out the window and realized there was a body lying on the pavement and I stopped worrying about anything as trivial as when I was getting home that evening.

As near as anyone can tell, there was a two-car wreck and the passengers were thrown out of their vehicles. Our bus swerved to avoid the wreck, hydroplaned off the road and was hit by the other bus. We spent an hour and half on the road side, waiting for the emergency services and tow trucks to show. A few members of the group had first aid and CPR training and were able to help, and the two men were taken to the hospital in critical but stable condition. One member of our group was also taken to the hospital with a concussion.

I got a call from a friend just after the accident happened, before we knew that the two men were still alive, asking something about a SnB lunch meet up and the rain and the subways not working? I had other things on my mind. Then later, once we were safely, albeit a bit jumpy every time the bus driver hit the breaks, back on the road to Seoul, Marie called me to ask if I knew anything about the flooding in Seoul. Both of us were out of town, but she was watching the news and apparently Seoul was underwater and the subways were closed due to standing water on the tracks. I groaned because, Lord, I just wanted to get home, but miraculously, when we pulled up to Seoul Express Bus Terminal, the worst of the flooding has subsided, most of the water had been pumped out of the subway and by some miracle, I was able to catch the last train home. Say what you like about the Korean work ethic, but it gets things done. Imagine the reaction if a major American city's public transit was shut down by flash flooding on the equivalent of Christmas Eve (assuming that Christmas Eve was also a national holiday) and workers were called in to get the subways running.

Dokdo Observatory, Ulleungdo
Haedosa, Dodong, Ulleungdo Haedosa, Dodong, Ulleungdo
Dried Squid, Dodong, Ulleungdo
Top: Looking east towards Dokdo from the Dokdo Observatory; Middle: Buddha statue at Haedosa (left), Things Wot You Find On Ulleungdo: squid, dolphins, sea turtles, and a octopus that will cook itself into a delicious ojing-eo bulgogi (right); Bottom: Drying squid

More photos are here.

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